Former Times of Trenton city editor Wilson Barto‚ 83‚ whose lifelong career in news spanned more than 59 years and jobs at five newspapers‚ died Monday‚ November 1‚ 2010. Barto was the first president of the New Jersey chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. Each year‚ awards are given to first year journalists in his honor. Find his obituary here at nj.com.
Former NJSPJ board member Seth Mandel remembers:
In his 50 years since helping to found the New Jersey Society of Professional Journalists‚ there are two moments of pride that stand out to Wilson Barto involving a debate with an empty chair and a telegram gone perfectly wrong.
The latter incident took place when Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev visited the U.S. in 1960‚ and the editor of the Perth Amboy Evening News was fired for running a front-page wire photo of Khrushchev’s plane taking off from Moscow. The editor‚ Nicholas O’Dea Lederer‚ was hired back and then almost immediately fired again this time for not running a photo of Khrushchev’s arrival.
Barto‚ the first president of the NJSPJ‚ called the other officers of the chapter and they all agreed it would be appropriate to immediately send a telegram to the paper’s owner‚ John Barnhart‚ and register their disapproval.
“I sent this telegram to Mr. Barnhart in Florida: ‘Local management unfamiliar with editorial responsibilities wrecking a good daily’‚” Barto recalled.
Soon after that‚ the executive director of the New Jersey Press Association‚ Lloyd Burns‚ called Barto and said that Barnhart was “fit to be tied.”
Concerned about that reaction‚ Barto asked Burns what the telegram actually said.
Burns responded‚ “Local management unfamiliar with editorial responsibilities wrecking a dog daily.”
“Western Union‚ instead of telegramming ‘good daily’ had changed the word and mistakenly ran ‘dog daily’. And it settled the case of Nicholas O’Dea Lederer; he came back and he was there long enough to retire‚” Barto said.
Barto’s other point of pride concerns the 1961 New Jersey gubernatorial election between Richard Hughes‚ a former judge‚ and James Mitchell‚ President Eisenhower’s secretary of labor. The New Jersey chapter of the SPJ then still known as Sigma Delta Chi (SDX) arranged to host a debate between the candidates. Mitchell balked‚ however‚ and the chapter’s membership was split over whether to go ahead with the debate.
Barto called the officers and they agreed they should hold the debate even if Mitchell persisted in his refusal to join Hughes on stage.
“It was one of our proudest moments‚ because Richard Hughes never forgot Sigma Delta Chi‚ ” Barto said. “What we did was gave him good exposure before the press of New Jersey.”
Barto was the first secretary of an SDX chapter in central Pennsylvania centered on Pennsylvania State University‚ in 1954‚ while he was editor of a daily paper in the area.…