Fred Pettijohn's First Sun-Sentinel Column | New Times Broward-Palm Beach

Fred Pettijohn's First Sun-Sentinel Column

A memorial service will be held for Fred Pettijohn at 2 p.m. at the First Presbyterian Church in downtown Fort Lauderdale. Pettijohn, who died on October 1 at the age of 91, was the former editor for the Fort Lauderdale News and the Sun-Sentinel at the time of its founding in 1960.

John de Groot, who worked closely with Pettijohn, offers the following tribute, almost all of it in Pettijohn's own words. The quotes come from a column written by Pettijohn that appeared on the front page of the first edition of the Sun-Sentinel. The date was April 11, 1960.

The Day the Sun-Sentinel was Born

“This is the way a newspaper is born…,” Fred Pettijohn wrote of his new baby nearly 50 years ago in the ellipse-laden, punchy paragraph style of the day. “It comes onto the world without any yesterdays … only tomorrows … the more tomorrows the better.

“Conceived by need, carried in confusion, it’s birthed only by labor and the strange love that men in this business have for the printed page,” Fred wrote. "It’s veins run with printer’s ink and the commodity it breathes goes on …. and grows on, is just one thing … the news.

“You don’t spank a baby newspaper’s bottom to make it cry… you expect in its first day of life to show maturity … yes, and strength and character, too.

“For without these (qualities), no baby newspaper survives.

“The food of the newspaper is its readership, its content, the needs it fulfills … and the vital factors of {its) depth, perception and decency.”

For “the wisest parents, ask only that their child grow into a decent human being … and that is all important with (infant) newspapers, too.

“Few businesses or professions ask more of its employees than a newspaper.

“Labor necessitates (that) a man work with his hands. The crafts ask that a man work with his head. The art field needs a man who works with his heart. And sales require a man to work with his feet.

“A newspaper demands that a man work with all four.

“That is because a newspaper, conducted on the true and natural principles of such a publication, must be a register of the times…. A daily account of living history …. A faithful reporter of every species of intelligence …

“A newspaper ought not to be engrossed by any one particular object but, like a well-planned meal, it should contain something suited to every taste, to every need.

“To accomplish this requires not only a touch of inspiration and fresh ideas, but (also) close study and constant attention to the public and its interests.

“To grow, a paper must have the ability to pick its reporters and other professionals with integrity and devotion; it must have the skill to keep these people functioning at their best, and above all, it must have the experience to solve quickly and correctly all of the peculiar and intricate questions which arise in reporting the news.

“If I have perhaps burdened you (the reader) with our professional problems, forgive me. I felt it was something you would want to know because, you see, this (Sun-Sentinel) is not just our baby. It is yours. too.

“And we hope you’ll be happy to have it in your home.”

So wrote the late Fred Pettijohn as the Sun-Sentinel’s founding editor nearly a half-century ago when Broward’s only surviving newspaper was born.