Austin Kiplinger Remembered for his Love of Journalism

Kiplinger Expanded Personal Finance Franchise

Austin Kiplinger

Austin H. Kiplinger was remembered as “an uncommon man with a common touch” and “a champion of journalism,” both accurate tributes to the legendary journalist who died last month.

Knight Kiplinger led a celebration of his father’s life, punctuated with music from the National Symphony Orchestra Brass and the Cornell Glee Club, two passions of Austin Kiplinger, who had many. His granddaughter described “Kip” accurately as “a renaissance man.”

Kevin McCormally, chief content officer at Kiplinger and a former National Press Foundation board member, said Austin was “an inspirational boss, committed to and in love with his craft.”

Kip certainly loved journalism, active almost to the end of his 97 years.

“Austin was a journalistic statesman,” said Sandy Johnson, president and COO of the National Press Foundation. “He built a news powerhouse at Kiplinger and shared his time and resources generously with so many, especially NPF. We will miss his wise counsel.”

Kip and his father, W.M. Kiplinger, in 1965 founded the Washington Journalism Center, a non-profit, designed to bring young journalists, especially minority journalists, to Washington for candid, off-the-record briefings with leading officials and office holders. At the time it was the only non-university based program devoted to journalism education. In 1972 Kip founded the Kiplinger Program in Public Affairs Journalism at Ohio State University, named in honor of his father. W.M. Kiplinger, who had been one of the first two journalism graduates at the university in 1912.

“Kip inspired a generation of news leaders by showing us that entrepreneurship focused on upholding the highest levels of journalism can bring enormous benefit to our communities and families,” said Heather Dahl, chair of NPF and the founder of The Cynja, an educational website and book series teaching kids about the perils of cyberspace and how to confidently beat it back.

“Growing up with the Kiplinger Washington Newsletter was my introduction to news; finding that envelop in the mail inspired a curiosity that would guide me into a career reporting,” she said. “Little did I know that later in life, the man whose publications taught me to think about my rights as a consumer, would also become a role model and mentor. Kip’s approach to business, leadership and journalism showed those of us who had the opportunity to know him that respecting the humanity of all those we engage with is the legacy we should aspire to achieve in our own lives. I will dearly miss Kip.”

Over the years the Washington Journalism Center evolved its format to meet the changing needs of journalism. Instead of six-month long fellowships, it began offering shorter ones, some as short as a week. As various economic waves swamped traditional news business – an increase in the cost of paper, changing audience preferences, a shrinking of the national news force – Kip sought to join forces with another group in Washington that was similarly engaged in journalist education.

The National Press Foundation, founded in 1975, was that group, and a union was effected in 1993. Initially the WJC would operate under its own name, but eventually its programs came under the banner of NPF, without a change in focus or emphasis. Kip joined the NPF board at the same time.

“From Day One Kip was a friend and mentor,” said Bob Meyers, who was hired in 1993 to lead the Washington Journalism Center and two years later became president of the National Press Foundation. “Whether I needed to talk about programming ideas, or personnel issues, Kip was always there and his advice was always invaluable.”

Kip stayed on the NPF board for nearly 15 years. In 2009 he received NPF’s Chairman’s Citation, for his distinguished service to the American journalism community.

“How do you say something meaningful about a life lived that large?” asked Susan Swain, co-president of C-SPAN and an NPF board member. “Well into his 90s, Kip took a personal interest in the National Press Foundation, sharing his warm friendship and wise counsel on the direction of our journalism mission.  He was a true friend of ours, personally and professionally, and will be greatly missed.”

One day, before a meeting of the NPF program committee, which provided guidance to the staff of program direction, Kip reached into his pocket and pulled out a buckeye, the dried nut of the Buckeye tree, recalled George Condon, White House bureau chief for National Journal. “‘I have that with me every day’,” he told Condon. “It reminded him of his father and his journalism. Journalism and journalism training were something very personal to him.”

In addition to support for the Kiplinger program at Ohio State, the WJC and the NPF, Kiplinger and the family foundation also supported other journalism groups, such as the Society of Professional Journalists, said Chuck Lewis, the retired Washington bureau chief for Hearst newspapers and a former NPF board member.

“Kip’s World War II stories were a source of endless mirth,” Lewis recalled. “He often wore a discreet Navy tie and was ready at the slightest prompt to relate the yarn about his exploit as a pilot of a large observation plane landing on the deck of a carrier. The landing incurred the skipper’s wrath because the ship had to turn into the wind to accommodate Kip’s landing plan.”

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