• U.S.

The Press: Return of a New Yorker

4 minute read

Just nine months ago pink-cheeked, boyish Gary Bok, publisher of the Philadelphia Public Ledger, walked into an editorial meeting and announced with pride that he had hired as editor at $15,000 a year one of the best-known newspapermen in the U. S.: Stanley Walker.

City editor of the New York Herald Tribune for seven sparkling years, author of a rapid-fire book of reminiscences called Mrs. Aster’s Horse, frequent contributor to The New Yorker, Stanley Walker was a name to make any publisher’s cheeks glow with satisfaction.

Then followed a glorious celebration. The Ledger took a full-page advertisement in Editor & Publisher to announce Stanley Walker’s editorship. In Gary Bok’s luxurious penthouse apartment atop the Ledger building, cocktail parties hummed.

Last week Gary Bok walked into another editorial meeting to announce that he was making drastic changes in the Ledger’s setup. Said he gravely: “Stanley Walker has resigned. . . .”

Two men were directly responsible for Editor Walker’s sudden resignation. One was Colonel Guy T. Visniskki, a suave, stout, egg-bald figure familiar to the office of many a sick newspaper, who turned up in the Ledger office last November to make an efficiency survey. The other was Stanley Walker himself.

An outlander like most New Yorkers (he hailed from Texas), Walker had lived in Manhattan for 20 years, worked most of that time on the Herald Tribune. He loved New York, felt ill at ease in Philadelphia. But his job on the Ledger was welcome. For ever since he had left the Herald Tribune in 1935 to become managing editor of the Mirror, Stanley Walker had been moving about, going mostly down, not up. After six months on the Mirror he had shifted to the American (now defunct), then to The New Yorker, then to the New York Woman (also defunct), then back to the Herald Tribune in 1937. When the Ledger called him, Walker was simply an editorial writer.

At Gary Bok’s expensive parties he would stand about, dazed and unhappy, talking nervously. He preferred drinking quietly with some of the men on his staff. Once he remarked that the only worthwhile thing in Philadelphia was an all-night delicatessen. But Stanley Walker worked hard, often sat late at his desk attending to routine matters. Every Saturday he caught the earliest possible train for New York, went home on Sunday night brimming with stories about nightclub celebrities and Broadway characters.

Meanwhile, the Ledger, which had earned around $10,000 in 1938, last year went into the red. (Estimated loss: $160,000.) Circulation dropped from 170,792 to around 160,000. Colonel Visniskki, called in to see what could be economized, handed President George Kearney a 672-page report on Christmas Eve. President Kearney wrapped it in tissue paper, tied it with gaily colored ribbon, took it out to Gary Bok’s home in the country.

Said Publisher Bok: “My wife gave me a new gun for Christmas—but the Colonel gave me both barrels.” Efficient Visniskki showed him how he could save the Ledger “a staggering sum.” One way: to leave the middle paper-towel rack of three in the men’s washroom empty. Another way: to get rid of Stanley Walker.

Though Walker had no contract with the Ledger, he was allowed to resign. Out with him went Managing Editor John McLaughlin, Author-Columnist Joel (Rackety Rax) Sayre, a Walker protegé. President Kearney took over the editor’s chair.

Sports Editor Ed Pollock was upped to Managing Editor.

Week’s end found Stanley Walker tight-lipped and bitter at his hotel apartment in Rittenhouse Square. Said he : “I’m taking the 7 o’clock train to New York.” For the future he had no plans.

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