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'Eclectic' Tradition



To the Editors of the Crimson:

The Crimson is fully entitled to disesteem Henry Kissinger, as you let your readers known in your editorial of October 14th, "No Welcome for Kissinger." But The Crimson should also get its fact straight about the Nieman-Kissinger relationship.

First, the Nieman Foundation did not "honor" or "pay tribute" to Kissinger by making him one of the 43 speakers at our triennial Convocation (alumni reunion). In fact, we had him solo at the Saturday dinner precisely because he was probably the most controversial of our speakers, and it seemed that the ratio of one Kissinger to 200-plus press people might give the press a fighting chance in combat with one of their long-time adversaries. Actually, we "honor" nobody by asking them to talk to Niemans; we merely bet that they may have interesting things to say (and we don't always win that bet).

Second, far from keeping Kissinger's visit "secret," the Nieman Foundation informed its 600 alumni by form letter on July 20th that he would be one of our speakers during the reunion weekend. That The Crimson only unearthed this fact by October 7th, the day before his talk, is understandably galling to a usually alert news apparatus. But don't, please, fret about this lapse; since the reunion, like most, was oversubscribed and open only to reunioners who had paid the registration fee, we didn't try to publicize any aspect of it.

As for the off-the-record ground-rule for Kissinger's remarks: he had told us last spring that he simply could not take on a full-text public speech commitment in October, requiring extensive preparation, but would at least agree to meet informally in an off-the-record question-and-answer setting with the Nieman alumni. Since most Nieman seminars, lunches, and dinners have been off-the-record for nearly 40 years now, I found the request entirely reasonable. Furthermore, I had no doubt that he would encounter--as he did--articulate adversaries, even angry ones, among his questioners.

In brief, if Joe Stalin were still alive and available, I would have tried to get him as, a Nieman speaker on the hunch that he might have some interesting things to say. And last spring the Nieman Fellows spent some hours interrogating that notable non-Stalinist newspaper publisher, William Loeb, in Manchester, New Hampshire. This Foundation's tradition is, in fact, as your editorial complains, "eclectic"--and we mean to keep it that way. James C. Thomson Jr.   Curator, Nieman Foundation for Journalism

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