Over Protests, Rudenstine Picks Giles for Nieman Post

Ending a ten-month search, President Neil L. Rudenstine will name former Detroit News editor Robert H. Giles curator of Harvard's Nieman Foundation today, according to a University source close to the search process.

Giles and Rudenstine met in Mass. Hall last Wednesday, for what a media executive with an strong interest in the appointment characterized as a "full discussion" of his candidacy. According to the source, the meeting was wide-ranging and touched on the role Giles played in an acrimonious Detroit newspaper strike, the issue that prompted his former employees to lobby Mass. Hall against him and delay an appointment for three weeks.

But at the end of the meeting Rudenstine gave a "strong...unqualified reaffirmation of support" for Giles, the executive said, and since then the University has been "getting the ducks in order" for today's announcement.


Giles was hours away from being named curator in late June, before protests about his handling of the Detroit strike and his long association with Gannett, a giant media conglomerate that some accuse of dumbing down the news, reached Mass. Hall.

The appointment was put on hold until Rudenstine returned from vacation in Europe last week and could deal with the matter personally, sources say. In the end it was the president who made the call.

"It was Rudenstine's decision all along," said a close Giles associate. "He always said it was going to be his and I think it was."

Sources say that those who lobbied Mass. Hall on Giles's behalf included many of the heaviest hitters in American journalism.

Giles had major supporters at big city papers, including John Carroll, who turned down the curatorship himself to become editor of the Los Angeles Times, and Sandy Rowe, editor of The Oregonian of Portland, Ore.

Jim Naughton, president of the Poynter Institute and Hodding Carter III, president of the Knight Foundation, leaders of two of the nation's largest journalism think tanks, also actively supported Giles's candidacy.

Also weighing in with Mass. Hall on Giles's behalf were a group of top officials from the American Society of Newspaper Editors, of which he is a past president; a number of his Nieman classmates from the mid-'60s; and his three children, who wrote to describe the agonies the family went through during the Detroit strike.

Some of this support was the result of a deliberate campaign by the Giles family to get prominent figures in the media industry to lobby Mass. Hall.

Giles's son, David, who is a first amendment attorney in Denver, said that he phoned a number of colleagues in media law and journalists including the editor of a major East Coast paper to urge them to pressure Mass. Hall on his father's behalf.

Giles's supporters said yesterday that they were pleased by the appointment.

"I think that a good decision about a fine man has been reaffirmed," said the media industry executive who described the details of the meetings with Rudenstine. "The controversy was probably worthwhile in that it surfaced some external concerns. I think they were dealt with and everybody had a chance to weigh in that has a point of view."

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