Former Caller-Times editor Steve Sullivan fought for the First Amendment

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Steve Sullivan, who passed away recently, spent much of his reporting career with the Caller-Times, as did I. As the newspaper’s publisher, Steve was responsible for managing the business side of the business, held accountable for its income and expenses, responsible for what is effectively a manufacturing plant, all operated by hundreds of employees. .

But this is no ordinary affair. Newspapers have a particular purpose, enshrined in the Bill of Rights, which is to report the news without infringing.

That’s why Steve had a newsroom full of reporters, reporting and editing stories about vital government events, about politicians, about the mundane flow of life, about capital and the outrageous – without forgery.

This First Amendment responsibility extended to the editorial pages where the opinions of the newspaper’s editorial board appeared. This gathering of opinion writers is where Steve and I, as editors of the editorial page, sit.

Steve’s hand was light on published opinions. His concern was fairness. Were we giving the other party their due, even in an opinion that did not agree with them? His own policy was right of center, but he followed the consensus of the board of directors, even if sometimes opposed to theirs.

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Steve was a graduate of the local high school, so he had the invaluable insight to not only know the local political and business players, but he had grown up with them. This community concern and involvement gave him a broader vision than his own partisanship. But the cartoons on the editorial page could make him see red.

A good editorial cartoon can draw blood. The fact that so many of the best of them had the Republican Party as their target must have ruined many of Steve’s mornings.

Those same cartoons likely generated a lot of phone calls to his office, as did many editorials and news stories. The people who called him weren’t going to call the editorial page editor, or maybe even the editor. They wanted the publisher.

I don’t know how many times Steve has taken a beating for the newspaper team, trying to explain to a big advertiser, an important politician, or a simple reader how a newspaper works without offense. But if it’s not in an editor’s job description, it should be.

Someone once told me that the two best jobs in a newspaper are journalist and editor. Steve did his job well.

Nick Jimenez has worked as a reporter, civic editor and editorial page editor for more than 40 years in Corpus Christi. He is currently editor emeritus of the Caller-Times editorial page.

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