• Marc Johnson

Old School


I didn’t know Pat Murphy well. I wish I had known him better. What I did know and observe firsthand about the former Arizona Republic editorial page editor, columnist and publisher I liked – a lot.

Murphy died last week in Idaho where he had retired – but where he kept on writing and reporting – after his long career in Arizona.

Pat Murphy was, in a day of Twitter, silly cable news and more and more vacuous news coverage, old school. He was a newsman and nothing sexist is meant by that term. Writing in the Republic last week, columnist E.J. Montini, recalled Murphy’s tenure as publisher and the fact that he had replaced a man who was forced to resign the job because it was discovered that he had fabricated a military record that did not exist.

“In a lot of ways,” Montini wrote, “Murphy did for The Republic and Gazette what Gerald Ford did for the White House. (He would hate this comparison.)

“Naming Murphy as publisher almost immediately restored order.

“The first time he appeared in the newsroom after being named to the top job, reporters and editors burst into applause.”

In an editorial, the Republic remembered Murphy as a “brassy, bold, uninhibited, occasionally cantankerous, fearless, opinionated, quick-writing newsman.” They got it just right, I think.

Murphy ran the Arizona daily when day after day the front page was dominated by news of the latest shenanigan pulled by a governor, Evan Mecham, who would eventually be impeached and removed from office. Murphy called the wacky Mecham “brutish” and an “ideological juggernaut.” When Pat resigned as publisher, Mecham called it “good news” and predicted that the paper’s reputation would improve. It seems too obvious to point out that Murphy’s reputation did just fine and Mecham’s name will forever be linked to impeachment.

In one of his last columns for the Mountain Express in Ketchum, Murphy lamented the apparently growing trend of adult violence directed toward children and he offered a sane and sober explanation for why it’s happening: poor parenting.

“Children who grow up in an atmosphere where parental authority is firm and respected,” Pat wrote, “where ethics of truth, honesty and regard for others are emphasized, where spiritual or religious values are important, where learning and education are essential and a work ethic is obvious generally mature into adults who’re social assets.

“Children lacking that nurturing are empty of basic qualities required of a civilized human.”

Murphy was a journalist, a veteran, an opinionated and passionate man; a fellow willing, as the old phrase goes, to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. He was old school and first class.

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©2019 by Marc C Johnson