Advertisement
business

R.I.P.: A Good Journalist, Good Boss, Good Father

Journalist and philanthropist Austin H. Kiplinger led the Kiplinger Washington Editors for decades.

The company that publishes Kiplinger's Personal Finance magazine is an oddity in the modern media world—a small, closely held firm still run by the family that founded it in 1920. The man who ran it for more than a third of those 95 years, from the early 1960s into the 1990s, died on November 20, 2015. I’d like to tell you about him.

Like his father—-our founder, W.M. Kiplinger—-Austin Kiplinger was a journalist who became, of necessity, a businessman. He had to deal with all the normal office concerns: finance, personnel, health care, pension administration and postal rates.

Advertisement - Article continues below

He did it well, but his heart was in our editorial mission—providing useful information and dispassionate judgment to our readers. He wrote, edited and suggested stories. It’s what we Kiplingers have always done.

Austin had been a student journalist in high school and college. His first professional stories appeared in the Ithaca (N.Y.) Journal in 1936, when he was a sophomore at Cornell. He reported for the San Francisco Chronicle before World War II, and after serving as a Navy carrier pilot in the South Pacific, he helped his father start this magazine in 1946–47.

In Chicago in the early 1950s, he was a rising star of television news (on ABC and NBC affiliates and the networks). Then he returned to Kiplinger in 1956, never to leave.

Rare corporate culture

Austin embraced his father’s editorial ethic of utility, fairness, balance and cool forecasts devoid of wishful thinking, all presented in lean, clear language. That’s still our hallmark today.

Advertisement
Advertisement - Article continues below
Advertisement - Article continues below

He continued the rare corporate culture his father established in the 1920s—-providing highly personal subscriber service, treating employees with respect and allocating more of the company’s annual profits to them than to shareholders. This spirit lives on. It’s the right thing to do, and it also makes good business sense.

Austin was a quirky combination of the traditional and the modern. In the 1950s he helped Kiplinger become one of the first publishers in the U.S. to put its subscriber files on IBM mainframe computers. In the 1980s, he supported my initiative to automate our editorial processes—writing, editing and producing our publications on video display terminals. But he refused to learn word processing himself, continuing to bang away (with impressive speed and accuracy) on a manual typewriter.

In the 1990s, he sensed how transformative the Internet would become for our profession and our company, but he never learned to use it himself. He would ask others to “Google this for me.” His secretary printed out the e-mails he received, then he typed or dictated his responses and she re­keyed them back to the sender. His sole concession to personal tech was a flip phone he often forgot to keep charged.Sartorially correct, he wore a suit to the office almost every day. His version of “casual Friday” was a blue blazer, gray flannel slacks and, of course, a necktie.

Though fully retired, he came to the office regularly until a month before his death at age 97. There he worked on his many civic commitments, and he cheerfully schmoozed with staffers, young and old, about politics, business and world crises.

This kept him feeling young, and it gave his colleagues (especially me, his son) the benefit of his calm wisdom and well-informed optimism. All of us—he and we—were very fortunate.

Advertisement

Most Popular

What Are the Income Tax Brackets for 2020 vs. 2019?
tax brackets

What Are the Income Tax Brackets for 2020 vs. 2019?

The IRS unveiled the 2020 tax brackets, and it's never too early to start planning to minimize your future tax bill.
June 20, 2020
Tax Changes and Key Amounts for the 2020 Tax Year
tax law

Tax Changes and Key Amounts for the 2020 Tax Year

Americans are facing a long list of tax changes for the 2020 tax year...and it's never too early to start thinking about next year's return.
June 22, 2020
10 Tax Breaks for the Middle Class
tax deductions

10 Tax Breaks for the Middle Class

Tax breaks aren't just for the rich. There are plenty of them that are only available to middle- and low-income Americans.
June 30, 2020

Recommended

Tax Changes and Key Amounts for the 2020 Tax Year
tax law

Tax Changes and Key Amounts for the 2020 Tax Year

Americans are facing a long list of tax changes for the 2020 tax year...and it's never too early to start thinking about next year's return.
June 22, 2020
7 Ways PPP Loans Just Got Better
small business loans

7 Ways PPP Loans Just Got Better

The Paycheck Protection Program Flexibility Act makes a number of changes to the popular small-business loan program. See how your business might bene…
June 5, 2020
Don't Let the Drama Surrounding PPP Distract You from Running Your Business
business

Don't Let the Drama Surrounding PPP Distract You from Running Your Business

If you're so wrapped up in worry about your Paycheck Protection Program loan not being forgiven, think about the worst-case scenario. It might not be …
June 5, 2020
Thinking of Selling Your Business? 2 Steps to Get the Best Price
business

Thinking of Selling Your Business? 2 Steps to Get the Best Price

Here's what could be the difference between a lucrative outcome and disappointment for business owners now.
June 5, 2020