Editorial: Never silent, speaking immediately
● By J. Chambless
Speaking strictly in the professional
sense of the word, it was not important to Irvin Lieberman that he be
Being liked was just not part of the equation of being a newspaperman, and from the time he first purchased this newspaper in 1970, to the day he died on Dec. 29, 2018, Irvin Lieberman brandished that belief the way a warrior does a sword.
That belief was never more exemplified than in his “Uncle Irv” column, which publishes for the last time in this week's edition of the Chester County Press. For the better part of two decades, the column occupied the lower right-hand corner of the front page of this newspaper, and although it was wrapped by news about local politics, school districts, new businesses and personal profiles, the 200 words that made up the “Uncle Irv” column every week became this newspaper's voice, its very own barbaric yawp.
Some admired the tenacity of its bold intention. Others chuckled at its pugnacious audacity, while some of this county's most prominent leaders who felt the wrath of Lieberman's pen and retaliated, or simply took the hit and moved on. There were many more who were driven to respond in letters to the editor, declaring that Lieberman was irresponsibly using his available space as a vicious weapon, with no other directive than to verbally take down his enemies, real or invented.
However it was interpreted, Lieberman's column was a bold imprint on an industry that too often neglects to use the gift of its platform for anything more than the exercise of filling up pages. He simply wouldn't stand for it, and even after he surrendered ownership to his two sons, Randy and Andy, in 1993, Lieberman's presence around the Chester County Press newsroom transformed his role into that of a watchdog. He encouraged reporters to ask the tough questions, to dig deeper for a story, and simply give no quarter to anyone – no lawmaker, no business leader, no school superintendent, no officer of the law, and especially those who luxuriate in the false grandiosity of a title. Everyone, he believed, needed to be held accountable for their actions – decent or indecent – and it is the responsibility of journalists to uphold that principle, and follow it down to the last word.
Irvin Lieberman began the Chester County Press with barely any money in his pocket, but he also held what would become his greatest ace card. He was given the reins to a tiny slice of one of our nation's greatest rights – the freedom of the press – and he fought like a soldier to protect that freedom. Henry Anatole Grunwald, the longtime managing editor and editor in chief of Time, Inc., once said that “journalism can never be silent; that is its greatest virtue and its greatest fault. It must speak, and speak immediately, while the echoes of wonder, the claims of triumph and the signs of horror are still in the air.”
Speaking strictly in the professional sense of the word, Irvin Lieberman was never silent, and maybe that bothered some people, but none of that mattered to him, anyway. He didn't get into this industry to be liked. Rather, he did so in order to take on the role of an overseer, one that required him to speak and speak immediately.
He did, and for that, this newspaper, and the industry to which we belong, will be forever grateful.