A liberal Jewish newspaper publisher has made its mark in a conservative town


Schlepping and Schmoozing along Interstate 5, Chapter 13, Exit 8B (E Street): Star-News

Proceed east from the E Street exit to 3rd Avenue, turn right, Immeuble Star-News, at 296 3rd Avenue, will be on the right, before F Street.

CHULA VISTA — Lowell Blankfort, a liberal Jewish Democrat, became co-publisher and editor of the staid, highly conservative Star-News in 1961, and immediately began to shake up the old order. In his very first op-ed, he announced that the community newspaper would no longer publish the columns of U.S. Representative James Utt. Blankfort explained that Utt’s “so-called ‘Washington Column’, or weekly political diatribe, is being dropped, pronto. Mr. Utt is the Republican congressman from Santa Ana who, due to skillful gerrymandering by the GOP 10 years ago was also imposed on National City and Bonita Blankfort specifically objected to Utt being “against a minimum wage, against a politically independent Supreme Court, against labor, against the income tax, against an adequate salary for postal workers, against the United Nations, against the separation of Church and State, against (verbally) the so-called “reds”.

Star News offices in Chula Vista

From 1954 to 1959, Blankfort had published the Pacifica grandstand, who successfully campaigned for the incorporation of Pacifica, California, south of San Francisco. Based on this experience, a bank was willing to loan Blankfort and his business partner Rowland Rebele $50,000, which they matched with contributions of $25,000 each. Then they persuaded Blanche Coyle, widow of former publisher Ray Coyle, to let them gradually pay her the remaining $400,000 of the $500,000 sale price. They retained ownership of the now spirited newspaper until 1973, when they sold it for $3.8 million. Blankfort continued to work as an editor for the new Conservative owners until 1978, when they fired him for being far too liberal for their liking.

Lowell Blankfort
(Photo courtesy of paradise post)

In the meantime, as Blankfort commented to an oral historian at Rutgers University, his alma mater, he served “a very conservative community and I ran a very liberal newspaper and earned a lot of money doing it. It was a good newspaper…it covered the city…We did some in-depth articles on what was happening in the community. We exposed a school board member, who was a builder, who had soil removed from school property and used as topsoil on one of his developments.

Also, “I would campaign for the protection of the environment and against the developers, the greedy developers, who took big ads from my newspapers – sort of biting the hand that feeds me…I did campaign against the war in Vietnam”, having visited this country for a lifetime. numerous trips abroad during which he visited and wrote about more than 100 countries. Critics called his journal “The Red Star”.

Born April 29, 1926, to Herbert Blankfort and Gertrude Goldwater Blankfort, Lowell told a Rutgers interviewer that growing up in Manhattan’s “Golden Ghetto” along Central Park West, he was a “spoiled only child, and c that’s why I like to be interviewed”. . I like the attention (laughs). That’s why I write the kind of editorials I do (laughs). I get a lot of attention, you know.

His mother, a liberal who was an early member of the United World Federalists and a supporter of the United Nations, divorced his father, a “great flag-waving, MacArthur-like, right-wing patriot” when Blankfort was nine. years, prompting a trip for Lowell and her mother to Reno, Nevada, where divorces could be obtained without all the fun that New York State demanded. Lowell was clearly more influenced in his political views by his mother than by his father.

One of the celebrities who lived in the same building as them was New York Yankees slugger Babe Ruth, whom Blankfort met while riding in the same elevator. Then an elementary school student, he early asked the Sultan of Swat if he could interview him, and Ruth agreed, saying “Sure, kid, come up!” from a story told in paradise post by Blankfort’s second wife and widow, April Blankfort, in 2015.

In fifth and sixth grade, Blankfort and future author Martin Mayer (Madison Avenue, USA; Wall Street: People and Money; Schools; The lawyers ; About TV et al) co-published a mimeographed newspaper in their elementary school and successfully solicited advertising in the stores where their parents shopped.

While at Rutgers University, Blankfort served as a campus stringer for The Associated Press and rival United Press International, as well as for the New York Times, and newspapers from Philadelphia and New Brunswick. Covering sports competitions, he would rewrite the title of his story for each medium to conceal the fact that he was writing for each of them. Once, he recalls, after sending a sports report to The temperaturean editor asked what took him so long, seeing that AP had already moved a similar piece to the wire.

After college, Blankfort worked for a series of small-town newspapers, wrote freelance articles for larger ones, and eventually moved to Europe, where he wrote for publications such as the Daily mail and stars and stripes. Back in New York, he became editor of The the wall street journal and also wrote for a short-lived magazine called Quick. Then he heard about an opportunity to buy a newspaper in Sharp Park, a community in what would become Paradise, California. He sold it five years later for profit and toured the world with his first wife, Alice.

Two years later, the opportunity to buy the Star News showed up. In his 2015 obituary of Blankfort, San Diego Union-Tribune noted that Wadie P. Deddeh, a Chaldean immigrant who had been a faculty member at Southwestern College, attributed his successful entry into politics to the support he received from Blankfort’s newspaper. “Lowell immediately said to me, ‘I support you.’ He supported me. I stood up for the same things he believed in – freedom of thought, freedom of religion – and if not for the good copy he gave me week after week, I would have had a lot of hard to win that first election. I am grateful to him from here to eternity.

(Deddeh was elected to the State Assembly and then to the State Senate, becoming recognized as a transportation expert. The CalTrans building in San Diego is named after him. Deddeh’s career ended with a unsuccessful run for Congress, when he was defeated in the primary election by then-San Diego City Councilman Bob Filner.)

Blankfort followed in his mother’s footsteps as president of a San Diego chapter of the World Federalist Association, as director of the International Center for Development Policy, and as treasurer of the World Affairs Council of San Diego. .

When Blankfort and the Star News separates, it is far from being the end of his career as a journalist. He eventually bought 15 small newspapers in Colorado and California, writing a weekly column on international affairs for them. One he identified with was the paradise postlocated in the town of Paradise, Butte County, in the California Sierra Nevada foothills.

A later editor of that journal, Linda Valine, wrote a recollection in 2015, the year Blankfort died. Her son, she said, had been a Navy SEAL, whose political views were diametrically opposed to those of Blankfort. Still, the young man and Blankfort got along well, their verbal disagreements never diminishing their respect for each other. In fact, Blankfort helped young Valine start a non-profit organization for disabled athletes, the Virginia Beach Hockey Sled Team, in which paralyzed athletes sled on ice while playing hockey. Blankfort wrote the business plan and donated $10,000 to get the organization started.


Next Sunday, April 3, 2022: Exit 10 (Mile of Cars Way): Ford Motor Company

This story is copyright (c) 2022 by Donald H. Harrison, Editor Emeritus of San Diego Jewish World. He can be contacted via [email protected]


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