As a young boy, Austin Kiplinger learned journalistic values by practically “living” in his father’s office. Decades later, he imparts these values to those just starting their careers.
“I grew up in a newspaper family, so I avoided the problems that other people had in deciding what they wanted to do with their lives,” said Kiplinger, 89, chairman of Kiplinger Washington Editors, which his father, W. M. Kiplinger, founded in 1920. “I never had any question about it. It was second nature for me to become a newspaper man and a journalist.”
Mid-1930s: Worked as a stringer for The Ithaca Journal and The Associated Press while attending Cornell University.
1939: Graduated from Cornell University, where he studied economics, history and government.
1940: Reporter, San Francisco Chronicle.
1942: Entered the military as a naval aviator during World War II.
1946: Helped his father start Changing Times, which is now Kiplinger’s Personal Finance Magazine, the company’s “mainstay? publication.
1948: Front-page columnist for the Chicago Journal of Commerce.
1950s: Newscaster on ABC and NBC television network affiliates in Chicago, covered the 1952 and 1956 political conventions.
1961: Became president of Kiplinger Washington Editors.
Kiplinger’s journalistic career spans almost 70 years and covers every medium. To friends and colleagues, he embodies the ideals of journalism his father taught him — honesty, objectivity and an insatiable curiosity for the truth.
“He really is the epitome of what journalism should be,” said Kevin McCormally, editorial director, who has worked with Kiplinger for the past 30 years. “Integrity comes first. The readers come first.”
Kiplinger took after his father in more ways than one.
The eldest Kiplinger was a founding member of the Sigma Delta Chi chapter at Ohio State University. Kiplinger followed his father’s lead and joined the Cornell University chapter in 1936. He’s been an active member ever since.
Reginald Stuart, a former SPJ national president, worked with Kiplinger through various SPJ events, where he saw Kiplinger’s active involvement.
“Some people tend to drift from this organization as they get older and rise to higher positions of responsibility in the industry,” Stuart said. “He has stayed well rooted in this group even when he doesn’t necessarily need it for his own success.”
Stuart, corporate recruiter with McClatchy Co., commended Kiplinger’s donations of time and money to SPJ — his family foundation financially supporting the local Washington area chapter’s student scholarship program, playing host to and sponsoring the organization’s events, and mentoring young members.
Kiplinger is a major sponsor of this year’s convention. On Wednesday evening, Kiplinger played host to an event at Kiplinger offices for directors of the Sigma Delta Chi Foundation and SPJ as well as SPJ national staff.
The guests were treated to a downstairs display of about 150 of the 5,000 historical artifacts in the Kiplinger Family Collection, which are displayed throughout the Kiplinger offices.
While mingling with about 60 guests, Kiplinger exuded the enthusiasm and energy he is known for. He bounced from one guest to another, proudly explaining various artifacts.
In his welcome speech, he commented on SPJ’s influence on his life. “It’s been a name and a presence in my life, practically all my life,” he said, adding that he connects with the journalistic virtues SPJ stands for.
“I think that the organization that first strikes a blow for independence, objectivity, accuracy and honesty in reporting deserves support,” he said earlier.
To Kiplinger, helping young journalists simply makes sense. He was in their shoes once too.
He passed on his love of journalism to his son, Knight.
Knight now fills his father’s shoes as editor-in-chief of Kiplinger’s Personal Finance, and describes his father as the “quintessential lifelong learner.”
“He is always interested in learning new things, exploring areas of knowledge that somehow eluded him in his previous 89 years,” he said.
Austin Kiplinger is a history buff as can be seen by his family’s collection of artifacts. Knight recalls family car trips as constantly being stopped to see historical sights across the country.
“I think we braked for every historical marker in America,” he said with a chuckle.
His father’s enthusiasm feeds on activity. And he shows no sign of slowing down, according to Knight. He still goes into the Kiplinger offices every day. To him, age is just a number,.
“The reason he is so healthy and energetic and optimistic at the age of 89 is because he never did slow down. He likes living life to the fullest.”