The Press: The Battle of Pasco

  • Share
  • Read Later

In an old bottling plant in Kennewick, Wash. (pop. 6,800) two wartime Navy buddies, ex-Lieutenants Robert Philip and Glenn Lee, started the Tri-City Herald, first daily newspaper in Washington's close-linked triangle of Kennewick, Pasco and Richland. In the next two years, their hard-hitting editorial campaigns on local issues earned them a reputation as fearless crusaders, pushed their circulation up from 2,000 to 10,258 and put them in the black. Fortnight ago, they got into their toughest scrap yet.

Publisher Lee sent a reporter to check up on a group of $7,500 houses in Pasco that the Columbia Construction Co. had sold to veterans. A group of tenants led by disabled Lloyd Kestin, a Pasco schoolteacher, had refused to sign their mortgages, claiming they had found building defects. While the Tri-City Herald investigated, the builder sued Kestin to compel him to sign. Next day, the Herald broke a series of stories supporting the veterans' charges.

The construction company went back to court. It complained to Superior Court Judge Bartholomew B. Horrigan, 69, who runs a wheat ranch .on the side, that the Herald's series would make it impossible to get a fair trial of the Kestin suit. Headlong, Judge Horrigan promptly forbade the Herald to publish any more stories on the houses, forced it to yank the fourth article a half hour before press time. Last week, after rereading the Bill of Rights, Judge Horrigan decided he had gone too far. He rescinded his injunction, but hinted that if the Herald kept printing such stories it might be found in contempt of court. Meanwhile, the project's builders had slapped a $100,000 libel suit against the Herald. Unperturbed, Publisher Lee said: "We'll keep on printing the news when, where and how it occurs."