By Charles Dunagin
The New York Times, whose slogan is “all the news that’s fit to print,” finds itself in the news recently for publishing some of Donald Trump’s tax documents.
Disclosed were the first page of Trump’s 1995 New York state resident income tax return, the first page of his New Jersey non-resident tax return and the first page of his Connecticut non-resident tax return. They show a $916 million loss that might have allowed Trump to legally avoid paying any income taxes for up to 18 years.
In addition to the political ramifications of the report, there’s a debate over whether the newspaper violated the law in publishing the documents. That will be probed from all sides until something else in this bizarre presidential election captures the headlines and the attention of the talking heads on the cable news networks.
For me, whenever the New York Times is in the news, I’m reminded of my friend of decades ago, Paul Pittman.
Paul, who died way too young at age 52 in 1983, was editor and publisher of the weekly Tylertown Times and started a radio station in the town.
A talented journalist, humorist and after-dinner speaker, his influence extended beyond his native Walthall County.
He wrote a syndicated column that appeared in a number of state newspapers, directed public relations for William Winter’s 1967 gubernatorial campaign and once ran for Congress himself.
He finished Ole Miss before I started, but I knew of his reputation before I met him personally.
After I moved to McComb in the 1960s to work for the Enterprise-Journal, he and I became friends, since we were only about 20 miles apart.
When the Enterprise-Journal press was modernized, Paul contracted to print his newspaper with us, and we had a great relationship for the rest of his life.
On occasion, we would take a trip together to cover some event, such as a tour of the nuclear power plant in Claiborne County or what, at the time, was the new experimental winery at Mississippi State University.
I don’t know how Paul swung that deal, but MSU sent a plane down to McComb to pick us up and fly us to the campus, where we were wined and dined. Needless to say, they got some good publicity in the McComb-Tylertown area from a couple of Ole Miss graduates.
One of those trips we took was to Jackson to a press conference Richard Nixon was holding in one of the hotels on Capitol Street.
Nixon, who had lost the president’s race to John F. Kennedy in 1960, had also lost the California governor’s race to Pat Brown in 1962.
He was bitter after the 1962 loss. Appearing before 100 reporters he lashed out at the media, proclaiming that “You won’t have Nixon to kick around any more, because, gentlemen, this is my last press conference.”
Obviously it wasn’t. Before his political comeback culminated in winning the presidency in 1968, Nixon held press conferences all over the country like the one Paul and I attended.
At that one, there was a room full of reporters, including a New York Times correspondent who, I think, worked out of Atlanta.
At some point Paul managed to get recognized by Nixon to ask a question.
I don’t remember the question, but I do remember how it was prefaced.
“Mr. Nixon, this is Paul Pittman of the Times.”
When the New York Times reporter looked incredulous and Nixon even raised an eyebrow, Paul added, “The Tylertown Times.”
Charles Dunagin is the retired editor and publisher of the Enterprise-Journal in McComb and a past president of the Mississippi Press Association. He resides in Oxford.