It’s been said that journalists, men and women who work as on-the-scene reporters, serve a purpose higher than current informing; they provide the first drafts of enduring history.
In a similar vein, corporate communicators, as writers and counselors, can be prescient shapers of enterprise policy.
Arthur W. Page did both. His work as writer and publisher enabled policy guidance contributions in business as well as government.
Harold Burson, at 90, epitomizes that route today, counseling in the business sector with the instincts and talent of the observing, interpreting reporter.
And not just any, local-news reporter.
Sixty-six years ago, at the age of 24—we now are privileged to discover, thanks to another reporter’s probing—Burson was an on-the-scene drafter of extraordinary history in the making, putting into concurrent voice the proceedings of the 1945 Nuremberg trial of Nazi war criminals.
Joe Nocera, one of the best New York Times business news writers, now with a regular op-ed, found out from Harold Burson that he has a cache of the scripts he wrote, as a young combat engineer, for the American Forces Network.
Nocera asked for a look and Burson obliged.
In his Saturday column on October 1st, Nocera marveled at the clarity, the depth, the casual insights of the young reporter—the “gripping…you-are-there quality” of the scripts.
It’s a great column about a great communicator in-the-making, and I urge you to read it—but wait! There’s more!
Apparently, a lot of us contacted Nocera (as well as Harold) asking how, where, when we could read some of the aged scripts. Nocera’s appetizer got us hungry.
So in a postscript to his next op-ed, Nocera let us know that Harold, under pressure, was cracking open the cache.
Some of the original pages, just as they looked as they came out of young Burson’s portable Olivetti typewriter (though now age-yellowing), are now available—along with a customarily plain-talk Burson introduction—for you to read.
I think you will be struck, as Nocera was, by the young and future icon’s reasoning on justice, on the fair treatment that was meted to the enemy leaders, deserved or not in the eyes of GI’s and families.
“Burson’s pride in that ethos shines through on every page,” wrote Nocera. “This postwar idealism was one of the Greatest Generation’s finest qualities,” adding that “today’s cynical, divided, country sorely misses it.”
E. Bruce Harrison
Adjunct Professor, Leadership Communication
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