Richard Salant: The Legacy
Richard Salant, a resident of New Canaan for 37 years, was born in Manhattan, and graduated from Phillips Exeter Academy, Harvard College, and Harvard Law School, where he served on the Law Review. Before joining the legal staff of CBS in 1952, Mr. Salant worked for the National Labor Relations Board, for the Solicitor General, and for the Manhattan firm of Rosenman, Goldmark, Colin & Kaye, longtime legal counsel to CBS.
During World War II he served with the Navy as a Lt. Commander. He was appointed president of CBS News in 1961, a position he held until 1964 and again from 1966 to 1979. Mr. Salant is credited with expanding the role of television news and setting the industry standard for integrity. His tenure there coincided with the tumultuous years of the 1960s, the Vietnam War and the Watergate scandal. CBS coverage during those years was marked by responsible and fearless reporting and by respect for language - not just pictures.
When he reached CBS's mandatory retirement age of 65, Mr. Salant went to NBC for two years as vice chairman and then went on to head the National News Council, an organization he had earlier helped found. Its purpose was the monitoring of media performance - both print and electronic. Known both as a defender of the news media's First Amendment rights and a critic of what he considered the media's excesses and failings, he died in 1993 at the age of 78 while giving a talk on news coverage.
At the memorial service, his stepson Peter C. Goldmark said of Richard Salant: "He believed that the news should be free - free of restraint, not of responsibility. He fought for a news that was fair- not popular, but fair. He stood for a news that was fearless - not to be intimidated, not to be compromised, but to be respected and trusted beyond doubt. That was his passion."
In 1992, Richard Salant made a major gift to the New Canaan Library to honor his renowned CBS colleague Eric Sevareid, then near death. It was an unrestricted gift, but speaking at the Library's Annual Meeting that year, Mr. Salant expressed his hope that the Library would establish a news center that would honor Mr. Sevareid by encouraging "news literacy."
After Mr. Salant's death, the Library Trustees and Director determined to honor him while also fulfilling his wish to pay tribute to Mr. Sevareid. Thus the Salant Room houses the Sevareid Collection and is a place where the public can study both news events and consequent press coverage. Frances Salant generously donated to the room her husband's own library on subjects related to the First Amendment and the media. these books and tapes form the core of what became the Sevareid Collection. It is amplified by the library's own holdings on media topics as well as by new acquisitions.
It also includes a broad spectrum of publications, audio and video cassettes, electronic databases on the media, and public Internet access to enhance research opportunities. To construct and equip the Salant Room and endow its ongoing collections development, lectures, and programming, the Committee for the Richard Salant Room led the fund raising that supported the renovations and built a Salant Fund for the future.
On October 16, 1994 the Salant Room was dedicated following remarks by Andy Rooney of 60 Minutes and members of the Salant family. During 1995 Richard C. Hottelet gave a talk in April and Mike Wallace spoke in November. Walter Conkrite appeared in November, 1996, Charles Osgood in November, 1997, Dan Rather in November, 1998 and Lesley Stahl in October 1999. For several years, 1995 -2002, the Salant Room Round Tables served as a public forum on current affairs and their coverage by the media. Throughout 1996, the Round Tables chronicled "Election '96" with the co-sponsorship of the League of Women voters of New Canaan.
Development of the Sevareid Collection was enhanced in 1996 by a grant from the Tribune New York Foundation. In October 1996, the Salant Endowment sponsored a panel discussion, What's Next for Public Broadcasting? which brought together Ward Chamberlin, Larry Grossman, John Jay Iselin and John (Jack) Kiermaier, the leadership of Thirteen/WNET for several decades and Bill Buzenberg of National Public Radio. Gifts to the Richard Salant Room should be mailed to :
New Canaan Library 151 Main Street New Canaan, CT 06840
Books: Richard Salant's personal library and new purchases on the topics of broadcast journalism, press responsibility, and accuracy in the media comprising the Eric Sevareid Collection.
The Salant Papers: Richard Salant's papers, including correspondence, essays, reports organized by topic and in some cases bound as monographs.
Periodicals Subscriptions to publications that explore the role of the media in American life on a daily, weekly, monthly or quarterly schedule.
Daily and Weekly Newspapers Thirty-three newspapers available daily.