Once, when I was being asked to tackle a civic duty, my friend Brad Butler framed the request in terms that have ever since shaped my thinking. He told about the pioneers moving west across the prairie in their wagon trains and finding a series of lean-to buildings where they could take shelter. When they arrived, they found the woodboxes full to provide fuel for cooking and warmth. Only one rule governed their stay: when they left, they had to replenish the woodbox.
It is that way with us, Brad argued. We live in this land of abundance because those who came before us made sure, sometimes at a cost to themselves, that our woodbox would be full. So it now falls our duty to make sure we replenish the woodbox for those generations to follow.
The pioneers who created The E.W. Scripps Company shared something of this spirit. Old E.W. himself looked upon his newspapers as more than simply businesses. He saw them as possessing another dimension, one that had to do with a public, civic obligation.
He and those who followed him insisted on a selfless kind of journalism, all the while convinced that a successful financial base was necessary to take care of these other goals.
So it was in that spirit that the Scripps Howard Foundation came into being. The pioneers who created the idea wanted to be sure that the woodbox would be full for future journalists and for a self-governing country that would always rely on the products of a journalism rooted in public duty.
Through the years the Foundation has benefited from the generosity of those who shared the Scripps vision and wanted to give something back. In the same way, the Foundation itself has stayed true to its mission of reseeding the sources of The E.W. Scripps Company's success.
Scores of young journalists attest to this commitment, as do the communities in which the Company practices its craft. We like to think that the world of journalism itself is better because of the high standards of performance that the Foundation attempts to honor through its awards programs.
To keep fresh this dedication and to broaden its work, the Foundation's woodbox must be kept full. As our own journeys across the prairie reach fulfillment, we can be sure that others will follow eager to embrace the same ideals. It is our jobs to make sure they are not disappointed.
William R. Burleigh
The E.W. Scripps Company