Thursday, January 24, 2013
MC Weekly: Your father had the biggest scoop in Associated Press history. And after he was fired, he didn’t back down—he maintained that he had made the right choice by breaking the news in spite of an embargo. What kind of man was Ed Kennedy?
Cochran Kennedy: He died when I was 16, so I just knew him as a child and he never talked to me about the war because I was too young to understand anything about the war. He was a wonderful father. I know that he really put his heart and soul into the [Monterey County] Herald. When he came to Monterey it was a pretty pathetic little paper and he improved it dramatically. As soon as he got there they started winning awards from the California Newspaper Publisher Association every year.
I guess he could have been a bitter person, considering what happened to him, but I don’t think he was bitter. He just tried to get on with his life and do the best job he could where he was. He was a very well known person on the peninsula, he sponsored all kinds of contests and things. He loved it there. I’ve talked to some people who worked for him while he was the editor, and they say he was kind of an intimidating person to work for. I guess considering his background he would have been a little intimidating, but he ran a really good newspaper.
You were a journalist for a while yourself? Was that something that came from your family? Both your parents were journalists.
I don’t think either of them wanted me to be a journalist. But I was just drawn to it, and I was able to write fairly well. And then I was at the University of Wisconsin, I was there during the Vietnam War.
Were you ever in a journalistic situation, where you thought you could use some of your father’s advice?
I suppose the most violent things I was ever in were some of the demonstrations in the University of Wisconsin, where they were tear gassing people (during the Vietnam war). I guess I just went out there with a big kerchief to shield myself and decided I had to be out there. I had to get the story, because that’s what I was supposed to do. I’m sure he would have told me to do that.
What does it mean to you and your family that The Associated Press apologized, all these years later?
We were overjoyed. We never expected it to happen, after 67 years. When I worked for the AP—I worked for the AP three years, right out of college in New York— they knew who I was because Ed Kennedy was a pretty big legend around there. But they never spoke to me about the incident while I was there. And I didn’t want to seem like I was asking for any favoritism, so I never brought up the subject either. But i think that just the fact they never spoke to me about it was...I don’t want to say insulting... ut they were really sweeping the whole thing under the rug for a long, long time.
Tom Curley, the former president of The Associated Press, co-wrote the introduction to your father’s memoir. At one point Curley was researching a history of the AP?
As (Curley) began to look into the idea of updating the AP’s history it became very apparent that the reason they hadn’t done it for such a long time is that nobody could figure out how they were going to figure out the Ed Kennedy incident. In 2007 they did publish a book called Breaking News, which was the updated AP history, and it did mention my father. But they made him out as a maverick and didn’t apologize. Around that time my letter landed on his desk, and he personally recognized that it was time to get the skeleton out of the closet.
There’s a push to get your father a posthumous Pulitzer Prize?
A fellow who worked for my father at the Herald started this effort for this posthumous Pulitzer for my father. Sixty-plus journalists signed up for the so-called Ed Kennedy Project, including quite a few people from the San Francisco Chronicle. They sent in an application, a letter, and a long narrative about why my father should get a Pulitzer. It’s very moving for me to have so many journalists supporting the effort, and all these people just came out of nowhere. I don’t even know most of them. It just shows that this case is really a freedom of the press issue, which is still a very important issue in our day. I think its a long shot, but it’s still very gratifying.