A Legacy of Impeccable Ethics

Barney Calame in June of 1977
Barney Calame, BJ '61, covers a June 1977 press briefing by Allegheny Ludlum Steel Corp. at the Duquesne Club in Pittsburgh, where he was the bureau chief at the time. Photo courtesy of Barney Calame.

Barney Calame, BJ '61, Returns to Campus to Receive Honorary Degree from MU

By Michelle Slinkard
Strategic Communication Student

During a cool afternoon in November 2010, Barney Calame and his wife, Kathryn, were outside raking the autumn leaves when the phone rang. It was from the University of Missouri, their alma mater. Journalism professor Lee Wilkins and biochemistry professor Frank Schmidt were calling to tell the couple that they would both be receiving honorary degrees from the university in May.

People Links
Story Links

"I was incredulous that it was going to be a real honorary doctorate," Calame says. "I could understand something at the J-School, but for the university to give me the degree - I couldn't quite believe that. I always think of honorary degrees going to people who make grand speeches and have big names. Then take me - some guy who is just a journalist. It just didn't seem to fit."

Barney Calame, BJ '61
Barney Calame, BJ '61 Photo courtesy of Barney Calame.

Calame was awarded a Doctor of Humane Letters (L.H.D.) for "service to the practice of journalism...and ethical and responsible reporting of the news to the people." Kathryn Calame received a Doctor of Science (Sc.D.) for "accomplishments and contributions to scientific immunology and cancer research."

The successful couple met and fell in love at the University more than 50 years before. Kathryn is a professor emerita at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons. She has both a master's and doctorate in biochemistry and has published more than 100 works in journal articles. The couple has two grown children, Christine and Jon, along with two grandchildren.

Barney Calame spent his career as an investigative business journalist and editor for The Wall Street Journal. He worked around the nation, investigating fraud and writing business pieces for the Journal while striving to make the world a better place.

Richard Wallace, Barney Calame and Brock Hessing Sr. in 1996
Calame (center) poses with former MU Chancellor Richard Wallace (left) and Brock Hessing Sr., then president of the Missouri Alumni Association, after they presented him with a Faculty Alumni Award in 1996. Photo courtesy of Barney Calame.

"I really cared about journalism and was very devoted to it," he says. "I thought it was very important. I thought that you had a chance to change the world and make it a better place."

Calame's lasting legacy in journalism is marked by almost 42 years of work. His lifetime achievements are seen in his collection of prestigious awards:

An Early Passion

"As deputy managing editor since 1992, Barney has run the entire paper in my absence and much of it in my presence. Throughout, Barney has used his high ethical standards, his demanding standard of fairness and his well-tuned understanding of proper journalistic process to improve what we do before it is published and rectify error after. He has accomplished this to the great benefit of our readers and the substantial improvement of our own professionalism."

Paul Steiger, Former Managing Editor
The Wall Street Journal

Calame's journalistic fervor was set in motion in seventh grade at the Wheaton Journal, a small weekly publication then serving the Missouri community. Calame swept the street in front of the newspaper office, along with the area in front of many other local stores and offices.

The cheap wage he charged caught the editor's attention, and Barney was soon invited inside the publication to sweep the newspaper's small office and run occasional errands. Calame clearly remembers when he was given the opportunity to do more for the small paper.

"I did a little bit of statistical analysis of the high school's basketball team," he says. "I remember it as a grand display of data - much more than I know it really was - and was thrilled that the editor let me put that in the paper."

At the beginning of Calame's freshman year of high school, his father, a Methodist minister, was transferred to Golden City, Mo., about 60 miles from Wheaton. Calame immediately stopped in at the local weekly, the Golden City Herald, and asked if he could volunteer.

The Herald took the 15-year-old up on his offer and assigned him to write about local sports. It was Calame's dream at the time to cover the St. Louis Cardinals, his favorite baseball team, for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

R.T. McNamar and Barney Calame in 1971
Calame speaks with R.T. McNamar (left), an official of the Pay Board created by President Nixon, before a congressional hearing in 1972 in Washington, D.C. Photo courtesy of Barney Calame.

Calame's high school was small; his graduating class was 24. Because of its size, the school didn't have a paper until he helped launch one his sophomore year. He resigned as editor his senior year in clash with the school administration over a story and started his own paper that lasted three issues before he lost access to his father's mimeograph machine.

Throughout his high school career, Calame wrote for several Missouri papers. He covered state high school basketball tournaments for the Springfield News-Leader. For this stint, he traveled to both Cape Girardeau and Columbia to cover games.

He also wrote a small section in the Carthage Evening Press, a daily newspaper one county away from his home. A representative from the paper had come looking for Calame at his school when the man heard he was interested in journalism.

Calame's section of the paper, headlined simply "Golden City," sought to entice more Golden City subscribers by reporting on local high school sports, city activities and other interesting news.

As he neared the end of high school, Calame's teen dream of writing about the Cardinals became less interesting to the maturing Calame. He now hoped to write for the Washington bureau of the Post-Dispatch and cover politics. He had realized there were much more important things taking place in Washington, D.C., than in St. Louis' Busch Stadium.

His senior year of high school, Calame began looking for ways to finance his college education. He heard about a Navy scholarship program that included full tuition, books and a small boarding stipend. In return, the Navy asked for summer commitments and a four-year duty obligation post-graduation. Calame won the scholarship and enrolled at MU.

"I decided I wanted to be a journalist around 1952, and when I discovered that Missouri was the oldest school of journalism in the country and famous," he says. "I knew I wouldn't have a lot of money for college tuition, so I figured I was very lucky to be living in Missouri. The choice seemed pretty simple to an eighth-grader, and I never seriously considered any other school after that."

A Tiger on the Typewriter

"He is a man of towering integrity, who had a giant impact on the development of The Wall Street Journal over the course of decades. As a reporter, editor and leader, he set exacting standards, worked tirelessly and steadily built a reputation for fairness, honesty and hard work."

David Kansas
Chief Markets Commentator
The Wall Street Journal

Early in his freshman year at MU, the athletic publicity office welcomed Calame as a paid student assistant. He worked about 20 hours per week, sat in the press box at every football game and handled the public address system for the men's home basketball games at Brewer Fieldhouse. Although Calame no longer wanted a career in sports journalism, this gave him the opportunity to be around journalists and helped pay his college expenses.

Throughout his time in the J-School, Calame worked for the Columbia Missourian in two reporting classes, two copy editing classes and an investigative reporting class. At the time, William Bickley served as the managing editor and a mentor to Calame.

"I learned a great deal from him," Calame says. "He was very calm and patient, and he had strong standards. You really wanted to please him, and I really wanted to learn."

For one reporting class, he was responsible for the City Hall beat. Twice each month he attended city council meetings. After each evening meeting, he would head to the Missourian newsroom in Neff Hall to complete the story due the following morning.

"I'm such a slow writer that when I was covering city hall and attending council meetings, 60 percent of the time I stayed there most of the night after the meeting," he says. "By the time I was finished writing, the Neff doors were locked, and I had to crawl out a window in the early morning to leave the building."

By his senior year, Calame had taken on leadership roles in many of his activities. He served as president of his fraternity, Beta Theta Pi, president of the Student Union Activities Board and president of his journalism senior class.

"I was always eager to take on responsibility," he says. "In a sense it goes back to trying to do something important, to prove myself. It gave me a chance to show people that I could make important decisions and make a difference.

Love and War

"This is a man whose every cell vibrates with a passion for the best in journalism and for making the best better."

Paul Steiger, Former Managing Editor
The Wall Street Journal

Also during his senior year, Calame met Kathryn Boehm, a year younger, who had transferred to MU from Vassar College in New York. A mutual friend and Calame's fraternity brother, William Miller, introduced them.

Boehm had asked Miller for some dating advice at MU, and he quickly pulled out the Beta rush brochure. She immediately saw Calame's president profile near the beginning.

"Fix me up with the president of the Beta house," Boehm jokingly challenged.

Ensign Calame at the Con of the USS Esteem
Ensign Calame at the con of the USS Esteem (MSO 438) off Danang in early 1962. His stint in Vietnam didn't allow him to communicate with his wife, Kathryn, for the duration of their engagement. Photo courtesy of Barney Calame.

The pair met for the first time on a blind date in the fall of 1960. A year later, Calame asked Boehm to marry him, and they planned a wedding for June of 1962.

Upon graduation in 1961, however, Calame's duty in the U.S. Navy began. He was commissioned an ensign, the first rank of officer, and assigned to a minesweeper on a normal six-month deployment to the western Pacific. A few months later, Calame's division was unexpectedly diverted to a top-secret mission in Vietnam, the first naval unit assigned to the conflict. He was separated from his fiancé for the duration of their engagement.

This classified operation meant Calame wasn't able to tell Kathryn where he was until the assignment ended. They had only a handful of telephone calls before he returned to Kansas City three days before their wedding.

Once married, Calame's remaining two years of duty were spent at a base in Indian Head, Md., about 20 miles outside Washington, D.C. When Kathryn returned to school for her graduate degree, Calame also chose to go back to school. He earned a master's degree in political science from the University of Maryland in 1966 and spent the summer after his Navy term ended writing his thesis, "The accuracy and use of unnamed sources in newspaper reporting of governmental affairs."

A Blossoming Career

"His passion for fairness, accuracy, truth and the credibility of the Journal were unmatched. Barney demanded that our articles were reported and edited with the highest of ethical standards. He was a task master, unrelenting in his quest to ensure that the work of our reporters and editors was worthy of our readers' time, money and, most importantly, trust."

Karen Miller Pensiero
Assistant Managing Editor
The Wall Street Journal

Following his four years in the Navy and the completion of his master's degree, Calame finally was able to look for his first full-time job in journalism.

Calame applied to The Wall Street Journal, along with many other publications. After numerous interviews, he received about a dozen job offers at newspapers across the country.

"The job market was good at the time," he says. "Newspapers were doing well, and they were hiring. The Missouri reputation did you a lot of favors, too."

In 1965, Calame began his career at The Wall Street Journal as a staff reporter. At the time, the Journal paid starting reporters about $120 per week. To compare, Missouri jobs were paying anywhere from $60 to $70 per week.

Calame and his entry-level colleagues often referred to themselves as "greenies" because they typically were right out of college with no experience. Each "greenie" was assigned a group of companies to cover on a breaking news basis.

But "greenies" were also able to pitch and write feature stories for the Journal's acclaimed Page One that a group of much more experienced editors would rewrite and polish. Within the first few months, Calame wrote his first feature for the Journal: "A Matter of Meters." Under a byline using his formal name, Byron E. Calame, the piece highlighted the lack of water meters in New York City.

Throughout his tenure at the Wall Street Journal, Calame worked around the nation in New York, Los Angeles and Washington, D.C., before becoming bureau chief at the small Pittsburgh office in 1974. He then returned to Los Angeles as bureau chief in 1978.

The final position Calame held at The Wall Street Journal was deputy managing editor. As the second-in-command, he was responsible for quality control, ethical standards, and maintaining and monitoring reporting.

Retired but Remembered

"Perhaps Barney's strongest legacy is one he may not even fully appreciate. He built a culture of fairness and integrity at The Wall Street Journal that persists to this day, several years after he retired. Staffers still have shirts that ask, 'What Would Barney Do?' - a reminder that Barney would do the right thing, as should we all."

David Kansas
Chief Markets Commentator
The Wall Street Journal

After nearly 40 years at the publication, Calame retired in 2004. When he announced his retirement, a line of people formed at his office door. Some urged him to stay; others simply gave him their good wishes. The staff at the Journal showed their deep appreciation for Calame with the creation of "What Would Barney Do?" T-shirts.

Upon his retirement, Calame was lured back to work by one of the Journal's biggest competitors, The New York Times. The Times hired Calame as its public editor, with a term of two years. This position is responsible for taking complaints from the readership and evaluating the Times' coverage, be it positive or negative.

"I was hired to criticize The New York Times," Calame says. "That was pretty amazing."

In Calame's final column in the Times, he wrote to the readers of the publication:

"It has been an honor to be entrusted to pursue concerns about The Times on behalf of you, the readers, and to monitor the integrity of the journalism practiced by the talented staff of this outstanding newspaper. It has been especially gratifying to hear from those of you whose questions and criticisms showed that you take seriously your obligation to be informed so you can be a more effective citizen in our democracy. And while you often deserved more breadth and vision than I had to offer, please know that I have given the job my all - for you and for the craft that I love."

Barney Calame Interviews Robert Anderson
Calame interviews Robert Anderson, president and chief executive officer of Rockwell International, after the annual meeting of shareholders in the spring of 1976 in Pittsburgh, Pa. Photo courtesy of Barney Calame.

Noteworthy Stories

Calame still remembers an investigative business piece that took six months to uncover all the necessary information.

C. Arnholt Smith, a.k.a. Mr. San Diego, controlled two major publicly-owned concerns that owned a large part of that city at the time: U.S. National Bank, the city's second largest bank, and Westgate-California Corp., which owned local hotels, food processors, fishing boat fleets and the baseball team.

Calame began his investigation of Smith when he was looking over filings from the Securities and Exchange Commission. He began seeing indications that Smith was engaged in self-dealing. Companies owned by Smith were getting inflated loans from the bank and selling assets to Westgate-California at inflated prices - at the expense of the public owners of shares in the two major concerns. Calame noted that Smith received a relatively small salary from his positions at his public firms yet still maintained his status as the wealthiest man in San Diego.

Calame's investigation of Smith did not go unnoticed.

"For a while the guy had a detective following me around, but to me it was a good story because the guy was really doing something wrong," Calame says.

Over the next six months, using only hard copies of documents and his typewriter, Calame's investigation produced a front-page story that led to Smith's 1979 conviction and eventual jailing for income tax evasion charges related to the self-dealing.

Calame's stories again had impact in Pittsburgh, this time on the Gulf Oil Corp. During Watergate, it was revealed that Gulf Oil had made questionable political contributions to President Richard Nixon. But Calame noticed that the board of directors wasn't trying to ascertain who in management had authorized the illegal donations.

Kathryn and Barney Calame hiking in Chaco Canyon in September 2009
Kathryn and Barney Calame hiking in Chaco Canyon in September 2009 in New Mexico. The couple met and fell in love as students at the University of Missouri. Photo courtesy of Barney Calame.

Four stories were published in the Journal from April 1975 to January 1976 regarding Gulf Oil and the questionable contributions - three of them questioning why the board wasn't taking action. The final was a front-page story about the board pushing out several top Gulf Oil executives.

Lifetime Reflections

Calame witnessed a changing world of journalism. He wrote his early stories on typewriters and researched by manually searching files and hard documents. Later, he saw the incorporation of new technology and the move toward digital journalism.

At the root of Calame's love for journalism lie the fundamental principles that he has kept close to him since the beginning of his education.

"The Missouri School of Journalism instilled in me a deep commitment to journalism as a public service serving as a watchdog, holding public officials and the powerful accountable," he says.

When Calame received that call from the University, he was left speechless at the honor presented to him. Only five people received honorary doctorates this year.

"It's an honor that I would have never expected," he says. "To me it's the most prestigious honor that the university can give an individual. My wife has had her Ph.D. for years now, and finally I have caught up."