The Reporter

He had become a legendary figure in the annals of Philadelphia journalism …

WHEN IT BECAME obvious that the bankruptcy racket was going to blow, Karafin frantically tried to erase all traces of his connection with Twin State. He had one of his attorneys, Joseph Savitz, write letters to the director of Twin State saying that his client had never given them his permission to be listed as president. He asked another lawyer, Irwin Paul, who had incorporated Twin State to write a letter testifying that he, Karafin, was not connected with the firm. He began telling investigators that he had not even known he had been made head of the firm.

But Dun & Bradstreet, an agency not inclined to fictionalizing reports, maintains that Harry Karafin was listed as the first president of Twin State. (Later he was replaced in the post by Beryl Hoffman, Cappie’s nephew,) In addition, both Scolnick and a former officer of the firm have testified that they were present when Harry Karafin signed the papers.

Perhaps, at the time, Karafin thought he was just doing his old pal Scolnick another favor.

 

Like he did when he got him a gun permit.

As the bankruptcy business flourished and the wheeling-dealing became more intense, Scolnick, despite his awesome size, decided he ought to carry a gun. Karafin not only helped him obtain a permit to do so, but actually signed his application and testified to his "good moral character."

THE MAJOR QUESTION, of course, is this: To what extent can a reporter claim that involvement with his sources, however corrupt, is a vital requisite in the performance of his duties?

The answer, obviously, is to the extent that such involvement does not corrupt the reporter himself, either in the performance of his professional duties or otherwise.

There is no doubt that a reporter who uses his sources for personal gain in detriment to his professional obligation is not only demeaning a journalistic code but is also violating a certain community trust.

The Philadelphia Inquirer calls itself "An Independent Newspaper for All the People." As such, it has a responsibility to present the news not only "accurately and fearlessly" (as it daily proclaims it does), but also objectively and comprehensively as an essential force in shaping the decisions of an open society. The absence of reliable reporting is the first step towards failure to meet that responsibility.

That is why the story of Harry Karafin, the reporter, is of very special interest.

For years Harry Karafin has been the Inquirer‘s top muckraking reporter. In the power circles of the city, on both sides of the law, he was undoubtedly the best known — and the most feared — newspaperman in the business. Last month, when word of his severance from the Inquirer got around, the Philadelphia Dispatch, the insiders’ favorite weekly gossip sheet, carried the story on its front page: "For years, lawyers cringed, city officials winced and politicians prayed when Harry Karafin walked into their offices," it wrote. "He broke more exclusives, triggered more 72-point streamers and spearheaded more journalistic crusades than any other newsman in the long history of the Philadelphia Inquirer."

That he did.

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