The Reporter

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

He was a mouthy guy. As many contacts as he had and as many big ears as he had access to and as many strings as he could pull, they weren’t as many as he said they were. No one ever accused him of being modest. But that’s the way he operated. He constantly made more use of his contacts than they thought he was making of them through the informational technique of, well, call it cross-fertilization, in lieu of a blunter expression.

Karafin’s career reached a point where his fellow journalists stopped being surprised at what he could come up with. When accused wife-murderer Jack Lopinson was being held under tight security in a prison cell surrounded by guards, Karafin got an exclusive interview. When bail-jumping Sidney Brooks was being brought back from Rhodesia, Karafin got off the plane with him. While the F.B.I. was scouring the country for Angelo Bruno to arrest him for conspiracy and extortion, Karafin met him in Boston as his plane came in from Rome.

Such enterprising reporting naturally endeared him to the top men who are responsible for putting out the Philadelphia Inquirer. In fact, Karafin had proved himself to be one of the most loyal of company men. When the Inquirer was besieged by a long, bitter strike by the Newspaper Guild in 1958, only Karafin and two other reporters — Saul Kohler and Joe Trachtman — broke the picket lines and returned to work before a union-management agreement was reached.

It was no wonder that word got around — undoubtedly perpetuated if not originated by the reporter himself — that Karafin had a special relationship not only with his immediate superiors but also with Inquirer publisher Walter Annenberg. In fact, because of his reputation as a hard-hitting expose writer, Karafin, it was whispered, was "Annenberg’s hatchet man." Karafin not only reveled in the description but, indeed, more than once introduced himself as such. He even told a few people that he was in Annenberg’s will.

IT IS DIFFICULT to determine just when Harry Karafin came to the realization that in the extensive conglomeration of contacts and sources he had cultivated over the years there were innumerable opportunities to enhance his personal position far beyond the rewards possible within the limitations of his journalistic chores.

In other words, we don’t know exactly when Karafin got into the public relations business. Something like that is hard to determine. A few reporters will do occasional freelance work on the side, banging out a press release or advertising copy for some agency or other. And if some friend happens to work for a firm that is opening a branch office somewhere, it is not difficult for a reporter to get a brief item into his paper about it. It is ridiculous to think that there isn’t a little bit of whoring going on in the journalistic profession. The kids always seem to need another pair of shoes. After all, there’s nothing illegal about public relations work, for the most part.

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