Warren Phillips, Fiduciary Evangelist
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The Wall Street Journal remembered Warren Phillips, who retired as chairman of the Dow Jones Corporation in 1991 and passed away on May 10 at the age of 92. The glowing editorial and op-ed by Phillips’ successor, Peter Kann, are testimony to Phillips’ 44-year year career at the Journal.
They also remind me of the deep connection between journalism and fiduciary advice.
Kann wrote in his obituary about Phillips, “Whatever the position and title, his primary focus was always journalism. Warren regarded publishing a great newspaper as a sacred trust whose ultimate mission was public service. This was well before today’s era of fake news and the ubiquitous blending of news and opinion. To Warren, news and opinion were separate ‘courses,’ like meat and dessert, and news journalists should have no agenda beyond serving their readers and the broader public with honest and reliable information.”
The Journal editorial opens, “Our favorite story about Warren Phillips concerns his meeting in the 1970s with Henry Kissinger and then Journal editorial page editor Robert Bartley. Its shows that Phillips … was to his bones a newsman and defender of independent journalism even under political pressure.”
Forget the Journal’s editorial views. (i.e., The Journal’s myopic views on the defeated DOL Conflict of Interest Rule were flat-out wrong.)
The point is that journalism and fiduciary advice serve critical public roles. They’re integral to the success of our market economy and democratic republic. They fulfill these public service roles in private sector, for-profit capacities. At their best as professionals, journalists and fiduciary advisors practice their craft with the highest standard of objectivity, competence and integrity.
Substitute journalism’s tradition of separation between news and opinion with the securities industry’s struggle in recent years separating advice and sales. Then add to this the idea that a great newspaper is a public trust and that journalists should have no agenda – except to serve readers and the public with honest and reliable information.