Financial History Issue 121 (Spring 2017) | Page 24

dig deeper into a story . They all recalled his sense of idealism . “ He would say , ‘ Where is your sense of outrage ?’” said Mark Fogarty , the editor who replaced Strachan .
Friends and family of Strachan recalled his willingness to stand on principle . According to family legend , Strachan as a boy growing up in Brooklyn stood up to a local Mafia leader . The young Strachan complained to the mob boss , the tale goes , about local thugs selling drugs at a playground with his little brother watching , recalled Strachan ’ s daughter , Hillary Wilson . The Mafia leader agreed and the playground drug dealing stopped , Wilson said .
Strachan ’ s idealism is traced to his immigrant roots . Stanley Kenneth Strachan was born in Finsbury , England on August 22 , 1938 to working-class parents , George and Rebecca Strachan . When Strachan was eight , his family sailed on a passenger liner to New York , passed through Ellis Island and settled in Brooklyn .
“ He believed in the American dream and the standards that America was supposed to be built on , and he didn ’ t want to compromise those ,” Wilson said . “ When he saw those being compromised , it was outrageous to him .”
Strachan attended public schools in Brooklyn but did not attend college . His journalism career began as a copy boy for the New York Journal-American , an afternoon daily newspaper , and he worked at other newspapers before landing at the American Banker newspaper . Former American Banker editor Brad Henderson recalled Strachan was “ one of the most prolific reporters the paper ever employed .”
Strachan rose to become assistant managing editor at American Banker . He left the paper around 1971 and was an independent journalist and freelance writer before he was recruited to lead the National Thrift News in August 1976 .
The National Thrift News was the quintessential creature of the market . Founded in 1976 by John Glynn , an executive from Sperry Corp ., and Wesley Lindow , a
former president of Irving Trust Co ., the newspaper was aimed at reporting hard news on the savings and loan industry , while at the same time seeking to “ help build up the industry .” The newspaper began modestly in the fall of 1976 , with its first office in an apartment in New York ’ s West Side neighborhood . Back issues of the newspaper were filed in the bathtub .
Front page of the National Thrift News with breaking news on the Keating Five affair , September 28 , 1987 .
Glynn and Lindow found in Strachan a veteran journalist who also believed savings and loans could help society by allowing middle class families to buy a home . “ He saw the savings and loan industry as basically a good thing ,” said Stephen Kleege , a former National Thrift News associate editor . “ It was set up to allow people to save money and make loans to purchase houses .”
As an industry insider , Strachan would be applauded when he arrived at a savings and loan industry event and given a reserved seat in the front room . Strachan “ was friendly ” with businessmen , such as US League of Savings Institutions President William O ’ Connell ; several Wall Street executives sent heartfelt condolence letters to the Strachan family after the editor ’ s death .
Like many trade publications , the
National Thrift News saw its fortunes rise and fall on the mortgage industry . The paper exploded in size after President Ronald Reagan deregulated the thrift industry in 1982 , which set off a wave of merger and real estate activity . Before the 1982 deregulation bill , page counts ranged from 20 to 34 pages . After the 1982 bill , the paper basically doubled in size , with issues running between 37 and 66 pages through 1987 , the peak of the mortgage boom at that time .
The paper was stuffed with full-page advertisements from the largest institutions on Wall Street , including Merrill Lynch , Fannie Mae and Shearson Lehman Brothers . Total circulation peaked at 15,863 in 1985 ; as the industry ’ s crisis intensified and more savings and loans failed , circulation dropped to 9,057 in 1990 as Wall Street firms cut back on advertising .
The National Thrift News could be a classic trade journal that celebrated the industry . Take , for example , Strachan ’ s January 3 , 1980 editorial , entitled “ Hip Hip Hoorah ,” that praised developments in the industry . These industry-friendly editorials stand in contrast to the sterner tone in Strachan ’ s writing later in the decade as S & L executives were jailed for fraud . “ He saw that it ( the S & L industry ) had been perverted in some way ; it had been perverted by the deregulation of the 1980s ,” Kleege said . “ He felt that he was a defender of the industry . And if defending the industry means reporting that some savings and loan executive was being arrested and led away in handcuffs , you have to report that . ”
By all accounts , Strachan created a culture of investigative reporting that ran counter to norms in the trade press and was unusual
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