About Wilson Hirschfeld


Cleveland Plain Dealer Reporter, Editor and Columnist

   

 

     The late Wilson Hirschfeld (1916 to 1974) resided his entire life in the Cleveland, Ohio area with the exception of his military service in World War II and an assignment to the Cleveland Plain Dealer's Columbus Bureau in Columbus, Ohio.

     A 1934 graduate of Cleveland's Glenville High School, he invested his entire journalistic career with the Cleveland Plain Dealer newspaper.  Starting as a copy assistant in 1936, then becoming a reporter in 1938, Wilson worked his way up through a wide variety of assignments to that of Managing Editor - the position he held upon his 1973 departure from the paper.

     Wilson took a leave from the Plain Dealer starting in 1942 when he was inducted into the United States Army Air Forces as a private.  He served in England, France and Italy with the Eighth, Ninth and 15th Army Air Forces.  Prior to returning to the United States in 1945 with the rank of captain he was with the U S Strategic Bombing Survey in England.  Wilson rejoined the Plain Dealer's staff upon his release from active military duty.   

     His family included his wife, three children and a step-son. 

     Wilson had one brother and two sisters, one of which being the late Mary Hirschfeld who also enjoyed a long career at the Plain Dealer as a reporter and columnist.

     As an aside, Mary was a trailblazer as one of the early women working in journalism.  While very much a globetrotter, her specialty was travel to and reporting upon Latin America.  Mary also wrote a very popular society column for a period of time and ended her Plain Dealer career as a features writer.

     Wilson was recognized for his journalistic ability with a number of awards and citations, a couple of which are listed below:

     The Heyward Broun Award issued by the American Newspaper Guild in 1960.

     The Ted V. Rodgers Journalism Award granted by the American Trucking Association "For Outstanding Articles and Editorials on Highway Improvement and Use" (quoted directly from ATA's award booklet).  Wilson received the First Place Award in the daily newspaper category in 1956 and 1959 as well as the Third Place Award in the daily newspaper category in 1958.  Additionally, Wilson served on the Ted V. Rodgers Award Board of Judges in 1960.

     Also, while not ultimately winning it, in 1971 Wilson and several of his fellow journalists at the Plain Dealer had been selected, as a team, to be one of five entries recommended by the jury to be considered for the Pulitzer Prize in Public Service.

     It should be noted that late in his career at the Plain Dealer Wilson is said to have had considerable behind-the-scenes influence in Cleveland politics through a friendship with the late Ralph Perk, who served in a number of elected offices and would ultimately become Mayor of Cleveland.

     Wilson has received a fair amount of criticism for said influence over the years, both before and after after his passing.  Did his association with Mayor Perk adversely affect Wilson's journalistic credibility?

     One is left only to speculate, but perhaps Wilson's justification of maintaining a friendship with Mayor Perk while still being a working journalist was a feeling of having the ability to directly and positively influence the mayor, rather than trying to do so indirectly through editorial comment alone.  Wilson was known to be very committed to his thoughts so the likelihood was that he influenced the mayor to a much greater degree than the mayor influenced him, in this writer's opinion.

     It is this writer's personal feeling that anything Wilson did in this regard was motivated by what he perceived would lead to the betterment of Cleveland.  As a Cleveland native Wilson believed in and greatly cared about the metropolitan area.

 

     A  monetary grant in Wilson's memory was once awarded annually to a selected educational institution to help facilitate the teaching of journalism.  This grant was issued from the Wilson Hirschfeld Fund Trust.  Unfortunately the Trust no longer exists, having been dissolved early in 2010.  Further background regarding the grant and Orley Bosworth, who originated the idea of creating the Trust, may be found at:  The Wilson Hirschfeld Fund 

 

     Photographs from Hirschfeld family archives.

     By DFH, revised April 28, 2010.