Drew Pearson’s Journalistic Legacy

By Oakley Burt

Drew Pearson (1897-1969) was an American journalist from Evanston, Illinois. He is regarded as one of the most influential, but controversial news and radio journalists of his time with a career spanning close to fifty years.

Pearson’s career in journalism began while he attended Swarthmore College (1915-1919) and worked as an editor for the school newspaper, The Phoenix. After graduating from Swarthmore, Pearson took on new opportunities and ventured into the world. From 1919-1921 he served with the American Friends Service Committee directing post-war efforts in Kosovo. He returned to the US and taught geography at the University of Pennsylvania until 1922.


Journalist Drew Pearson taking a reading break to answer his phone. Shot by staff photographers at the Salt Lake Tribune in 1952. Used by permission, Utah State History.

Pearson traveled abroad again in 1923, to Eastern Europe, Asia, and Australia. According to one source, he wrote about his travels as a freelance journalist and secured a six-month lecture tour in Australia. As Pearson was traveling through the Mediterranean he was also commissioned for America’s “Around the World Syndicate” for a series of interviews titled, “Europe’s Twelve Greatest Men.” (Nimmo and Newsome, p. 267)

Upon returning to the United States he transitioned into a full-time career as a journalist. Pearson went on to work at the United States Daily from 1926-1933, and the Baltimore Sun from 1929-1932. While working at the Baltimore Sun in 1930, Pearson was sent to Cuba to cover the Cuban Revolution. According to Heintze, his reporting earned him an honorable mention for the Pugsley Award for the best journalistic reporting of 1930.

Pearson’s most notable and famed contribution to journalism was a book he co-authored titled, Washington Merry-Go-Round, and the daily column that followed. In 1931, he and Robert S. Allen anonymously published the book described as “a collection of gossip-ridden news items concerning key figures in public service.” (Heintze) The pair released another book the following year titled, More Merry-Go-Round, but were found to be the authors and were fired from their jobs. Pearson was subsequently hired as the head of the Baltimore Sun’s Washington division. From there he and Allen began the infamous “Washington Merry-Go-Round” daily column. Like the book, the column was dedicated to honest reporting, uncovering corruption, lies, affairs, etc. “From the thirties through the sixties, no one crossed the journo-politico line in search of real policy impact with greater fervor than Drew Pearson,” reported the New Yorker on September 28, 2015.


Drew Pearson holding his newspaper. Shot by staff photographers at the Salt Lake Tribune in 1952. Used by permission, Utah State History.

Pearson rarely shied away from reporting on controversial topics throughout his career. He reported on bribes taken by New Jersey Congressman, J. Parnell Thomas from the White House, and that Senator Robert F. Kennedy had authorized electronic surveillance of Martin Luther King Jr. (Hopkins, p. 552) Pearson often reported on the Kennedy family, President John F. Kennedy in particular. He aired his concerns with the Kennedy Administration and was one of the journalists reporting on President Kennedy’s alleged affairs. Pearson also reported on the Watergate scandal in 1972. Pearson’s beliefs and stances on issues were made well known in his reporting, he remained candid and controversial in his work.

Toward the end of his career, his status landed him numerous speaking engagements, including a guest speaking appearance at the University of Utah. On November 7, 1970, the Daily Utah Chronicle reported that Pearson would be a guest speaker in Kingsbury Hall at the University of Utah. Roger Traynor and Jan Preece were also selected as guests to highlight activities during that week. Traynor spoke on appellate judges while Preece, a famed metropolitan opera singer, would be performing works of Bach. The Daily Utah Chronicle reported on November 9, 1970, that Pearson’s lecture topic would be his famous syndicated column, “Washington Merry-Go-Round.” On November 14, after his lecture, the Chronicle reported that Pearson mainly spoke on the new Kennedy Administration — voicing his concerns surrounding the election and speculating that Nixon would run for president again.

For the remainder of his life and career, Pearson continued to publish the “Washington Merry-Go-Round” column and air his radio show of the same name. Upon his death, his longtime aide, the investigative journalist Jack Anderson, inherited the column. (Heintze)

Drew Pearson died on September 1, 1969. On September 2, the Washington Post reported on Pearson’s death, saying, “He was a crusader. He passionately believed that public office was a public trust, and with his brand of journalism, he went after the corrupt, incompetent and pompous.” The Washington Post reported on Pearson again on September 3, saying, “He was a moralist who was proud to be a muckraker in the strict dictionary sense — one who searches out and exposes publicly real or apparent misconduct of prominent individuals.” The Post continued, “Somewhere in these unlikely combinations lies the key to his extraordinary career as the most successful, in many ways the most effective, and certainly the most controversial journalist of his time.” The Washington Post accurately described Pearson’s impact on journalism.

Drew Pearson’s contributions to the journalism profession cannot be ignored or forgotten. He was an influential, controversial and important figure in American journalism. In more ways than one Pearson laid the foundation for current journalists to follow in his footsteps and conduct in-depth reporting. Especially in today’s political climate, it is crucial that American journalists never shy away from reporting on controversial topics and news as Pearson did not. Journalism is a profession that aims to keep the government and its public figures in check, a statement that was upheld by Pearson and should be regarded by modern-day journalists as well.

Oakley Burt is a junior at the University of Utah. She is a communication major with an emphasis in journalism and a minor in political science.

Primary Sources

Drew Pearson Speaks Friday in Kingsbury,Daily Utah Chronicle, November 7, 1960, 1.

Drew Pearson, Columnist, to Address Students,” Daily Utah Chronicle, November 9, 1960, 1.

Drew Pearson to Speak in Kingsbury,” Daily Utah Chronicle, November 10, 1960, 1.

Pearson Talks on Coming Kennedy Administration,” Daily Utah Chronicle, November 14, 1960, 2.

Jack Anderson, “Drew Pearson: A Great Reporter Dies: The Washington Merry-Go-Round,” Washington Post, September 2, 1969, 13.

“Drew Pearson,” Washington Post, September 3, 1969, 22.

Secondary Sources

Hopkins, W. Wat. “Pearson.” In Biographical Dictionary of American Journalism, edited by Joseph P. McKerns. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1989.

Heintze, Jim. “Drew Pearson Biography.” University Library, American University, February 9, 2006.

Mallon, Thomas. “The Journalist Who Was His Own Inside Source,The New Yorker, September 21, 2015

Nimmo, Dan D. and Chevelle Newsome. Political Commentators in the United States in the 20th Century: A Bio-Critical Sourcebook. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1997.

Drew Pearson,” Encyclopedia Britannica, December 9, 2019.



Doug Fabrizio, Host of KUER’s ‘RadioWest’


Doug Fabrizio was born in 1964 in Bountiful, Utah. He studied at the University of Utah and began working and reporting for the KUER broadcasting station in 1987. KUER is a public radio station and is a member of National Public Radio (NPR). Its mission is simple: the station is “committed to building a community of world citizens through story and art, discussion and debate, sound and creativity.” (“About KUER”) The station is broadcast from the University of Utah and listeners around Utah tune in.

Fabrizio began working at the station when he was a junior in high school. By 1993, he had assumed the position of news director of KUER. (Sheehan) Then, in 2001, Fabrizio began hosting a radio segment, RadioWest. The show is “a radio conversation where people tell stories that explore the way the world works. (“About RadioWest“) In an interview with CityWeekly, Fabrizio expressed his views of the shows’ particular content, “Art and culture are an important part of the program. I actually don’t believe in segregating news – keeping the hard stuff from the softer stories (in fact I hate describing arts coverage or features as ‘soft’) or the local ones from the national ones. No matter where it comes from, most of us don’t see music or literature or great film as any less important to our lives than knowing about the critical events and issues of the day.” (Sheehan) Fabrizio has had the chance to interview many influential people throughout the years, from Madeleine Albright, the first woman in the United States to become secretary of state, to the Dalai Lama.

Doug Fabrizio, host of RadioWest, has worked at KUER since 19xx.

Doug Fabrizio became host and executive producer of KUER’s RadioWest in 2001. Photo courtesy of KUER.

Fabrizio’s work has been recognized by many organizations, including the Public Radio News Directors Association, Society of Professional Journalists, the Utah Broadcasters Association, and the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences.

RadioWest has steadily progressed throughout the years and Fabrizio’s style has evolved using storytelling mixed with honest interview question and answers. Fabrizio has profiled a number of topics, Utahns, and intellectuals, including the documentary, Ab Jenkins and the Boys of Bonneville, Everett Ruess, University of Utah President Chase Peterson, Congressman Ron Paul, David Foster Wallace, Nobel Peace Laureate Mohamed ElBaradei, and Robert Redford. These profiles incorporate Fabrizio’s storytelling approach.

“The Boys of Bonneville” segment aired on August 24, 2011. The segment featured the story of Ab Jenkins, who sped across the Bonneville Salt Flats and set record speeds. Fabrizio interviewed the director and others about the new documentary. Fabrizio introduced the piece with a simple introduction, setting the scene of the Salt Flats, a landmark not as well known by Utah residents as one would think. Fabrizio had four separate guests on the program; he kept the atmosphere relaxed.

Fabrizio focused on Everett Ruess, a young man who disappeared in the Utah desert, for a segment that aired on July 13, 2011. The tone was more serious as Fabrizio interviewed David Roberts, a writer who had thought he had found the body of Ruess. Fabrizio carried the piece by asking the tough questions first, and using basic interview skills. The piece doesn’t provide answers for where Ruess lies, but Fabrizio explores Ruess’s story and invites Roberts to discuss his chronicle of Ruess’ adventures.

University of Utah President Chase Peterson sat down with Fabrizio on May 7, 2012, to discuss his new book, The Guardian Poplar. The segment was carried by Fabrizio’s tone. He had respect for Peterson, which was evidenced by his very candid introduction. Fabrizio listed Peterson’s accomplishments and then let him do the talking. Peterson was humble and quiet and shared stories that appeared in his book. Fabrizio’s technique gave Peterson the stage and allowed the story to speak for itself. Peterson had been diagnosed with cancer and believed he only had a few years to live. But, he outlived his death sentence and Fabrizio’s presence put him at ease to share his struggles and joys.

Musician La Monte Young, who was born in Idaho and worked on a family farm on Utah Lake, has influenced some of the great artists. In a show that aired November 29, 2013, Fabrizio interviewed Professor Jeremy Grimshaw from Brigham Young University, who wrote a biography about the musical protégé. Fabrizio was knowledgeable about the guest and artist, but he asked open-ended questions that led to further discussion and allowed Grimshaw to discuss the complex character and Young’s musical compositions. Fabrizio’s technique allowed for a more in-depth approach that yielded untouched information.

Congressmen Ron Paul spoke at Utah Valley University in October 2012 and conducted a question and answer afterward with the students. Fabrizio’s segment took listeners inside the discussion and allowed people to share in the conversation. Fabrizio began with his simple introduction approach and allowed the congressmen to greet the viewers. Then Fabrizio facilitated the Q and A session.

David Foster Wallace was an acclaimed writer who committed suicide. D.T. Max, a New Yorker staff writer, wrote a biography of Wallace and joined Fabrizio’s show by phone to tell the story. The piece began with an introduction of Wallace and Max, which gave the audience an immediate feel for both parties.

Mohamed ElBaradei, a Nobel Peace Laureate, came to Utah in September 2012 to talk about his international atomic energy plans. He also joined Fabrizio for a RadioWest interview. The piece had a serious tone in keeping with a newsworthy international discussion.

Biographer Michael Feeney Callan chronicled the life of Robert Redford in his book, Robert Redford: The Biography. Callan spent fifteen years speaking to Redford and discovering his ways before finishing his book. Fabrizio introduced the September 2011 program with a story of Redford’s search for art and wanderings and then allowed Callan to discuss his book and findings about the infamous founder of Sundance Film Festival.

The early 1900s began the trend of the national radio craze throughout America. It all started with young teens from Utah, much like Fabrizio. In 1909 these kids began the first Radio Club in Salt Lake City. They transmitted and broadcast segments over the airwaves. (Larson and Avery) Fabrizio has continued to carry on the young Utah tradition and has transformed his broadcast to feature several storytelling techniques. He uses the airwaves to tell the stories, which carry communication to Utah and the rest of the nation.

Fabrizio’s broadcasts since 2009 can be found online. Archiving is an ongoing project.

Hanna Tatro graduated from The University of Utah in May 2014 with a Bachelor of Science degree in journalism.


Biographical sketch, Doug FabrizioRadioWest.

Doug Fabrizio, “Boys of Bonneville.” RadioWest.

Doug Fabrizio, “Finding Everett Ruess,” RadioWest.

Doug Fabrizio, “The Guardian Poplar,” RadioWest.

Doug Fabrizio, “The Music and Mysticism of La Monte Young,” RadioWest.

Doug Fabrizio, “Congressman Ron Paul,” RadioWest.

Doug Fabrizio, “The Life of David Foster Wallace,” RadioWest.

Doug Fabrizio, “Nobel Peace Laureate Mohamed Elbaradei,” RadioWest.

Doug Fabrizio, “Robert Redford: The Biography,” RadioWest.

Tim Larson and Robert K. Avery, “Utah Broadcasting History,” in Utah History Encyclopedia (Salt Lake City: University of Utah, 2009).

About KUER,” KUER.org.

Gavin Sheehan, “Doug Fabrizio,” City Weekly, July 10, 2009.

KZN: The Birth of Radio in Utah (1922-1924)


“Hello, hello, hello!  This is KZN. KZN, the Deseret News, Salt Lake City calling. KZN calling! Greetings!”

These enthusiastic and welcoming words were the first to break radio silence in Utah on May 6, 1922. They might not have been the most awe-inspiring or motivating words to be uttered over the air, but H. Carter Wilson, an engineer contracted by the LDS Church-owned Deseret News, was rejoicing for having his self-built transmitter actually work. Nate Fullmer and Elias S. Woodruff, the business manager and general manager for Deseret News, took a chance on what could have been a fleeting medium of a new invention. (Ison)

Ison gives a brief history on how the station came about. Fullmer and Woodruff both saw the genius in having a station in Salt Lake City, but the Deseret News lacked the funding and Heber J. Grant, president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as well as the Deseret News, disapproved as well.

"Opening Night of KZN on the top of the Deseret News Building.” Photo courtesy of Special Collections, J. Willard Marriott Library, The University of Utah. Photograph Number p0111n01_01_02, May 8, 1922. Included on the back was a personal note from Nathan Fullmer to his mother.

These innovative men, Fullmer and Woodruff, never lost sight, though, and decided to build a transmitter from scratch with Wilson’s help. They selected a spot on top of the Deseret News tower and within a year had it working. They invited Grant as well as other Deseret News leaders to their initial broadcast. All invited were extremely surprised and unanimously agreed that this was the future of news. Their risk resulted in the formation of KZN radio station, which would help shape the future of broadcasting in Utah.

Nathan Fullmer wrote a personal note to his mother about the event and a photograph taken of it saying, “Yes – Mother this is none other than your darling boy… This is a flash light picture taken on the roof of the Deseret News Building… It being one of the most wonderful things of the age. Our station will send messages of all kinds thro the air with no wire connection of any kind, but only on the ether waves of the atmosphere, far from 1500 miles to 2500 miles. The Opening program was one of the greatest events of my life.”

Although researchers Larson and Avery point out that KZN was not the first radio station in Utah, it definitely has proven to be the most successful. KZN breathed new life into the state of Utah. The Davis County Clipper reported in May 1922 that Henry Bartholomew, age 70, was regaining health just by listening to the radio. “It is predicted he will continue to grow young if he listens to the radio being sent out daily by the Deseret News and other radio broadcasting stations.” KZN was providing the antidote for hundreds of Utah residents suffering from a lack of culture and boredom. The City of Parowan held a grand celebration outdoors for the Fourth of July in 1922, with food and fireworks, but the main event announced in the Parowan Times was the radio broadcast that would be played for the whole town to enjoy.

“William Jennings Bryant at the Radio Station.” Photo courtesy of Special Collections, J. Willard Marriott Library, The University of Utah. Photograph Number p0111n01_01_01, October 25, 1922.

All over the state of Utah, people were purchasing radios and tuning in on the dial. It brought a sense of community and unity that branched out farther and longer than anyone could have expected. It even attracted leading political figures of that era, such as William Jennings Bryan, who was photographed outside the station and spoke on the air October 25, 1922.

Now known as KSL, KZN has a 90-year-long history of providing entertainment, religious enrichment and culture. The Box Elder News in December 1924 reported how many Brigham City listeners were entertained by their local singers who had gone to Salt Lake City to perform over the airwaves.

Bigger cities across the nation already had popular stations, but at the time, the majority of the nation could not understand the value of radio broadcasting. It was a risky move and with the Deseret News lacking the funds to fully support this quest, it would be up to Woodruff and Fullmer to build their transmitter from scratch. They found engineer H. Carter Wilson, and in the summer of 1921 began building the station on top of the Deseret News Building in downtown Salt Lake City. Years later, Ison tells us, their efforts would carry the Mormon Tabernacle Choir to be heard all across the U.S. on NBC broadcasting Music and the Spoken Word. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints put it to use to deliver messages of faith and hope to their members spread throughout the state.

In the present time we get a daily bombardment of media from all over the world that we would probably find it hard to comprehend how excited and connected to each other these early radio listeners must have felt. “It is understood that the Salt Lake paper will send out speeches, music, weather reports, baseball scores and various bits of important news broadcasting these to the intermountain country. Radio receiving sets are being installed in this state at a rapid rate and such service will be of great value,” mentions The Eureka Reporter in May 1922.

We take these reports maybe three or four times a day now with radio, television, newspapers and the Internet. To the residents living in Utah in the roaring ’20s, this information meant the world. Not only could they connect to other cities in Utah, but also they could receive transmissions from other states on clear days.

The News-Advocate in July 1920 reported, “The radio outfit at C.H. Stevenson home is now working splendidly and past few clear nights have brought messages from all over the country. The Pacific coast, Denver, Kansas City and points at similar distances are easily heard and much music and other entertainment features have been enjoyed.” The Advocate would publish little tidbits of what the city folk would be doing, anything from visiting a relative to local political drama. It gives us a deep insight into how the KZN and Deseret News Media could really reach individual lives throughout Utah. The news that C.H. Stevenson could pick up stations from outside of the state was cause for printed mention in the paper.

The early 20th century was full of inventions, like radio, that bridged the gap of the United States and the world. Very soon after, and some at the same time of KZN, other stations were popping up all throughout Utah. The Kiwanis Club in Price, Utah, saw to it that that city council met to discuss the options of getting a radio station there. The News-Advocate also mentioned in September 1922 that the Club knew it would be a way to “divide its entertainments with Salt Lake.” This divide would allow an even more centralized audience and listenership and would provide Price with a voice of its own.

It is by studying our rich history of radio that we can grow to understand our predecessors a little better. Based on my research, there were not many negative reactions, if any, to radio being in Utah, which tells me that Utah embraced the advances in technology. The Deseret News also used it to establish a greater sense of community across the state as a whole. Radio today offers similar feelings in communities across the country. It is our duty to keep those stations alive that do all they can to uphold those values and support their own community. Many say that the radio industry is a dying breed, but the argument stands for good strong community radio. Utah has a long history of providing a voice for the people and that should be cherished and continued.

Anna Hatton is a senior at the University of Utah majoring in mass communication. She has worked as station manager of K-UTE student radio since 2011.


“Radio Radiating Youth Into Boys of Seventy,” The Davis County Clipper, May 12, 1922, 4.

“Salt Lake Paper Now Broadcasting Reports,” Eureka Reporter, May 12, 1922, 9.

“Will Be Real Celebration!” The Parowan Times, July 19, 1922,1.

“Just About Folks,” The News-Advocate, July 20, 1922, 2.

“Radio Address is Kiwanis Feature,” The News-Advocate, September 7, 1922, 4.

“Local Singers Broadcast at Salt Lake,” The Box Elder News, December 12, 1924, 4.

Yvette D. Ison, “Radio in Utah Began in May 1922 on Station KZN,” Utah History To Go, State of Utah.

Tim Larson and Robert K. Avery, “Utah Broadcasting History,” Utah History Encyclopedia, The University of Utah.