The American Civil Rights Union mourns the loss of a founding Policy Board member, Kenneth Y. Tomlinson, who died on May 2 at age 69 after a brief illness.
“Ken was one of the few people in major media who believed strongly that the power of the press lay in actually telling the truth,” said Susan A. Carleson, ACRU’s Chairman. “He was fiercely contrary to fashionable liberal nostrums, and was always a principled gentleman. Ken was not only a great journalist but he was an American patriot and a dear friend. We shall never forget his role during the early days of the ACRU, founded by my late husband Bob in 1998.”
Mr. Tomlinson was chairman of the U.S. Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) which oversees all non-military U.S. international broadcasting, including the Voice of America (VOA); Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL); Radio Free Asia (RFA); Radio and TV Martí, and a more recent broadcasting initiative launched under his tenure, the Arabic language channel Alhurra TV, in the Middle East. He also chaired the Corporation for Public Broadcasting from 2002 to 2005.
Former editor-in-chief for Reader’s Digest, he had more than 35 years of journalistic experience, beginning his career as a reporter for the Richmond Times-Dispatch in 1965. In 1968, he joined the Washington bureau of Reader’s Digest and then served as a correspondent in Vietnam, and eventually in Paris, where he covered events in Europe, Africa and the Middle East.
In 1982, President Ronald Reagan appointed Mr. Tomlinson Director of Voice of America, which broadcasts news into captive nations. He served there for two years, and then returned to Reader’s Digest as managing editor. He became executive editor of the Digest in 1985 and editor-in-chief in 1989 until retiring in 1996.
In 2002, President George W. Bush appointed Mr. Tomlinson to chair BBG, where he remained through 2007. He was a VOA director from 1982 to 1994 and a board member of the Board for International Broadcasting, BBG’s predecessor, from 1987 through 1994.
His attempts to balance what he perceived as liberal programming bias drew attacks from congressional Democrats who tried unsuccessfully to oust him from BBG’s board.
“Ken will be missed, not only by his friends but by the many people he helped educate through his tireless journalism,” Carleson said. “Our prayers are with his wife Rebecca and their two sons.”