Whale, John 1931–2008

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Whale, John 1931–2008

(John Hilary Whale)


See index for CA sketch: Born December 19, 1931, in Oxford, England; died of a brain tumor, June 17, 2008. Television broadcaster, journalist, educator, editor, and author. Whale set out in life to be a television broadcaster and worked very hard at it, only to realize in the end that he belonged somewhere else altogether. Whale joined the Independent Television News as a reporter in 1960 and remained with the network for ten years, including a stint at the bureau in Washington, DC. Over time he came to believe that television had not, as was often suggested, become a victim of abuse by network executives, commercial sponsors, or political interests: it is inherently flawed, he decided, because it is a visual medium above all and cannot present complex issues with adequate depth. Whale spelled out his views in The Half Shut Eye: Television and Politics in Britain and America (1969). When he recognized that the words he loved most were the written, not the spoken, ones, Whale once told CA, he resigned from the television business. He stopped speaking and began writing, with an increased sense of satisfaction. He understood that print journalism was imperfect as well, as he noted in Journalism and Government: A British View (1972), but he called his fifteen years with the Sunday Times, beginning in 1969, a much happier period in his career. While at the Times, Whale had served as a leader writer, editorial writer, and religious affairs correspondent, and the latter interest prompted a new career direction. In 1984 he was persuaded to join the British Broadcasting Corporation as the head of religious programming. After five years he left television for the last time and became the editor of the Church Times, where he had an unfettered opportunity to promote journalism of the highest order of integrity. Whale spent the rest of his working years with the journal, retiring for health reasons in 1995. He had also directed the London program of the University of Missouri School of Journalism, beginning in 1980. Whale published several books on the topics that he most enjoyed: journalism, the media, and the church. They include Politics of the Media (1977) and One Church, One Lord (1979).



Times (London, England), June 18, 2008, p. 58.