Herbert Bayard Swope

Biography of Herbert Bayard Swope

Herbert Bayard Swope Sr. (January 5, 1882 - June 20, 1958) was a U.S. editor, journalist and intimate of the Algonquin Round Table. Swope spent most of his career at the New York World newspaper. He was the first and three time recipient of the Pulitzer Prize for Reporting. Swope was called the greatest reporter of his time by Lord Northcliffe of the London Daily Mail.


Herbert Bayard (pronounced "by-ard") Swope was born 5 January 1882 in St. Louis, Missouri to German immigrants Ida Cohn and Isaac Swope, a watchcase maker. He was the youngest of four children – the younger brother of businessman and General Electric president Gerard Swope. As a child, Swope was a loner.


Swope was the first recipient of the Pulitzer Prize for Reporting in 1917 for a series of articles that year entitled "Inside the German Empire" The articles formed the basis for a book released in 1917 entitled Inside the German Empire: In the Third Year of the War, which he wrote with James W. Gerard.

He is known for saying, "I can't give you a sure-fire formula for success, but I can give you a formula for failure: try to please everybody all the time." He is also credited with coining the phrase "Cold War".

He was the first newspaperman to employ the "op-ed" concept of opinion pieces printed opposite the editorial page.

Although standard editorial pages have been printed by newspapers for many centuries, Swope established the first modern op-ed page in 1921. When he took over as editor in 1920, he realized that the page opposite the editorials, was "a catchall for book reviews, society boilerplate, and obituaries."

Swope served as the editor for New York World 's 21-day crusade against the Ku Klux Klan in October 1921, which won the newspaper the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service in 1922. As an example of investigative journalism, it was ranked 81 out the top 100 journalism stories of the 20th century by New York University's journalism department.

He was a legendary poker player, at one point in his life winning over $470,000 in a game with an oil baron, steel magnate and entertainer. Swope was also a member of a social club, the precursor to the Algonquin Round Table known as the Thanatopsis Inside Straight and Pleasure Club. He was inducted into the Croquet Hall of Fame of the United States Croquet Association in 1979 and his son Herbert Bayard Swope, Jr. in 1981.

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