• Wicklein, John
  • College/Year: RC '47
  • Links to Oral History Sessions: Wicklein, John Part 1 (December 28, 2015)
    Wicklein, John Part 2 (March 18, 2016)
  • Conflict(s): World War II
  • Military Branch & Unit: Navy
  • Theater(s): European
  • Navy Ship: USS Kenneth D. Bailey (DD-713)


Mr. Wicklein was born in Reading, PA, and raised in Roselle, NJ, from age six. He gained an early passion for journalism in the Roselle schools and graduated from Abraham Clark High School in 1942. After spending one year at Rutgers as a civilian student, he went to the University of Pennsylvania as part of the US Navy V-1 Program, then, on to midshipmen's school at Columbia University and Navy communications training at Harvard University.

He served aboard the USS Kenneth D. Bailey (DD-713) in the Atlantic as a communications officer until July 1946. He returned to Rutgers on the GI Bill and graduated in 1947 with a Litt. B. degree. He then entered Columbia Graduate School of Journalism and, after earning a MS in Journalism there, became a reporter at The Newark Evening News for three years. There he covered Linden and Rahway, NJ, and later the Union County Courthouse, as well as a seven-month strike at the Singer sewing machine factory.

After working for McGraw-Hill for several years, he joined The New York Times in 1954, first on the obituary and cultural affairs desk, then, on the national news desk. He then became a reporter covering religious affairs and, later, politics, including the civil rights movement and the religion issue in the 1960 Kennedy-Nixon presidential campaign.

He left The New York Times in 1962 to go into broadcast journalism. He ran the news operations at Channel 13, the public television in New York City, and later at WABC TV (Channel 7) and WCBS TV (Channel 2) also in New York City. Later in national public television, he worked on The Public Broadcast Laboratory program and served as its Washington Bureau Chief. He was the Executive Producer of Free at Last which focused on the final months of Dr. Martin Luther King's life, his Poor People's Campaign and his assassination. He then joined the WRVR radio station (Riverside Church) as general manager and vice-president from 1970 to 1974.

He then became Dean of the School of Public Communication at Boston University (1974-1978). In 1980, he joined the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, working on news and public affairs funding. During this time, he initiated the Frontline series. In 1984, he became the Kiplinger Chair in Public Affairs Reporting at Ohio State and Director of the Kiplinger Midcareer Program for Journalists. He then spent the remainder of his career as a writing and reporting coach for newspapers across the country, including seven years at The Washington Post.

Mr. Wicklein also discusses his work overseas and as a writer. In 1979, he served as a visiting professor in Brazil, speaking and teaching on freedom of the press issues including the repression by the military dictatorship there. In 1990, he received a Fulbright Research Fellowship to Australia and wrote articles about press freedom there. In 1981, he published his book Electronic Nightmare on electronic privacy and policy issues.