Sevellon Brown was born in Washington, D.C. on November 23, 1886, and worked as a reporter for the Washington bureau of the United Press, the New York Star, and the New York Herald during the heyday of newspaper reporting. His newspaper career was interrupted, however, with America’s entry into the First World War in April 1917. Enlisting in the military, he eventually was promoted to a captain of the ordnance corps.
When Brown’s father-in-law, David S. Barry retired from his position as theJournal’s Washington correspondent, he recommended to Journal president Stephen O. Metcalf, that Sevellon Brown replace him; Metcalf agreed. A year later, Brown moved to Rhode Island to serve as managing editor of the paper, rising to editor in 1938, and publisher in 1942. Under Brown’s tutelage, the paper’s coverage was broadened to include art, music, and poetry. He also organized the paper into separate staffs, one for the morning and another for the evening editions.
He established the North American Newspaper Alliance as a syndicate service to provide background and interpretation on important news of the day. In 1946, he led the way for the American Press Institute, which was later adopted by Columbia University. This organization, established for the instruction and professional advancement of working newspapermen, is a testament to his sense of professionalism and competency.
Brown left a lasting legacy upon his retirement: one, he treated Rhode Island as a “city-state” and thus staffed the paper with reporters and bureaus to cover each aspect of local and state news. Second, he established forums, which were seminars attended by the men and women of his staff in order to share ideas by pairing with the leaders in their respective areas. The result of this innovative idea was the American Press Institute, with its home base at Columbia University, in New York and its renowned School of Journalism.
Believing that an informed citizenry was the greatest contribution of a journalist, he insisted upon the presentation of comprehensive and honest news reporting. For his contribution to the heritage of the state of Rhode Island, Sevellon Brown was inducted into the Rhode Island Heritage Hall of Fame in 1976.
For Further Reading:
Byrnes, Garrett D. The Providence Journal: 150 Years. Providence: Providence Journal Company, 1980.
Debra A. Mulligan