My wife Lee and I first met Fred Siegel and his wife Jan in 1993. We knew them only casually. One morning he called and asked if a frontpage article in the New York Times about our company, America Works, was accurate. In fact, the article was a hit piece. Why would a less than $5 million-a-year company catch the interest of the Gray Lady? Two reasons. First, the company, which worked to get welfare recipients jobs, was a for-profit one. Second, the paper’s deep resentment toward privatization of what it saw as properly government’s role.
Fred asked me if the article was accurate. Absolutely not, I responded. Could he and Jan re-interview those quoted in the article for accuracy? I gratefully said yes. And so they did. This resulted in two articles, one by Fred in the New York Post and one by Jan and Sol Stern in City Journal. What they found was that the Times had slanted the interviews to reflect its editorial position. Their reporting exposed the paper’s bias.
What does this say about who Fred was? It was not as a favor to a friend that he responded so quickly and with concern. No, it was Fred’s sense of right, his respect for honest news, and his suspicion that the Times often twisted stories to fit its ideology. And he was right. The interviewees, as a group, had found their words misquoted or taken out of context.
Fred, Jan, and Sol helped save our company, which has gone on to place more than 3 million welfare recipients in jobs. And I consider our success part of Fred Siegel’s legacy.
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