NORTH KINGSTOWN — In the two decades he oversaw all operations of The Rhode Island Pendulum, William Allison Foster always strived his editorial and sales employees – most of them his own family – to do their best in providing East Greenwich, Cowesett and Potowomut quality community journalism.
Last Friday, the late former Pendulum publisher was enshrined as being one of the best to ever work in the Rhode Island newspaper industry.
With family, friends and former employees in attendance at the Quonset O Club, Foster was posthumously inducted into the Rhode Island Press Association Hall of Fame during the organization’s Editorial Awards banquet, honoring the man who was respected well beyond the words he has personally written and printed in his own tabloid publication.
“It was always his dream to do the best for the town,” said Anne Foster, the daughter of William Foster – who passed away in 2012 at the age of 88. “I think when he saw results from his involvement [with The Pendulum], he felt really satisfied that he made a difference. Writing something that would have an affect or strike a nerve or affected the public conscience, what’s better than that?”
Foster, a Massachusetts native, moved to East Greenwich along with his wife, Jane, as a place to live first, according to Anne Foster, but having the dream of one day owning his own newspaper. That goal, according to Foster’s daughter, was on hold at that time because he was unable to find the right place, and worked in fields relating to communications and with advertising agencies after his family settled into East Greenwich.
Then, in 1964, the Rhode Island Pendulum (now known as The East Greenwich Pendulum), in its 110th anniversary, went up for sale and Foster , in his early 40s at the time, immediately jumped at the chance to make not only the purchase of The Pendulum, but also to realize his ultimate goal.
“He saw two opportunities come together; a great town to raise a family in and a great opportunity to run a newspaper,” said Anne Foster, who graduated with a degree in journalism from the University of Rhode Island and was an editor of The Pendulum right out of school. “Dad could help make the community a better place. So the two things came together and then it became a family affair. We all did our parts. Mom ran the business. Dad did the editorial part of the work and we kids filled in depending on what our strengths and interests were.”
Anne Foster added that both her mother and father jumped into the newspaper business early enough after taking over The Pendulum not knowing what they could achieve, or knowing anything about newspapers, outside of having a tremendous interest and a passion for doing something William Foster always wanted to do.
Working approximately 70 hours per week with minimal income for both he and his staff, writing weekly editorials about pressing issues within the community (signing each one “WAF,” his initials), making sure the presses were run efficiently and having the content be at its best prior to print, Foster was a tremendous influence at The Pendulum up until his retirement in the 1980s, and the satisfaction that was achieved was greater than any monetary value possible.
“He said at one point ‘I never got out of bed in the morning and not loving to go to work,’” Anne Foster recalled. “Not everybody could say that. That’s what his ultimate motivation was, loving what he did and knowing it made a difference.”
Mark Thompson, a former editor of The Pendulum and current Pulitzer-winning writer for Time Magazine, fondly recalled his two-plus years with the local paper learning every detail of journalism imaginable from the prominent “Mr. Foster,” lessons that were extended beyond newsstands.
“He was the best boss I ever had,” Thompson said.