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Charles Seib papers

 Collection 0132-MDHC

The Charles Seib papers document Seib's career as a newspaper editor, journalist, lecturer at the University of Maryland, and ombudsman for the Washington Post. The papers consist of memos, newspaper clippings, lecture notes, and publications. Included are Seib's memos to Ben Bradlee, executive editor, and Howard Simmons, managing editor, of the Washington Post, documenting his duties as ombudsman for the Post; copies of Seib's own newspaper columns; and subject files on ethics in the media. Also included are materials on the hoax perpetrated by reporter Janet Cooke who wrote a series of articles about a fictitious eight-year old heroin addict named Jimmy.


  • 1974-1985

Use and Access to Collection

This collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Photocopies or digital surrogates may be provided in accordance with Special Collections and University Archives duplication policy.

Copyright resides with the creators of the documents or their heirs unless otherwise specified. It is the researcher's responsibility to secure permission to publish materials from the appropriate copyright holder.

Archival materials may contain materials with sensitive or confidential information that is protected under federal and/or state right to privacy laws or other regulations. While we make a good faith effort to identify and remove such materials, some may be missed during our processing. If a researcher finds sensitive personal information in a collection, please bring it to the attention of the reading room staff.


3.00 Linear Feet

Scope and Contents

The papers of Charles Seib span the period from 1974 to 1985; the bulk of the materials date from 1974 to 1979. The collection consists of Seib’s memos to Ben Brandless, executive editor of the Washington Post, and Howard Simmons, managing editor of the Post, while Seib served as ombudsman, and clippings of Seib’s news business column. Also included are articles on the Janet Cooke hoax and lecture notes, articles, and other publications on ethics. Other major correspondents include Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen and staff member Tom Kendrick.

Biographical / Historical

Charles Bach Seib, newspaper editor and journalist, was born August 22, 1919 in Kingston, New York, the son of Charles Bach and Elizabeth (Meyer) Seib. Sieb received a B.A. degree from Lehigh University in 1941. He married Shirly Mayer in October of 1945 and they had two children, Philip and Caroline. Charles Seib had a varied career as a newspaperman. He began as a reporter for the Allentown, Pennsylvania Chronicle (1942 to 1944), served as a reporter for the Associated Press (1944 to 1945), and as deskman for the Philadelphia Record from 1945 to 1946. From 1946 to 1952, Seib was a reporter for the International News Service. In 1952, Seib joined the Gannet News Service in Washington, D. C., as assistant bureau chief. He left two years later to join the staff of the Washington Star, where he later became the managing editor in 1968. Seib remained with the Star until 1974, leaving to become an associate editor and ombudsman with the Washington Post. As ombudsman for the Post, Seib was responsible for improving reader/newspaper creditability. He dealt with reader complaints, critiqued various newspaper articles for errors, and described the newspaper’s nature and operations to the public. Also in his capacity as ombudsman, he wrote articles for the “news business column” from 1977 to 1979. After leaving the Washington Post, Charles Seib gave lectures on various aspects of journalism. He was a visiting professor at the Newhouse School of Journalism at Syracuse University from 1981 to 1983. He also lectured at the University of Maryland in 1985 and was a frequent contributor to the magazine Presstime. When the Janet Cooke story concerning the eight-year old heroin addict named Jimmy featured in the Washington Post proved to be a hoax, Seib contributed an article on the hoax for Presstime. Seib was also the author of a book, The Woods, published in 1971, and a member of Sigma Delti Chi.


The papers have been divided into the following series:

Series 1
Ombudsman Memos
Series 2
Newspaper Clippings
Series 3
Janet Cooke Articles
Series 4
Ethics Subject Files

Custodial History

Charles Seib donated his papers to the University of Maryland Libaries in 1990.

Processing Information

Four series have been created from the papers of Charles Seib. Duplicates have been discarded. All paper clips have been removed and replaced by plastic clips. The materials have been put into acid-free folders and boxes.

Guide to the Charles Seib papers
Processed by Cynthia Cory
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Library Details

Part of the Special Collections and University Archives

University of Maryland Libraries
Hornbake Library
4130 Campus Drive
College Park Maryland 20742