July 1, 2001
L.A. Loves a Loophole
There's no getting around it...
Above All, A Name
NO ONE KNOWS FOR SURE WHEN THE FIRST ISSUE of Public Utilities Fortnightly went to press. Choose any of several dates - 1915, 1921, 1928 or 1929 - and you wouldn't be far off the mark.
The ancestor of the Fortnightly, known as Public Utilities Reports, began printing in 1915 - not as a magazine per se, but as a compilation of the text of early rate orders from public utility commissions. Annotations and commentary first appeared in 1921. Only in 1929 did the Fortnightly begin to look like a traditional journal, with a table of contents, news stories, a welcoming page from the editors and - most important of all - contributions from outside writers on matters of law, engineering, finance and regulation.
But it was in January 1928, by all accounts, that our hallowed nameplate - "Fortnightly" - was first attached to a periodical promising news, analysis and commentary. In that first issue (Public Utilities Reports Fortnightly, Jan. 12, 1928), the editorial staff issued its "Special Announcement" inaugurating a magazine section for a "more extended treatment of regulatory problems¼ through an entirely impartial medium."
History buffs can inquire further, of course, thanks to Cheryl Romo, editor from 1990 to 1992. She wrote the Fortnightly's definitive history, tracking down the story from the Roaring '20s to the eve of World War II, including the stock market crash, the Depression and the New Deal, with the passage of the Federal Power and Holding Company Acts, and creation of the Federal Power Commission and the Tennessee Valley Authority, not to mention the phenomena of Samuel Insull, David Lilienthal, Wendell Willkie, Father Ryan and all the rest. (See "To Furnish Our Readers with the Facts," March 16, 1989, p. 35.)
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History, however, is more than dates. It's a story to be told. And the story here is of a name - Fortnightly - a name that for 70 years has stood for dedication to craft. Dedication to public service - as symbolized by the term "public utilities," and personified by the writers and editors who through the years have infused Public Utilities Fortnightly with their energy, skill and effort.
Speaking of writers and editors, any list must surely begin with Francis X. Welch, a utility industry icon for more than a half-century. Welch, who rose from associate editor (1933-49) to take over the helm as managing editor (1950-53), editor (1954-65), and finally editor-in-chief (1966-75), captivated readers with his wit and charm. Not one to be pigeonholed, Welch contributed to the Fortnightly for some 50 years. He won notice and raves for his annual "Washington Outlook for Utilities," a blend of information and fearless prediction that ran each January from 1940 to 1977. A member of the staff from the very beginning, Welch shared some of his personal recollections of the early years in his Golden Anniversary piece, "Fifty Years of Fortnightlies," (March 1, 1979, p. 33).
But no simple description can capture the spirit that Francis Welch brought to the printed page. Whether musing on the future of utility regulation or