Whatever Happened to the Washington Reporters, 1978-2012

Whatever Happened to the Washington Reporters, 1978-2012

Stephen Hess
Copyright Date: 2012
Pages: 216
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Whatever Happened to the Washington Reporters, 1978-2012
    Book Description:

    Whatever Happened to the Washington Reporters, 1978-2012, is the first book to comprehensively examine career patterns in American journalism.

    In 1978 Brookings Senior Fellow Stephen Hess surveyed 450 journalists who were covering national government for U.S. commercial news organizations. His study became the award-winning The Washington Reporters (Brookings, 1981), the first volume in his Newswork series. Now, a generation later, Hess and his team from Brookings and the George Washington University have tracked down 90 percent of the original group, interviewing 283, some as far afield as France, England, Italy, and Australia.

    What happened to the reporters within their organizations? Did they change jobs? Move from reporter to editor or producer? Jump from one type of medium to another -from print to TV? Did they remain in Washington or go somewhere else? Which ones left journalism? Why? Where did they go?

    A few of them have become quite famous, including television correspondents Ted Koppel, Sam Donaldson, Brit Hume, Carole Simpson, Judy Woodruff, and Marvin Kalb; some have become editors or publishers of theNew York Times,Wall Street Journal,Chicago Tribune,Miami Herald, orBaltimore Sun; some have had substantial careers outside of journalism. Most, however, did not become household names.

    The book is designed as a series of self-contained essays, each concentrating on one characteristic, such as age, gender, or place of employment, including newspapers, television networks, wire services, and niche publications. The reporters speak for themselves. When all of these lively portraits are analyzed -one by one -the results are surprisingly different from what journalists and sociologists in 1978 had predicted.

    Praise for other books in the Newswork series:

    International News and Foreign Correspondents

    "It is not much in vogue to speak of things like the public trust, but thankfully Stephen Hess is old fashioned. He reminds us in this valuable and provocative book that journalism is a public trust, providing the basic information on which citizens in a democracy vote, or tune out." -Ken Auletta,The New Yorker

    "Regardless of one's view of American news media, one cannot help but be influenced by the information Stephen Hess puts forth inInternational News and Foreign Correspondents. After reading this book, it is not likely one will scan the newspaper or watch television news in the same way again." -International Affairs Review

    "Readers of all backgrounds will find this a provocative text." -The Harvard International Journal of Press/Politics

    Live from Capitol Hill

    "Hess is a treasure -a Washington insider with a sharp sense of the important, the interesting, and the mythological. This book is essential reading for Hill practitioners, journalists, and scholars of Congress and the media." -Steven S. Smith, Washington University

    The Washington Reporters"A meticulously researched piece of anthropology that represents the first major look at the men and women who cover the government since Leo C. Rosten's classic 1937 book." -Newsweek

    eISBN: 978-0-8157-2388-2
    Subjects: History, Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-xvi)

    Whatever Happened to the Washington Reporters, 1978–2012is the seventh and final book in a series entitled “Newswork,” which began when the Brookings Institution Press publishedThe Washington Reportersin 1981. To have spent more than three decades on this project was not an accident, but it was a surprise.

    When I came to Brookings in 1972 after working on the White House staffs of two presidents, my field of competence presumably was the presidency. But by 1976 I had written a book,Organizing the Presidency, that said all that I had to say about the presidency at the...

    (pp. xvii-xviii)
    Stephen Hess
    (pp. xix-xxiv)

    In 1978 I surveyed 450 journalists who were in Washington to cover national government for American commercial news organizations: half completed an elaborate sixteen-page questionnaire; half were interviewed by telephone. The findings identified the press corps by sex, race, education, types of media, and experience and (through the telephone interviews) revealed a good deal about the reporters’ views on such matters as political bias and disagreements with their home office. That was considerably more information than had ever been gathered before.

    Twenty-seven years later, when I became a professor at George Washington University, I recruited my students and my interns...

    (pp. 1-13)

    World War II ended in 1945. Rarely did these Washington reporters bring their military experiences into our interviews. All Bernard Kalb wanted to tell us about having worked on an Army newspaper published from a Quonset hut in the Aleutian Islands was that his editor was the great mystery writer Dashiell Hammett.¹ Corbin Gwaltney quickly passed over 1943: “Went into the service, spent some time as a guest of the Germans in prison camps, and walked all over Germany. Learned a lot in the process.”²

    Yet obituaries sometimes suggested more. When James McCartney died in 2011, theWashington Postwrote,...

    (pp. 14-29)

    Unlike their elders, the baby boomers in the Washington press corps were not shaped by the experience of going to war. Only two talked of having served in the military, one of whom was Tom Fiedler, a future executive editor of theMiami Herald, who got his undergraduate degree in engineering from the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy. “I went to sea as a merchant marine[and as a member of the naval reserve]and then later went to graduate school in journalism.”¹ Their education also differed from that of their elders: they had more schooling and more options. For some,...

    (pp. 30-43)

    Charlotte Moulton was 65 years of age in 1978, the oldest woman in our survey. She grew up in Dorchester, a Boston suburb, graduated from the School of Secretarial Studies at Simmons College, and came to Washington in 1940 to work as a secretary at the War Department earning $1,400 a year. A year later she arranged a transfer to another secretarial job in the public relations office. Soon, she said, “I was editing a news summary for the top people in the War Department. . . . [Then] I went to United Press in 1942 to work the morgue....

    (pp. 44-54)

    Between his junior and senior year at Harvard, Hal Logan interned at theWashington Post, and he was offered a full-time job upon graduation: “That was in 1973, and I remained in the newsroom until 1978. I had a wonderful time in the newsroom, and I was very happy having the ability to shape a story. But what I decided after four or five years was that I wanted the ability to shape how an entire paper covered issues, and specially how the paper covers issues of concern to African Americans. I’m an African American. There were a lot of...

    (pp. 55-70)

    The most compelling part of the history of theNew York Timesin the second half of the twentieth century—according to Timesmen in Washington—was the fierce struggle between the bureau in Washington and headquarters in New York.¹ By rights, control belongs to who pays the bills. But in 1932 owner Adolph S. Ochs was in deep need of a Washington bureau chief, the incumbent having died unexpectedly, and Arthur Krock consented to take the job—but only if Ochs gave him total autonomy. In Washington he then reigned as “potentate,” thought Tom Wicker. “He could set out to...

    (pp. 71-83)

    As 1978 came to a close, the three prime television news programs were in a near tie. Of all TV viewers, 27 percent tuned to theCBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite; 25 percent, to theNBC Nightly News; and 24 percent, to ABC’sWorld News Tonight. The Edward R. Murrow era at CBS had ended in 1961, when Murrow left to join the Kennedy administration. The sixties had been dominated by NBC’s pairing of anchors Chet Huntley in New York and David Brinkley in Washington, but by 1968 the public’s trust in Cronkite had regained the lead for CBS....

    (pp. 84-94)

    Life was going to be very different if your employer in 1978 happened to be theWashington Starrather than theWashington Post, United Press International rather than the Associated Press. While it is possible to be in the right place at the right time, it is also possible to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

    TheWashington Star, which was founded on December 16, 1852 was an afternoon newspaper and for many years the city’s newspaper of record. It ceased publication on August 7, 1981. Roberta Hornig-Draper could never forget the day:

    Aside from my husband’s...

    (pp. 95-107)

    Niche journalism in Washington has been around at least since the federal income tax was enacted in 1913. But it owes its exponential growth to President Johnson’s Great Society in the mid-1960s, when the eruption of new laws and regulations created markets for information that was not published in a form that could be easily accessed and understood. The cost of starting a niche publication was relatively modest, and there was a ready supply of entry-level reporters who were eager and able to work.

    Moreover, the process was helped along by a growing gap between mainstream and niche publications. By...

    (pp. 108-123)

    The sole purpose of the Gridiron Club, composed of current and former Washington journalists, is to throw a party.¹ Male guests at this annual spring affair are instructed to wear white tie and tails. Women are resplendently gowned. All are seated at a giant gridiron-shaped table, the evening’s speakers at one end, the stage and orchestra at the other. Over the evening, four musical skits are performed by club members, some of whom can carry a tune, supplemented by ringers known as “limited members,” who are of very good voice; they are accompanied by the Marine Band, whose first leader,...

    (pp. 124-142)

    “What is the job [in journalism] that you would best like to have someday?” Asked of the Washington reporters interviewed by phone in 1978, the question offered them a brief and unexpected opportunity to look into their own future and dream grandly—it was merely talk and could do no harm. Yet the collective results are surprising, even shocking, in terms of what they say about how journalists then contemplated their careers.

    A very small number were specific in their aspirations. Stanley Degler wanted to be president of BNA, the vast niche publisher. When he retired in 1990, after 33...

    (pp. 143-190)
  17. NOTES
    (pp. 191-206)
  18. INDEX
    (pp. 207-216)
  19. Back Matter
    (pp. 217-218)