Recently, WVFC asked Amy Hill Hearth—author of Having Our Say: The Delany Sisters’ First 100 Years—this question: “What makes a woman important?”
We meant, “What makes an editor decide that a woman is important?” Twenty years ago, when Ms. Hearth was writing Having Our Say, she was hit with a tide of negativity—indeed, ridicule—from her journalistic colleagues. No one would read her book, the naysayers maintained, because the centenarian Delany sisters, who had led quiet and respectable lives, were not “important enough.”
Well, what DOES make a woman important? Hearth posed the question to three veteran woman editors. Lucinda Moore, Editor No. 1, believes that critera haven’t changed much in 20 years (see part 1, “A Contrarian’s View.”) Happily, Editor No. 2, Kathy Kelly, has a more heartening take.
Kelly, 64, is assistant managing editor for the metro section of the Daytona Beach (Fla.) News-Journal. She is also the co-author of a nonfiction book, I Would Find a Girl Walking.
Kelly notes the iconic stature of a few women in history—“the likes of Betsy Ross, Marie Curie, and Eleanor Roosevelt.” Their achievements have been told and retold. But Kelly believes that “it is women like the Delany sisters, whose stories remained untold for years, from whom we can learn so much. Just as important as the scientist, the first lady, the astronaut, these women played an integral part in making inroads, breaking down barriers.”
Her newspaper, the Daytona Beach News-Journal, made what seems an unlikely choice last month in profiling Joyce Ebbets, widow of Charlie Ebbets, a famous photographer. He was an adventure hunter, fisherman, one-time actor, auto racer, wrestler, pilot, and photographer who was hired to chronicle Rockefeller Center’s construction during the Depression era. His photo of 11 construction workers taking a lunch break, dangling their legs over a beam 800 feet in the air as they built Rockefeller Center, first appeared in the New York Herald Tribune in 1932.
Why is the News-Journal’s profile of Joyce unusual? Because Charlie Ebbets had all the profile-worthy credentials. Still, Kelly’s newspaper found it noteworthy that his widow and their daughter Tami had fought hard to prove that he was the taker of the iconic photo (chosen for the cover of Time’s 2012 publication 100 Greatest Images: History’s Most Influential Photographs). For 70 years, the photographer who made that famous shot had been unknown.
“She and her daughter fought hard in 2003 to document the facts so that he could be honored for his life’s work by one of the world’s most respected photo licensing companies, Corbis,” Kelly noted. “Ebbets was at her husband’s side throughout their marriage and the raising of their family. Her work has been critical in seeing that he is recognized for his pioneering achievements in the field of photography. She has her own story to tell, just as the Delany Sisters did.”
The News-Journal was impressed by the patience and dedication Joyce and her daughter devoted to proving that Charlie Ebbets was the taker of that photo. In 2003, Corbis, founded by Bill Gates, acknowledged ownership of 17 photos taken by Charlie Ebbets. The steel-beam photo needed documentation, and it was Joyce’s job to go through boxes of records—even glass negatives—and thousands of photos to come up with proof that he had indeed taken it. She knew his material: From the beginning of their marriage on she had meticulously filed his slides and tearsheets. Tami quit her job as a nurse to sift through the photographs and to work on a book and a documentary on her father.
“Joyce’s dedication to her husband’s work proved invaluable, since she was able to provide detailed records proving he was on the other side of the lens documenting life in America. She is also a photographer and writer,” Kelly declared.
“It is critical for editors to let these stories be told, to fill in the gaps of history so long dominated by men,” she continued. “There is an audience to be inspired by their place in history.”
Next: an editor from New England tells us that at her newspaper, “interesting” trumps “important.”
The book was Having Our Say: The Delany Sisters’ First 100 Years. Neither the sisters—Sarah and Elizabeth—nor I had any inkling that this book about their lives would become a New York Times Best Seller—for 113 weeks, no less. (We would have been thrilled by one week). The book was adapted for the Broadway stage two years after it was published, and again for an award-winning television film.
None of this was supposed to happen. And it wouldn’t have, if I had listened to the dire warnings from colleagues in my profession. “No one will buy that book,” I was told, because the sisters “never did anything important.”
I, of course, disagreed, pointing out that Sarah L. (Sadie) Delany, the “big” sister of the pair, earned a bachelor’s degree in education in 1920, followed by a master’s in 1925, both from Columbia University. She was a groundbreaking teacher in the New York public schools. Her “little” sister, Dr. A. Elizabeth (Bessie) Delany, was a 1923 graduate of Columbia’s School of De ntal and Oral Surgery. She was the second black woman licensed to practice dentistry in New York State. These were astonishing achievements for women of their generation, especially black women.
Besides, it wasn’t just what they did that make their story engaging, it was what they said, and how they said it—insightful comments about how the world had changed (or not) since they were young; unvarnished opinions; and a perspective on a world that was gone. They were the daughters of a man born into slavery. They remembered the beginning of Jim Crow laws in their home state of North Carolina.
I had written a story about the then-unknown sisters for The New York Times, a 1,600-word feature that attracted the attention of a book publisher. Even at The Times there had been a lack of enthusiasm among all but one of my editors when I pitched the story. But nothing prepared me for the deluge of negativity—my husband remembers it as ridicule—while I was working on the book. Friends and acquaintances from many different newspapers and magazines told me I was making the mistake of my career.
“Would you run into this same negativity today?” WVFC’s editors recently asked me. “What achievements or accomplishments DO make a woman important in the eyes of an editor?” To find out, I posed these questions to three experienced women editors, who replied by email. Each, it turned out, has a different perspective, ranging from that of an editor in the Washington, D.C., area who is discouraged about our progress to the view of one who believes we’ve come a long way to the surprising take of an editor in Massachusetts who has never found dismissal of women’s accomplishments to be an issue.
Rather than edit their thoughtful responses into a single story, it seems appropriate to give each her individual chance to “have her say.” First up, the contrarian.
Lucinda Moore has 30 years’ experience as an editor at Smithsonian magazine, an editorial consultant for the National Geographic Society, and a reporter/researcher at Time-Life Records. She launched her own business as an editorial consultant in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area this year. And she is not impressed with women’s journey in the last 20 years.
“Unfortunately,” Moore responded, “I fear that you would encounter similar resistance today. Despite the success of female editors such as Tina Brown of Newsweek and Jill Abramson of The New York Times, men remain at the helm of most major publications. The domination of the industry by males fosters a cycle in which most of the stories covered continue to reflect a world in which men are typically the central figures in what is judged important and newsworthy.”
She points to slipping advertising sales, reduced subscriptions, and mounting Internet competition as the reason for periodicals’ adoption of “gimmicks” that may further undermine the role of women in print. “Editors rely increasingly upon name recognition (commissioning or covering the established authorities with which the general public is already familiar) in an effort to attract readership and boost sales. Since men have been and remain the dominant focus in so many arenas, the result is often more articles by and about men. Even those women most likely to gain attention in print are frequently the ones who are already superstars in their fields or in the general society.”
There is certainly nothing wrong with covering our great achievers, she points out, “but editors would do well to remember that some of our most moving and memorable stories have come from people whose names we have never heard, but whose courageous lives and steady triumphs have quietly transformed not only their immediate environment but, ultimately, helped change the world.
“As long as top male editors remain reluctant to actively seek stories outside of what is comfortable and familiar to them, or what they feel confident their readership will readily approve, thousands of stories will remain untold, and a more diverse, multi-dimensional portrayal of women, as well as other under-represented groups, is likely to remain sporadic, at best.”
Long-term change in newspapers’ traditional focus on men’s accomplishments, she writes, would require that “editors go beyond merely seeking stories by and about women superstars, or seeking female subjects for special issues or topics. It will require editors to apply, on a daily basis, the same criteria to stories about women that has led to the creation of great journalism for centuries—strong stories and characters that entertain, inform, and enlighten the reader due to their inherent value and substance, their appeal to human interest, and their ability to present a unique voice and often overlooked point of view—not unlike the criteria met in Having Our Say.”
Trailer provided by Video Detective
Next week: An award-winning newspaper editor in Florida responds with a more heartening assessment.
Al Jazeera English called for the immediate release of Dorothy Parvaz, after Syrian officials confirmed Wednesday that they are holding her. Dorothy Parvaz was detained on Friday when she arrived in Damascus to cover Syrian protests for Al Jazeera English. Parvaz, who uses the name D. Parvaz professionally, joined Al Jazeera in 2010. She previously worked as a columnist and feature writer for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. She holds American, Canadian and Iranian passports.
D. Parvaz would be appalled and embarrassed at the attention being paid to her right now. As her colleague for close to 10 years (and her editor for part of that time) at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, I was always struck, even puzzled, by her desire — correction, her need — for privacy. It was an odd request by someone who wrote a satirical weekly column and generated a fair amount of reader feedback. Nonetheless, she did not want her photo to be used with her column — we used an artist’s caricature instead — and she was always careful to stay out of the public eye, kind of like a restaurant critic trying to preserve her anonymity. She’d be happy to do a radio guest spot, but TV? Not so much. Even her byline — D. Parvaz — is an intentional bit of camouflage.
Of course, D.’s face is everywhere these days. On Facebook. In newspapers. All over the blogs. She’s everywhere because, oddly, she’s nowhere to be seen. She disappeared last Friday in Damascus, Syria, while on assignment for Al Jazeera English. Those of us who adore her and miss her believe she’ll be released unharmed. This is what has happened to other journalists detained by the Syrian government. Syrian authorities confirmed Wednesday that D. is indeed in their custody, but it doesn’t make us feel any better.
So we continue to email and call the Syrian embassy (email@example.com; 202-232-6313, ext. 139). We can’t let them forget that D. is constantly in our thoughts and that we’ll continue to badger Syrian authorities until she is released. If you cherish independent thought and journalistic freedom as much as D. Parvaz does, please do likewise.
The Wednesday Five: A Challenge to Health Journos, The Chevy Volt’s Female Engineers, and President Kirsten Gillibrand?
This week’s blog assortment includes a smart guide to buying work clothes, moving cross-country after 50, the women behind the Chevy Volt and some super-early speculation about the future of Senator Kirsten Gillibrand.
- Some of us are still puzzling out our spring wardrobes and wondering how they fit into our sometimes quirky lives. That’s why we’re grateful to Lisa Carnochan at Amid Privilege and her Guide to the Perfect Career Wardrobe. She warns against the usual system of a group of classic pieces: “What you don’t want is to end up where every outfit you own is 80% appropriate for what you have to do. Starting with a list of pieces puts you at risk for that outcome,” she writes. Instead, she suggests the “use case” approach used in software design, attending to the cultural context the clothes will be worn in. Her sample outfit for a team meeting, she says, broadcasts “I am reliable, approachable, and flexible. Also, I come bearing free food.” By doing so, the question of what do I wear? will, she writes, be “Fully solved. Not 80% solved.” Click over to see her examples of best-dressed in Bangkok and Idaho, with pictures and witty commentary.
- Health reporter Liz Scherer, who has long provided smart commentary at Flashfree, calls out the shortcomings in media coverage of our health in this Reporting Health Q&A. “I don’t believe that most reporters have the time to thoroughly vet and understand their stories because there is a constant race to be the first out of the gate. (Covering) menopause is no different than any other science reporting; if you don’t take the time to thoroughly understand the issue, your reporting is always going to be lacking something. When it comes to menopause, the real story is how women’s health has been approached and ill-treated for decades, if not centuries.” In the interview, Scherer also gives inside information on ghostwriting in medical journals and some tips on how to contend with the constantly-changing flow of information.
- Electric cars are the wave of the future, they say. So where are the women? In the engineering hot seat, writes Katherine Rausch at Women’s Enews. Rausch profiles Britta Gross, director of Global Energy Systems and Infrastructure Commercialization for General Motors, who with four other women helped create the Chevy Volt, an electric car with extended range capability. But the field, Gross tells Bausch, needs even more women: “I think the only barrier, given you are strong and capable, is getting women past the word engineering. … It sounds stale and not very exciting and I can’t imagine anything more exciting than my career.”
- President Kirsten Gillibrand? Why not? asks commentator David Mixner, an old friend and ally of former President Bill Clinton, looking for a 2016 contender. “Born into politics, she understand the in and outs of campaigning and is brilliant at the game. Gillibrand is an incredible campaigner, charismatic speaker and a born leader,” writes Mixner, who spoke to WVFC last year about women and Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. We’re not surprised to hear the next part, which we’d guessed would be true from the moment we first interviewed then-Rep. Gillibrand in 2007: “Fear doesn’t seem to be a part of her character as she has challenged some of the most powerful men in Washington to get the job done.” It’s a little early to start handicapping a race five years from now, but we’re certainly looking forward to hearing more.
- The phrase “moving in midlife” sounds scary to some, perhaps exciting to others. Ronnie Bennett writes at Times Go By about moving long distances twice in the past year, after she left Greenwich Village after more than 40 years: “Except for missing New York which has become something I just live with, I’m happy with this last move. And maybe I’m not the one to answer since the first move to Maine was a financial necessity and the second one to Oregon was a spiritual necessity. I think there would be different considerations without those imperatives.” Bennett then asks her readers, inspiring us to ask you: “If you are contemplating a move to a new place, how do you feel about it? How are you choosing the new town or city? And, of course, why are you moving?”
What if Kathleen Turner had been asked to portray Molly Ivins 20 or 30 years ago?
“I really couldn’t have done it,” she told an audience at the Philadelphia Theater Company this week.
Turner, in sneakers and black pants, was talking about Red Hot Patriot, the play they’d just seen in which she portrays the salty Texas journalist. “This is a mature woman,” she said of her friend Ivins. “She was 62 when she died, and she was certainly old enough to have had a life of experiences.”
Regardless of whether she could have handled the role back then, Turner, 55, was mesmerizing last night as she evoked both Ivins and the rough-and-tumble world she spent her life describing.
As the curtain rises, Turner sits behind a hulking black manual typewriter as if behind a bar, a nearby cigarette sending up plumes of smoke. Behind her, an assemblage of empty and discarded desks. When she says “I’m writing,” one might take it for a joke.
But when she stands up in her blood-red cowboy boots, lights another cigarette, looks out at the audience from under a a curly red wig, and drawls “This is what writing looks like,” you suddenly know two things: this is what it feels like to meet Molly Ivins, and to be a writer on deadline.
For the next 75 minutes, Turner incarnates both Ivins’ persona and her multiple passions. Prompted by updates from a clacking Associated Press machine, the play delves into what Ivins loved best — Texas, newspapering, the First Amendment — and what she spent her life fighting: racism, war, hypocrisy and the cancer that ultimately killed her. Throughout, we’re kept laughing by Ivins’ take-no-prisoners sense of humor, as promised in the play’s full title: Red Hot Patriot: The Kick-Ass Wit of Molly Ivins.
But what was most surprising was how often the play dares to be not funny at all.
Sure, the audience heard about Ivins being fired from the New York Times for referring (in print) to a country-fair communal chicken butchering as a “gang pluck.” We roared at Turner/Ivins’ imitation of publisher Abe Rosenthal and chuckled when she told off “my old friend Bob Bullock,” the Democratic speaker of the Texas House of Representatives, for deciding to coach the one Republican he felt he could work with: a young George W. Bush. Dubya’s smiling image pains the audience regardless of political perspective, because it pains her — perhaps even more than watching her wave around her wig during chemotherapy, as projected on the stage’s back wall.
The play’s Ivins brightens up when poking fun at what she calls “the Ledge” (for Texas Legislature), or talking about ordinary citizens who organize themselves even when everyone else disagrees with them. She tells of her days at the Texas Observer in the 1970s, when she and the editor had no money for hotels but were always welcomed at the homes of subscribers. “They’d say, ‘With the Observer? C’mon out to our house,’ and by the time we showed up they’d gone and invited the other two liberals in the whole town and we’d party.” And her voice grows almost reverent when she talks about arriving in small Southern towns on behalf of the American Civil Liberties Union, where a handful of people had decided to organize a chapter of the ACLU.
That last sentiment is what moved Kathleen Turner–a longtime ACLU supporter and board member of the civil liberties nonprofit People for the American Way–to jump at the chance to do a one-woman show about Ivins, as she told the audience after the March 30 show. “I knew Molly,” she said. “It was the thought of keeping her alive–a way to honor her. That’s what appealed to me about this.”
When asked, “Have you ever done anything as political as this piece we’re doing?” Turner demurred. It’s not in her mission as an actor, she said, “to sway people’s minds in that way. Make them laugh, make them cry, make them THINK, sure. But tell them WHAT to think? NO!”
Asked by an audience member how she developed such a full-blown, physical portrayal of Ivins, Turner smiled. “The cowboy boots help.” More seriously, she said, Ivins, at 6’2″ even taller than Turner, “had a very distinctive, kind of gangly set of movements for a girl… Once that kind of physicality gets inside you, the rest is a lot easier.”
Not as easy but just as appropriate, she added, was the play’s elegiac tone. “Molly really had that gravitas,” she said. “She told jokes, sure, but she always said the jokes were a means toward the end–to make the truth more bearable.”
Red Hot Patriot: The Kick-Ass Wit of Molly Ivins runs through April 18 at the Philadelphia Theater Company. Look for a WVFC interview with the playwrights, veteran journalists Allison and Margaret Engel, next week.
Chris Lombardi is the editor of Women’s Voices for Change.
Thank you for your interest in Gourmet. We appreciate you contacting us, however, we are no longer accepting inquiries via this email address. For questions related to your Gourmet subscription, please call 1-800-365-2454.
Gourmet Magazine’s first issue was in January, 1941.Now, after 68 years, the magazine is closing because of losses. The loss incurred by me and my daughter not receiving our monthly installment of Gourmet will prove to be great. Gourmet repaired our torn relationship as cohesively as a piece of cellophane tape…seamlessly. While Gourmet was a classic in the magazine industry, it was our chosen standard.
The definition of gourmet found in the Merriam’Webster Dictionary is “a connoisseur of food and drink.” But, this magazine not only represented gourmet recipes with fine drinks to accompany them, it represented us, two women who looked forward with whetted appetites at what the newest issue would include. As soon as it arrived, either my daughter would call me or I would call her and we would exclaim, “Have you got the new Gourmet?”
We were giddy with excitement as we poured over the beautiful glossy photos of food designed to spur our creativity, not dreaming it gave us a subject that was neutral and therefore safe to talk about. And we did, we salivated as we discussed the newest chicken recipe or the best recipe for cauliflower ever or the most delicious recipe for brownies, imagined. Simple food made simply gourmet, with an added spice, or a trick of leavening, but always something we had never heard of or thought of, which of course made it even more exotic. Who, but the creative minds would think of putting coriander seeds and curry in shortbread cookies…yum. Because of Gourmet magazine, my daughter and I speak openly about all things predicated with a recipe.
Gourmet gave this to us. We are saddened to be losing Gourmet. It is like losing a dear old friend we could count on to visit every month with glorious surprises, no matter what life brought us. We could face the new month armed with an artisanal of new recipes, and a new outlook, because what we were making for dinner would be splendid and provocative. Not only would we discuss the out come of the evening, but our table guests could not help but discuss the marvelous use of watermelon, or chocolate, even if it was just our husband of many years.
And when we were stuck inside by weather or with children we could travel the world to Korea, China, Pakistan or Ireland. Anywhere Gourmet got to go they took us with them. We lived well with our Gourmet’s tucked next to our other cookbooks, decorating the shelves with year’s worth of memories only to be thought of as we run our finger down their spines. Each issue tempting, calling for us to open it and remember the candied bacon, February 07, or my granddaughter’s first birthday; October 08 the black pepper frozen yogurt, or the day my former husband passed away. Our entire lives are marked with Gourmet.
We will miss our monthly installment of Gourmet, The Magazine Of Good Living, but we will always make, trade and taste the recipes we have treasured like a child treasures found mementos.
My daughter and I would like to thank all of you who had anything to do with its production through the years and to let you know how much you mean to us. We will always consider the magazine, Gourmet, The Magazine Of Good Living, our family cookbook.
Mare Contrare is an award winning playwright and an award winning short story writer. She currently lives in Key West, Florida where she is pursuing a career writing for Young Adults. Most recently she participated in the New York photography show A Book About Death, http://abookaboutdeath.blogspot.com/, sponsored by the Emily Harvey Foundation.
David Tucker is the deputy managing editor at the Newark Star-Ledger, in Newark, N.J, where he was part of the Ledger team that won the 2005 Pulitzer Prize for Breaking News. Previously, he worked as managing editor at United Press International, and served as sports editor and later city editor for The Philadelphia Inquirer. He brings a journalist’s sensibility for clear language and visual immediacy to his poetry as well. Two years ago he told the American Journalism Review, when asked about his poems: “You can’t always sit down and dictate to yourself where you’re going with poetry. Journalism is about what the facts tell us. Poetry’s about what the facts don’t tell us.”
Tucker’s collection Late For Work (Mariner Books, 2006), which evokes scenes from the newsroom in poems such as “City Editor Looking for News,” won the Katherine Bakeless Poetry Prize in 2005. For his 2008 reading at the New Jersey Center for the Book, 260 copies of the following poem were reprinted for distribution; Tucker gladly gave us permission to bring it to WVFC.
Women Of My Childhood
The women of my childhood are waiting for life to get better,
waiting in beat up cars under slow red lights in July,
dusty stuffed animals in the back window
and animal crackers strewn on the car seat, deep circles
under red eyes. They are bringing in the sheets
from the clothesline after dark, they are walking
to the barn before sunrise, the milk pail squeaks
as it swings from their hands, they are dying of hard work
and too much childbirth at 19, they are waking
with a yawn so tired you can hear it halfway to town;
husbands dead and the money gone, they are tottering
out the house trailer ready for the night shift at the hospital.
They are sewing at midnight, they are mopping while feeding
the child who screams in the high chair and they are feeding
the grandchild in the high chair and the grandfather on the deathbed,
they are working at Seven-Eleven, their names are written on shirt pockets.
They are shelling peas under the oak it’s 99 degrees in the shade,
they are churning butter in the breezeway, sweat rills their foreheads.
They are waiting in rattling cars under slow red lights
they are rubbing their eyes, pressing fingers down on that ache
on the bridge of the nose, they are taking a deep breath
as the light over the road goes green.
To see a short NJN video on David Tucker, please click here.
Trying to create the next generation of news: This week was a hard one for the newspaper business, with layoffs from L.A. to Boston. In the eye of the storm, from opposite sides of the revolving door, were newly-departed Chicago Tribune editor Anne-Marie Lipinski and Katherine Weymouth, who last month succeeded her grandmother Katherine Graham as publisher of the Washington Post.
Last week, the 52-year old Lipinski announced her resignation just as as the Tribune’s parent corporation was declaring the imminent loss of 80 newsroom jobs. Even before then,she’d been deciding whether to move on, Lipinski told Editor and Publisher, adding that the vertiginous pace of change in this Internet-and-bottom-line-driven age was tiring:
Lipinski, who has spent her entire career at
the Tribune and serves on the Pulitzer Prize Board, said running the
newspaper — or any newspaper — has changed significantly in recent
years. "It is a complicated time for this company and this industry,"
she added. "I think the pressures go well beyond those facing this
paper and this company. It is a golden age of journalism in some ways."
The married mother of a 14-year-old daughter adds
that: "I do need some rest, I need to reintroduce myself to my family;
I have a garden that is in desperate need of me. I really do need time
with my family."
Friends and colleagues who know Lipinski well said it
is likely she left on her own, but perhaps after realizing how much the
job had changed and the company would seek to continue downsizing.
Several others also said it is obviously difficult for her to leave the
Tribune having spent so much time there.
Meanwhile, a long profile in Portfolio magazine introduces the Washington Post‘s 42-year-old Weymouth, "a divorced mother of three," who’s quite aware of the realities of modern newspapering, but determined to do her late grandmother proud, even if it requires "hard choices." (The flagship paper has already cut a third of its reporters in the face of plummeting ad sales.) Portfolio points out that when Weymouth’s grandfather Philip Graham killed himself in 1963, his wife had to learn from scratch how to run a national media company:
Rejecting handsome offers from various media conglomerates to buy the
company, Katharine took over as president. Shy and awkward, she felt
inadequate to the task and, as she later admitted, terrified, but she
was determined to keep the Post in the family. She’d spent
her adult life as a wife and mother, driving a car pool for her four
children, and knew little of business and nothing about management. But
she steeped herself in expert advice and, with the help of a small
group of executives who’d been hired by her husband, she presided over
the newspaper and its related enterprises with increasing
self-assurance and authority.
correct and reticent lady (who displayed a wicked sense of humor and
cursed eloquently in private), she formed a seamless partnership with
Bradlee, whom she hired in 1965 as managing editor after he famously
told her he’d give his “left one” to edit the Post. Together,
they faced down Richard Nixon’s White House in publishing the Pentagon
Papers in 1971, when government intervention could have jeopardized the
Post Co.’s plans to go public. They pursued the Watergate investigation
at a time when vindictive Nixon operatives were actively considering
pulling the company’s broadcasting licenses.
[Graham’s] descendants still seem to enjoy an almost mystical bond
with their employees. When Weymouth made a heartfelt acceptance speech
in the company auditorium on the day her promotion was announced, some
Post traditionalists, such as former managing editor Bob Kaiser, were
teary-eyed. Wearing her grandmother’s pearls for luck, Weymouth told the crowd
about a recent conversation she’d had with a coworker in the
advertising department, where she’d spent the previous three years as
vice president and director.
The colleague “poked her head in my
office,” Weymouth explained, “and said that there was a story that she
thought I would want to hear. She asked me if I had ever noticed that
often the elevators stop on the lobby floor when you have not pressed
the button for the lobby. And the doors open, and no one gets on or
off. I said yes, I had noticed that. She said, ‘Well, my girls think
that is your grandmother getting on the elevator.’ I got chills when
she told me that. And this morning, it happened to me. I was riding up
from the garage level, a nervous wreck. And the elevator stopped on the
lobby floor, the doors opened, and no one got on.”