Public Journalism and Public Life: Why Telling the News Is Not Enough

By Davis "Buzz" Merritt | Go to book overview

FIVE
The Limits of Toughness

We knew the call would come to disrupt our family vacation in the North Carolina mountains, it was simply a question of when. Libby and I had packed ourselves and three kids for a week and driven from summer-sultry, tense Washington to enjoy fresh air and plain food with her parents in the house they had assembled with their own hands from huge, interlocking logs taken from abandoned 150-year-old cabins. From their mountain above Valle Crucis, our prospects were a little fishing in the cold, swift Watauga River, lots of walking, and visits to the clapboard, two-story, slightly listing Mast Store where locals played mountain music on weekends and you bought live chickens for dinner out of the coop under the trap door in the middle of the ancient wooden structure.

We left behind a city, a government, and a press corps writhing in crisis. Watergate was clearly rushing toward denouement after more than a year of unmatched intensity in a city whose psychic temperature runs in the red numbers even in the most placid of years.

Not a particularly good time for the news editor of the Knight Newspapers Washington Bureau to leave, but then, there had not been a good time for that in 18 months as hundreds of Washington reporters struggled to keep pace with the Washington Post's thunderous revelations about Richard Nixon's White House crowd.

The plan was for Bureau Chief Robert Boyd to call if there was a major break and for me to rush back. He did, saying something was imminent, and I did, flying into Washington National late on a warm, misty August night in 1974.

The cab ride to the National Press Building to check into the bureau and the one-block walk down F Street to the Washington Hotel where we kept a room was eerie. Familiar landmarks seemed coated in something more foreboding than the diffused sparkles from the light rain. Bassins, the sidewalk cafe that hunkered at Pennsylvania and 14th where the J. W. Marriott now towers, was dark, its red-and-blue umbrellas celebrating Cinzano folded for the night. The vacant, pigeon-

-60-

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Public Journalism and Public Life: Why Telling the News Is Not Enough
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface to the Second Edition xi
  • Acknowledgments xiv
  • PART I 1
  • One Why Change? 3
  • Two Understanding A Peculiar Culture 17
  • PART II 33
  • Three Learning to Not See 35
  • Four Soaring Toward a Crash 44
  • Five The Limits of Toughness 60
  • Six Connect And Disconnections 68
  • Seven Making a Break 83
  • PART III 93
  • Eight The Value of Values 95
  • Nine The Value of Deliberation 103
  • Ten So Far, So Good . . . Mostly 112
  • Eleven Some Tools and Their Uses 121
  • Twelve Cyberspace: Finding Our Way 131
  • Thirteen So What's It All About? 139
  • Epilogue 146
  • References 148
  • Index 150
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