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

By Davis "Buzz" Merritt | Go to book overview

SIX
Connect and Disconnections

We were back on the North Carolina mountaintop in June 1975, and the view was hazy. Watergate had come and gone and Gerald Ford was house-sitting the presidency abdicated by Nixon. Washington seemed to be settling back into normal operations as the world's largest company town, grinding out its annual quota of laws, debates, and mini-sensations over issues that seemed to never move any closer to resolution.

The prospect of several more years, or an entire career, of dealing in that atmosphere was not appealing to me. A bureau's job, after all, is limited to offering stories that you hope newspapers will have the good sense to print; whether they do so or not is totally out of your hands. Sometimes it was as if we merely lobbed shells out into a vacuum. For me, there was no real product; no chance, at the end of the day, to hold in my hand something as satisfyingly palpable as a newspaper that I had made.

Libby and I talked much about that as we sat on the mountaintop; about long-term ambitions and about The Merger. In 1974, Knight Newspapers and Ridder Publications had completed an odd-couple sort of union--the Knight papers, widely known for their news orientation, and the Ridder papers, widely known for competent business operations, constituting Knight-Ridder, then the nation's largest group in terms of daily circulation, with 35 newspapers coast to coast. For me, at 39, it was, in the vernacular of the hustling 1970s, midlife crisis time.

The saving phone call came while we were in the mountains mulling over those things. Derick Daniels, vice-president for news of the merged company, asked if I was interested in talking about the editorship of two newspapers in Wichita, Kansas. I was clearly interested in talking about the editorship of any newspaper, but Wichita

-68-

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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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