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55 FIVE The New York Times The most compelling part of the history of the New York Times in 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 make Joseph Kennedy the chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission and succeed.”2 By 1953 Krock had turned the bureau over to James (“Scotty”) Reston , fearing his star reporter might otherwise jump ship to the Washington Post. (Krock continued to write a column.) The new bureau chief was also a skilled bureaucratic player. He maintained a special closeness to the publisher and retained the powers handed down from Krock, including the privilege of hiring his own reporters. According to Wicker, “A daily schedule [of stories] was given to New York and automatically used. The [Washington bureau’s] complaints were solely objections to copyediting in New York or whether a story was cut from 1,000 words to 850. There is even a tale, probably apocryphal, that two [Washington] reporters wrote the same story and both were used [rather than challenge the powerful Washington bureau].” Reston’s influence within the Washington establishment during the 1950s and 1960s was “impossible to overlook,” wrote Joseph Kraft in a contemporary account. “On some big matters the State Department 56   Whatever Happened to the Washington Reporters informs him almost automatically, as it would the representative of a major power.”3 Wallace Carroll, a skilled editor, became Reston’s news editor, the number-two position, and Reston’s talented new hires soon became known around Washington as “Scotty’s boys.” Russell Baker, the most elegant stylist of the era, came from the Baltimore Sun. Anthony Lewis, who had just won a Pulitzer Prize at the Washington Daily News, would cover the Justice Department and the Supreme Court. The new Senate correspondent was Allen Drury, of the Washington Star. Tom Wicker, from the Nashville Tennessean, added strength to the political beat and would later succeed Drury on Capitol Hill. For economics there was Edwin Dale, from the New York Herald Tribune. The only one of Scotty’s boys to come from the Times in New York was Max Frankel, a young man who had gone directly from college at Columbia University to the Times; a foreign policy maven, he had already reported from Vienna, Belgrade, and Moscow. This collection of journalists, Frankel later bragged, “golfed with senators, swam with White House aides, and called Cabinet members by their first names.”4 Their subsequent careers illustrate the types of patterns at this level. Allen Drury stayed around only long enough to pen a blockbuster novel, Advice and Consent, which also won a Pulitzer Prize. He then left journalism to spend the rest of his life writing fiction. Ed Dale eventually entered government as spokesman for the Office of Management and Budget under President Reagan. Russell Baker, when he became restless, was given his own column on the op-ed page and became host of PBS’s Masterpiece Theatre. Tom Wicker eventually succeeded Reston as Washington bureau chief. Max Frankel succeeded Wicker. Wicker got Krock’s column when he was pushed out as bureau chief. Frankel rose from Sunday editor to editorial page editor to executive editor, the title the Times gives its editor-in-chief. Tony Lewis, the odd-man-out in the shuffle for bureau chief, chose reassignment in London. Its large number of foreign postings always gives the Times some breathing room in managing sticky personnel problems, with London a favored spot in the holding pattern. (It also would be on the itinerary of Howell Raines, a future Washington bureau chief and executive editor.) When Lewis returned, he too got his own column, which he wrote from Cambridge, Massachusetts. Obviously employees of the Times could be on a fast, narrow, and slippery track. But there were others bidding for the services of the The New York Times   57 talented who didn’t make the final cut. Wallace Carroll moved on to become editor-publisher of the Winston-Salem Journal and Sentinel; when passed over twice to be national...


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