Q. Why are daily newspapers suffering a lack of readership growth while weeklies advance?
A. I have a theory about this. I don't know whether it's correct or not . . . In this country, we have nothing except hot and cold running water. We swing from one extreme to another . . . As we swung politically to a centralized government based in this town (Washington) and then, jumped into an experiment of collective security all over the world - to commitments of the like of which the British, the French, the Germans . . . never even thought of giving to 44 different countries.
We were, therefore, involved in all the complexities of the world and I think people followed this for a long time, very, very carefully. And the n Korea and the cold war and Vietnam broke their heart. And they began to turn it off and try to think about life in human dimensions rather than world abstractions.
Aaccordingly, you can see the result of that and the weekly paper tells you that someone from Dubuque last week visited with Mrs. So and So and what they'll do in that town about bicycle paths, whether we should tax mopeds . . . they care about this, this is big stuff. And you notice the difference between working for a paper like the Times or a weekly paper like the Gazette.
I make the mistake each day. I write a tough column today about Andy Young (U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations). I'll get 25 or 30 blistering letters saying that I am anti Negro. And in an island like Marth's Vineyard, if you're wrong you don't get a letter, you get a punch in the nose. That attributes to the accuracy of small papers.
. . . People are very concerned about reading avidly enough about the family, schools, about church news, about anything that has to do with local taxes, local zoning, pollution, anything that has to do with the atmosphere of local life.
Q. Are city papers missing out?
A. Well . . . look at your (Washington Post) Thursday paper, it's a monstrosity, but it, in a way, is trying to get at the same thing because it tells you . . . service information, menus and so on and so forth and we in the Times are going to the same kind of thing, the Weekend section is intended to provide service information. . .
Q. As you travel around the country, pick up newspapers in various localitites and read them, what striked you, how would you assess the quality and content of American newspapers today?
A. Well . . . they are not nearly as good as they ought to be . . . It is so easy to produce a really, clean fine looking newspaper by offset printing and even the use of color to make it look very modern and rather attractive.
Then, when you go through it, there's not a hell of a lot in it . . . (but) we're better than our readers, in that we make available to them more information than what they seem willing to absorb and frankly, it makes my ass tired when I hear people complain that they can't get (informed)
Well, goddamn it, the mails run, they can subscribe to The Washington Post or the Times if they feel their local papers are not giving them what they want. Then, there are other kinds of sources of information that they can get . . .
Q. Has management at the Times changed in recent years?
A. yes, it's greatly changed . . . not only at the Times but most newspapers . . . I've been on the Times since '39, I think the Times is better run today than it has ever been. . .
You go back in the early days before we got into this idol-smashing era, and when everybody was saying the Times was the greatest paper in the world and all that, and try rto follow what really happened . . . Just try to figure out reading the Times what the hell happened (with Theodore Roosevelt and the Bull Moose movement) and you'll be absolutely baffled.
It was a day of stringer correspondents (part-time reporters) and space rates and everybody wanted to write the long story and make more money and everybody wrote the same damn story . . .
It's totally different today, And there is a corporate strategy today, they are more careful in analysis of the demography of New York and the flight fron the city into the suburbs and what could be done about it.
Q. Why was'nt that done earlier? Why wasn't that perceived earlier and if it was why didn't someone take some action?
A. Well, you've got a funny almost unique situation in New York. . . it has been the tradition ever since Mr. (Adolph) Ochs bought the paper in 1896 . . . people bought a newspaper on the corner or at the train station . . . We didn't have (home delivery) but now people are working very hard on the delivery . . . . its measurely up . . .
Q. What about reporters today?
A. I notice my young colleagues here, it troubles me, they memorize their own stories . . .I don't think they read the paper terribly carefully. They're very egocentric and very industrious, they work very hard, they concentrate on their subject and they concentrate on themselves.