"I DON'T LIKE TO BRAG," says Roger Kranz, "But I got money from Stewart Mott quicker than anybody every has."
Roger Kranz is 26 years old, very handsome and very ambitious. Roger Kranz is also a child of the '70s and grew up in an era when the profession of journalism came into its own. Reporters became stars in their own right, newspapers became the place to be, journalism became the "it" profession. What better proof than Jackie O, the trend follower of the century, getting a job at Viking publishers, hanging out at Elaine's, dating Pete Hamill and securing a summer job for daughter Caroline as a copy girl at The New York Daily News.
With the advent of journalism chic came an enormous increase in applications to newspapers, journalism schools, journalistic publications and, of course, the inevitable creation of a new species - journalism groupies.
Everybody wanted a piece of the action.
Washigton, D.C., is as everyone knows, the news capital of the world, and therefore, a new center of attraction for those whose fledgling interest in journalism has been spawned. People who would once have gone to Los Angeles, New York, or even abroad to further themselves professionally or socially, are now moving to Washington.
Washington is where the journalists are.
Washington is where the action is.
Enter Roger Kranz.
Sometime early this early members of Washington's journalistic community began receiving a barrage of mail concerning something called the Washington Journalism Review. The literature had a very fancy logo, an advisory board - a long list of well-known journalists in town, and a list of contributing writers, some of whom were not particularly well known.
Names like Martin Agronsky, Bonnie Angelo, Frank Mankiewicz, Larry McMurtry, Clark Mollenhoff, Gordon Peterson, Barbara Raskin, Sander Vanocur and Robert Walters were on the board. And on the list of contributing writer were Taylor Branch, Peter Gruenstein, Kitty Kelley, Aaron Latham, Dorothy McGhee, Ron Rosenbaum, Richard Reeves and Sanford Ungar. The editor was listed as Warren Rogers. The senior editor, Edwin Diamond.
There were more mailings. Mailings asking for contributions, asking for support, asking for interest.
There were personalized notes from Warren Rogers, the editor. There were explanatory notes from Ed Diamond the senior editor. There were invitations to parties, two at the Big Cheese restaurant to introduce and explain the Washington Journalism Review. Then the invitation to the Smith Bagley's for a WJR fund-raiser at their house in Georgetown. The invitation read "honoring Shirley MacLaine." The contributions were $25 per person. Tax deductible.
Journalists began talking about it. Nobody knew any thing about it. What was this publication that these people were putting out that was going to criticize other journalists? Who were these people?" Was it a good idea? A bad idea? Should we have another journalism review? Wasn't MORE enough? Wasn't this getting a bit incestuous? Was it healthy? Did we need it? Everybody had heard of the people on the advisory board and even some of those on the list of contributing writers. But it was the name of the people in tiny print at the bottom of the literature that had everyone puzzled.
Under the titles of associte publisher and publisher were two unknown names. Valerie McGhee and Roger Kranz.
Enter Roger Kranz.
Roger Kranz's family moved to the Maryland suburbs when he was 10 years old. His father, originally from New Jersey, had worked in Detroit for Walter Reuther, then at the Peace Corps under Shriver, and is now an administrator at the Department of Labor. Roger went to Maryland public schools, then went off to Rutgers University in New Jersey where he majored in journalism, then got his masters at American University's school of communications. After a series of free-lance journalistic jobs, he eneded up working for Newsworks for five months until it folded last year.
Newsworks was an alternative newspaper started by Dorothy McGhee, daughter of Ambassador and Mrs. George McGhee. Mrs. McGhee was from a Texas oil family. They live in Georgetown, Middleburg and have a house in Turkey. They are rich and socially well-connected. Dorothy McGhee was publisher of Newsworks, which established the Washington Media Education Center, Inc., a nonprofit, tax-exempt public organization, and wa financed in part by her own money and money that her parents put into the project.
Dorothy McGhee has a younger sister named Valerie. Valerie is 23, a sweet, pretty young woman, bright and idealistic. Valerie had gone to Maret, a private school in Washington. After Maret she went to Swarthmore, where shw majored in psychology, then worked as an intern in Sen. Claiborne Pell's office. Her first real job was working for her sister at Newsworks.
Enter Roger Kranz.
Times changes. And so do methods, ways, styleof doing things. Like making it, for instance. There was a time in Washington when the way to make it was through charity.
But then charity balls went out, and for the past decade or so the route has involved latching on to some well-known personality.
That, too, lost its impact as the stars began to catch on. The Henry Kissinger-Alice Longworth trick was old hat, at least in its current form. (You know. You call up Mrs. L. say you're having a party for Henry, then call Henry and say you're having a party for Mrs. L. Neither will refuse.)
So what were people to do? The smart ones caught on. But just inviting one to dinner didn't exactly work. They didn't care about that. You had to do something a little more serious to get them interested. Not too serious. But something that revolved around them and had a little fun attached. Something that would appeal to their egos. Something like . . . a Journalism Review. And why not the old "H.K.-A.L." routine? Couldn't it be updated?
Enter Roger Kranz.
According to Roger Kranz, New York Times reporter Eileen Shanahan was the first person they called. She agreed immediately immediately, but then she became the HEW spokesperson and had to drop out. Neverthless, her name was still good enough for them to begin compiling a list of advisers.
He said Shanahan's name as a starter to get others aboard. Frank Mankiewicz, Bonnie Angelo, Marion Clark, Matthew Lewis and others all agreed because of friends and colleagues already on the list.
They also called Martin Agronsky, who had gone to Rutgers and Roger felt he might have luck with an old alum.
"It just seemed that the idea was a good one," says Agronsky. "Roger asked me to go to a reception. When you accept something like this you ought to look into it more than I did, than we did. I don't know him. I never looked into it. I think everybody begins by saying I thought it was a good idea. Having done that eventually I'll get a look, make up my mind. Roger Kranz is not stupid. He figured everybody would see everybody else's name and sign on. I guess we all look like fools."
The Washington Post's Sander Vanocur is also on the board. "This guy came to me," says Vanocur. "He seemed nice enough, I said who have you got, he said Mankiewicz, Bob Walters, I said okay. That's all I know," he laughs. "Here we are, a bunch of hard-hitting tough minded, investigative-schmucks."
Shortly after Roger Kranz went to Newsworks, he and Valerie McGhee began seeing each other. Roger, it seems, had once had an idea of a journalism review when he was at American University but nothing had ever come of it.
He decided to try again. He asked Valerie to be his associate publisher. "I asked her because I like Valerie," Kranz explained. "We're close friends."
"Tell her now impressed you were with my brains," says Valerie, kicking Roger.
"She's not only been helping me," Kranz admits, "but she makes all the decisions with me."
Valerie McGhee and Roger Kranz have been working for seven months now without pay on the Washington Journalism Review. They have rented a tiny room as office space in Georgetown across the street from the Big Cheese restaurant. They pay $112 a month rent plus the phone hill, altogether about $250 a month in office expenses, they say.
"The role of the publisher," Kranz begins, "is more on the business side. I look at myself more as a producer of a TV showor a movie."
Both McGhee and Kranz dismiss the fact that neither has had a great deal of experience in the business of journalism or publishing.
"We decided," explains Kranz, "that we were qualified to hire the best people."
"As far as joint expertise," says Kranz, "I have an education in it. More than most people. I've never worked for a daily newspaper though."
"I learned a lot at Newsworks. You can learn a lot quickly in journalism," says McGhee.
"Valerie and I," says Kranz, "are more consumers in the Media. I think it's a plus in our favor. We're doing it with no axe to grind. We watch TV, read papers and magazines."
So, armed with these qualifications, they began talking to experts, they chose the name, had a logo designed, started direct-mail tests, began lining up advisers and contributors, and did research on other journalism reviews.
Still, they had to live and they had to have money for the mailings and the office space. "We borrowed money from family and friends," says Kranz. About $10,000 or $12,000." He says they borrowed $6,000 from Stewart MOtt which they paid back after their fund-raising mailing.
He sold his Volkswagen to raise a needed $1,000. So far they have received no foundation money. THey point out that they have received contributions from Norman Lear, Norman Cousins, Peter Bogdanovich, Julian Goodman, Roger Mudd, Bob Woodward and Francie Barnard, former Sen. William Fulbright, James J. Kilpatrick and others, and that among their 800 subscribers are Clay Felker, Ben Bagdikian and Barbara Walters.
Unfortunately for WJR, that is not enough. They need, says Kranz, $200,000.
Some have scoffed at the idea of the magazine and its publishers, saying that it is just a plaything of an heiress and her boyfriend. Valerie gets very angry at this suggestion and denies point-blank that her parents have put a single cent into her venture. "I don't have any money to put in," she says hotly. "I have enough money to support myself while I'm doing this and I'm living off my parents' good will. I don't want them involved in this. They're not journalists.
During the interview the phone rings, and it is the White House calling to regret, for President Carter, the invitation to the Bagleys.
"We're looking for an angel," continues Kranz. "We've talked to possible angels - There will be no strings attached. We'll take money from anybody."
Then came the difficult task of dinding an editor. Ed Diamond, now a media critic and MIT professor, had only lent his name to the job but didn't have the time, though Diamond did think the idea of a journalism review was good because he does not feel any of the current publications cover Washington the way it should be covered. So they set about looking for someone appropriate. They found Warren Rogers, a former reporter for A.P., The New York Herald Tribune, Hearst, Look and The Los Angeles Times, a former syndicated columnist, former president of the National Press Club, a former bar owner (Tammany Hall) and for the past four years a public relations man for the National Forest Products Assn., a job which he had just quit.
"Warren," says Kranz, "was married to Alla Rogers, a cook at the Big Cheese. That's how we met him . . . We wanted someone with perspective, not some young whippersnapper who was out for blood."
"We wanted," said McGhee, "someone who had his finger on the plus."
"We wanted," says Kranz, "someone who was available. We asked Eileen Shanahan, Aaron Latham, Richard Reeves and Sandy Ungar. But we don't want it to sound like Warren was our 12th choice. He was really what we were looking for."
Warren Rogers, at 55, is a handsome man, distinguished looking with snow white hair and an aquiline nose. He looks more like a banker than a journalist. Only at second glance does one notice the slightly too short pants, the narrow lapels on the suit, the loosened tie, the weathered look which comes from too many late deadlines, too many look campaign trips. He has a ruddy complexion, a calm, perhaps even a little fatigued I've-been-through-it-all manner, and a trace of the wistful, it-might-have-been.
"You may wonder what the hell I'm doing here," says Rogers, with a chuckle. But then he explains his idea of the WJR which he will edit, "The purpose bing," he explains, "who will guard the guards themselves. We'll guard the guards. The Post has made an honest effort to do that with Charlie Seib. But there's not much self-criticism. It's unnatural to criticize oneself.
"The Washington Post has a combination of egomania and paranoia," says Rogers. "The Post is only part of the news in this town and not the most interesting story. What Jim Bellows - you know he was at the Herald Tribune too - has done to the Star is fascinating."
Warren Rogers is optimistic about the WJR (which, incidently, are also his initials). However, as editor he has run up against one unanticipated problem. "Fund-raising," he says. "I don't know much about this, I'm probably out of my depth," but he feels they should not rely on one angel and that they shouldn't take more than $50,000 from any one person "to avoid any inference of conflict." He did, he says, call a friend who consults for the Embassy of Iran and checked him out for money. "The ambassador is a guy I know," he says. "Somebody raised a question on that. Oil and all. I said, 'Oh, Jesus.' But I would have done it anyway.
Rogers, who says he's never been an editor before, is concerned, naturally, about accuracy and says that he has always read quotes back to his subjects and allowed them to change things they said if they thought better of it later. "Isn't it their right to change quotes?" he asks. "I would always says, 'Go ahead and change it. What do you want to say?' I think you're playing fair with the reader on that."
Rogers says that the list of names on the advisory board and the contributing writers was put together "pior to my coming aboard . . . That's not my list," is all he will say.
Vicki and Smith Bagley had a few social misconceptions when they first came to Washington from Winston-Salem, N.C., with all of Smith's Reynolds tobacco money. They began joining committee and going the Charity Ball route. Then they tried the political fund-raising route. They were being touted as Carter people. But still it wasn't working. They had assiduously avoided socializing or cooperating with the press. Journalism chic had not hit North Carolina and it took them a while to catch on.
Meanwhile, some people have been objecting to the social direction the Washington Journalism Review is taking the Georgetown parties, the glamorous people, the emphasis on big names and personalities in the media rather than on the average Joe or Jane who does the daily drudgery of reporting. ut McGhee and Kranz toss off the criticism as necessary for raising funds, even though Ed Diamond says, "I told them not to go the party route - they'd get a social image." And Kranz even says that of all the people available to ask to hold a fund-raiser, "the Smith Bagleys were my first choice."
(In fact, Kranz asked several others first, including former Miss America Yolande Fox.) Would Smith Bagley be a potential angel? "Obviously aybody is a potential angel," he says.
Several weeks earlier at a book party at Kramerbooks, Kranz had confided that when he first discussed the party idea with the Bagleys they had agreed, and had intimated to him that since they had been the victims of some unfavorable publicity in Washington they were interested in having a vehicle of their own to turn the tables on the press.
"We're not close to the Bagleys," says Kranz. "You can appreciate how we're trying to play things.
So, the Bagleys had agreed to the use of their house for a Washington Journalism Review fund-raising benefit. They would invite 700 people including the President, most of important journalists in Washington and the leaders of the diplomatic, political and social community. The charge would be $25 a head. Here's why the Bagleys said yes:
"The cause," says Smith Bagley. "My attitude has always been very positive about the press. It's always been very positive. Very, very positive. It's always been v . . ." but before he could finish his wife rushed over and extracted him from a reporter. But no before he was asked if he would be an angel for Washington Journalism Review. "Oh, maybe." And then, "This outfit is a good thing. We need something like this. I think it's always a good thing when people in the business are positive and critical about the people they associate with. It keeps people on their toes."
Why did his wife agree to the party?: "The cause," says Vicki Bagley. "And they had asked a number of people. They were kind of getting des . . . getting down to a number of people. I like the idea of it.
"I like the idea of a monitor and the review - for instance if you miss something than you get it through this review, you might go back and read the article if you missed it. I've never criticized the press. Just certain people in the press."
The fund-raiser required that even members of the working press pay $25, an unusual practice which several reporters refused to follow. Out of 800 invitations they pulled in around 200 guests, not all paying, and raised about $3,000. Most of the people who had taken the trouble to pay and come, including Jack Landau of the Reporters' Committee for Freedom of the press, author Sanford Ungar, columnist Les Whitten and Washington Monthly editor Charlie Peters, were in favor of the Washington Journalism Review.
However, most of the guests were social Washingtonians rather than the hoped-for media heavies.
Lawyer Steve Martindale, who escorted "Panorama" hostess Pat Mitchell said, "It's needed. It's very important and will be a great addition to Washington. There's lots of room for improvement."
"I think somebody needs to step back and look at us," said pat Mitchell. "I'm looking forward to contributing to it."
"I think," said Roger Mudd, "a Journalism review would take a first step toward the accountability of the press." Would he write cirtically of a colleague, for instance John Chancellor? "It would be very hard to do. I'd have to think hard about how to do it. But I think it could be done effectively and fairly."
Averell Harriman was looking a bit blank. "He doesn't know why he's here," said his wife, Pamela, laughing. "He keeps asking me, why are we here, who are these people?"
"I didn't know what this whole thing was when I walked in the door," said Harriman. "But now Warren Rogers has explained. It's a very ambitious idea. He's a very able fellow." Then he turned to his wife and politely suggested they leave.
Jim Bellows, editor of The Star and friend of Warren Rogers, had this to say. "The more publications you have in one city the better. Even two newspapers are better than one.It's a great thing. Ia any journalism review shoult succeed it's here."
Everyone seemed to have a good thime and as the place was clearing out past 9, Valerie McGhee remarked gaily, "We're having so much fun having parties we may never publish at all. We may go on and on and on having parties raising money for the Journalism Review. It's so much fun."
Over at the White House one day this week a group of reporters, CBS' Bob Schieffer, NBC's Douglas Kiker, ABC's Sam Donaldson, The Washington Star's Jim Dickenson and The New York Times' Jim Wooten were standing around outside the press room in the sunshine waiting for George Meany to emerge from President Carter's office. They all readily agreed to be interviewed on the subject of the Washington Journalism Review and their reservations were nearly unanimous.
According to Jim Wooten the current interest in journalism is "one of those things like the flu, some sort of virus." And he's not enthusiastic. "No matter what you do or write," says Wooten, "or what story you cover or what perspective you take or in what style you choose to present your story , someone will always bitch. It may be the people you write about or the people on your own paper or the editors or the other reporters of fellow journalists or the public. And it just doesn't matter." Wooten says the main question from this point of view is this. "If they're so interested in journalism, then why aren't they journalists?"
Though some reporters around town, like The Washington Post's David Broder for instance, say, "I think we need more criticism and not less," others agree with Richard Cohen, a Washington Post columnist.
"The Washington Journalism Review is coming on with names and parties as if they're opening up a boutique or a hairdresser. The idea is good but the people are doing it for the wrong reason, for social cachet. In the old days you bought yourself a newspaper. Now you buy yourself a journalism review. They've got all the glamour boys, but where are the local reporters, the schleps who cover the regulatory agencies."
Warren Rogers is not as enthusiastic as he was a week ago. For one thing, things have not been going so well in the last week as he gets down to the wire and as the money is not rolling in as hoped. And there is dissension in the ranks.
For another thing, there's the money problem. At first Valerie McGhee said her parents had given no money. Now Rogers is forced to admit that "she goofed. She told you the wrong thing." It seems that the McGhees did donate at least $1,000. And the Smith Bagley fund-raiser only bagged $3,000.
"He (Smith Bagley) is not going to come in here and buy status. But I think hd has backed off. I think he got scared," says Warren Rogers, who is by now, exasperated. "I haven't got a penny out of this thing," he says. "I don't know. Sometimes I wish . . . oh well. Roger doesn't know when to keep his mouth shut. When he talks about an angel. Jesus. I would much rather have a choir of angels. No Smith Bagley, nobody is going to dominate this thing except me. Otherwise I'll just pick up my marbles and leave."
In fact, he's already thought about it. A new tabloid morning newspaper in New York city backed by former Treasury Secretary William E. Simon and former U.S. Sen. James E. Buckley is scheduled to start up this fall. It will be called The Trib. Rogers has already written a piece for the pilot issue and would definitely consider a full-time position with them if it gets off the ground, he says. And what about the WJR? "Obviously I can't do both, he says. "We'll wait and see."
Rogers pleads for mercy about Kranz and McGhee. "Go easy on these kids," he says. "They're young and don't know when to keep their mouths shut." And then he says with a sigh, "When I came aboard I thought it was done, all cut and dried, and now I find out it wasn't. Well I've forbidden Roger to talk to anyone again unless he talks to me first . . ."