NOBODY wanted The Star to go out, but it is gone. Sadness, nostalgia, anger, sentimentality and apprehension have all been stirred by its loss, and these feelings have been shared by the people at The Post. But The Post is in a special position. We fully expect that new competitors will come into the Washington area, providing the extended community in which we live more information, more ideas, more prosperity and more choice. But however and whenever this may happen, the death of The Star has imposed new obligations on this newspaper. They need to be met -- and will be met -- now.
The obligations are those that go with being the only major metropolitan daily in a big American city that is also the capital of the nation. And the first of these is to enlarge the breadth and diversity of views expressed in the paper.It needs to be observed here, in a cautionary way, that there has been an awful lot of exaggeration and scare stuff put about by those contemplating a "one newspaper" future for Washington. You would think, to hear some of the fantasies of a forthcoming Post "stranglehold" over the dissemination of news and commentary in the capital, that there were no: wire services, news magazines, Washington bureaus (and editions) of the nation's great newspapers; no radio, television and syndicated columnists, and no local publications, to mention only some of the thousands of obstrepreouis enterprises that monitor and sound off about what is going on in Washington.
Nevertheless, beneath the often extravegant anxieties, there does exist a pressing need to compensate for the loss of The Star's editorial voice, its reportorial perspective and its opinion and critica review pages. We are pleased that we will be able to to print as regular features many of those reporters, columnists and critics -- Mary McGrory; James J. Kipatrick, William F. Buckley Jr. and Carl Rowan; David Richards, Jonathan Yardley and Benjamin Forgey among others -- whose insights gave The Star its own particular strength and range. In addition, we will be expanding our own opinion and letters space by two pages a week -- in the Outlook section, starting next Sunday -- in order to make room for more communications, arguments, rebuttals, points of view and general fulminations.
Before the closing of The Star, this newspaper was receiving approximately 700 to 800 letters to the editor per week from readers, around 350 to 400 unsolicited essays per month as candidates for our op-ed page and other commentary sections. This was greatly more than we were able to print or will be, even with a reasonable addition of space. We receive vast numbers of notices of community, personal and institutional events, requests for information and assistance, telephoned inquiries, complaints and suggestions, not all of them in the expletive-deleted mode. Each of these categories of reader initiative, we can only suppose, will now increase in volume.
As a practical matter -- a law of physics rather than a law of editorial tyranny is involved here -- no daily newspaper that hopes to stay portable could begin to satisfy or accommodate all of these initiatives taken by its readers. But no newspaper that is worthy of its ink or its standing in the community would ever cease trying -- trying at least to satisfy and accommodate as many of these requests as it can. This details a search for ever more ways to make our pages and our services responsive to the needs of the community and to make our methods of choosing among the competing claims on our space fairer. In full knowledge that the resulting flood might well break down our telephonic and letter-receiving facilities altogether, we invite your ideas and suggestions on this score. We are dealing here, after all, with the second large obligation The Post now acquires -- and accepts: that of expanding and improving the reader's access to its pages and its personnel for a wide variety of purposes.
Both The Star and The Post have been serving a unique community. Its racial, ethnic, commercial, political and professional components are in some ways startlingly alien to and disconnected from one another. And yet it is a community, a fact that is always escaped those tiresome critics from elsewhere who carry on endlessly about terrible Washington and tend to think of it, in the memorable phrase of one observer, as "OSHA with the bomb." The challenge, for a newspaper, is to meet the dual needs that flow from this: tthe specialized coverage that reflects and contributes to the growing sense of community. Our commitment is to do this and to do it more comprehensively now. We are first and foremost a local paper for the people of the Washington area. In adding reporters from The Star, we are adding more to our local staff then to any other.
One final, fundamental point. Each of the steps we intend to take comes under the heading of expanding or improving what is available to our readers in the way of diversity, access, services, useful information. One thing we do not intend to change is our identity. We are who we are -- God help us -- The Washington Post. Like The Star, this newspaper has its own reporting style, its own professional instincts, its own editorial valves and ideas -- its own soul. We will have none of those dippy directorates or partridge-in-a-pear-tree boards of liberals and conservatives, etc., that have been (seriously!) suggested as necessary for our direction in these troubled times.
In fact, we would insist that it is the valves we treasure most at this paper, the essential liberality of the place, that make it not just possible, but also critical for us, that in the absence of The Star, more and different, sometimes clangorous, contesting voices be made available for our readers, for their individual information and subsequent choice. We trust our readers. We are asking them to trust us to do our best -- and to keep letting us know how we can do better.