I'm disappointed that ombudsman Richard Harwood {"Poor Editors," April 8} chose to portray my speech to the American Society of Newspaper Editors -- a call for editors of action -- as an uninformed, insensitive dig at overworked and underpaid editors at smaller newspapers.

As editor/owner for 21 years of the 7,033-circulation News in Southbridge, Mass., I'm proud to be a part of producing a tiny daily (one wag calls it a weakly). While I appreciate the work of the Watergate warriors at The Post, my heroes are small-town editors who often have labored anonymously and at great personal sacrifice. I do not think of them or other editors -- despite Mr. Harwood's inaccurate characterization -- as "overpaid wretches."

Small-town editors, for the most part, are not members of the American Society of Newspaper Editors. Mr. Harwood is wrong when he says I spoke to "a gathering of representative American editors." The society -- which discriminated against small newspapers in its bylaws until 12 years ago -- is not representative. Nearly every large daily has several members in the society -- The Post has six, USA Today has seven. But editors from only 45 of the 625 dailies under 10,000 circulation -- just 7 percent -- are members.

Another inaccuracy could be taken as a rationalization for editor inaction. Mr. Harwood writes that I and others exhort and chastise editors "for failing to compete successfully with larger papers -- The Post and The New York Times, for example -- for the minuscule number of minority students seeking jobs in journalism."

Yes, there are too few students of color seeking jobs at newspapers. Yes, a farm-team system exists in journalism: minority reporters at tiny dailies -- like non-minority reporters at tiny dailies -- are hired away by medium-sized newspapers that, in turn, lose those same reporters to metropolitan dailies.

But small dailies, with few exceptions, are not competing with the likes of The Post, which generally prefer to hire reporters with years of experience. I enjoy recruiting at job fairs attended by The Post, The New York Times, Newsday, Los Angeles Times and The Wall Street Journal. Recent college graduates come to these job fairs expecting to land jobs at those big-city behemoths. But the big-city editors advise the aspiring reporters, photographers and editors to gain experience elsewhere first, often pointing them to me or to other editors from smaller papers. Those of us at smaller newspapers benefit. In the long run, so does the industry.

I don't chastise small-town editors for failing to compete successfully with recruiters from larger papers. But I do question those editors who do nothing to bring diversity to their newsroom -- who don't recruit at job fairs, who don't offer internships, who don't work with local high school journalists, who don't try to change the status quo.


Southbridge, Mass.