Notes to my successor:
The obituary for The Washington Star has been written in nostalgic, sometimes exquisite, prose. Precisely as it should be. It died because its ads failed. It is mourned for its news and editorial pages. The loss cuts down on what The New York Times called "the crackle of argument." The burden its passing places on The Post is partially yours. Washington operates on discourse, and when that is reduced the things that are fierce and healthy about the city tilt toward the boring and the ominous. You'll hear from constituencies, politicians, businesses, individuals. You'll be expected to make judgments about fairness, accuracy, completeness, and there'll be questions for which you simply don't have answers. Get callouses early. They help.
Take care of the small voices you will hear. Many times they simply want a place to put anger. Listen. This is a human city, and it often forgets that in its relentless pursuit of issues. There is a soft-spoken lady, for example, who refuses to identify herself. Hear her out. She calls to correct The Post daily. She's wrong more than she's right, but when she's right, she will make your day.
Go to Baltimore once a month and spend some tine in a city that is more like the rest of the nation. They actually make things over there, while Washington produces words and numnbers.
But also enjoy Washington. It has many secret places that reveal themselves readily. Parks, small cafes, quiet walks, beauty that you will miss if you aren't looking. The city can even be Dickensian, although it rarely allows itself to believe that.
If you're from out of town, and you drive past a left turn, three successive right turns will not get you back to where you've been. The same applies metaphorically to political moves.
The next year will be tough. Once economic measures by the administration and Congress are set, the explosive moral issues that have been held back will emerge. The new political right will test the nation on non-economic policies. Your telephone will hum, and your mailbox will fill.
The same thing will happen when supply-side economics hits the streets and the countryside. I assume that you, like the rest of us, hope the things works. The fact is, nobody knows, and there will be slippages, surprises, failures and successes. Measure the coverage carefully.
You'll have to explain many times over, without excuses or apology or defending The Post, the nature of a news story. It's easier to do that in terms of what it is not. But that won't suffice. Fortunately, there is no agreement. But somewhere in your explanation, throw in a generality such as, "News is anthing you know today that you didn't know yesterday." Otherwise, there is no definition that is wide enough to catch all the variations. Find a way to show that no news story is ever complete. If it attempted to be, it would fill all the day's available space, and nobody would read it.
If you ruffle The Post's news staff's feathers when you see and call attention to imbalance and unfairness, you're probably doing something right. But then, brush aside the hard staff stares and take them out, one at a time, for drink. You won't find better companions.