The executive editor, Ben Bradlee, and I usually reserve our disagreements for loftier subjects than 19-year-old socialites who, when not a cheval, apparently feel the only alternative is to start the afternoon with champagne.
But, there we were the other day at odds over The Post's long interview with Cornelia Guest (Feb. 1), enshrined by the media as debutante-of-the-year. She's the young lady who went to 365 parties last year, thinks the Equal Rights Amendment is "pompous" and can't remember whether her favorite charity party was for Save the Children or Save the Trees.
Mr. Bradlee totally disagreed with my opinion--that 80 inches of premium news space seemed excessive to establish a point that to some, journalists included, was self-evident before the first bullet in Style reporter Elisabeth Bumiller's story: vacuity equals intellectual absenteeism equals a bad name, in this case for the rich. The point is there after the first few utterances, from the "pretty, red mouth that forms a small pout" to Miss Guest's "dramatically made-up eyes" and the "luscious fullness to her face and upper arms."
Allowing that I had an earlier fix on this presumptive Brenda Frazier of the '80s (courtesy Time magazine), I accepted the executive editor's dare to solicit opinion, beginning at home. Turns out that Mrs. Anne and the Misses Lisa and Andr,e all had read every word. And there I was, undermined in my own house, even though one of my ladies, without prompting, remarked, "It did go on!"
Elsewhere, reaction was, as we say, mixed. Despite her onetime connection with an area school, Miss Guest's verbal meanderings were of no interest to some who didn't bother to read the interview. An equal number, saying they were appalled by the subject and her life style, read it through. Others "got the picture" early on and didn't finish it.
Miss Bumiller understandably doesn't think her report was too long, and she is backed by important persons. I come out where I went in: measure for measure it didn't measure up. On a scale of 10, I give the story on Miss Guest half that at most. It had relevance for some, but its length may have robbed other stories competing for space. Her self-indulgence was in turn indulged--to a fault.
If it can be said that something viewed as "sacrilegious" causes folks to "raise hell," that's what happened after The Post used a front-page picture of Washington Redskins' celebrants holding aloft a sign "John Riggins is God." An extraordinary number of readers protested.
The photo was by Associated Press and taken at Dulles Airport after the team returned from its Super Bowl triumph. It also showed a dog festooned with a Redskins cap. Another picture, showing President and Mrs. Reagan welcoming team owner Jack Kent Cooke, was published on an inside page.
Assistant Managing Editor Robert Price, who selected the AP photo, says he anticipated it might draw some fire, but has been surprised at the extent. He defends his choice as the most newsworthy picture he saw that evening; that it captured the exuberance that had the community on its ear for a week. It said more, Mr. Price judged, than the Reagans shaking hands with Mr. Cooke. I agree.
Despite the strong disagreement of significant numbers, I think many more saw it for what it was--a spontaneous, high- spirited, good-humored expression that might have easily read, "Thank God for John Riggins." I would have used the picture, perhaps on an inside page.
Some in this newsroom disagreed with me for criticizing a reference to Margaret Heckler's faith (Roman Catholic) in a Post story on Mr. Reagan's designating her secretary of health and human services. In my column Jan. 25, I said, "the story on the nomination . . . gratuitously referred to the former congresswoman as 'a Roman Catholic with three children . . . opposed to abortion.'" I should have made clear then that my objection was to the reference to her faith, not to the other facts (though most read my comment as it was intended).
Wall Street Journal Executive Editor Frederick Taylor wrote, also disagreeing with my position. I found this interesting because, in its parallel story the same day, the Wall Street Journal omitted reference to Mrs. Heckler's religion and to the fact that she is the mother of three children.