[Begin Tape 1, Side A]
Bulkeley: This isn't as much as it looks like. I just grabbed the whole résumé out of the machine, in case we ran into chronology problems as we did the last time.
There are a couple of things about growing up that had impact on work that I don't think I talked about, and I guess the key one is, Dad always said, and insisted, that part of our responsibility to any employer was to bring whatever we had to offer that was different to any job we had, not just to repeat the patterns that were there, that there must be some reason why the boss appointed us or put us in a job, so we should figure that out, or from whatever other knowledge and experience we had, bring something of ourselves to the job, which is part of what has to do with why I always look for what did I know and what could I do with a job that wasn't already there. That's already come into our discussions a couple of times, but it had a grounding back in growing up.
We also were brought up to assume a responsibility for passing on whatever benefits or experiences we had to other people, and all of that's a lot of very WASPish Christian ethic stuff, but we got it mostly in Boy Scout language, all of it—you know, like leave the campsite better, and things like that. I don't think I talked about those earlier, but because they have to do with why did I do professional association stuff, and why didn't I just follow the job that I got when I moved into it.
Ritchie: When you say passing something along, you mean to those you were reporting for or to the reporters who would follow you?
Bulkeley: Or to people who didn't have the benefits and the gifts we had, whether philanthropy, or once you get the door open for people who are different, keep it open and help some more come through. One of the great criticisms of some women, certainly in our generation, has been that when they got in the power spot, they just did the same old thing that the men had always done and didn't help others.
So as a consequence, when I've been asked to go colleges, for instance, and talk to kids, if I could figure out how to do it, I did. Or if they'd call and want to come into the office and visit and talk about journalism, I made room for them. And again, because we talked about where attitudes and outlooks came from, I thought we probably ought to put those on the record.
Ritchie: That it came from your upbringing.
Bulkeley: Right. The reason we never thought about basketball plays is because basketball didn't stop between plays. Football moves play by play. That was one of our side conversations.
Ritchie: Right, about the basketball and what you knew about it.
Bulkeley: And why didn't we think about strategies and plays and setting up plays. I'm sure it's because football moves a play at a time and stops in between. Basketball moves, and unless you really watch it and can keep an eye on all ten players, you don't necessarily see the set-ups, or when they have a chance to [move] or where they get messed up. The strategies just aren't as obvious, and maybe aren't as important. I don't know.
Ritchie: And if you aren't a player and not trained to observe it, it might be difficult to pick up on.
Bulkeley: Right. And I'm not sure that's relevant to anything, except we talked about it.
Ritchie: Straightened it out, yes. I think we got up to 1966 last time, when you were covering county government.
Bulkeley: I had just started covering county government.
Ritchie: And you did that for several years?
Bulkeley: Four and a half, until late summer of '71. I started covering county government as a fill-in, as we talked about, for the reporter who went to Vietnam to cover local boys who were there, when most of us still didn't know where it was. But by the time he got back and finished all of the follow-up to his story, I was settled into the beat and already doing new things, so I got the beat permanently—I mean as permanent as anything is in the newspaper business—and he was assigned to develop what in those days we called the poverty beat.
Ritchie: The [President Lyndon B.] Johnson poverty program.
Bulkeley: The inner-city stuff and much more than just the poverty program government stuff. But Rochester was one of those cities that rioted in '64 in the first wave of urban riots, shortly after the Gannett Company had won a Pulitzer Prize for a groupwide effort and series called The Road to Integration. Two months after their prize was announced, the city blew up, and nobody knew why. That was '64.
Ritchie: Was it school integration or housing integration that they covered to win this prize?
Bulkeley: That was before I was part of the company, and I never really read the whole series, but it had to do with minorities and probably just involved the Gannett cities of that time, what would have been '63, that had minorities in them, and I would guess it was seen through a privileged white male screen, so they missed hearing and seeing all of the kinds of things that were driving inner cities toward the blow-ups that started the next summer.
Anyway, it was '66—well, by now '67—before Peter Behr was assigned to do the poverty beat, and Alinsky by then was in town, or coming to town—Saul Alinsky we talked about, I think, the community organizer whose fame and base was Chicago—was brought in, so there was citizen stuff happening, too, in that poverty beat area. There were migrant workers who were part of it, but I was on the county beat.
Ritchie: So you weren't covering that.
Bulkeley: So I wasn't doing that; Peter was. That's right at the time the "one man, one vote" Supreme Court decision was taking effect at the local level, so the county government was shifting
from the traditional board of supervisors from wards and townships—and in the townships the supervisors were also the chair of the town boards, and chief executive of the townships—was shifting from that geographic base to a representative district, equal population base. I don't know that that was a plus or a minus, having somebody new on the beat at that point, but part of what happened in county government—it was a county manager form of government, the manager in those days hired for specific terms. The city manager was at the will of the government. The county manager was for set terms.
Bulkeley: Appointed by the governing board. In this case, it would have been the county legislature, the new legislature. But one of the things that happened was the county budget magically appeared one or two days after elections, and went through a pro forma public hearing during a weekday and was voted on, and nobody ever paid any attention to what was in it. I knew that money made common sense, and that we really were entitled to a better shot at it than that. Even though the county government is the one step removed government in New York State, it's not the essential services like police and fire, but it's social services, health—health had connections because they were doing free immunization and provided dental exams and things—the zoo, the airport. But mostly it was things like weights and measures. Who really pays any attention to whether the scale has been tested lately at the supermarket, and who really cares about welfare as long as the welfare recipients aren't on their doorstep?
It also was coming to the beginning of Medicaid, Medicare. The county legislature started making some critically important financial decisions that probably would never have been made by the board of supervisors, but one of the key ones was shifting welfare from a charge-back system where the taxes to pay it went back to wherever the recipients lived. The recipient from the township of Henrietta was charged back to Henrietta, and, of course, the great majority lived in the city of Rochester, which was a quarter of the population of the county, but that had the effect then of relieving city taxpayers of some property taxes and adding it to the load in the townships. That was the biggest decision the county made.
It also was the time when the New York State legislature and governor passed legislation enabling government employees to unionize. In lots of parts of the state, employees were organized in professional associations that happened to bargain over contracts.
Ritchie: But they weren't official unions?
Bulkeley: But they weren't unions, and they wouldn't dare talk about striking, for instance. Well, the legislation was changed to allow public employee unions, and the county let them organize. You would have thought it was a Catholic bishop letting them organize his school, a Republican county that didn't fight the unionizing of its employees. The city was already organized—trash collection, fire fighters, and police.
So that first year I was covering the county, it not only was a new form of government, it also had critical new pieces happening: the financing on welfare; the negotiating with employees for the first time; the beginnings of Medicaid and Medicare, which in New York State were managed through the county welfare system, and the counties paid extra costs, the local share of costs came from the counties; and did the fee negotiating. Fees were established for basic services and hospital charges and things, at the local level in those days, at least when they started out. In New York State, they passed all of the options. All of the things the feds said you can do if you want to do in terms of Medicaid, they did—not just people who were eligible for welfare, but also
seniors and people unable to work for whatever reason, or not working, the singles, not necessarily families with children on welfare, but also single people on welfare for whatever reason. It was a different welfare program, but it was a wide range of things with very little local money.
Ultimately New York State had to back off, but it started gung-ho. It was increasing the pension plan to the point that by the late sixties, public employees in New York State could retire at half pay, not counting Social Security after thirty years of service, and legislatures were granting that without looking at the costs. So a lot of things were happening, and the county lawmakers weren't adding up what they were doing; I was.
Ritchie: The financial costs.
Bulkeley: And what was going to hit them in the budget that fall. But I knew that when you make decisions, you look at what they're going to cost you in what year, and then I learned how to translate the decisions into property tax rates. I learned how to take the new assessments in June and translate that into property tax rates, whether they were ready to or not. There were lots of good government executives in that government, and I learned rapidly I could test my assumptions and be sure my pieces were right, and they'd straighten me out if I wasn't right, or they'd steer me toward more information. I think they all knew what I was doing, that I was adding up the new costs of doing business.
Ritchie: Why didn't they do it?
Bulkeley: Well, it was too much bother. They were doing it, they just weren't going to put the budget together and publish it until after election, because you get in all sorts of bother if the taxpayers start talking about it. As indeed eventually, we did—got in a lot of bother, because the taxpayers plugged into it. By summer I could project the property tax increase that the next budget would ask for just to accomplish what the county was doing and the new things. It was awful. It was going to be a 40 or 50 percent property tax increase on most people because of the welfare charge back elimination and other things.
Ritchie: Because of all the new programs that had been added.
Bulkeley: Right. And the Republicans in control of the county government sat there and didn't say a word as my stories were published. The Democrats weren't really sure anybody could do that—project spending and taxes as I had. I got some help out of city hall, where the Democrats were in control. The budget director and the city manager were pretty sure I was right, but because nobody had done it, and girls don't know numbers, everybody just sort of watched. And indeed, when the budget was introduced the day after election, the tax increase—I had said it'll take at least an average of ten dollars, plus or minus, depending on the township—the county manager asked for thirteen, which, of course, blew everybody's mind.
They did set up some weekend public hearings and changed their schedule for adopting the budget with that much money, did an all-day Saturday public hearing that public television carried live, and it was wonderful, in terms of a reporter seeing her work connect with the voters, and the government admit that the voters, taxpayers, were entitled to a voice, watching all of that begin to unfold and to happen.
Ritchie: Did you encounter opposition from it? You say they watched you. No one tried to stop you?
Bulkeley: No, nobody really tried to stop me. I made sure, for whatever reason, gut instinct, that none of my sources really knew what all I had altogether and how close I was to getting it together until we published it, but I was satisfied, and I had checked and re-checked and multiple checked all of the parts. But I knew that I knew what I was doing and that I was right. They cut all of the discretionary increases out of the budget and the average tax rate increase was $9.98.
Ritchie: So they had to do something to keep it down.
Bulkeley: They did to exercise their responsibilities as elected lawmakers and confirm that the county legislature is a good deal. But by the time they took all the discretionary stuff out, they came down on my number, which was, I had said, about ten dollars. It was $9.98, the official comprehensive figure. The next year, as we started into the decision-making cycle again, I was monitoring the sales tax income and what that meant for the year against the budget.
Ritchie: The local sales tax?
Bulkeley: The county had a local sales tax, and had gotten special legislation, it was ahead, before the New York sales tax. The county had its own sales tax.
I monitored the assessments, the spending, the contingent fund, the monthly reports, financial reports out of the county's computers—a wonderful computer system with the projections and things on it. Somebody—and I have no idea who—in the government reminded me that the county controlled the sales tax—and it took only 10 percent of the sales tax at that point—but I was warned not to hang the whole tax increase on the property tax, and that it would most likely change the sales tax distribution formula to finance the next year's spending increases, because it was clear pretty early they'd need another tax increase, second year in a row.
So I qualified what I was doing, but this time, because it had worked, I was right the first time, the minority Democrats started making issues out of the spending and out of the tax thing, where they could find questionable practices, they would raise those questions. The Republicans sat back and let them do it. You can't have an ongoing discussion if there's only one side, so none of that really went very far. The budget still came out right after elections, and indeed, the county took 25 percent of the sales tax, the rest of it proportioned back to the towns and the city, which meant if the county was taking 25 percent, everybody else would get less, everybody else would have to raise property taxes. By then I had learned how to do that in a table and chart and show everybody.
Ritchie: Because it had to balance.
Bulkeley: Right. And they had to have, unless they took drastic cuts, they'd still need the income they had, but this time they'd have to take responsibility for it within their own town. A lot of the townships didn't have any local property taxes, because the sales tax had covered their costs in the rural area, where they didn't have cops, they didn't have planning and zoning boards that were paid, because volunteers could handle what little demand there was. So we ran the chart that showed that taxes were going to go up this amount, and if the county took it in sales tax, then here's how it affects each township, so one way or another, taxes will be going up across the board at this average. By the third year, they couldn't fight it anymore. They moved the budget cycle and introduced the budget in September, with public hearings at nights and weekends all over the county.
Ritchie: So the people knew ahead of time.
Bulkeley: The people knew, they had easy access. The legitimate control of spending values—questions that were part of the budget became part of the election campaign, and all of a sudden the remote government was, in fact, what it did, and its taxes were part of the election issues, so that the county was a real election campaign with real pocketbook issues, which, I guess, is what I think democracy ought to be, and should be. It just took us a while because it had never been there before. My goodness.
Ritchie: Did you ever encounter difficulty in trying to get this information?
Bulkeley: Oh, no, because it was all public records, and the pattern was established.
Ritchie: But no one had taken the time to do it, to put it together like this.
Bulkeley: Well, journalists have math anxiety. Every journalist knows what every penny of his or her paycheck is going to do, and they plan years ahead for college education or whatever, with numbers, but for some reason, if it gets to be more than their paycheck or their house mortgage, they can't deal with it, and they don't recognize that it's a lot easier to catch a crook if you can follow the money than if you have to stand around a parking garage and wait for somebody to come whisper in your ear. That's a fault of the journalism education, which does not require numbers. My two years of high school algebra and one year of plane geometry got me off the hook for numbers. I never again had to take a numbers course.
Ritchie: In college?
Bulkeley: In college, either for my liberal arts stuff or to get into journalism school, let alone out of it.
Ritchie: So you didn't take any economics or—
Bulkeley: Well, yes, but that isn't numbers.
Ritchie: No numbers.
Bulkeley: Economics is theories and Xs and Ys and Zs and things. A five-hour economics course is required—or was—in those days at Missouri, and I took lots of economics. I only had trouble with the one that was all theory and Xs and Ys and Zs. It never really plugged into anything, but I got that figured out, too. But all it takes to do budgets is arithmetic, adding and subtracting and multiplying and dividing, and with calculators in cereal boxes these days, for journalists not to report budgets in a context that a reader can read in a headline is an absolute failure of the constitutional responsibility.
Ritchie: Do you think journalists do it more now?
Bulkeley: No, they do it less. There's no way to find out what the local government is spending money on by reading newspapers, or there's no way to find out what the federal government is spending it on by reading newspapers. I spent five years in a different job back in the town where I had done this budget stuff. I couldn't find out from the newspapers when the budget was, what it was, what it was spent for.
Ritchie: So when you returned to Rochester after an absence—
Bulkeley: Eleven years.
Ritchie: —there wasn't that continuity in the coverage.
Bulkeley: It was all gone. In fact, when I went off the beat, I was not allowed to train my successor in the budget stuff. The bosses apparently thought somebody had been feeding me all of that information. They never understood I developed it on my own.
Ritchie: That you had done it and put it together.
Bulkeley: That I had done it and somebody needed to be taught, because it was pieces from fifteen or twenty different places, plus keeping track of the decisions as they were made. I never asked to find out why they wouldn't let me train him.
Ritchie: It was a male, your successor?
Bulkeley: It was a male [Larry Beaupre]. When I went off that beat—I'm getting ahead of me—but when I went off that beat, Peter Taub and I had covered the three beats, just the two of us—city hall, county government, and politics. Peter mostly did city hall and politics, I did county, city/county joint things, and city and county to state to federal. I got the federal budget every year, and working with the representatives—Barber Conable and Frank Horton*—always had all of the stories. The day the federal budget was introduced, I had the Rochester money in the paper, with help from their offices, but then I also learned how to follow it with phone calls in to the bureaucracy or to their staff people, depending on what it was.
Ritchie: You knew who to contact.
Bulkeley: Knew the contacts, knew enough about the cycles to know when it was time to check on things—airport money, special bridge money that had to get appropriated through to the Corps of Engineers, processes, that kind of thing.
Ritchie: So you really became an expert on budgets.
Bulkeley: As they were in the sixties. Because dollars are the connection everybody has to government, and at some point, of course, government also affects your property values, grocery costs, automobile costs, all of the rest of it, and all of those things can be identified. It took me into the second time in the cycle to learn what size dollars to report. That first year, I would go to functions, political dinners, meetings, whatever, and people would come up to me—the spouses, for instance, mostly wives—and say, "Oh, I read everything you write because So-and-so says it's important, but I don't understand it." That said to me I needed to work harder at translating and at finding pieces of spending that everyday people could recognize.
Ritchie: That they could relate to.
* Barber B. Conable, Jr., (b. 1922). (R-NY). U.S. representative, 1965-1985. Frank J. Horton, (b. 1919). (R-NY). U.S. representative, 1963-1989.
Bulkeley: So I covered the bid openings for the food at the county home and infirmary and the jail, because everybody knows how much eggs cost, or you can find out easy enough, or bread, or whatever.
Ritchie: So the jail would bid on—
Bulkeley: They had to bid contracts probably for a year at a time.
Ritchie: For their goods.
Bulkeley: For a year's supply of staples. I did salaries in terms of secretaries and auto mechanics in the sheriff's motor pool. I looked for the jobs that people would recognize from their own context, and the workday and the number of holidays and things, which of course were exorbitant, left over from the days when government didn't pay much.
Ritchie: So they'd give you something, days off.
Bulkeley: So government had twice as many days off, or more, as everybody else, and they also could accumulate. When in most private business vacations and sick leave disappeared at the end of the year if you didn't take them, they just kept piling up. There were no limits in those days. When that pension plan started, there were people retiring—there are still terrible stories out of New York City and places. That plan has been cut back a number of times since. But at that time, because of the open-ended accumulation of time, and the half-pay after thirty years, and counting everything, if you had worked summer highway crews as a kid in high school, you got credit in the pension plan, there were people retiring with greater gross income than they were making. By the time you look at the state pension not being taxed by the state, and the cost of coming and going to work, there were a lot of people who were foolish to keep working, even taking—they weren't penalized if their thirty years came at age fifty-five. Actuarily they weren't cut back from half-pay; they were given half-pay. And, of course, Social Security, everybody else, does the actuarial adjustments. But in those days, New York State didn't, and everybody figured the guys who passed that kind of thing, if they understood the cost ramifications, figured they'd be long gone before it ever caught up. Those were the days of growth in the Northeast, and as sales taxes and income taxes were in common use, it covered the money for a while. It covered that kind of cost. But it caught up there in the seventies.
Ritchie: This must have taken a great deal of your time.
Bulkeley: Well, it was all I had to do, was the government, was my reporting work.
Ritchie: Did you have any social life?
Ritchie: No time for it?
Bulkeley: Well, and I didn't know anybody who was more interesting than my work anyway, because I visited with lots of people and sat around bars at all of these events. The bartenders at places where all of these things were held knew to cut me off after two drinks, no matter how many people were buying drinks for me.
Ritchie: That was it.
Bulkeley: They knew I wasn't going to drink them, and they either wouldn't take the money or they'd put it in their kitty or whatever. I did political stuff weekends and evenings during the week.
One of the union guys at the paper yelled at me once for working all of those hours when guys with families couldn't, because there weren't other women, and there weren't many other single people, and I didn't know about wage and hour laws that said I shouldn't work those times if I wasn't paid overtime. I didn't know about that.
Ritchie: You were salaried.
Bulkeley: Well, as far as I was concerned, but reporters aren't. About once a decade, there will be a big, massive hearing arguing that reporters are professional, not hourly employees, and they always lose, and it drives the best reporters crazy, let alone management, because reporters want to work until their job is done. They're driving down the road and see a fire, they're going to stop and cover the fire, rather than go on to the grocery store. But if they don't get paid, the employer's held responsible, not the individual. In fact, even if the employer tries to get people to stop work and they don't, the employer's supposed to pay them, or at least the way the regulations were interpreted when I was a publisher.
I had dated one guy the first summer I was there, who lived next door, but he went back to law school. He was just there summers working at his brother's law firm, and he was Catholic, and Midwest Methodists didn't date Catholics in the sixties, any more than Catholics dated Midwest Methodists. He grew up in a family of five and he said, "That wasn't enough, I want six kids." Well, I wasn't the least bit interested in kids. I didn't get along with kids when I was one. So anyway, that lasted two summers.
Ritchie: Did you ever date any of your male colleagues on the paper?
Bulkeley: No. I eventually starting going with a guy who was at one of the television stations. He also was married, but I went with him anyway for years.
Ritchie: While you were working on the newspaper?
Bulkeley: While I was at the newspaper.
Ritchie: How did you interact with the radio and TV people?
Bulkeley: Oh, we had a great time. That was before radio and television news staffs were very big. The clear channel station—there were two really good news radio stations with good news staffs, plus there was the Gannett radio and television station that got all of our copy, too. One of our carbons went over there.
Ritchie: So you really were writing for them, too.
Bulkeley: So they could use our copy. But they didn't cover a whole lot of stuff. But there were two AM stations, one clear channel, one not, that had good people who were out and around all the time, and we sort of played off against each other, the ones who covered government and politics. We pretty well understood the strengths and weaknesses of each medium, and we'd help each other, because they could do stuff I couldn't and I could do stuff they couldn't.
Ritchie: In terms of—
Bulkeley: We'd sort of compares notes on what was going on and what we knew, and if there were surprise meetings called, we'd be sure each other knew. We also would go back to our bosses and say, "I know Chuck's working on this. You've got to get my story in the paper." That's very classic stuff. We all did that, and I think that just as you always blame the mistakes on copy editors, or in those days the Linotypists, you never admit that you screwed up that word or that name spelling.
The other thing I'd do, though, and I usually had stuff like budgets and things I'd get ahead of time, and do, but then I'd go to the official news conferences, things that were happening after deadlines. I established a good enough reputation I always got the press conference announcements so I had them in time for the paper. But I also would cover my sources, and I'd go to the news conferences, partly because sometimes somebody just might be smarter than me and ask a question I'd forgotten. That didn't happen very often.
But I also got smart-alecky. I got so I intentionally would ask questions on other people's camera time. When the television cameras were running, I'd ask a question right in the middle of it, because they were still working in film, which was difficult to edit, and if they were sitting around asking pansy questions, soft questions that didn't really belong, and even if they weren't, if they were doing okay, I'd still ask questions just to get on their film. Some of that was teasing them, but some of that also was because our bosses at both of the dailies insisted television was a direct competitor, and we weren't allowed to go on the public affairs shows.
Ritchie: So you could ask a question and be recorded at a news conference.
Bulkeley: At a press conference.
Ritchie: But you could not go on TV to discuss it on a Sunday morning.
Bulkeley: The local—no. Or whenever they did their public affairs shows. We weren't allowed to do that.
Ritchie: Because of the element of competition?
Bulkeley: Our bosses always said, "We're not going to make them look good."
I said, "How are people who don't read us going to know we're smarter than they are? If we don't get to those shows—even on the public station we weren't allowed—if we don't go on those shows, the people who don't get our newspaper aren't going to know what they're missing."
Ritchie: Was this pretty standard in newspapers at the time?
Bulkeley: It was changing. I think that was a basic initial newspaper reaction to television. I had forgotten that the fifteen-minute network newscast only went out in the sixties. They only went to half an hour in the sixties. I had forgotten that they ever had less than half an hour. It was changing, and that probably was near sort of a mid-point. I don't know when those newspapers starting allowing their people to go on television, but it sure wasn't while I was there. I was there until early '74, and up to that point we weren't allowed on television, and I think we were the losers, our newspapers, and the citizens were the losers, not the television stations.
But basically I knew the good guys, men and women, and each television station had one really good cameraman and one other one, and they were as helpful and as polite and respectful. The only guys I ever got any grief from in terms of, "Oh, isn't she cute, she thinks she's a reporter," were some of the men, not all of them, at the other newspaper.
Ritchie: Which one?
Bulkeley: The Democrat & Chronicle, the morning newspaper. We'd run into them because of the government and political stuff, and there were some who gave my colleagues a hard time about having me in the press row at city council, because I went voluntarily.
Ritchie: Because they didn't have a woman?
Bulkeley: No, because I wasn't paid to be there, and because I wasn't a "real" reporter; I was a girl. But my colleagues from my paper, whoever was covering, would have me up there, too, and got grief then from their peers on the morning newspaper.
Ritchie: Where was this?
Bulkeley: The press row at city council meetings, because I went to those on my own time, from the first year I was there. I ran into one of those guys [Conrad Christian]. He left Rochester for a White House fellowship or congressional or something, and never came back. But I ran into him at the grand opening for USA Today, the kickoff party down here on the Mall, and he acted like he singlehandedly had made my government and political reporting career. I couldn't believe it. He never acknowledged me. He only acknowledged me to complain about me, to whoever from my paper was there. But fifteen years later, he was responsible for me and my successes. I couldn't believe it. He was just a shriveled old man by then, doing some hack kind of thing. I've forgotten what it was.
Ritchie: During this time, were you ever offered other positions at the newspaper?
Bulkeley: A couple of times while I was doing the county government, I was asked if I'd take the city hall beat if Peter [Taub] left it, and I always said no, that I was in the process of working this stuff out at the county level, but also the county government was twice as big. As far as I was concerned, it was a lot more important, because it was twice as many dollars and four times the number of people. But more important was living with the consequences of the reporting I was doing and fixing it and seeing if it could work.
I was once also asked to go to establish the night desk to work with suburban reporters. We talked early about the work I did as a suburban reporter and that that there was no boss there, even though it was green reporters. Finally somebody figured out that that was not very smart, and they decided to put an editor working nights to work with the reporters and be there when they came in and handle the copy and the questions while they were there. I was asked to take that job, and I turned it down, mostly because, again, of the reporting I was doing, partly because I wasn't ready to quit being a reporter, partly because what I wanted to do and had understudied and if it ever was open expected to have, was the political beat. I knew the political beat and I covered it, and that's what I really wanted to do.
Ritchie: You were waiting for that.
Bulkeley: Yes, because I'd set out from somewhere back in the late fifties to fix how government was covered for the Midwest, and to do that, I had to do the local parts and help put it together and then work my way up. So that's what I was doing, and I wasn't ready to change my plan. They didn't give me any compelling reasons to, so I turned them down.
Ritchie: And they didn't force you to?
Ritchie: Who were your bosses at this time?
Bulkeley: I reported to the city editor and/or the presiding assistant city editor. The managing editor was the chief news executive in charge of the whole newsroom, and was always involved in evaluations and granting of raises and things, and, in fact, most of the time there was also an executive editor overseeing the two papers who reported to the publisher.
[End Tape 1, Side A; Begin Tape 1, Side B]
Ritchie: You were talking about your bosses during the time.
Bulkeley: When I was hired there, the managing editor was the guy who had been managing editor forever. His name was A. Vernon Croop and he was a tired old editor, but he's still alive and alert, even today. Well, as far as I know. When I went back to Rochester in '85, I kept running into him at Gannett functions. For some reason he didn't serve in World War II. People talked about him behind his back. They said the only reason he was the managing editor was because he's the only one who didn't go to World War II, so he got the job and kept it.
The guy who really ran the newsroom was named John Dougherty, who became known throughout the industry for developing talent, actually, and what John really did was once he'd hired somebody, he trusted us. He was awful on some gender-related stuff, but, of course, none of us knew much about it in those days, and he ultimately is the reason I left the newsroom. But that's later in the story. He became the managing editor when Mr. Croop retired, and Mr. Croop was the only one in the building that was called Mister by the staff.
Ritchie: Everyone else went by their first name.
Bulkeley: Yes, including Paul Miller and Al Neuharth, who were first name, but not Mr. Croop. I don't really remember when he retired.
The city editor was Lou Grant. His name really was Herb Jackson, the first city editor. He had one assistant, and there was a reporter—we published six days—there was a senior reporter who swung into the city desk to help cover a sixth shift.
Ritchie: So he really was like Lou Grant on the TV show ["Mary Tyler Moore Show"]?
Bulkeley: Yes, and he also was built about like Ed Asner, which is hysterical. Herb was short and a little round. Of course, Asner wasn't as big then as he is today. But Herb was short and round and balding, and he and Don Fradenburg, his assistant, as soon as the paper out, both lighted cigars, and I was downwind in my quasi-clerical job. But they were wonderful. They were bright and they were quick, and they knew how, again, to trust their reporters, but also to talk to us and get more and better from us, and they had this huge big room full of people, but it also was the
era where there were senior reporters, when people stayed forever in newsrooms and stayed with one assignment for years.
Ritchie: Had one particular beat?
Bulkeley: Right. And they could do a lot of their own managing. They would know, or the city editor could trust them to know, what the story was and how long it had to be and what was the range. Our editors always negotiated space with us ahead of time. I say that because I later discovered that a lot of newsrooms didn't do it that way.
Ritchie: So you knew, when you went to do a story, how much space you had?
Bulkeley: Right. We talked in terms of pages. We all had our typewriters set the same, triple-spaced, and they'd want one page or three takes or whatever. We'd negotiate what was the story and how long was it going to be before we sat down to write. Or if I was calling in from a meeting before I started dictating, I knew how long it was, so I could edit in my head as I went. I learned later a lot of places didn't do that. Reporters sat down and spewed out everything they had, and, of course, we've seen some papers where it looks like they publish it all, too.
Ritchie: Yes, or they cut it.
Bulkeley: Or cut it poorly, or too fast.
Ritchie: Do you think that benefitted your writing and your thinking?
Bulkeley: Oh, I think so, because it made us focus more clearly on what really is the most important out of these four things, because I don't have room for them, and what is the quickest, best, least wordy way to say this so I can get more in. It also, I think, made us think more in terms of follow-up. I knew from the time I put my story together what I didn't get to say, and I would start working on, okay, now how do I get that in the paper, too? In those days of hot metal, a lot of our space was moved the day before, because the production window was narrow. They could only produce X number of pages of type and columns of type an hour, because in the composing room it had to be keyboarded again and proofread and fixed, and the machines would only process so many finished pages at a time, or in an hour, so some of our pages moved the afternoon before, and to me, that space was extremely valuable because I could get things that truly weren't front page important, or prime space important, but that I thought needed to be on the record and needed to be published. I could get things in those pages.
When I finished whatever I had for one day's edition—our main deadline was eleven o'clock, with a secondary deadline at one, that would catch the home delivery in the city proper and to street sale, stock edition, but after eleven o'clock, I'd sit down and give my bosses a list of what stories they were going to get from me the rest of the day and what I anticipated the next morning.
Ritchie: So you didn't stop working at deadline?
Bulkeley: Oh, you can't, no. And in an afternoon paper, you'd still have half or more of your day left, if you stopped.
But they always knew what they could expect from me, and if I was working on longer-term big things, they knew it, and when I left, there was always a note on my typewriter and a
note on the desk saying where I was and how to get hold of me, so there was never any excuse for making major changes in my copy without talking to me first. But all that fell apart. We got more people with less experience or less self confidence or not as smart or something, on the desk. By the time I left that newsroom, the desk had four people on it, and they didn't talk to each other, and even if you talked to them about stories or projects, if you talked to one of them, the other ones didn't know it.
Ritchie: It was disjointed?
Bulkeley: Yes. I ended up once—we were working on some pre-election stuff that involved pictures as well as stories—and I was finally learning how to think about pictures—but I started turning in copy early, before it was to be used. The Saturday paper had only a page for news, all of the weddings and engagements were in on Saturday, and, of course, that counts as news budget. One Saturday the paper came, and the assistant city editor who was in charge on that Saturday had put in the picture that went with a story I hadn't even written, and edited a story I had turned in for the next week to fit the picture, so none of it made any sense, and the package that I had been working on with somebody else was all screwed up. That was typical of what was going on by then.
Management had also made a mistake and put an in-house hot food cafeteria in, so instead of all of us going our own way out and around somewhere for lunch, we started going to lunch together, and that was a terrible mistake. We met in the cafeteria regularly, comparing notes and complaining; reinforcing the bad morale and negative attitudes toward management. We had bosses with much lower expectations of us. By the time I left the newsroom, if I turned in a list for the next week with a major story on it sometime during the week, they were happy.
Ritchie: Why would that have changed so much? Had they hired a lot of new people and just had an abundance of writing?
Bulkeley: Some of it was turnover. Between Vietnam and, I think, growth in the big newspapers staffs, turnover started happening. I was the most junior reporter for forty-seven weeks when I started there. By 1971 or '72, I was within the top five or six in seniority in the reporting staff. It was a whole bunch of things. Some of it was people going into other communications fields so they could get paid enough to send their kids to college, because senior reporters weren't rewarded necessarily for being stars in those days, at least not there. Some of it was people being promoted in Gannett to other places.
Some of it was Vietnam. Guys who would get called up would miss two years, and if they came back, they'd still not have that kind of claim on beats, for instance. They'd get their jobs and their pay. That was the law as well as morality, but most often they didn't come back to the paper from Vietnam. They went on somewhere else to some other paper or they went to somewhere where they didn't have to deal with such stark reality. I can't, today, give you examples.
That also made it possible for that staff to shift from basically no women doing real reporting to 50 percent by the early seventies, in that five- or six-year period. We weren't in any decision-making roles except the extent that the senior beats were decision-making roles. But the bosses started telling me how to do my beat. The beat reporters worked kind of a flex time. We basically were there during the normal publishing cycle, but we had night meetings to cover, no overtime, no knowledge of the wage and hour laws, but they knew they got their money's worth,
and they didn't really pay much attention to us. We just automatically on the weekly schedule were blocked in for Monday through Friday.
One day I walked in, there was a legislature meeting or something, and the boss, city editor, says to me, "What are you doing here?"
And I said, "I'm here."
He says, "Look at the schedule." Well, he had shifted me. I had for three years been on the Monday through Friday schedule. He had changed me to a weekday off and working Saturday without ever telling me, without ever discussing it, without ever explaining why, he had just arbitrarily done it. And not only that, but three weeks were posted and I was scheduled off on the days of my key meetings. By the next year—well, that's another piece of the story. But basically they started doing that kind of stuff with no basis in trust or credibility or anything, to get away with it. We were professionals.
Ritchie: So it was management with the reporting staff.
Bulkeley: He was really taking over hour-by-hour management of us, which is one of the reasons they needed four people where there had only been two, two and a quarter.
Ritchie: Now this was in the early seventies, and by this time you had moved into the political reporting?
Bulkeley: Peter Taub, among other things, had a great touch with odds and ends of people stuff, and even as government and political reporter, every year did a Christmas poem full of names on the order of the old Frank Sullivan ones in the New Yorker, the humorous poems. This was in the early days of readership research. They had started throwing out the social columns and the society pages, but decided they needed people columns in the news pages. In fact, Peter was the second one. The man who had been doing it, I've forgotten what happened to him. But all of a sudden, Peter was a columnist, and Phil Currie, a guy who had been on the editorial page for five years was named political reporter. All of this was just announced. I walked in to the managing editor and I said, "Why wasn't I talked to about that beat?"
He said, "You never said you wanted it."
I said, "John, I did, too. Not only did I say it, I've been understudying it for five years, since I got here."
Ritchie: And you and Peter had worked together.
Bulkeley: Yes. I said, "And I've been doing it. I've been backing up Peter for five years. What more could I have done to indicate an interest and earn the right to the beat, or the right to take a crack at it?"
"Well," he says, "we had to get Phil off the editorial page. He had to get back into the newsroom."
I said, "As I understood it, Phil's goal always was editorial page, and he's never been near the government and political stuff. I find it a little hard to believe that he's going to be able to do that beat, unless I teach him everything I know."
And John says, "Well, I expect you to."
They broke the beats up at that time and split city hall off from politics, so the two new guys (Phil and somebody whose name escapes me now) happened to be sitting next to each other, and I was sitting somewhere else in the room—we weren't rearranged to sit near each other—and they worked together as the Bobbsey twins, never passed anything on to me. I always passed the stuff on to them that I picked up on my beats that was really theirs.
Ritchie: So you, as county, were separate.
Bulkeley: I was really cut off from the rest of it.
Ritchie: And they were together as city and political.
Bulkeley: And worked together on most things. There were only a couple of times we ever did other than that, and it mostly was when we were told to by the bosses.
Then Phil is the one who was promoted from that beat after a couple of years, was promoted to executive city editor, and he'd never sat on the city desk. He'd never been an assistant even on the fill-in on Saturdays spaces, and all of a sudden was the city editor with a handful of assistants.
Ritchie: At the same paper.
Bulkeley: At the same paper. It took him nearly two months to decide I could have the political beat.
Ritchie: Which is the position he had left.
Bulkeley: That he had left, so that beat sat empty. I was doing it because that's the way I worked. But it took him two months to decide I could head it, and then when I got it, he started telling me how to do it.
On my own, I started doing the "follow the candidate when they're out with the voters" stuff that by then Haynes Johnson was doing at the Washington Star. Was he still at the Star? Maybe he was at the [Washington] Post by now. And that some of the guys would all emulate. Jack Germond had been doing it for Gannett, and I had learned a lot from him about understanding the culture of the neighborhood. It's just not numbers, you've got to know the culture of the neighborhood—working class, management, professionals, whatever.
Ritchie: Where the candidates go.
Bulkeley: Numbers alone won't tell you what a neighborhood is like and how it reacts to candidates and how it's going to vote. Neighborhoods can look alike statistically and be as different as opposite poles.
Ritchie: And of course you knew this area pretty well.
Bulkeley: I had spent by now seven years doing government and political stuff, so I knew the players. I knew the countryside and the city and all the dynamics of both the money flow and the people flow.
Ritchie: When you say political beat, it this strictly local politics?
Bulkeley: It was always all politics, but it did the local candidates. Because the Times-Union was the biggest Gannett newspaper, it was on the permanent reading list of Republican White Houses through Richard Nixon, especially the editorial page, but also other things. Now, Gannett had an Albany bureau.
Ritchie: For your newspaper?
Bulkeley: To cover for all of its newspapers, to serve all of them. So the major state stuff was done by the Albany bureau. Sometimes one of us would fill in, as I did a time or two. Lots of times there would be things that were purely ours, even though they came out of Albany, and the Albany bureau wasn't really interested in those. In fact, it had some of the best people in the state capital in it, so they frequently were ahead of everybody else on the big stories anyway.
Those were also the Nelson Rockefeller years, and Nelson was a superb spotter and bringer-alonger of talent—a mentor, we'd say today. He always surrounded himself with people—very bright and a generation younger, and, in fact, by the time he left state government, he was working on the next generation. People my age were in key jobs in his government in their late twenties and thirties.
Basically we were responsible, the political reporters, for everybody who was elected out of the territory, and whatever role local people had in state and national activities. If there were local people on the staff of an executive department in Washington, we were responsible for knowing about them and what they were doing. We were responsible for knowing what the local members of the Republican National Committee were doing in that function. We usually got to go to one or both of the national political conventions. I went to the 1972 Democratic National Convention in Miami. We did the state things. Rochester often had the state Republican chairman and key state Cabinet people, so we sort of shared oversight of them. We did the Rochester connection part and the career part, and Albany bureau did whatever they were doing in the state capacity that affected the whole state.
Ritchie: So you really covered both parties.
Bulkeley: Right. And in New York State, there were four. Conservatives and liberals were both on the ballot and had party structures. New York State is very structured, contrary to the goo-goos, the good government reformers. New York State is very structured with party enrollment and a separate process for voter registration, and party enrollment dictating whether you can vote in the primary or not. Anybody could walk in and get the list of who belongs to the parties, check the lists of who belongs to the parties.
In those years, issues people were coming into the Democratic party. Basically we think of them as social justice liberals today. But because of the Alinsky organizing, the white suburbs had organized to support their inner city black organization, but once some of the private job stuff was worked out through the Alinsky organization, they all, black and white, started looking at government.
Ritchie: And political leaders.
Bulkeley: And political roles, political leadership. Part of what I saw in those days was the issues Democrats using that structured system and the availability of it to, block by block, take the party
away from the patronage and graft people, from the old-style politicians. Of course, that's funny to talk about today when both parties have found ways to do so much more patronage at the very high levels than they ever did. The item in the Post today, some guy talking about when he retired from the Government Printing Office a few years ago, there was one political job and it was the public printer, today there are thirty-some. But back in the sixties and the early seventies still, people who were more concerned about issues, quality of neighborhood, quality of safety net, were moving into the Democratic party, and we could watch that happen.
Later, when I was in Illinois, Illinois doesn't have that kind of structure. Indeed, Illinois only has elections every other year. In New York State, the local elections come in the year that the federal elections don't, so there's always an election, there's always reason and motive to keep the party structure up and in place. There's always something for people to do so there's reason to hold a committee slot. There's always some way to involve volunteers when they're ready to be involved. In Illinois, the whole thing sort of atrophies and falls apart because it's so long in between, and sometimes they never quite get it all put back together in the countryside, which is why even when its numbers drop, Chicago can still control, because in the old Dick Daley years—the father of the current mayor—they kept the machine in place and functioning all the time.
That happened in New York State. There always were elections. There often were party fights going on. During the growth years in New York State, there was a couple of times they went through special censuses and reapportionments.
Ritchie: So that would have meant more elections.
Bulkeley: More elections, or at least the politics of reapportionment to deal with.
We had superb representation in Washington. Frank Horton was a generalist who worked across lots of issues, and Barber B. Conable, Jr., they both were junior members of Congress when I went to Rochester, so they developed, as I did, and we all sort of grew wise and experienced together. But Barber developed depth in taxing and finance. He also, as a fiscal conservative, but noblesse oblige liberal, learning to give people empowerment rather than—he was going to teach them how to fish, rather than give them fish. Barber learned that as he went along, but he always respected the needs of people, unlike many conservatives today who figure you just abandon anybody who isn't in the work force, forget about them. Barber wasn't like that. He also, as I say, learned, became an expert and chaired the Ways and Means Committee, or was the ranking minority member, rather. For years, he wrote his own column every week.
Ritchie: For your newspaper?
Bulkeley: No, we never ran it, but the weeklies did, and we all read it. So he was really a teaching member of Congress, and we had superb representation, so we really could learn it, and had help learning it, and there was integrity in what they did. They could be trusted.
We also did things like check the campaign expenses on everybody every year. A junior member of the government political reporting group had to go through all the expense reports at the county clerk's office. It was a wonderful learning experience, because you got the names and some of the behind-the-scenes players, you start to discover their names, and then you can track and find out.
Bulkeley: The contractors. The names I then recognized, or would recognize, for instance from having watched a bid opening. We'd put the stories in context.
In the mid-seventies, when I was on a Pulitzer judging jury, the screening committee for Pulitzer Prizes on national reporting, a noted regional newspaper sent in simply lists of campaign contributions as an entry for Pulitzer Prizes and thought they were entitled to the prize for having discovered that they could get this information and publish it.
That was the understudy work. At my paper, it never occurred to us to send any of that in. Well, eventually, when I realized my bosses thought I was given all of that budget stuff, I understood why it was never entered in contests, but that was the kind of sea change reporting that should have been in contests.
But the real impact on our government and political stuff was through the editorial page, because it was read at the White House. The use or abuse of category federal aid programs, the first wave of consolidating those programs into block grants, came in the early seventies. Our editorial page was still dealing with it. Rochester has an endowed research bureau that does government issues.
Ritchie: The newspaper?
Bulkeley: No, the city. The community has an independent research bureau that works on government issues. It's one of the reasons that those governments used to be cutting edge. I would read the national county officers news in City Management magazine, so I knew how far ahead we were on lots of things—one of the reasons is that research bureau that George Eastman set up and endowed, and I learned to read heavy-duty research stuff from there. A couple of Kodak guys were involved with the National Committee for Economic Development, which is a conservative but thoughtful and sensitive national brain trust kind of a thing. We always covered their stuff, because there were Rochester connections, and often what Rochester was doing had become models for what they recommended. So in those senses we were doing nationally relevant reporting, but we weren't covering the national news from a national angle.
Ritchie: You were local.
Bulkeley: We were local. We seldom would go on the road with presidential candidates, for instance, only when they were in our territory. I never did, except in our territory.
Ritchie: If they came for a campaign visit.
Bulkeley: We usually got all of them at least once. We often had what I call the incipient leaders. Gerald Ford was in there a lot because of Barber Conable. George Bush was in there, both as an ambassador and when he was in the Congress.
Ritchie: So it was due to their local connections.
Bulkeley: Because of the local connections and Barber and Frank were respected, and leadership members of Congress ultimately.
So we did have first-hand cracks at all those people. Tom Dewey was still alive. I have a picture of me meeting Tom Dewey. I didn't pose for pictures. I made the photographers take them naturally so it didn't look like somebody—I just encouraged them to, and to give me copies
of them, because I wanted them, but I wasn't going to stand there and grin at the camera to get them. Also the Rockefeller stuff—New York State was innovative and ahead on lots of things.
So by living through a decade of that, when I went other places, both to my next newspaper in New York State and then to Illinois, I knew an awful lot that became of value where I was in my new place. I had no idea that the time, while I could tell to some extent that we were ahead of some other governments, I didn't know that the whole community was really ahead.
Ritchie: So you were almost on a cutting edge, in a way. You were ahead of a lot of places.
Bulkeley: Yes, quite. And Rochester was looked to for leadership in all kinds of things—charitable stuff, government stuff, business. Having started my adult life there, I didn't appreciate that as fully at the time, until I got away and got some more perspective. What do they say, you can't know one culture until you know at least two? And it counts as much for local regional culture as it does for national, for ethnic or whatever. But those were fun years. Long, hard work.
Ritchie: When you were doing the political, did you have anyone else working with you?
Bulkeley: Not really, because those guys did their own stuff separately.
Ritchie: So you really worked in a world of your own.
Bulkeley: Yes. The second year—I was finally assigned to the beat in August of '71, '72 was state elections, so I started with the primary, getting schedules from all of the state legislative candidates, so I could pick and choose when to go with them, when they would be doing a range of activities with a range of people in the public, to just sort of hang around and see how they reacted and dealt with people—on-the-road kind of stuff. I didn't even have photographers with me.
Ritchie: It was just you.
Bulkeley: Just me, going after the normal work shift, usually. I'd join them usually after lunch or mid-afternoon, and go through until they went home at night. Then I'd write the stories and give them to my bosses, much to their surprise.
Fall came, and I had set all of the candidates up to do more of that, and I was cleared to do it, but there were far too many districts for one person to get to. I also had to leave for three days or four days to go to the Women in Communications annual meeting, which by then had been moved to fall, the national meeting. I was a candidate for election, and I knew I wasn't going to win the race, but nonetheless, I had to show up. When I came back, all of the local political races had been scattered out and assigned to other reporters. I had this schedule up, and I had the system set up with all of the candidates to get their schedules.
Ritchie: So you left for a few days?
Bulkeley: I was gone three or four days, most of it on the weekend, and came back and discovered that the same boss, without consulting, had assigned the races to other reporters without even necessarily an eye for whether they knew anything about what the issues were in those districts or the people or anything. They were all told to go out and spend a day with their candidate and come back and write the story. Nobody was told to check with me about issues or
Page 81 dynamics in the district, and nobody did. I did not see any of the copy before it was ever in the paper. I was left to cover the hand-outs at the press conferences, which, of course, have very little to do with an election campaign or with what the voters are going to do.
We came up toward the election, and Phil [Currie] says to me, "We're expecting an election day forecast of results from you."
I said, "Good luck. You've had me tied into news conferences and the desk for the last two and a half months. I have no idea what the voters are going to do, and even if I did, I wouldn't write it before the polls are closed. I think that's imposing us on the system."
"Oh," he said.
I said, "I'll tell you what. I've got an idea. Let me write it, rather than explain it." So what I gave him was how to interpret the returns as they come in. If there's a big turnout, and they'll know it the minute the radio and television people sign on, this is what it'll mean. If there's a low turnout, this is what's likely to happen. If this township comes in with So-and-so winning, then you can anticipate a landslide. If it's close or if he loses, then it's going to be a wonderful evening of suspense and drama as the whole thing plays out.
Ritchie: So you set up the situation, how it could happen, without saying, "This is what's going to happen."
Bulkeley: Right. Without saying, "This is what's going to happen."
Ritchie: Did that satisfy him?
Bulkeley: Yes, it did. It surprised him and everybody else, but the people who got the most use out of it, of course, were my broadcast friends, because they had it so they could explain, as the results came in, what happened, and most of them gave me credit for it on the air. Again, that's the kind of integrity that our group had. I don't know if it's out there today. I haven't been around working newspeople in recent years. But that became a standing feature of our newspaper's election day coverage.
Ritchie: Would this situation be something you would have protested, when you came back and he had—
Bulkeley: I did. I did that. In addition, that's also the period in which that project got screwed up, that I talked about earlier. I did manage to do a little bit of election color reporting. I spent an evening in the union's telephone room, listening to people do their phone calls to voters.
Ritchie: Union people calling out?
Bulkeley: Union people calling. Actually, that year they were working straight for some Democratic candidates, so I sat in and listened to that. There were a couple of other places that they hadn't assigned—whether it was election stuff, I don't remember what the other parts were—but that's the project that got messed up, and that's the only kind of contact I had except when I went to some debates and things that nobody was covering with candidates.
What I'd do, when I had complaints, was wait until I had more than just my work, incidents that showed there were systematic problems, and that people other than me were being
affected by it, in terms of morale, productivity, quality of work. Then I'd go in to the boss, because Dad always told us the bosses wanted to know what really was going on, and nobody would tell them, and we were responsible for that. So I'd go in to the managing editor, and I'd say, "Here's what they've done to us this time," with the examples that weren't mine.
He said, "What did they do to you?"
I'd say, "Well, the same kind of things, but it's not me, it's the newsroom. They don't know how to talk to each other, so they are messing all of us up." Or, "They don't trust us, so they tell us what the story is, and they're wrong," was another typical example.
Ritchie: Did you have any success in this approach?
Bulkeley: No, this time he says to me, "You're the office bitch." So I walked out, around the corner, down the hall to the editorial page. The editor of the editorial page had been after me for a year to come to work for him. Down the hall, walked in, knocked on his door, walked in, I said, "Okay, first of the year, I'll come to work."
Ritchie: So this was fall election time, November?
Bulkeley: This was fall, October maybe.
He said, "Why not now?"
I said, "Come on, Cal, there's an election campaign under way. I've got to finish that, then I've got to take my three weeks' vacation. So first of the year, I'll come to work."
"Okay," he said.
I didn't really want to work on the editorial page, but I was so tired of working for bosses who didn't want me working for them, or who, if they wanted anybody working for them, wanted to program people. We were all smarter than that, and we were out on the streets. They were tied to the desk all the time. They didn't know what was going on out there. And, in fact, Phil had been tied to the desk so much that one time John [Dougherty] made him take some days off and go knock on doors and visit with real people out in houses out in the suburbs.
Ritchie: They didn't really know what was out there?
Bulkeley: They didn't know what was out there and what people were looking at. At best, they might have had some of the very early newspaper research, but that was marginal. Phil's name is Currie. The editorial page editor is Cal Mayne.
[End Tape 1, Side B; Begin Tape 2, Side A]
Ritchie: So Cal had talked to you.
Bulkeley: He had been after me to work for him for a long time. A couple of times when his staff was only three people, one of them did the make-up and editing, and the other one helped write editorials, I had had to fill in in that editorial-writing job a couple of times, which I kept insisting would compromise my reporting, but the bosses said, "No, you'll do it anyway." So I did. That was all part of Cal's trying to find a better assistant than he had, and having identified me as
the most analytical and most knowledgeable and connected person in the newsroom and somebody he wanted to work for him.
Ritchie: But you hadn't been interested in this.
Bulkeley: I wasn't interested in it. At the time his campaign started, I had just barely started to do my stuff on the political beat, the enhancement or what I thought I could do that was different and better, so it just wasn't the right time. I hadn't realized the extent of the barriers between me and the other guys on what should have been a team working together and equally as peers never really worked, even when there was a new bunch of people on the two beats. It never really happened. It never was the kind of teamwork that Peter Taub and I had had when there was just the two of us, not the three.
Ritchie: If new people came into that, you would have been the lead person, if it had been a team.
Bulkeley: I would have been the one that had the depth and the background, and that's what I was concerned about, that without the depth and the background, you can get suckered by politicians, you can miss stories, for goodness sakes, or miss critical parts of stories, or fail to get them translated to where people, the public, can deal with them, the readers.
There are just so many things that can happen when you don't know the territory, and those guys didn't. They had not been around it, they had not covered it, they had not understudied it while doing other things. All they knew was what they'd read in the paper, and that wasn't enough, because in order to write it clearly, you have to know a lot more than you say, particularly when you're in a space-controlled operation. At papers that seem to have endless space and the stories go on for pages, blithering, you can put down everything you're told, whether you understand it or not. But when you negotiate space before you ever write the story, you'd better know what you're writing about or you're in trouble, and you'd better know what's going to connect the fastest and most significantly to readers, or you're in real trouble. You just can't write everything you know and hope some editor will find out what's important and put it at the top and put a headline on it.
Ritchie: Because that wasn't the way your paper worked.
Bulkeley: We didn't work that way. I didn't know that there were papers that worked that way until much later.
Ritchie: So it was in the spring of '74 that you moved?
Bulkeley: '73. January. As it happened, at the same time, Paul Miller—Paul was Frank Gannett's successor as head of the whole company. Paul also was a conservative Republican, friend of Republican presidents, and acquaintance of Democratic presidents. That also was the time Paul quit being the publisher of the Times-Union in Rochester. He relinquished that title, both papers or just the Times-Union? I think he had been publisher of both of them, and relinquished the titles altogether.
One of the things Cal and I talked about before I went to work for him was how I would handle an editorial if Paul directed a particular viewpoint and I didn't agree with it, and I said to him, "Cal, the editorial page is the publisher's playground. If the boss wants that editorial, you'll write it."
"Oh?" he said.
I said, "Well, isn't that the job of the editorial-page person?"
He said, "If you've got that kind of a relationship, you might try to talk him out of it."
I said, "I probably would ask him what were his reasons for thinking that way, because as a non-believer in that view, I'd want to know what he thought were the important reasons supporting it."
Ritchie: So you could articulate what you needed to say.
Bulkeley: So I could make the best representation for his case. I said, "But basically, that's the role of the page as I understand it. It's the publisher's mouthpiece in the editorial column if the publisher chooses to exercise it." Well, I found out much later that while Cal had started on the page as the editor, relatively young—he was very bright, magna cum laude college graduate and early, young Nieman [Fellow] and did a lot of civic work as Paul's stand-in, in fact—but he started developing independent viewpoints somewhere along the way on the editorial page and would have major stress attacks when Paul would deal with the editorial page. Because the company was growing, Paul really had backed out of the local and state level editorial issues by the time I got there, and the last couple of years, he mostly was concerned about national issues.
But the year is important. In 1973, nobody in the world except the president and the military still backed Vietnam. In 1973, a lot of people understood that the White House was subverting the democratic system. Not everybody, there are people to this day who don't believe it, but a lot of people understood that. Our paper was still 100 percent behind Dick Nixon in anything he did—Vietnam, defense of Watergate,* executive privilege.
Ritchie: And you were on the editorial page during this time?
Bulkeley: In 1972, Paul was still the publisher and there was no question. Once he quit being the publisher, we began to ease into more responsible positions. But Cal had to fight with Paul on every one, even though Paul was no longer the publisher, and Cal had also paid a very high stress price in terms of his health. His back would go out, and he'd hardly be able to move for days on end from having to write that stuff.
Ritchie: Every day.
Bulkeley: Yes, on a regular basis. We were expected to have national editorials every day from our own research and thinking and writing, and most of them had to back Paul's view.
Ritchie: Was Paul actually there in Rochester much to see visibly?
* Watergate. (1972-74), a series of political scandals during the Richard M. Nixon administration. A burglary at the Democratic National Headquarters in the Watergate complex in Washington, D.C., triggered the scandals. Nixon, who was found to have ordered a cover-up of the illegal actions, resigned from the presidency as impeachment proceedings against him began in the House of Representatives. President Gerald Ford pardoned Nixon in September 1974.
Bulkeley: We didn't seem him much, but he got our page proofs as soon as they were pulled early in the morning, and he still was writing a column most Saturdays that ran on the Saturday editorial page in the space where the editorials ran during the week, so it was very easy for people to not notice the difference between the editorials and between Paul's column.
Cal also had cataracts, and in June of that year—he hadn't been able to see out of one eye for a long time, and in June he got so his vision was obscured too much in the other eye, so they decided to fix the one. In those days, cataracts [operations] were still months. I don't think they were still three weeks sandbagged, but they were like ten days with your head sandbagged and all the rest of it. So all of a sudden in June, I became acting editor of the editorial page, five months after I'd been there. Before I went to that page, if Cal was on vacation, he called in twice a day and, by phone, reviewed everything that was happening on the page.
Ritchie: And you had done that a time or two? You had acted for him?
Bulkeley: He had gone for a couple of weeks in late February, early March, after I went to the page, and in circumstances when he couldn't call in, so I think I talked to him maybe only twice in that time he was gone, and when he came back, he had very little negative to say about the work I'd done. It was during that period that the Dow went over a thousand for the first time, which went past me and I didn't notice anything. He was critical of that, but that's what we had an executive editor and a publisher for.
Ritchie: To keep an eye on those things.
Bulkeley: Right, to keep an eye on those things, and they didn't raise the issues either, so I didn't worry about it a whole lot.
So anyway, I became acting editor and expected to have the role over the summer, and by the time the summer doldrums were over, Cal would be back running the page, so I sort of went along with the paths we'd established. As I ran into all of my friends around town, or colleagues or acquaintances or whatever from the government and political stuff, they'd keep giving me credit for having brought the local and state stuff around to progressive kinds of views instead of status quo Republicanism. I hadn't done that, Cal had done it over the couple of years before I ever got to the page, but they had all quit reading the page. As long as Cal was part of it, they figured it was still Paul's page, and they weren't interested in Paul and his views.
Ritchie: But now that you were there—
Bulkeley: So I got the credit for the changes that I didn't have anything to do with, but the bosses also got so much of that, that they decided it would be disastrous to bring Cal back to the page, that any progress we'd made with respectability and reader credibility, impact on decision-makers, would be lost. If Cal came back, people would think we'd regressed. So he moved into a corporate role and I became editor of the page, in my own right, that September of '73.
Ritchie: And was that a comfortable situation with him? Did it work out?
Bulkeley: Well, since he was on the corporate staff, I never had a whole lot of contact with him. I don't know that he was all that happy about it, but ultimately that led him to the foundation work, and he really structured a lot of the local grant-making programs for the foundation, which today he would tell you was the most significant and long term useful work he ever did. I worked with him in that capacity, too, when I went to the foundation later.
Was it over that summer that Spiro Agnew* had to resign? The pages had moved around, starting as soon as Paul was gone, to criticizing Nixon and calling for the end to Vietnam and the rest of it.
Ritchie: Who replaced Paul?
Bulkeley: A guy named Gene Dorsey, who was one of the key newspaper people from a major group, a newspaper chain that Gannett had bought. He came in as general manager, and then when Paul quit being publisher, Gene had the title of publisher. As it turns out, of course, he was also the president of the foundation by the time I went there. So we all worked together.
Ritchie: It's all interrelated.
Bulkeley: But there were times, by that fall, Paul really understood that it wasn't his editorial page anymore. His column still ran in the prime space, but one day it was too long, and I went through and saw how it could be edited and marked it up and said to the executive editor and to Gene Dorsey, "Okay, who talks to Paul about editing the column?"
Gene says, "Well, I wish you would."
I said, "Well, all right, I'll give it a shot."
So I called him, checked with his secretary, she said, "He's at home, go ahead and call him."
I said, "Okay." I called him, and I said, "Mr. Miller, your column's too long. We need to cut it."
"Well, just go ahead."
I said, "Well, we've got some options on ways to cut it."
He says, "You're the editor. Cut it."
I said, "Do you want to see it?"
He says, "I'll see it when the paper comes tomorrow." Well, Cal had never had that kind of freedom. When Cal had to edit columns, he had to go over them with Paul. So he really did get weaned from the page.
It also was the beginning of the newsprint crisis and we started losing space. Our page had been a page and two columns on the adjacent page.
Ritchie: How did you decide what went in the editorials every day? Did you have a meeting every morning?
* Spiro T. Agnew, U.S. Vice President (1969-73). Under pressure, Agnew resigned on October 10, 1073, pleading no-contest to charges of evading income taxes while governor of Maryland.
Bulkeley: Yes. Good question. In those days, the two newspapers' editorial pages were separate. Each page would generate a budget summary of topics, and we'd have a joint meeting, usually with the executive editor, sometimes with the general manager or the publisher, whatever the title was, and we'd talk them through. That would give us a chance to hear other questions, because the staffs were so little bitty. We'd hear other questions or other reactions, and sometimes we'd see that for their own reasons the other paper had come down on a different place on the same issue or was kissing off an issue that we thought was important. But we'd talk them through, and sometimes we'd go back and do more work. Other times, that simply enriched our own view and understanding for our own writing.
Ritchie: So how many people would be in these meetings?
Bulkeley: Usually it would be the two editorial page editors, the executive editor.
Ritchie: Who was over both papers?
Bulkeley: Over both papers. There was a period at which reporters would rotate into there. Sometimes it would be the publisher. Sometimes Paul would be there, not very often. Sometimes we'd have guests, people who'd want to meet with the editorial page. We would do candidate interviews. Sometimes the editorial writer would also come, the other writing person from the page, but not very often. So sometimes it was just a little bitty meeting, but that was better than no meeting, and sometimes we'd fill the conference room and anywhere in between. The meetings would usually run around an hour.
Ritchie: So from there you would leave, and then what would you do?
Bulkeley: Go back and write. Our page had to be up by the end of the day, be in the composing room, which physically was upstairs, by the end of the day for the next day. When I started on the page, we had a fixed stable of columnists and they ran on fixed days in standard make-up.
Ritchie: Were these in-house columnists?
Bulkeley: No, syndicated columnists—four or five conservatives and one (sometimes) liberal. Some of them ran Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and some ran Tuesday, Thursday, and somebody else ran on Saturdays, and letters ran down in the middle, and we had three conservative cartoonists that ran at the top center, and the columnist down the right-hand column, two columns, and the two columns we had on the next page, they ran the same length, whether they were talking about bullfeathers or Vietnam. The same length, every column, every day, which is stupid, but that's how everybody did it. Editorial pages were formatted and predictable.
Ritchie: So you had the same elements every day.
Ritchie: No matter how many letters you got, you only put a certain number in.
Bulkeley: We only put a certain number in. If the columns were lousy, we ran them anyway.
Ritchie: Did you have editorial cartoons?
Bulkeley: We had three or four conservative syndicated cartoonists, ran one a day. Once in a while, we'd shrink one down to fit in the editorials space to illustrate something we were writing over there. One of the guys on the local staff could draw cartoons, but he couldn't think cartoons, so we'd work with him to try to come up with a local cartoon for Saturday. Didn't always make it, but we did try to do that.
My second year on Pulitzer juries, I happened to be on the cartoons, but that wasn't always on the editorial page. That was later. That's where I found the wealth of cartoonists and that, in fact, in any given year, somebody who was drawing daily or three or four times a week in a given year would have five or six that were absolute sear-into-the-brain-forever knockouts that just so absolutely clarified something. It's the same version as in writing. If you know it best, you can tell it short. If you have great clarity, you can write a simple, stunning cartoon. Otherwise, they get all junky.
Ritchie: How would the paper decide which syndicated columnists they would subscribe to?
Bulkeley: Our paper was easy. If Paul liked them, we did them. As I said earlier, they were all conservatives but one who was borderline. Because of the newsprint crunch, we started—
Ritchie: What do you mean by that?
Bulkeley: With strikes either in the timber industry or in the newsprint mills, nobody could buy enough newsprint, so it was rationed.
Ritchie: You had to condense.
Bulkeley: We had to give up news space in the paper and tighten up on circulation waste and all kinds of things, because we just couldn't get enough. So we had to give up those other two columns as part of what the Times-Union did to live with its ration. But we also used that as our opportunity to bust up the formats and the formulas, to start evaluating every day, based on what we had. If we had letters that were better than the columns, we did page make-up to reflect that. We used more illustrations with letters. If we had a bunch of cartoons that showed the range of opinion better than any words, or more effectively, then we'd do that. If we had three or four columns with different aspects of an issue, whoever laid out the background best within the column, we'd run it full length and then we'd extract the opinion parts on the other ones, and the arguments, and run them as a package.
Ritchie: So you were really redesigning the page.
Bulkeley: We were changing to whole concept from everything that supports the publisher's view to a forum of opinion on current issues, so readers could see more than one side of the arguments, or people defending more than one side. Some of the columnists would often say what the other arguments were, the arguments on the other side, and then knock them down. Some of them simply would just write what backed their own position. But we tried to give readers a better range so that they could see the arguments for something by somebody who believed in it, as well as the arguments on the other side, or supporting other sides. We had some letters complaining about it. Paul got letters about it from some of his perpetual fans.
Ritchie: Who were so used to a certain way.
Bulkeley: Right. And I remember one he sent to me, addressed to "Ms. Bulkeley, all yours." So I answered it and explained the shift in concept from one political view to a forum for views, and sent a copy to Paul, on which he wrote, "That's an interesting concept that never occurred to me." I don't think I saved that letter, but I remember it.
Ritchie: So he stood by and watched you do it.
Bulkeley: Yes. And if he had complaints—I know there were some times that he complained about editorial positions or what we did with the page to the publisher, but the publisher and the executive editor always protected me. Paul never complained to me about anything I did with the page.
Ritchie: So they couldn't have been too strong a complaint.
Bulkeley: Well, they could have been, but he had no right to complain about the page anymore; he was no longer the publisher. And it's that funny stuff that gets classic Republican people involved in politics upset. One of them was the Pledge of Allegiance in the schools Supreme Court decision. It grew out of our county, so it was a local decision, besides Supreme Court. The Supreme Court said you can't—I think it was trying to break a teacher's contract. It was a fairly tough penalty for somebody not pledging allegiance to the flag or not making the classroom do it. Of course, we upheld the Supreme Court on first amendment grounds, upheld the not doing the pledge, and we upheld that decision, and Paul was furious. They had big arguments in the front office, but I never knew it until later. That was one thing.
Environmental, air pollution, automobiles. Rochester had a General Motors carburetor plant. It was not in Rochester's economic interests, never mind the automobile dealers', it was not in Rochester's economic interests to change faster than they could change over via zero-based engineering because of the carburetor plant. We cheered on efforts to finally do something about air pollution by controlling car emissions, because by then certainly the pure water stuff was well under way, and so we supported that, two things. General Motors people beat all over our corporate people.
Ritchie: Going right to the top and trying to get it taken care of there.
Bulkeley: Yes. And the car dealers boycotted, pulled their advertising for weeks. Well, I wasn't buying a car. I didn't notice that, and I wasn't aware of it until it was all over.
There was one time, through his secretary, I had a request—not an order—from Paul, and as it turns out in the long run, he was right and I was wrong, but at the time it didn't look like it. It was when Bill Rogers resigned as secretary of state . Dick Nixon held a press conference for the first time in twenty months or some awful length of time, and, among other things, at that conference, he announced Bill Rogers' resignation, which is what cleared the way for Henry Kissinger to become secretary of state. We did a "Thank you, Mr. Rogers" editorial, and really didn't think a whole lot about Henry. But more than that, we talked about the press conference and some of what, in terms of public credibility and access, it seemed to have accomplished, and that was top, Rogers was second, and whatever was local was the bottom editorial for that day. And when the proof went to Paul's office, Mary Golding called and said, "Mr. Miller wonders whether you could move the editorial about Mr. Rogers to the top of the page, because it's not likely that very many papers will do any editorials in his behalf at all, and that's a pretty well-done one, but would you please put it on top?"
I said, "Thank you for relaying his concern, Mary. I'll think about it." Well, I called my boss and said, "Do we change it?"
And he said, "No."
Well, if anybody understood the impact Henry Kissinger would have on the world in his role as secretary of state, that would have been grounds for a prophetic editorial. I don't think any of us knew it at the time, or if we did, nobody was talking to me about it.
Ritchie: What were Paul's reasons for wanting to move it?
Bulkeley: Being nice to his friend Bill Rogers, who had been on the Gannett board before and was going to come back on, as it turned out. But if he knew anything or had any inkling of the Kissinger impact, that wasn't part of it. No, it was just him still being publisher, or wishing he were.
Ritchie: Well, still having a tie-in to the paper.
Bulkeley: Right. But as I mentioned, it was a perfectly respectful relay of information. There wasn't any arguing or any of the kind of boss/dictator stuff that guys at the level of Paul Miller are often known for, and indeed there are stories about Paul being just as tough and angry as anybody, but I never encountered that.
Ritchie: How did the newspaper decide which political candidates they would back, and how did you deal with that in your position? You always see these endorsements.
Bulkeley: Right. We interviewed candidates. The two editorial boards together would interview candidates, often all of the candidates for state legislature, House of Representatives and U.S. Senate, key candidates or candidates from key districts for county legislature, all of the city council candidates, probably all of the [Rochester city] school board candidates. One year we tried to do all of the county legislature candidates, but there were twenty-seven districts, so we were still playing with that when I was there. But then based on the issues and their own records, we'd sort through who should be endorsed and why. It used to be more cut and dried than that. The interviews were pro forma, the endorsements were Republican, and, indeed, the year that James Buckley, the brother of William Buckley the columnist, ran for U.S. Senate from New York State, at Paul's request he was endorsed even before the deadline for filing for the primary, and in those days, those papers didn't endorse in the primary.
Ritchie: This was a connection that Paul wanted.
Bulkeley: This was a connection. Even when I was in the newsroom, Cal would ask for my comments and prognosis and prophecies on the issues and for effectiveness ratings on various people. I tried to stay out of value judgements on individuals, and indeed I really didn't even do that until I had to vote. I would try very hard to avoid making value judgments on candidates until election day when I was all through writing copy that affected the election. Then at some point during the day, I'd sit down with a sample ballot and go through and figure out who I was going to vote for, and go vote, but I really tried not to do that beforehand, and then to forget as soon as I'd left the booth what I'd done. It just is part of that discipline and self-protection discipline.
Ritchie: To keep your personal apart from—
Bulkeley: From my work. From my reporting.
Ritchie: Did you ever find that difficult?
Bulkeley: I never had any qualms about keeping them separate. Cal always felt obliged to vote for whoever he endorsed, and I said, "But the judgments are on a different basis. The editorial page has to operate on the interests of the whole community and what's most likely to produce the transcending whole. I have to decide based on my self-interest, my neighborhood interest, and I have different order of priorities than the editorial page does, and sometimes that means different candidate selections than the editorial page does and different places on the issues that are on the ballot."
He says, "Then your endorsements have no integrity."
I said, "No, that's not true." But you see, what it was that we understand today we didn't understand then, is the whole hierarchical thing and the whole angle of vision, point of view, world view, whatever label you want to put on it. As the institutional representative, I had one role in the editorial page that fit within that pyramid, that hierarchy of the community and of the paper, but again, and in some what of a contradiction, when I walked out of that office, I didn't have to be that person.
Ritchie: But you still had a place in the community.
Bulkeley: But I had a place in the community, and balloting was one the things that I could do that was still private. Nobody was ever going to know how I voted, unless I chose to tell them.
Ritchie: Unless you did "Bulkeley's picks" on the editorial.
Ritchie: You see that.
Bulkeley: Yes. Other than in terms of some reporting, I've never thought it was the personality of the reporter; I thought it was the work that carried the credibility. I believe some day if they ever get any perspective and shake it all out, that they'll find that that's true, that all of that self-indulgent kind of reporting and column-writing, including the editor's picks on the editorial pages for election, when they all do their own separate ones, I think they'll find all of that kind of stuff turns off newspaper readers. [Tape interruption.]
The Gannett News Service team covering the Democratic National Convention that year had two women on it.
Ritchie: In '72.
Bulkeley: In '72. Carol Rubright Richards, who was in the Albany bureau, and me. The convention was in Miami Beach, so some of the women from Coca Beach [Florida] were there. Because of the riots of '68, or the mess in Chicago, that Miami Beach convention had the world's worst security. It was just absolutely invasive. You could hardly move around, which meant Gannett kept teams out in the community at pressure points, general assignment kinds of reporters.
Ritchie: Ready to report.
Bulkeley: Not just the political people on the inside of security and within the compounds and the hotels and the secure buses and things. So there were women there. That's the convention following which Ellen Goodman wrote a column that was one of the first ones that brought her to national attention, talking about all of the women covering all of the wives and all of the women delegates on the floor that women reporters couldn't go cover, and when would the news media catch up.
Carol Richards and I weren't covering the wives; we were covering the convention, too. We were covering the caucuses of the states, and we were down on the floor talking to delegates and doing the rest of it. So it was years before I'd read Ellen Goodman. I thought, what kind of a reporter is she if she couldn't see the two of us who were there, because there were at least two of us.
Ritchie: When you did this, you were reporting for Gannett at large?
Bulkeley: Yes, as well as my own newspaper, the Times-Union. I was responsible for our delegation and producing at least one local story a day, plus whatever they wanted covered for the Gannett News Service. Of course, the biggest thing I found out was how exhausting those things were. The security made it much harder to move around than at other times.
Ritchie: Within the convention itself?
Bulkeley: Within the convention and within the geography, from the hotels to convention sites. For me to catch delegates, I usually had to catch them in the morning at the hotel. But we had to file our copy after the convention ended at night, and then move on the designated buses and things, from wherever the bureau was and headquarters. We didn't have faxes and computers and stuff in those days; we were still typewriting.
Ritchie: You would turn in typewritten copy?
Bulkeley: Right. And once it was edited, then it would be punched into the teletype wires. So I was getting about an hour and a half to two hours' sleep a night, and about one and a half meals a day, for the whole week, without any notion, of course, of what that was doing to my body, but it was a month before I caught up on my sleep and my head functioned right again. I was making dumb mistakes, sleeping twelve hours a night or falling asleep at things. It was still summer, so we didn't have the political season too much, and I could get extra sleep.
Ritchie: But you were leading into a fall campaign.
Bulkeley: Leading into the fall campaign, which, of course, as it turned out, I didn't get to cover, even though I was the political reporter.
But then I found out why all of the famous people disappeared. Haynes Johnson is a friend of mine, and I had seen him briefly at the convention. He said he was on his way to the Keys for a week when the convention was over. Walter Cronkite would not be on "CBS Evening News" for a week. Well, they all slept it off. I wasn't smart enough to do that. I had been asked
by the Society of Professional Journalists to a magazine piece, and I said, "Oh, sure. I'll get home Saturday. I've got all weekend to do it before I have to go back to work Monday."
Ritchie: So you didn't realize what the impact would be.
Bulkeley: No, nobody had warned me about the physical impact, and I'm not sure that anybody realized the extra demands that the security would place on logistics and how much that would compound the logistics. Even though it was a foregone conclusion that George McGovern was going to be nominated, I managed to be on the floor when the votes went over the top, and it was electric. It really was worth being there to feel when somebody got nominated, because only two people every four years get nominated to run for president of the United States, and even if you knew who it was, when it actually happens, it actually happens, and you feel that something's different. Sort of like standing at the inauguration this year. Where we were, the crowd reacted more when Al [Albert, Jr.] Gore was sworn in. Immediately through the crowd went a "We are saved from Dan [J. Danforth] Quayle." Well, I hadn't really thought about swearing-in the vice president being particularly significant. But, boy, the people around us in that crowd had, some of them, and the world just moved.
Ritchie: So you had the emotion of the group.
Bulkeley: And the emotion of "It's real and it's official now," because obviously, we'd all known forever, I mean, since the election, that Gore was going to be vice president, and [William J. "Bill"] Clinton president. We had known for weeks that McGovern had the votes, but when it went over the top, it was exciting, and it was chills up and down the backbone, and breathtaking. Of course, reporters stood there like bumps on a log while everybody else was going ecstatic, but it's not acting, it's real, which a lot of people wouldn't ever believe unless you'd been there.
But the other thing was that Carol [Richards] and I, as the only two Gannett newswomen who knew government and politics, were both sent to that one. We didn't get to go to the Republican one. Gannett had enough newspapers in those days that they were trying to share the opportunities. But part of what happened with two of us there, the guys couldn't say, "Oh, she was lucky," if we were both consistently producing. So it was after that convention that they then started sending women into the Washington bureau as full-time regular staff of Gannett.
I had been in on assignment a couple of times—more I had been in just because I wanted to go in, and Jack Germond was the bureau chief and let me spend the day with him several times. He and another guy named Bill Ringle would take me in tow, and I met the stars, and I went to the Supreme Court while it was handing down decisions. The one advantage of having weekdays off, particularly in those early years, but also even as government and political reporter, was that I could come down and do that, and plane fares weren't structured the way they are today. You could do a one day down and back.
Ritchie: For not much.
Bulkeley: It cost a lot, but it was the same as if you'd done it for a week, and it was probably close to a week's take-home [salary], so I only did it once a year or so, but I also could drive to Albany and do the same thing, and did, or take the train over. And I was on assignment occasionally in the Albany bureau.
But anyway, after that '72 convention, Carol was transferred in to the Washington bureau as the first women reporter into there.
Ritchie: So that was really an opportunity for her to show that she could handle the political coverage.
Bulkeley: Right. And she was also the first one into the Albany bureau after I had done some short term assignments in there. And, of course, I always thought that I should be the one to get to go. I had done the work and the groundwork, and I was the one who had that progression as my published career plan, and told them from the first time I met Neuharth that's what I wanted to do. I didn't understand at that point in time that Neuharth had decided I was going to be management, or should be, and that's why Carol was going on as reporter, because he thought that was her strength, but that I had the kind of analytical stuff and ability to project forward and look at consequences and options that it took to be in management.
[End Tape 2, Side A; Begin Tape 2, Side B]
Ritchie: So he knew what you wanted to do, but he, too, had somewhat of a plan in mind.
Bulkeley: He had a different agenda, which was to close the sex gap in newsrooms, in newspapers. But I also was beginning to understand, from the sequence of events as I left the newsroom and saw all of my progress on behalf of the public lost, that it took more than one reporter showing it was possible to change the system, and when I understood that Neuharth expected me to be a boss, I decided, well, if somebody's got to go do it, bosses can change systems that reporters can't. Then I'll go do that for a while, but then they'll have to let me do what I want to do. If I pay my dues doing what they want me to do, then they're going to owe me.
Ritchie: Right. Let you do what you want. Were you in a position to assist women in any way—in reporting or on the editorial page, as far as we've gotten?
Bulkeley: Through the paper, partly through trying to get the place managed right. But because I had no say in who did what with my beats, there was no way I could help there. I was doing Women in Communications stuff, so in the broader sense I was helping that way, but in terms of the paper itself, mostly what I was doing was doing the kind of job that they couldn't use me as the failure that would doom all of us.
Carol credits my work in the Albany bureau for making it possible for women to go in, and says I helped her. I don't remember any specific kind of help I gave her except that we hung out together. She also had a boyfriend, however.
Ritchie: What about issues relating to women, in terms of covering those issues, specifically relating to women?
Bulkeley: Not because they related to women, I didn't cover them. I covered some of them, because I saw that they were there, so I covered them, but without really realizing that it was the female factor as opposed to the "better reporter than my predecessor" factor. Some of the welfare stuff, for instance, in Medicaid and Medicare, that was early in the women's movement. I remember the time that we all decided, okay, on the anniversary of the voting rights amendment, we would all wear pantsuits and break the dress code.
Ritchie: Because you had to wear skirts.
Bulkeley: Nobody ever told us we did.
Ritchie: But you did.
Bulkeley: But we'd all been brought up to believe we had to dress like church, because we never knew when we were going to cover the governor or the mayor or whomever. But by then, other people were wearing pantsuits, and pantsuits were pantsuits, not shirts and pants or whatever. They had real jackets and covered your fanny, came down to the tops of our shoes, usually. But we all decided we'd do it that day, they wouldn't dare send us all home because they couldn't get the paper out if they did. So that was our first stand. There also were a couple of key eateries in town. Some of the key restaurants had men's grills that women weren't allowed in.
Ritchie: They were exclusive for the men.
Bulkeley: Only for the men, and a couple of them had pretty good buffets at pretty good prices, but we weren't allowed in, so I signed petitions with other women in town. I probably shouldn't have, but I did.
Ritchie: Were there any repercussions at the paper?
Bulkeley: No. I ran into one of the guys who had mediated that situation through the Chamber [of Commerce] or somewhere, back in the mid-eighties, who recalled it, and I had forgotten about it. That particular one was gone, but the dining room in one of the department stores that had been a men's grill was still there.
Ritchie: In a department store?
Bulkeley: It had its little old ladies restaurant, tea room almost, where anybody could go, but then it also had its men's grill, and by the mid-eighties it was still a general dining room, so I took the interns from the foundation there for lunch once, simply so I could say I'd eaten there. It wasn't very good. Whether it had been fifteen years earlier, I have no idea.
Ritchie: Did the pantsuit episode bring any repercussions or consequences?
Bulkeley: Not to me. That became part of our mix thereafter, and I don't know that the guys even noticed. If it made any ripples, they didn't come in my direction.
I also had to sit in on the company side in early meetings with the NOW, the National Organization of Women's, media committee. What really happened with that, on a national level it was critically important to have outside people raising questions, and particularly radical people, because then the rest of us looked reasonable. But the local committee had not done its homework, except in a very superficial way, because I had been doing the political reporting at that point. They'd talk about the way names were used in descriptions and things, but I knew I had covered the men candidates and the women candidates the same, and I could sit there and say, "Well, now, I can't speak about the other paper, but in terms of our paper, I did those stories. We talked about Tom Frey's scrambled egg supper, and the kids coming down the stairs when he got home from being out on the road. We covered the whole person, men and women, and in perspective and in proportion." Of course, today I would realize that I covered the women in the traditional male approach to the story, and Tom Frey's kids and scrambled eggs came at the end of the story because I did it chronologically, the day of the candidate.
Dorothy Phillips—they had night crews working on a bridge on the inner loop, and Dorothy and I spotted them as we were coming back from some meeting, and she drove around
the barricades right up on the bridge and went up and talked to them. We reported that. I don't know that men would have done that, and if in that sense my being with her might have given her courage more to do that. I don't know whether the men would have covered the welfare mothers' protests and rights things different or not. Nor did I save a volume of clips that I can go back and look at today.
Ritchie: So you felt that NOW's position, their complaints, weren't really valid in terms of what you had done.
Bulkeley: In terms of my work, that committee wasn't valid except to the extent that it showed my bosses the value of having had me in that job. They probably also got other things on the agenda that wouldn't have been on an agenda, or not consciously, and certainly made the bosses more aware of what was at stake and of some of the kind of things they wouldn't have been.
The other thing that happened at one of the—I don't know whether it was that same voting rights amendment or Susan B.'s [Anthony] birthday in February. Susan B. Anthony is from Rochester, too, and Frederick Douglass spent a lot of his adult life based there, and published his paper, The Northern Star, from there.
But the editorial page asked all of us who had beats to write an editorial. Well, the county government published a little handbook every year of all of its citizen's advisory committees, among other things, a directory, so I did the "how many men and how many women are there on things," and pointed out particularly the ones where women obviously had as much or more to say as men and they weren't there either, but the odds were like six men for every woman.
Ritchie: This would have been like a guest editorial?
Bulkeley: Yes, and they were signed. But partly I took that approach because it was an objective approach to opinion-writing. Nobody could quarrel with the facts. I mean, they were free to quarrel with whether women had anything to offer or not, but if these were citizen's advisory committees, citizens were both of us, men and women. So that was a relatively harmless, in terms of integrity of my reporting, kind of an editorial to write. But they thought it was wonderful, "they" the bosses, which I think is how I ended up being asked to fill in later, because I'd see things that other people didn't see. I kept attendance records at the committee meetings, and published attendance records. Well, nobody had thought to do that before, and that stuff is just obvious. Some of it doesn't have anything to do with gender. Some of it has to do with what you think the responsibilities are in the job. Are they even trying, like showing up?
The county did do the welfare and the health stuff, so in that sense, those things got covered more than they probably would have, simply because I was there looking for gaps. And again, today people might trace some of that back and my even putting all of the pieces together on budgets and things to women being the connectors and seeing more angles. I think it probably has more to do with associative learners who learn by bits and pieces, rather than in straight lines.
Bulkeley: And that that trait is reinforced more in women as they do the connecting, even mothers who connect kids to things, to the world as it keeps growing for little kids. I am an associative learner. The bits and pieces work their way out and I have multiple layers that run in my head all the time, all of which served that function and led me to that kind of reporting, that somebody who had been conditioned into or was naturally linear and hierarchical simply would
never have done, would have picked up the patterns and repeated them, unless he was led or happened to be right in front of a door, wouldn't have gone through it, instead of me checking out the room and saying, "What's the most interesting fact?"
Ritchie: Did you feel that you were continuing to develop skills as an editor?
Bulkeley: In the real sense of juggling staff and space and issues, I never really was an editor. On the editorial page, I just had two staff members, both of them borrowed from the newsroom, neither one of them—one was a bright, young reporter, and the other was a guy from the copy desk who liked the activity on the newsroom copy desk better than the separation and working alone on editorial page make-up. So they both had limits on how long they were there and really were borrowed, so even when I became the editor, not just the acting editor, my control over them was limited. They weren't looking to me for career leadership.
In terms of making sure that the person doing the editorial writing thought it all the way through, I was doing that kind of editing, but we had the fixed space every day, and the judgments were limited to that day and how things fit. The copy editor was pretty good at sorting out what was the best that the columnists and the letter-writers had, and coming up with ways to use them.
Ritchie: So it really was a relatively small staff.
Bulkeley: That was it, and half a secretary. I did have help with letters. I didn't dictate; I drafted on typewriter. But she at least would clean up the letters and put addresses on them and all of that time-consuming detail, that if you did newsroom typing, you'd never get down to doing accurate first-pass typing. But that was the staff. I had no budget say, control or knowledge. I really never did staff evaluations. I had developed a plan for changing the page. Because of all kinds of other things going on, we hadn't really overhauled the columnists. We had softened the impact of the conservative stable when we broke up the patterns, but I hadn't really gotten to add other columnists, and I had completed a review process by the time I was asked to go off and run a newspaper instead, but had not presented that and defended it. I had simply put it all together.
Ritchie: This might be a good place for us to stop and start next time here, finishing up the paper and moving on to Saratoga.