[Begin Tape 1, Side A]
Bulkeley: There was that one piece that I wanted to talk about, about the newsroom and the flood, and I've thought through better your other question about content.
Ritchie: The newsroom and the flood.
Bulkeley: When [Phil] Currie sent only men to cover the flood.
Ritchie: You mentioned that as I was leaving last time.
Ritchie: Do you want to tell me about that?
Bulkeley: Oh, we're on?
Bulkeley: We were talking about the managing of the newsroom and whether women could get their content into the paper. Part of my response was that I don't think we were as aware in those days of the issues that particularly concerned women and weren't getting covered as we were about management style and being allowed to do our own reporting and having our own reporting trusted.
One of the things that happened in those years, it was during the hurricane-generated floods in the Northeast in 1972. By then, our newsroom was about half women in terms of reporters, but we realized as the flood went on—it was several days, nearly a week affecting our territory, not the city of Rochester directly, but certainly our coverage area—so reporters were sent down into the worst of the flood zone and the periphery to report on what was happening as the flood built and receded. What we realized, I think only the following week when the paychecks came, was that only men had been sent in to cover the flood, and almost every man on the staff, so they were getting two and three weeks' pay.
As they were leaving to cover the flood, those of us who had beats would pick up their work automatically, so most of that flood week I was covering all three government and political beats, for instance, working the twelve or fourteen hours that it would take, and writing the news stories from all of them, but nobody ever thanked any of us. There were other comparable stories from the rest of the women on the staff, which meant we all did as much work as they did, they all got double and triple-time in their paycheck, we didn't even get thanked, let alone a penny of overtime money. To me, that said that the men who were the city editors didn't trust the women, or when they were gut-reacting because the emergency lasted so long, their trust went to the men, to the male reporters.
Several years later, I talked about this at a state publishers' meeting at which Gene Dorsey, who was the publisher still at the Rochester papers, the one who had been the publisher when this event happened, and I told the story. I said, "Even when you think it looks right and your processes are in place so you think you're evaluating women fairly and giving everybody a fair shot, look at what happens during a prolonged news emergency," and I told the story.
But Dorsey says, "I don't think that's right. That couldn't have happened. I know we offered one woman a chance to take a helicopter ride over the flood zone." Well, the woman that they offered it to was a features writer, she wasn't one of the news reporters, for one thing. For another thing, one person saying no to an assignment should not have affected everybody else. The other thing he said was, "And in Attica,* during the Attica riot of 1971, women were down there covering."
I said, "But Gene, from the minute it started, the powers-that-be stopped all reporters well outside the prison, so they were not anywhere near any danger, and once they started taking press pools in, the women weren't allowed in the press pools. You didn't have a chance to think about the safety of the women reporters, or whether it was appropriate to send them, because the state preempted that decision, so it was perfectly safe to send whoever your best available general assignment reporters were, and there were only one or two at a time. It was never a question of deploying five, ten people over a huge geographic area." That was the end of that discussion.
A couple of years after that, at an editors' meeting of Gannett people, Phil Currie, who had been the city editor responsible for those decisions said to his colleagues—essentially told them the story. I did not know Phil knew the story, but the fact is, he told the story on himself as a way to help them learn, to help them understand the bone marrow stuff they were dealing with.
Ritchie: You had nothing to do with this?
Bulkeley: I had nothing to do with his telling the story. It was simply a workshop of Gannett editors talking about newsroom integration in terms of women and minorities. Phil said, "One of the ways you really learn who you trust and who you rely on is the news emergency," and then told the story of the floods, which told me a number of things. Somebody indeed had gone back and checked the record and found out from looking at the papers and the paychecks that I was right, that only men went, women were carrying an extra load of work without getting the pay recognition. And then somebody had talked to Phil about it, and he had accepted it and had grown enough and was secure enough in those days that he could tell that kind of a story that would have devastated some people, but that he had really understood at least that point of mismanaging in that newsroom at the time, and thought it was important enough that he could risk his own image sharing it with people.
I think that that's more dramatic than many examples, but it's the kind of learning that we had to do before we could even start looking at content. We had to learn how to accept each other in whatever frame of mind we'd been brought up with, however we'd been conditioned. We had to learn to be there and to carry our share and to be allowed to carry our share of even the traditional load.
* Attica. On September 9, 1971, prisoners at the overcrowded Attica Correctional Facility at Attica, New York, took over cell blocks and killed several guards in protest against perceived racially biased sentencing and parole decisions. Thirty-nine inmates were killed and over eighty wounded when state police stormed the prison. The total death toll was forty-three.
My own frustrations with the newsroom, again as we talked about somewhat, were not so much with different content as with what was important about the traditional content. I was doing government and political stuff, which was basically traditional content, but I was frustrated that I wasn't allowed to report them in more connected ways, and that some of the connecting that I had done of bits and pieces that ultimately showed systems and how to change them, people thought was being handed to me.
Ritchie: From someone else.
Bulkeley: From someone else, and that the systems were givens, rather than something I was able to do, all of which we later learned was at least conditioning and maybe more than that, as people like Carol Gilligan* began to understand and to document that women in the connecting role and how that got beat out of us, or how we would adapt to meet the more hierarchical. There is record that shows some women were concerned about the content in the early seventies, and primarily those on the women's pages.
Ritchie: Was this the case at your newspaper?
Bulkeley: I don't think so. I think Neuharth understood that women's pages needed to change, and he had worked with some of the leaders of that change in Miami. Dorothy Jurney and Marj [Marjorie] Paxson were among the people who worked with Al in Miami, though they were on the women's pages, but he was assistant managing editor or something down there, had worked with them and understood that there needed to be more substance and that there was substance that dealt with women.
There's a Marj Paxson story out of those same floods of '72 that she may or may not have told in this project. She was by then in Philadelphia at the Philadelphia Bulletin as women's editor. During the floods, her staff kept scooping the city side on what was happening and on the information people needed to get through the days as the flood drove them out of their homes or whatever. Her section became so much more valuable that the hierarchical reaction was to kill the section and put Marj in limbo. She was made assistant editor of the Sunday magazine or something shortly thereafter, with about a day and a half a week's work to do, and it was a year, eighteen months, two years later before they then made her an assistant city editor dealing with news. But the initial reaction to the woman producing more valuable news was to decide it must have been a fluke and get her out of the way.
Ritchie: They didn't know how to deal with it.
Bulkeley: They had no idea how to deal with it. They apparently had no idea that it was the kind of relevance that needed to be throughout the paper, and the kind of connecting, kind of approaches to news. And, of course, the Bulletin, at that time the strongest paper by far in Philadelphia, is now long gone, and the decline started during that era.
* Carol Gilligan, Harvard professor, author of Meeting at the Crossroads: Women's Psychology and Girls' Development (co-authored with Lyn Brown, 1992) and In A Different Voice (1982).
Whether we're seeing that through the lenses to draw the interpretations we want to draw or what, I don't know, but I find it interesting that there were those kinds of stories coming out of that particular news emergency.
Ritchie: How did you keep up with other women in the field?
Bulkeley: Primarily through my Women in Communications activities, which I had started soon after I went to Rochester in the mid-1960s. The men were organizing, at Paul Miller's request, their chapter of then Sigma Delta Chi, which was for male journalists and was a professional association, and Rochester simply had never had a branch, its own chapter of the national, so the bosses asked them in to organize it, and the managing editors were in charge, and that sort of thing.
A woman, Lorraine Dusky, at the Democrat & Chronicle, and I—the Democrat was the morning paper in Rochester—Lorraine came after a year in Sandusky, I think. But anyway, she and I started hanging around together some. It would have been '65, '66. We decided that if there was to be a Rochester of Theta Sigma Phi, which was the women's equivalent, then it should be because the women wanted it, not because any boss told us to do it. So we contacted the national headquarters and got the list of local people that they knew about.
We were acting before the bosses told us to do it, but I marched into Neuharth's office, made an appointment and walked in, and said, "We're doing this," just so that they didn't interfere, or at some point before we were organized issue orders that would take the voluntariness off it.
Neuharth basically said, "Let me know what I can do to help."
I said, "Well, we'll see," knowing that we didn't want to appear bought by the bosses, either.
The difference, even in those days, between Theta Sig and Sigma Delta Chi was that Theta Sig kept people, allowed members to stay who were doing something other than traditional news media journalism. It always had women who were journalism teachers, women who were doing public relations or non-profit work, across the whole spectrum of professional communications, to a large extent because the news media weren't welcoming women. Those simply weren't places women could go to work. There were a lot in weekly newspapers, but the National Federation of Press Women was long well established and served weekly newspaperwomen pretty well, also limited itself to newswomen, but had never had a national office or a full national organization to that point.
So we, anyway, invited everybody to lunch who was interested in coming to lunch, and we had enough people at that first meeting to petition national Theta Sig for recognition as a chapter, so we organized and went on from there. I was temporarily covering government and politics at the first national meeting, so it would have been '66, summer of.
Ritchie: At the first national meeting that you attended?
Bulkeley: The first time I went to the national meeting. I got elected president [of the Rochester chapter]. Lorraine [Dusky] went on to Albany to work, so I ended up, of the organizers, being the one who had to be president, having started this whole thing.
Ritchie: Since it was your idea.
Bulkeley: Yes. So I went to the first national meeting as our chapter president, and I thought, when I got there, I'd be able to find women I could learn from how to handle the government and political beats, and to get past the "Isn't she cute, she thinks she's a reporter" stuff. But when I got there, it was awful. With few exceptions, they were non-working women. Part of the housekeeping announcements at every gathering was which social sorority alumni groups were going to gather where for breakfast. Some women who were teaching journalism started following me around and wanting to pick my brain at every instant so they'd know what to do with their kids, which drove me crazy, because I was there looking for help.
Marj Paxson was the national president, and it became clear from the people around Marj that there was potential to do something other than tea and crumpets with this organization. Those were early enough years that we were drawing firmer lines that we should have between those who weren't working and those who were. Some of that, as we now know, is all a matter of definition and becoming secure in who we are and what we are. The damage that we did, however, who knows? We did damage. But I hooked in with Marj and the crowd, and she made me a national committee chair so I'd have more access. The effect was I had more access to the good people from then on.
Ritchie: Because you knew who they were.
Bulkeley: Because I'd know who they were. I could get to committee meetings. She also knew Neuharth well enough to know I could get the support if I'd go ask for it—the time and the travel dollars, if I needed them. A lot of this I didn't know until later. But because of the Neuharth connection, I got involved at the national level immediately and then worked there through my presidency in the mid-seventies. But that gave me access. It also gave me visibility that ultimately paid off in speaking invitations and chances to spend time on campuses and keep in touch with the energy and the idealism that in a hostile work situation can get beat out of you if you don't have a way to recharge it. I don't know that I ever was in a truly hostile work situation in my everyday surroundings, but it wasn't necessarily supportive.
Ritchie: It got frustrating at times?
Bulkeley: Sure, because you couldn't make the headway or couldn't understand why stuff you thought was news wasn't, as far as the bosses were concerned, or why approaches that seemed obvious and made sense and had worked other places wouldn't be accepted until they had evidence.
We talked the other day about my going out with the candidates, picking up the pattern that I had heard Haynes Johnson describe—and, again, I talked about that. Well, why, if it was good enough for Haynes Johnson to win a Pulitzer Prize, wasn't it good enough for us to do without me going out on my own to prove it? Some of that stuff. Again, today we know much better the systems protecting themselves and some of those other things than we understood then. So it was helpful to have access to the other women, to the campuses, and people who knew newspaper, even if they were no longer employed in it, and could help work through things.
Ritchie: So Women in Communications, the organization, was changing its focus during this time?
Bulkeley: Yes. It was beginning to move from what in lots of ways looked like a social sorority doing social things, not the substance that we all know they do do, but it really looked like a gathering of an alumni group more than a professional organization.
Marj held the national presidency for four years, which in those days it was a two-year term and could be renewed. That gave her enough time to identify a large group of women who understood the need for a professional organization, understood the benefits of umbrella organization, that over a lifetime you'd need to know the best of public relations and advertising and newsletter, even if you always worked in traditional news, that all of the rest of them were part of the whole communication process.
But the women she got involved and, in effect, set up—one of the changes ultimately was a one-year national presidency, but also a president elect, so you had a year to put your administration in place, to backstop the president. But that system also eats up people in a hurry, since you need somebody new every year. The people that Marj brought into the organization and got engaged and committed and compelled to help covered the national presidency for something like twelve years after her term. It didn't stop with me in '75-'76. There were several after me who also had been set up by Marj.
Ritchie: That she brought in and placed in positions.
Bulkeley: Talent she had spotted and brought in and gotten involved and set on tracks where they then could handle their own involvement and progress. With that many who survived and made it through the presidency, with all of the kinds of things that would divert women when there was no support for working women, little child care, and the rest of it with those who left the field for a while or didn't have the support to do national involvement, you know there were lots more of highly talented women who fell by the wayside or were limited to doing their work in their local community, that she also had spotted and brought along.
Part of what that did, then, back in my work situation, was show Neuharth capacities of leadership and looking at options and consequences beyond what I had shown through my news work or my editorial-page work. At the time he asked me to go off and run a newspaper, he said, "You've done all of the things you need to do to run a paper through Women in Communications with volunteers, so there's no reason you can't do it in a situation where you see people every day and where you sign their paychecks. The paycheck should be a last resort, but remember you do have that power, too, if there's no other way to motivate people to do things, but you shouldn't need it. With working through mail and telephone and hardly ever seeing people, you can help move things, then there's no reason that you can't do it with a newspaper."
Ritchie: And this was when you were asked to go to Saratoga?
Bulkeley: Saratoga. This would have been the spring of 1974, after I'd been the editorial-page editor in my own right for eight or nine months.
Ritchie: When you became the editorial page editor, did you see your future changing?
Bulkeley: I had understood by then that Neuharth thought sooner or later I should do management, and I had understood, as I think I talked about before, that the kinds of changes that were necessary to fix how reporting happened, having set out to fix how the Midwest was covered from the East, that those kinds of changes couldn't be done by one or two reporters, that it really
was a systematic problem and really took bosses to make the changes. So I had decided, without really knowing how it would happen, that if I was asked to be a boss, I'd have to do it.
What I thought about the editorial page was that I owed that assignment two to three years to make the changes that we were making, and fine-tune them, correct any judgment errors I had made in the process of putting it together, and then I would be free to leave and go off and do what I needed to do, to do my agenda.
Ritchie: But this came much more quickly than three years.
Bulkeley: I'll say. This was eight or nine months. But one other quick point about that editorial-page stuff—today we expect editorial pages to look different every day. But in 1973—by then Women in Communications was doing its meeting in the fall. As a candidate or one involved at the national level, I was among those interviewed by the paper in, I think it was Portland, Oregon, where our annual meeting was. The guy who interviewed me split his time between the editorial page and the features staff—then a "Family" section or "Focus" or whatever—and what he found most interesting out of whole couple-hour discussion was that we were making daily judgments on what was most significant and what was most important and varying the make-up of the editorial page every day.
Ritchie: Which he wasn't doing.
Bulkeley: He wasn't doing. He was involved in the National Editorial Writers' conference, and he said it really was unheard of, that people were still—
Ritchie: Was that an organization?
Bulkeley: It's the professional organization for editorial-page people [National Conference of Editorial Writers], which I never got around to joining, I wasn't there long enough.
But he basically said that pages were still formatted. The conventional wisdom was you formatted the page and you ran your columnists predictably so people who wanted to read them knew when they were there. Again, a question of content and when did change happen. So that was beginning to change in that era. I know we weren't the only ones doing it, but it was unusual enough that somebody in that particular line of journalism was intrigued by it.
But that spring of '74, I was simply called in to Al's office one day, and he spent about forty minutes explaining to me why he thought I could go run a whole newspaper, before he asked whether I'd do it, but, of course, I did.
Ritchie: What was your reaction to this meeting?
Bulkeley: Mostly my reaction was, he's taking a bigger risk than I am, because by then I understood the business certainly well enough to know I was going to be visible, like it or not, but I also understood enough about the whole enterprise of newspapers becoming publicly held business to know that in terms of the profit-making responsibilities, it was Neuharth who was having to prove to the world that newspeople could run businesses, and that it was his hide that would be nailed to the wall if I screwed mine up. Ultimately, of course, I figured out that Saratoga was only a half of a percent of the Gannett whole, even in those days, so the risk wasn't very big in those terms, although in other terms it might have been.
So anyway, I had five days between that conversation and when we went to Saratoga that I needed to organize myself to move after ten years.
Ritchie: Because you'd become a part of that community, really.
Bulkeley: Right. And I had been in that apartment for seven, the high-rent-district apartment. Of course, I had no spouse at that point to help with moving.
I gathered up issues of The Saratogian from the corporate news office to read them and start to get a feel. I had never been to Saratoga. I also needed to finish the work I had started on how to change our editorial page and turn it over to the boss. I had no back-up on the page, which is something else I had been taught was a responsibility, and, again from home, that once you have your job under control, you ought to find a way to train a back-up. I didn't have one, because I had nobody who was committed to my page. But Gene Dorsey wanted ideas on who I thought could take over the responsibility, given no notice, in effect.
Ritchie: So obviously it had to be someone on the spot.
Bulkeley: Preferably somebody on the staff, because my staff members weren't really capable of holding it for very many days without my presence, and I didn't have time to set it up very long, and, of course, you couldn't when you had to deal with current stuff.
So I suggested to him one person he had not thought of, a guy named Read Kingsbury, who was a reporter and swing editor in the newsroom, but was one of the more analytical and connected with lots of issues people around. Well, Gene had not thought of Read, but as it turned out, Read was willing to take the job and did, and served in that job for fifteen years. So I was learning how to spot fits between responsibilities and aptitudes and things.
Ritchie: So you left it in good hands.
Bulkeley: As it turned out. Because while Read philosophically is close to socialist, he's also pragmatic, but that gave him the angle that looked out for people who couldn't look out for themselves, and even if that editorial page was still noblesse oblige, at least they were of concern, and over time, instinctively he would have been able to give voice to the newly recognized members of the public, and as space became available for Op Ed pages and things, he would have been ideally suited to handle that, and clearly was.
Ritchie: Why did the Saratoga situation come up so quickly?
Bulkeley: That's the way Gannett works. Gannett has never had an in-training kind of philosophy. The Saratoga editor and publisher had already been moved to Niagara Falls. There had been some anticipation of it, and some intent on Neuharth's part to send me into it. In one of his speeches at the Gannett year-end meeting—Gannett in those days had editors and publishers together at a year-end meeting, wrap up the year, kick off the next one, two or three days of big meetings in workshops. Several years later, I found Neuharth's speech from that year in which he had said there was not enough progress in advancing women and minorities, and he said with or without the help of the men who were in the executive jobs, women would be advanced in Gannett. I'm not sure whether that's the time that he started tying money to affirmative action and progress on equal opportunity.
Ritchie: When you say tying money, what do you mean?
Bulkeley: He started making bonuses contingent upon—at least a percentage of bonus—progress in diversifying staffing.
Ritchie: For the editors and managers?
Bulkeley: For the executives. Department heads and paper executives, the CEOs of papers and broadcast. Xerox did it first, was the first we saw do it in Rochester, and I think it was when I was on the editorial page. Al did it within a year, because his preaching about it for four or five years had not made a lot of difference. But at that year-end meeting, he said, "There are people out there," and then listed a bunch of positions that had people in it they thought were capable of executive work, and I was one of them. They didn't name names, they just said, "editorial pages in Rochester" among the list.
But in March of that year, one of the things that happened was I was invited to use one of the Gannett seats to go with the corporate plane and have one of the Gannett seats at the state legislature's state capital equivalent of the Gridiron [Club] dinners, where the Legislative Correspondents Association put on its spoof of the state legislature and government. Neuharth kept—at the table, he sat me next to the publisher from Saratoga, and a couple other times at the cocktail party before dinner, the chief news executive, John Quinn, steered me over to talk to talk to Sal, to meet Sal DeVivo, steering me at Sal. I didn't think a whole lot about it. Then it became obvious, again looking back two or three weeks later.
I also was directed into a Gannett management seminar. Gannett did its own in-house management seminars for a week, once a year or so, with people from all departments, so they were mixing together. I was asked to go on one, and I said, "I can't. There's a Women in Communications regional meeting that weekend that I have to go to because I'm a candidate, and if we want me elected, this is one of the biggest ones, and I have to go."
And they said, "Well, get back when you can and catch up with the seminar," was the ultimate decision, and I thought, "Well, this is dumb, but okay. If the boss says, 'Go do it,' I'll go do it." What I found out when I got to that seminar is that I was the only woman there.
Ritchie: And this was people from all different Gannett papers?
Bulkeley: Right, all different, and there probably were twenty of us. We were meeting in a conference section of a Rochester hotel—it's no longer there—but it was Midtown Tower, which was a hotel on top of a high-rise office building that had a couple of conference floors, one conference floor, I guess, right above the restaurant that capped the office section of the building. The only rest rooms on the conference floor were for men. I wasn't smart enough to say, as I established buddies in the group, "Guard the door," or to say, "Open another room, open a hotel room for me." I just used the elevator to go down to the restaurant level to go to the women's rest rooms. But that also meant, because of the elevator—the stairs were locked for security from the outside, you couldn't get back in from the stairwell—because of the elevator—they had to wait meetings for me.
So clearly the lack of recognition of women as part of the business seminar crowd affected the dynamics of things. It identified me as a problem, because they had to wait. Well, those who liked their breaks, identified me as an asset, because I made the breaks wait, but it added to the visibility I had because of being the only woman there anyway.
So all of this had happened right before I was called in and asked to go run the newspaper. At first I thought Al was just asking me to go be the editor, but then I realized it was to run the whole newspaper.
Ritchie: Your title was?
Bulkeley: Editor and publisher and president.
Ritchie: What does all that mean?
Bulkeley: All of that means chief executive officer of the subsidiary, that as far as Gannett was concerned, I had final authority in running the property. Because it was a subsidiary, there were some places where Gannett reserved final authority. They had the experts and the kind of staff help—Gannett publishers never have had the freedom to hire and fire department heads without corporate involvement, for instance.
Ritchie: So you could not do that?
Bulkeley: I could not hire an ad director or fire one without their involvement. Gannett also stayed involved with ad rates and circulation rates because of the relevance for total revenue, and because of what they knew about price resistance and things around the country with as many papers as there were. Labor negotiations involved the— [Tape interruption.]
Ritchie: We were talking about how Gannett, as the parent company, was involved with the local newspapers.
Bulkeley: The last point, I think, was that Gannett maintained involvement with labor negotiations, and in many ways it was for the same kind of reason it would be involved with advertising rates and circulation rates, was the issues in labor negotiation involved reclaiming jurisdiction from the trade unions, the printers. The public would recognize them as compositors, the normal mood would be to think a printer was who ran the press, did the printing. The pressmen are the ones who do the press work. But anyway, there were major questions involved in making it possible to use computers and other technology in newsrooms.
The unions, as part of nationals and internationals, also clearly had policies that they tried to maintain in everybody's contracts, so in some ways that just gave us sort of equal footing by having our national organization advising us, helping us with the right kind of language, knowing what is fair and responsible pay. Gannett wanted to maintain enough relative pay in the company. Not all of its newsrooms had unions. Most of its production departments did. But part of the point of being involved with the pay scales even in negotiation was to know that you could keep the professional staff up with, and preferably ahead of, the production departments, since it was the professionals who brought to content to the paper, and the ad sales people.
Part of it also was to be able to maintain scales that people could move among the papers, and there no doubt were people who tried to minimize pay to maximize profits, but I never encountered people trying to be absolutely awful and to treat the employees as if they were widgets.
Ritchie: Just to make more money.
Bulkeley: Just to make more money. Whether that speaks to the caliber of the lawyers from the corporate staff who came out to help with negotiations and that they were mediating that influence—because some of us would have quit or made our own union had anybody insisted that we treat the unionized crews as widgets—whether they were mediating to be sure we didn't get that impression, or whether indeed that filtered through as a dominant strain at headquarters, I don't know. On good days, I tend to hope that it was a dominant strain at headquarters, and on bad days, you figure that the guys in between were probably mediating.
Ritchie: Did you ever find this relationship detrimental?
Bulkeley: To the corporation?
Ritchie: To your position, to your running the newspaper.
Bulkeley: They always wanted more profits than you thought you could do. I always understood the role in putting together a plan and a budget to be as realistic as possible, and as in my news work, to do it with as much integrity as possible, which meant I understood that they needed all the profit they could have, and we shouldn't go willy-nilly off spending money just because we thought we were going to bring it in. The corporate staff, in this sense, always worked from the assumption that we were in a negotiating posture and we were holding back. After I discovered this, I asked Al about it, and I said, "Do you want honest budgets or do you want negotiating tools?"
And he said, "I expect honest budgets. There's too much to do to screw around in penny ante negotiation."
I said, "I don't think your corporate staff knows that. We spent a lot more time arguing over things than they could save by dealing with them, and they really haven't accepted." This conversation didn't all happen at once in Saratoga, but over time. When we were in a situation to have talked to all of our advertisers and to know what they could do and would do and what was responsible for them to do, we'd still find the corporate staff people redoing our budget to raise the lineage much higher and to raise the dollars much higher, and then we'd get punished.
Ritchie: Even though you knew what was best.
Bulkeley: Even though we'd say, "There isn't any more. Your marketing honcho was in town three weeks ago and was amazed at all of the business we had after he saw our town. So how can you tell us we have to have more lineage?" This was in Danville. The income in Danville was shrinking, double-digit inflation with 25 percent loss of jobs. There was no way we were going to have more lineage than in other years.
[End Tape 1, Side A; Begin Tape 1, Side B]
Bulkeley: So there was always that running question that also then, of course, affected the corporate evaluation of the publisher's performance, because it wasn't necessarily done by the people who knew how much the budgets had been cranked up.
There also were people who played the budget game. When I went to Danville, I inherited a budget in which the publisher's proposal had been for a decrease in profit, and when he did that, the corporate people, instead of—well, they didn't crank him up as much as they always jacked my budgets. The final budget called for a modest increase that was far below what the
corporate's normal increases in profits were, even though in those days the Danville economy was going great guns, and all of the heavy industry factories were running three shifts and the unions were begging for relief from mandatory overtime, and they let him get away with a 2 or 3 percent increase.
Ritchie: Why would someone do something like that? To look better when it was over, like he made more?
Bulkeley: Sure, because one of the things Gannett does—or did in those days, I assume still does—is send out monthly statistical reports showing key indicators by property all the way across the company—revenue to profit, and man hours per page and production, a lot of those kinds of numbers, some other revenue analysis like revenue per inch in advertising, revenue per thousand circulation. Just a bunch of statistical stuff. They also do variances from budget and from prior year on a rolling twelve-month basis for the prior year, so what you see is the short picture only. That becomes important later in my own life and career. But you can always tell percent of profit any paper is producing from those reports and how they compare with budget. So the people who can make more than the budget are the heros, even if, in analysis, their budget was a low-ball budget. Even if his budget was really only calling for flat performance against last year, he's beating it by 10 percent, he's a hero. When you get a budget that's low-ball, you only get it by cheating and by being unfair and having no integrity in negotiations. There's simply no way that if you do an honest budget, you can do a budget that honestly predicts far below what you're going to be able to do in the long haul or in the course of twelve months, but that makes the guys look good and it gets some promotions.
When Al asked me to go to Danville, he told me part of the job was to replace four of the five department heads and evaluate the fifth one, and to get rid of a very expensive gofer that was on the payroll, a guy with executive pay and perks and no job. The guy I followed got promoted to a paper more than twice the size of Danville. By accident, I discovered a few months after I got to Danville that his income for the ten months in Danville was double what I was getting, yet—
Ritchie: He was paid that by Gannett?
Bulkeley: Yes. His Gannett income. I saw his W-2 for the ten months that he was there, and it was double what mine would be for my first twelve months there, even though I was cleaning up after him. He clearly had put in a fake budget, had a variety of perks that were not authorized. He had three club memberships paid out of the company and there was only one authorized.
Ritchie: These are social clubs?
Bulkeley: Yes, country clubs. There weren't any city clubs in that little place, but country clubs and other stuff. And twelve season tickets to the University of Illinois football that he took his golfing friends to, claiming to be entertaining advertisers, some of them were, some of them weren't. No purchasing processes.
It was an absolutely dysfunctional operation that any minute was going to get caught. Because it had no serious competition, it had gotten along fine without personnel policies, replacing only at the entry level in the newsroom. That newsroom that I inherited, half was thirty and under, and half was fifty-two and older. There was a whole generation missing. The only person out of that generation was the editor, and his was not traditional for the mid-seventies. His wife was a bank officer and they had no kids. Out of a newsroom with thirty-five or -seven
people in it, we had two executives who had kids in school at that point, both of them seniors. We had no other kids in the school system, so we had no idea what was going on in the schools, just as one illustration of how disconnected we got because of lousy management practices.
Ritchie: So you were brought in to rectify the situation.
Bulkeley: Nobody knew how bad it was. There were lots of things that Danville didn't do routinely that were routine other places. There was no events calendar in that paper in the mid-seventies. As the city desk clerk in Rochester in 1964, with some direction but mostly my own common sense—I mean, I was told to create the events calendar, and got some leadership, some guidance from the boss, but mostly I did it, in 1964, and this was Danville, twelve years later, still didn't have one, and they argued with me when I said, "We're going to do it."
Ritchie: Who is "they"?
Bulkeley: They being the newsroom executives. Danville, in the mid-seventies, was still buying a canned feature package, running second- and third-rate comics and cartoons and editorial columns, and had never really looked at the cost of replacing—and mostly throwing away the package, throwing away 80 percent of it—but had never looked at the cost of replacing that package with first-rate individually purchased negotiated pieces.
Danville, in the mid-1970s, did not do advance stories on city council meetings. They only covered what happened after it was over, so there was no way the citizens knew whether it was worthwhile to go to city council this time or not. Well, as it turned out, the culture at Danville didn't demand advance coverage. We started doing advanced coverage, and the frustration of the citizens with the city then was turned on us, and basically people said, "Well, you knew what was going to happen. You're part of the power structure with those council members. Why didn't you stop them?"
Danville was so thoroughly working class and blue collar that they really didn't exercise initiative within the democracy, and it almost was a waste of time to publish a newspaper in those days. I eventually learned that even the plant managers of the Fortune 500 plants—there were 20 some of them—but the plant manager of the General Motors foundry really was only paid to sit there and watch and to holler for help if something happened.
Ritchie: No decision-making power.
Bulkeley: No decision-making, no initiative. Their metallurgist could not go on the YMCA board without the plant manager going through three or four layers at General Motors to get permission. General Motors had 2,500 employees [in Danville]. The plant manager could not commit $5,000 annual dues to secure a place on the Economic Development Corporation when we created it in the late seventies. He could not do that without going through multiple layers and getting permission. I did it. I didn't ask or tell. Five-thousand dollars out of—we were spending probably $4 million in those years, and $5,000 disappears in the rounding. Now, the corporate guys could find it with the computer printouts and going back to the spreadsheets we sent, but basically it disappeared in our rounding with 130 full-time employees or equivalents.
But the General Motors guy, in those days, he still probably had 2,000 people on his payroll, to not be able to put $5,000 into something like that, shows you how impotent they really were, and I didn't know that those guys didn't have that kind of authority, so I didn't make any effort to hide the fact that I did, which again creates a class kind of a thing. By then it was
beyond gender. It was a real class thing, that plant managers with their great big cars and their unquestioned use of the country club were widgets and simply didn't have authority. I forgot what started me on that story.
Ritchie: We got to Danville. We jumped ahead.
Bulkeley: Back up to Saratoga.
Ritchie: We were talking about the company.
Bulkeley: Oh, that's right, and the company involvement, and I used the Danville story as an example of the benefits and the liabilities, and that the corporate culture didn't always support what Neuharth said. Neuharth asked for honest budgets and honest assessments of what was going on, and the guy ahead of me got rewarded for being dishonest in terms of budget integrity, not in terms of legality, but in terms of corporate policies, integrity, and in terms of the department heads, because he was either to have moved out some of those who were there or never had promoted—in one case he was told not to promote the guy, but he did anyway—and still got rewarded.
Ritchie: What was the size of the Saratoga paper?
Bulkeley: The Saratoga paper was about 14,000 circulation Monday through Friday evening, and 19,000 on Sundays in the mid-seventies. The total payroll would have been around sixty. That was before we had the computers for production, so we still had a composing room. It had been shrinking, so the typesetters, particularly in the composing room, were working much more than forty hours a week to get the production done.
Ritchie: How did this rank in terms of what Gannett owned elsewhere?
Bulkeley: It was third from the bottom or second from the bottom, and as a percent of the whole, it was less than 1 percent.
Ritchie: So it was a pretty safe place to start you out.
Bulkeley: In terms of size, and in terms of impact on Gannett, yes. What a lot of people never realized about Saratoga—again, Al did. He is so bright, and he has so many layers of his head working all at a time, that a lot of people never quite understand where he comes from.
Ritchie: Because there's so much there.
Bulkeley: Because there's so much, and they see only the conclusions, without understanding that he really works by accumulation of pieces and multiple layers of processing. Al understood that Saratoga was a window on the horse people of the country, big money, and usually new money, or second generation; on the Philadelphia main line, because the Philadelphia Orchestra summered up there at that point; and on the old money out of New York City, because Saratoga, in and of itself, had been a playground for the wealthy from New York from the late 1700s; that it also was on the way to the Adirondacks, where lots of the old New York and New York City, where some of the national money was invested in the Adirondacks in those days. So it was a window on a lot of people with clout, with influence in the stockbroker circles and investment circles and things. It wasn't like a town of 30,000 or 25,000 and circulation 15,000 out in Kansas, because the world came to Saratoga in the summer. Skidmore College was also some of that access,
Texas Instruments' money among others, but not as overt as the summer horses and orchestra. Eventually, New York City Ballet also established its summer home up there.
Ritchie: So it was a very different kind of community than you had become accustomed to.
Bulkeley: It was different from Rochester in the sense that it had no real economic base. A lot of Saratoga people made their year's livelihood by renting their summer houses at outrageous prices. The home-owned bank generally would let people have double the mortgage that their income looked like if they were going to rent it during the summer, because it was important to the economy to have a certain supply of houses available, but also because they knew that you could rent, in those days, a three-bedroom, air-conditioned house with two bathrooms, you could rent for a month for $5,000 or $6,000, which would cover the $50,000 mortgage for a year, and people really built their livelihoods that way.
One of the pieces that nobody really understood about Saratoga was the county seat was a little village five miles away, Balston Spa. Right next to Balston Spa was the nuclear submarine and nuclear research activity of the navy and General Electric, so there were two-thousand military people there who came and went, plus a big civilian employee batch. That was as close as that area came to steady year-round income. There was the little mineral water plants and things like that. The impact of that only became clear to me when I went back to Saratoga in the mid-eighties, but that was another piece of that community.
What Saratoga had that was like Rochester was an appreciation for ideas. In Saratoga, everybody counted. The community leadership understood that the feeblest little old man guard at the track and the newest bright-young-thing waitress were as important to that economy as the bank was, because misspeaking, mistreating a customer by any one of those people—the customer might be the Mellons or the Whitneys or the Vanderbilts or whomever—that those people were as critical to the functioning of that community as everybody else, that everybody should be treated with respect and treated respectfully for doing what they could, regardless of whether you wanted your own kids to end up that way or not. They also accepted and trusted in a way that we always attribute to the old boys, but isn't always old boy. Some of the key local residents in that community year-round leadership, who also were accepted by the summer people, understood that if Neuharth said she was the boss of the paper, she was the boss of the paper and would be treated like a publisher.
Ritchie: So you were accepted by the local people.
Bulkeley: The bank gave me a mortgage with no question, the bank saw that I was on the right invitation lists, the bank threw a welcoming party for me and invited the people that needed to know I was the publisher and to treat me that way.
Ritchie: That was a nice entrée for you.
Bulkeley: Oh, it was, and it was important. I found that out later when I went to Danville and didn't get mentored and was treated like the girl Gannett sent in for a long time by a lot of people, to the day I left, in Danville.
But also, other people ran interference in various kinds of ways. A guy who, with his younger brother, had turned their father's horse and buggy home delivery dairy into a regional convenience store and dairy that can compete with the big supermarkets in price even today, and usually sets the pace for convenience stores, when he realized that his industrial management
group out at the chamber was guys who really weren't accepting the girl as the publisher, set it up so I'd come to one of their meetings. They didn't have the publisher in because they were afraid of media knowing secrets, and there were a variety of small factories there and businesses. So he had me come to one of the sessions, and he coached me ahead of time about the kinds of things to talk about, and he said, "You know, it is confidential, so it's all right, I think, if you talk about the Gannett confidential stuff like profit and percent of profit and those things, and you need to do some of that so they understand that your responsibilities are the same as theirs, but don't be too good, or you'll scare them. I know you know more about running a business than they do, but you've got to leave them some obvious questions and some openings to ask questions, rather than anticipating everything they're going to want to know, or you'll scare them off and we won't be any farther than we are right now, so you have to leave some opening questions." So anyway, Charlie Dake did some of that kind of stuff.
I had real hustler for an ad director when I got there, a real old-time salesman who tried to hustle all women into bed and all men into bets—a classic of his kind, as my husband [F. David Finks] kept reminding me—the Gannett opinion was he's the best we can do in a paper like that. Charlie would let me know when he was making deals on the side off the rate card. Charlie was involved in the regional shopping mall. Not regional, it was a local one on the edge of town. It wasn't very big. But Charlie had a store out there, and was one of the officers, so he'd hear from people if my ad director was making deals on the side, so I could straighten them out or contain them, as the case may be.
When I ultimately discovered that the controller was helping himself in ways not authorized, and otherwise subverting our resources, the banker got on the phone and took care of it locally. His name was Pete Wait.
Ritchie: The banker's name.
Bulkeley: The banker. And saw to it that anybody who might need to know that, did. He helped block this guy's signature out on other bank checks, banking things, and gave me some of the procedures I needed to follow, even while the corporate auditors were untangling the whole mess, but as fast as they had confirmed that the controller was embezzling—we never got a conviction, but he was embezzling—as fast as the corporate auditors had confirmed that, I got on the phone to our primary bank, which was Pete's, and he took care of running some of the interference for us.
But all of those kinds of things are critically important to your ability to function as a chief executive of a visible business in a community like that.
Ritchie: So you really moved into the community with ease.
Bulkeley: Relative ease. Sure, because I had people helping me know what was important. Some of the secondary and third layer, regular people layer, I had to really find ultimately myself, but the stuff I needed to run the paper day in and day out, I certainly got a lot of help with.
Ritchie: How were you accepted by the staff at the paper? Did you encounter any resistance?
Bulkeley: The ad director thought he should have been the publisher, and kept trying to preempt my authority, but he and my predecessor had made a couple of decisions that I thought were awful, that I couldn't undo, because they had just been put into place. A key one—The Saratogian published a weekly giveaway with 25 percent news. It was a weekly tabloid, and it really was a community newspaper for the southern end of Saratoga County, which had been
growing by leaps and bounds because of the growth of government and government-related industries in Albany, and the light industry, General Electric and things, in Schenectady, and stuff in Troy. Those three cities sort of tuck around the bottom of Saratoga County and the suburbs for all of them were in our county, so one of my prophetic predecessors at Saratoga had started a weekly down there.
Ritchie: When you say a giveaway, do you mean it was tossed on the lawns? It was free?
Bulkeley: Well, and in fact, they had been mailing it when I got there, and were shifting over to a delivery company that also carried advertising inserts, which even in those days, even I, not coming out of advertising, knew was direct competition with us, but my immediate predecessor and the ad director had signed a contract with them to deliver our paper, that said they wouldn't take any of our ad inserts but they were free to take anything else they could get and deliver it with our paper, with our money. But it was less than the mailing costs, and it was enough less that it would help my predecessor, who had gotten screwed in the budget process the way anybody did that wouldn't negotiate or play the games, that gave him the room to breathe and the budget he needed before he knew he was being promoted on.
So that kind of decision I inherited and had to live with from this shyster ad director. Shyster in the sense of hustler, not in the sense of lawyer, a lawyer who hustles. He was just a hustler. But he'd talk to restaurant customers, for instance. He'd write off some of their bills, or bills that were overdue he'd move back into the current column, in return for dinner at the restaurant, or he'd charge off his restaurant bill against the ad lineage and write off the bill, saying it was a business dinner, because he was trying to collect the money and keeping the customer happy—none of which I thought was ethical. It probably was legal, but I didn't think it was ethical. I thought if he had legitimate expenses, he ought to show it in an expense line. If he had legitimate ad income, it ought to show as ad income, and if you had a slow-paying customer, that ought to show.
Ritchie: Had he been there a long time?
Bulkeley: Yes. I can't remember, now, how long, but I never got to get rid of him.
Ritchie: So he outlasted you.
Bulkeley: He outlasted me, and I can't remember how many publishers later before he actually got fired. He was a mild diabetic, but he ultimately, even while I was there, lost one leg to a circulation problem, because he never really believed the stuff he had to do to control the diet. He continued to smoke and drink, for instance, both of which make worse the circulation problem from diabetes. One makes diabetes worse and one makes circulation worse. But he continued to work as ad director.
My successor as publisher was just there five months before he was promoted. I don't know whether that guy or the woman, one after, replaced him with a modern ad director or not.
Ritchie: Did you ever have to fire anyone?
Bulkeley: Oh, I fired lots of people, from reporters on up, starting with the controller, who around town said, "Well, she was so tight with expense money that I had to divert money in order to do staff morale things." People knew better. We had newspeople who couldn't cut it and
weren't earning the money. The circulation director there was the son of a man Gannett had bought newspapers from, and I knew more about circulation than he did just as a customer.
Ritchie: So he really had the job because—
Bulkeley: So I ultimately had to fire him, and was, in fact, the first person in Gannett to fire the child of somebody Gannett had bought papers from. Up until that point, people thought children were immune from performance standards.
Ritchie: Were there any repercussions from that from the corporate headquarters?
Bulkeley: Not against me. I don't know whether they were headed off by corporate people, whether I was protected the way Dorsey had protected me on the editorial page from Paul, or whether the corporate people dealt with the father who still had big chunks of Gannett stock. I don't know. The greater involvement with firing came during the Danville years.
I was in Saratoga two and a half years. There was one ad sales guy that the ad director fired before he consulted with me—another example of his preempting authority. The guy should have been fired, but the ad director called him up on the phone and told him not to come near the office, and then told me later what he'd done.
Ritchie: Were there many women on your staff?
Bulkeley: The Saratoga business staff was all women except the controller. The ad staff had maybe a third to a half women sales representatives. The news staff had some women—I don't remember the numbers—but all of the bosses were men. The artists were both women. The composing room had women who did typesetting and men did the page make-up.
Ultimately, one of the ways we got past the union was by letting the women discover that the jobs the men kept—they brought the women in to do the typesetting, and never taught them the rest of the composing room, so one of the ways we ultimately, not intentionally, but it turned out to work, was undermining the union's authority, was when we were ready to bring our computer system, the women whose jobs wouldn't be needed started learning the rest of the composing room, which they supposedly would have learned as part of their apprenticeship, but never did. They found out that the guys had kept them out of the more interesting jobs and left them stuck to the typesetting machines, eight, ten, twelve hours a day. So that helped us get past the union as a go-between and the union officers as a go-between.
The Women in Communications connections helped me with the ad department. One of my friends in Women in Communications was the creative director at McCann-Erickson, a teeny, tiny but elegant woman from New York City. So I got some contacts at Skidmore to create a classroom situation for Joan Lipton to come up and do classroom stuff, but I also then had her spend time with the ad sales staff in a sales meeting, talking about creative directions and things. At the same time, The Saratogian was doing color printing before most papers, and doing it almost so good that it almost looked like Kodak had done it.
Ritchie: How did you move into that?
Bulkeley: Saratoga got into it because it had offset printing early, and with its various kinds of summer magazines for the summer crowd, did color covers on them, had the capacity, had the time to do it, had some pressmen who got creative about learning how to make color separations
without the equipment to do it, but they learned some various ways to break up the dot patterns that are part of printing pictures to do separations that would do four-color printing in a really jerry-rigged kind of a way. It was a small offset press. They had enough down time that they could play with it, and they did.
Joan, on the other hand, was creative director of a major ad agency, McCann-Erickson. Joan thought what newspapers could do was what the New York Times did, so as creative director, she generally, while working with customers we should have had, would never contribute to decisions that got them or kept them in newspapers, because she didn't know newspapers could do color. So I thought, "I can show her that while she's up there."
A big point of what I wanted to do was show the bright women on my ad staff that intelligence was the future of advertising, not the kind of crummy stuff the ad director did, and I really wanted to get past him and start turning them around a little bit, because they really were learning his patterns, and that's all they were learning, and had no way to learn anything else.
So that's one of the places where the Women in Communications connection help. One of the women ultimately did change because of that exposure, and ultimately became an ad executive, both in Saratoga and elsewhere. The last I knew, she was doing ad staff training. She was on the corporate staff of a small newspaper company and was doing training both for that company and independently for ad staffs.
Ritchie: Was it during this time that you served as president of Women in Communications?
Bulkeley: Yes. See, I went to Saratoga in April of '74, became national president of Women in Communications in October of '75, so I would have become president-elect, run for and been elected president-elect, that first year in Saratoga.
Ritchie: Did this take you away from the paper much?
Bulkeley: About half the time. Not necessarily during that first year, but during the year of president-elect and the year after that, there were periods in which I'd be gone half the time or more, doing our own regional meetings or the national meetings of related associations, combined with the newspaper meetings that I was expected to do—the publishers' meetings, the Gannett meetings, the national editors society [American Society of Newspaper Editors] meeting. I was invited onto the Pulitzer nominating juries starting that first year. That was a couple days in New York, a couple of days away.
Ritchie: How would you make sure things were going well in Saratoga when you were off?
Bulkeley: By giving my department heads the authority they should have had all along. When my predecessor left, which wasn't very often, I was told by his department heads that other than get the paper out, they weren't to do anything until he called and checked in with them in the afternoon. The managing editor couldn't send the editorial page to the composing room. The flow, among other things, called for some pages out in the afternoon for a day later's paper, because that's what our production window could process, the editorial page being one of them. But the managing editor was not allowed—if Sal was out of town, Sal didn't trust Mike's judgment to do editorials, or even the page make-up, until he, Sal, had checked in and had talked through what was going to go on the page.
I didn't really think that that was the way to bring people along. I also thought if I was out of town on somebody's money, they were entitled to my attention. So I simply worked at liberating the department heads, giving them the authority certainly to act in their own departments, and whoever was covering for me, the authority to act on what had to be acted on, and to learn to make the judgment calls and when really to call me when I needed to be called, and when I didn't need to be when they should do things and catch up with me later. And I had to learn to rely on my secretary to know when to holler if they weren't, or to keep them at bay until I checked in.
For a while, first I did what they were used to, but then I started missing. I'd say to them, "Let Carm—" My secretary's name was Carmella Mayette. She couldn't type worth a hoot. She was a schoolmate of Sal's, had been a high school classmate, and when she got a divorce, she needed a job, so he hired her to open his mail and to answer his telephone, and work half a day doing that.
Ritchie: So she was a very basic secretary.
Bulkeley: Right. And she hated filing, so even though she didn't have half a day's worth of work to do, she never did any filing anyway. So she mostly guarded his door. But one of the things that I learned quickly was how bright she was, and that she knew when things were wrong or happening out of sync, so we made a deal that she'd call me if anything was happening wrong or if any of the department heads had said they needed to talk to me. When I quit calling in and touching base with all of them, I said, "Let Carm know. When I call in, she'll rotate the calls."
Ritchie: So that was a way of weaning them.
Bulkeley: So we weaned them that way. I didn't take very long doing it. They were grown men. They were paid more than their employees. They have to be able to make basic decisions and be allowed to and required to.
Ritchie: How much were you making at that time?
Bulkeley: Twenty-thousand a year, about, when I went to Saratoga.
Ritchie: Was the equal to what men would have making in the same position?
Bulkeley: I don't know. It never occurred to me that it wasn't, so I never looked in the records to see what my predecessor [Sal DeVivo] had been paid. It was only after the discovery in Danville, three years later, that I found out, at least in this instance, I was being grossly cheated. In those days, Gannett also was fairly generous, I think. I don't really know other companies' plan, but there were fairly sizeable stock options available.
There also were bonuses. I mentioned that in the mid-seventies, Al started making the bonuses contingent upon progress for women and minorities, but that was never more than half of the bonus. A lot of it was always tied to profit and profit progress. Since I never had a paper that made great [financial] leaps and bounds, I don't know how much you really could get if there were guidelines relating maximum bonus to salary. There were guidelines, eventually, by the time I quit running newspapers for Gannett at the end of '84. I know there were guidelines that said maximum bonus is like 40 percent of your pay. Well, I never had a bonus anywhere near that, but I also never was in a property that could generate the kind of profit growth that Gannett was looking for. I held margins in flat and declining income situations, but nobody ever looked over
more than twelve months at a time, or one calendar year at a time, so bonuses were always sort of secondary in my income.
Ritchie: Did the summer people in Saratoga have much of an impact on running the newspaper?
Bulkeley: In terms of what was there to cover, they ran us ragged, because the Performing Arts Center had something almost every night, and we tried to cover it. Of course, in August there was a full race card every day, six days a week.
Ritchie: So you split your time.
Bulkeley: So we had to cover that. The Saratogian published an evening extra, a racing sheet, after the last race [each day] in August, about seven or eight o'clock at night, just a thin paper, maybe eight pages, with the charts from that day's races, and distributed it all up and down the area all the way to the Adirondacks and to Albany.
Ritchie: So you had to take that responsibility.
Bulkeley: So that had to get done, in addition to the regular newspaper. We had more advertising. The summer was our big income, in terms of advertising. The circulation didn't pick up a whole lot. Some of that's because the New York Times and the Daily News were both up there every day, and, in fact, on a year-round basis in those days, the Daily News was the third highest selling newspaper in Saratoga County. We were first. We were the only daily published in it. Second highest was the Schenectady paper with its reach into the suburbs, even though Albany had two papers in those days, Troy had two papers, and Glens Falls had one paper, The New York Daily News was the third highest selling on a year-round basis, not just during the summer.
Those two papers were there, plus all of the ones I just mentioned from surrounding cities, so a lot of the summer people would keep buying what they were familiar with, the New York Times or the Daily News, or they'd get along the way a lot of people do on vacation, which is no newspaper. They knew what they came to see and had found out about it ahead of time, or they'd find the movies or whatever they wanted without benefit of a newspaper. Television was still only three channels, so you didn't really need a schedule to find them. The networks ran what the networks ran. While a lot of people would act like summer was a big deal in terms of circulation, the circulation department's big deal was that extra newspaper. Our own circulation would go up a couple hundred, but no more than that.
The one time we took advantage of the summer people was in publishing an extra when Nixon resigned. Even though all those other papers were there, we figured, well, there will be summer people, and Saratoga's economy and politics are different than the surrounding ones, so we really should do our own extra with those things in it in the morning the day after.
Ritchie: Had you made a decision to do that, you and your department heads?
Bulkeley: Right. And we did it. We published an eight-page, no advertising extra that sold five-thousand copies. We had colored pictures of Nixon and Ford on the front of it, and thus were the only color on the newsstand that day, so even with all those other papers that published mornings there, we were able to sell five-thousand, which is far more than our normal newsstand sales. The Saratogian runs fairly high in newsstand sales anyway, or did in those days, but that five-thousand made us the highest in Gannett in extra sales ratio to daily circulation, and in actual numbers, was as high as the best of them. But some of that because my managing editor was smart enough to
put color above the fold so that there were color pictures sitting there, and souvenir collectors or whatever grabbed it. It was only a quarter in those days.
Ritchie: What percentage of your sales were newsstand?
Bulkeley: I didn't save documentation of stuff like that, but I think Saratoga ran around 25 or 30 percent on a regular basis. That would go up some in the summer, and some of the people who rented their houses in the summer would move out of our circulation area, so we would drop some regular circulation if their tenants didn't want the paper delivered, and pick up some on the newsstands. But our gross increase was still only a couple hundred.
Bulkeley: Overall. Our Sunday bulge was primarily north towards Glens Falls because in those days there was no Sunday paper published up there, so we'd sell two or three thousand extra papers up there on Sunday.
Ritchie: Did you change in any way what was covered in the newspaper?
Bulkeley: I don't think really the content changed a whole lot while I was there. We had designated pages for the county seat and for a little old ancient village called Mechanicville that was three or four thousand people but was really its own separate economy, had their own pages in the paper every day.
Ritchie: And you had a separate reporter for that?
Bulkeley: They each had a separate reporter who was full time only doing that. We talked about, and moved toward, breaking up those pages and doing a detailed index on the front of the paper that every day had their towns and their stories designated, so that they knew their presence was still there, even if they didn't have their own whole page.
[End Tape 1, Side B; Begin Tape 2, Side A]
Bulkeley: I don't remember whether we made those changes while I was there or left them for some other time. One of the problems with those pages was that the ad staff, ad department, under my predecessor [Sal DeVivo], had created zoned rates for those pages, saying the pages were just for Mechanicville or Balston Spa, so we didn't charge the full rate. But the ads were in there, and the pages ran the full run of the paper. We did not re-plate them in and out, giving them limited circulation, which is a clear antitrust problem.
Ritchie: You mean if you just had those pages in the papers that went to those homes?
Bulkeley: No, by charging a lower rate and circulating the pages throughout the whole circulation area, we were cheating all the rest of our advertisers, in effect, or it could have been judged that way. So we had to come up with a gentle way to get away from that, either with re-plating or with gradually eliminating the pages, and I don't remember what we did. But that was an example of question-asking, ultimately discovering some of the illegalities sitting there waiting to trap the company. And again, I don't remember whether we actually made those changes or just talked about them.
When I conferred with the corporate guys about the notion of a full column of index and summaries of stories on the front, they said, "Morning papers do that, evening papers don't." Well, of course, eventually everybody started doing detailed indexes. They were fatter papers. Our paper would be twelve or fourteen pages lots of days, but nonetheless, when they were crammed with stories, I thought we should still help people find their story. That was not the conventional wisdom at the time, it became conventional wisdom later.
Ritchie: What brought you to leave Saratoga?
Bulkeley: One month after the Women in Communications presidency—back up. I was married in September of '75 and became president of Women in Communications a month later. That was the one-year presidency. A month after that, Neuharth asked me to go to Danville to run the paper there—a promotion. Danville was about twice the size of Saratoga. I wasn't particularly interested either in leaving Saratoga or in going to the Midwest, which I had left on purpose, and had not finished exploring the East, let alone the rest of the country, so I really didn't want to go back to the Midwest, but I was still Gannett's only woman publisher, and I thought I had to play by the rules which said when the company says move, you move. I didn't see that I had any choice or any way to say no. So Neuharth said go, so I went, and I had a successor in place. The controller that we brought in after getting rid of the crooked one had started in circulation, but actually was as savvy to customer and community needs as any newsperson I've ever encountered. The production director at Saratoga, likewise, listened to ordinary people and understood what they were entitled to from the paper, so I figured between the two of them, with the controller Neil Collins, if Neil were the publisher and Frank [Ketchem] still there, there would be no problem, that they could handle the operation.
So Neuharth called me to New York for a meeting, called one afternoon for me to come down the next day. I met him, in late morning—his wife at the time, Lori Wilson, sat in on this meeting.
Ritchie: Was that usual?
Bulkeley: She was doing the company's affirmative action consulting work at that point, so this was part of her learning what goes on.
Ritchie: And because you were a woman?
Bulkeley: And because it was me, she sat in. I'm not sure whether I would have argued with Al about going to Danville if she had not been there. My guess is that I pretty much assumed I had no choice, that I had to do what the boss wanted me to do, since I was the only woman publisher. But then Al wanted to know if I thought Neil was ready to run the paper, and I said, "Sure." And he asked if I thought Neil would take the job, and I said, "Well, he told me he would."
He says, "What do you mean?"
I said, "Well, I assumed when you called for an appointment, and when I had seen the other moves (some of the moves had been announced) I sort of assumed you probably were going to talk about Danville, and if not Danville, something, so you'd either want Neil or you'd want me, so Neil and I spent some time last night discussing where we were and what the options and opportunities were."
"Oh," he says. Well, I don't know if the other guys ever did that or not. To me it was just normal. If you can anticipate what the meeting is, you get ready for it.
So he called Neil and had Neil come down, had the pieces in place then by the next morning when he came in to make the announcement, and we left on the corporate plane and went to Danville and were there for lunch.
Ritchie: And made the announcement there?
Bulkeley: Made the announcement there, and left me, and Neuharth went on about his business. That was the second week in November of '76, right after the election.
Ritchie: Would you have preferred to stay in Saratoga, had you been given the choice?
Bulkeley: I would have preferred Saratoga for a lot of reasons, one of them being that it's a wonderful community and has the respect for everybody that I talked about earlier which really makes a more vital kind of a community than places where people are still doing all of the diversionary and backside-covering that goes with class structures, or where you have to work to get around class structures, where you don't have access to people because of class structures, social class, or perceptions of social class. All that kind of stuff just is so draining and contributes nothing to the end result. Again, some of that is stuff we have learned later.
Basically, David and I liked Saratoga and David had a job he liked half time. It was in the East. It was a whole community, but with easy access to New York, or the state capital, or David's family in Rochester. I was beginning to understand how really to run the paper and what it needed.
I was working on a project with the guy who controlled the education money at the Gannett Foundation. We were looking at creating a one- or two-week music seminar at Skidmore. Skidmore was already doing summer things, one and two weeks, tied in with the ballet and the orchestra, so we were looking at running probably a one-week at the overlap between dance and music somehow, a one-week thing that reporters could get to that was cheap enough for them to come on their own money, that they could use their vacation and come, because we knew from all our collected experience that lots of reporters were doing music critiquing or arts critiquing in local newspapers, although they weren't trained for it.
Ritchie: They just got the job?
Bulkeley: They just had the chance to do it and they liked it, so they did it. So we were playing with building this seminar that would be like camp, so that the kinds of reporters who really wanted to learn and planned ahead could afford to come, and get backstage and access to musicians and dancers and conductors and section heads and all of the kinds of things that would give them greater depth and greater understanding of repertoire and all of that stuff.
I was working with that with the executive at the Gannett Foundation who did funding, figuring the first time or two we'd need extra money for promotion and maybe some scholarship funding. The costs were relatively low, because all of those people were in town anyway and because Skidmore was doing these things anyway, and Skidmore was interested in it as a possible audience. That was one of the things that I wanted to do that I couldn't when I left, and because of other things going on, nobody at the paper picked up on it, but they brought the professional association of music critics in on it, and they changed the whole tone of it to be things the boss
would pay for for them, and it went nowhere, because most of them were so arrogant about what they were doing that they figured in one week at that funny little funky place they weren't going to get anything out of it, anyway.
Ritchie: So it took a different direction.
Bulkeley: It took a different direction and fell flat on its face. In fact, the records at the foundation were so bad, Jerry Sass was never sure whether they really even had it or not, or whether it fell apart at the negotiating stage.
And I had people who were becoming friends, not just acquaintances. As a single female reporter doing government and political stuff and editorial-page stuff, I never knew who my friends were and who were simply colleagues.
Ritchie: In Rochester?
Bulkeley: In Rochester. But I was finding people—well, I had some women friends in Rochester and that guy that I went with, but it wasn't the same as friends who make sure you've got somewhere to go on New Year's Eve and take you to the pre-parties and things, which these Saratoga people were doing, even before I got married.
Ritchie: How did you meet David?
Bulkeley: David and I met in Rochester when he was the vicar of urban ministry for Bishop Fulton Sheen. That meant he was the Catholic diocesan representative to the poor. The newspaper called him the vicar of the poor, or the priest of the poor. He was based at an inner city church and was involved with the community organizing with Saul Alinsky, whom we've talked about before. But as they started to take the long view, the organizing people knew they needed to understand the government and political dynamics.
One of my friends [Carole Clifford] from a radio station news staff, who, because of the small staff size, also covered that community organizing stuff and city hall and the stuff I covered, told David, when he asked, he wanted to know where's the best way to learn what we need to know, and Carole said, "Well, Christy knows it best."
Ritchie: In terms of the government and its structure?
Bulkeley: In terms of the government and political dynamics and the interface, how the towns and the city and the county all fit together, and with the state, because [Senator Daniel Patrick] Moynihan and others were even involved in the Rochester stuff.
Because of that, Carole ultimately created a situation at which we were introduced, and David then became part of the group of us that after events or anything would end up somewhere drinking coffee, or dessert, or drinking drinking, or whatever. So we knew each other then. He left in '69 and went to Washington to work for the bishops' conference. I think we knew that there was good chemistry at Rochester, but he was a Catholic priest, which was as if married, and I was involved anyway, so nothing ever came of that. But when I went to Saratoga, he was among the couple hundred people who wrote me letters. His father had saved and given him the clip of my promotion story, and I had had notes from him off and on, but not a whole lot since he left, and Carole, the radio reporter, had seen him some.
I got a letter from him that spring when I went to Saratoga that I finally answered in the late fall. Once I found out I could type better than my secretary could, I quit drafting letters for her to answer; I just answered them when I could. So I answered that in the late fall. He wrote back. He by then had left the active priesthood. When he wrote in the spring, he was at Milwaukee in a combined staff and faculty appointment at the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee. When I heard from him in the fall, he was at Notre Dame on a half-time research teaching fellowship, working on his Ph.D. through what today is Union Graduate Institute. It's the graduate degree program that evolved out of the National University Without Walls, the contract learning program that in those days was still experimental, and it was called Union Graduate School, but it was more flexible and gave David credit for all his seminary years. Diocesan seminaries didn't give master's degrees in those days, and weren't necessarily accredited, so he had college and all those years beyond with no degrees.
Ritchie: So it benefitted him to go to Union.
Bulkeley: It was the equivalent of a master's degree already. A place like Union Graduate School honored that without any hassle. David had also negotiated doing a Ph.D. at the University of Michigan. He had a friend who was there, a Presbyterian minister who was not ministering, was on the faculty and staff at Michigan. So David had negotiated some there, but without the credentials, they couldn't give him enough financial aid to do a traditional Ph.D. at Michigan, because he couldn't prove his prior academic accomplishment. So he was at Notre Dame doing the UGS thing, and my letter was forwarded to him.
But he said he'd be in New York City and Rochester over the holidays doing some research, and if he had time he'd stop by. The short version of the story is he did stop by right after New Year's, between trains at Albany, only we talked through the last train to Rochester without noticing that the time got away from us.
Ritchie: At the train station?
Bulkeley: At a restaurant nearby. The train station in Albany is in the slums of downtown Troy, so you had to go somewhere else to eat. But anyway, we just could have put him on a train somewhere in Schenectady from where we were at the restaurant, but we had talked through the last train without noticing it. So he stayed a couple of days.
By the time he got back to Notre Dame a week or two later—he had petitioned the Vatican for a release from the vows of priesthood, and under Paul VI, who was the pope at the time, those petitions were being granted. The official terminology is laization—reduced to the lay state, in English. By the time he got back, he had his papers, so he called up and asked—I had planned to go out there in February, this is early January. He said what if he proposed when I got there in February. He thought he might, so I should think about it. And I said, "Well, if you do, I'll say yes." Then I called the airlines and found out I could get there the next weekend, to keep him from having time to change his mind.
So that was January. We talked about do we run back and forth, or do we just go ahead and get married and then when he finishes his Ph.D.—he thought he could finish over the summer, writing his dissertation. He finally decided, no, he wanted to wait until he finished the dissertation, which then meant we had to announce an engagement, and we tried to figure out how to minimize fussing about a wedding, even though I was the only daughter and my mother had had a Depression wedding. So we settled on getting married in Saratoga and as soon as the
summer people left, which meant a September wedding. So that's what we did. We got the country club and the church before we told anybody.
Ritchie: So there was no question about how you'd do it.
Bulkeley: There was no question about how to do it. The church and the country club were the size we didn't have to do invitations and count heads. The laization process says you don't make a big fuss if you get married and you clear it through your own bishop, because the Catholic Church, once ordained, always ordained. Some denominations will undo ordinations.
Ritchie: But not the Catholic Church.
Bulkeley: But not in the Catholic Church, even when they become married or whatever. So we had to do some of that bureaucracy stuff, and part of it was you don't make a big deal out of getting married and you don't do priestly duties, preaching and things like that in Catholic churches, and you don't teach theology in Catholic institutions.
Well, we figured in Saratoga, all of David's six siblings and their families could come, and his father and stepmother and stepsisters, because Rochester was a morning's drive, four hours at most. Had we gone to my home in Illinois, his family couldn't have come. Had we gone to Rochester, where I really didn't have a church anymore, though I had been involved in one of the Methodist churches there, my family would have had to travel. So it probably was better to do it in Saratoga as a way of saying to Saratoga, "This is our commitment, this is our home," and to my bosses, that home is where my job is. So anyway, we set it all up and then told my folks and other people.
David came out in April for one of Saratoga's big social functions. The Pillar Society was in those days a fairly new fundraiser, black-tie dinner dance, to honor three pillars of the community, but it was created tongue-in-cheek as a local way to raise ten or fifteen-thousand dollars for something that needs doing, and the creators did it tongue-in-cheek as kind of Saratoga's last party of the season before the summer people come in. David came to that, and that Saturday morning at the greasy spoon we ran into one of the judges, who had already met David some other time, and figured out and guessed that we must have something going, so we allowed as how we were engaged and planning a wedding, so the judge announced it that night at the Pillar Society, and we got the biggest ovation of the evening, more even than any of the honorees did, but we also put it in the paper the next day, locally, since it was announced.
Ritchie: I noticed in the scrapbook that your mother fixed over the years for you, that you included a card saying that you would retain your maiden name.
Ritchie: How did you decide to do that, or why did you decide to do that?
Bulkeley: David basically said, "You don't have to take my name for me to know we're married, and because of your visibility, for continuity, you shouldn't even think about changing your name." And I said, "Okay." End of discussion. And it probably was the right decision.
Among other things, it meant that my folks and my relatives got credit when I was around the horn in cities where they knew people, for instance, they'd get clips, or years later when I was on MacNeil-Lehrer as a guest editor a couple of times, they'd hear from people that they hadn't heard from in a long time, because people would know it was me.
The flip side of the coin, and what some women have done, particularly those who married a first time before any women kept their own name, but were married the second time when women did, or when they had the option, a lot of them would be stuck with the first husband's name, because that's how they'd established their career. When they got married, then they'd take the new husband's name or go back to their original name, or they'd wait until they were at a visible point so that while they were getting attention, they could get people used to the new name. The national presidency of Women in Communications would have been a time that I could have been Christy Bulkeley-Finks and insisted on that in all of our official records.
Ritchie: Correspondence and other communications.
Bulkeley: And news releases and the magazine. With all of the names I could have held the continuity, and then later slid back to a middle initial, because that's too long for most people's lines.
Ritchie: Made a transition.
Bulkeley: And used the visibility as a transition point. But we really didn't spend a whole lot of time with it.
When we were in Danville, the Washington Post covered the congressional election of '78, because Danville was part of a swing district, conservative, Democrat, Republican, mixed heavy industry, labor, a longtime member of Congress who quit, so it was an open district and one that David Broder at the Post identified as a swing district. One of their bright young men came out to cover the territory. He did not come near us until after the election—T.R. Reid, who's still at the Post.
Ritchie: Yes, he's in Japan now, isn't he?
Bulkeley: In Japan, right. And also one of their technology experts. But he came in, and I said, "You've been in and out of this territory for eight months, since before the primary. What brings you in now?"
"Well," he said, "I really needed to find out what more there is about you, because I know you're a friend of Haynes', and I know you're in a job that women aren't, but all I heard in the countryside was that people weren't sure you and your husband were married since you didn't use his name."
So the name thing carried over, at least in the seventies. I don't think it's such a big deal anywhere today. In the weekly paper from my hometown in Illinois, I see regular birth notices with different names of the parents. Whether they're married or not, who knows, because I also see birth notices with only one adult in them. And there are wedding stories with both names under the married picture. So whether people have to make a big effort to keep both names, or whether they just do it, I don't know.
Ritchie: The card idea, was that your idea? Did that go out with the wedding invitations?
Bulkeley: The card went out with the wedding invitations, and it came out of probably a column in Ladies' Home Journal or Good Housekeeping, in those days, or out of something Mother had clipped somewhere, but it was an idea we picked up somewhere. I just don't remember where anymore.