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LAST fall the Boston Globe backed Kevin White in the mayoralty race against Louise Day Hicks. This was the first time the Globe had supported a political candidate since it backed William Jennings Bryan in 1896. Needless to say, the Globe'sabandonment of its 72-year policy of neutrality created some consternation in the Hicks camp. "I'm told Louise Hicks blames the Globefor her defeat," comments Charlie Whipple, head of the Globe'seditorial staff. He adds gravely, "I find that comforting."
Not until quite recently has the Globehad the luxury of taking pleasure in the enemies it makes. Ten years ago, the Globewas a second-rate home-town paper engaged in a survival struggle with local competitors. "The Globe'sonly aim was to survive," recalls Whipple. Neutrality was maintained partly by choice but predominantly by necessity. Since then, a relaxation of competition has allowed the Globeto emerge as a responsible political force and as one of the major papers in the country.
The Globe'schange has not, of course, occurred spontaneously. The principal engineer has been editor Tom Winship. Whipple, without a trace of simulated loyalty, calls him "the spark--the dynamo--that has really accomplished the change."
Since Winship came to the Globeas managing editor in 1957, he has gradually revamped the staff by appointing a crop of younger editors and by hiring specialists to cover fields like medicine and education. He has brought the Globeto near-saturation in syndicated copy: The Globenow has rights to 7 or 8 wire services and about 22 syndicated columnists.
Truman in Shirt-Sleeves
More than that, Winship has not hesitated to model the Globeafter his own personality. In style, he is the archetypical American rogue, some-what of a Harry Truman in shirtsleeves. He wants to put out a paper with flair, with a slightly flippant attitude. He has what can only be described as a profound appreciation for reckless headlines: he still likes the one run in 1959 when Rockefeller stepped out of the 1960 Republican race--"Rocky Won't Roll." Looking at the old headline a few weeks ago when Rockefeller again withdrew, Winship smacked the desk appreciatively and declared, "Isn't that good?"
Beneath the front-page Winship wearing baby-blue suspenders, however, is the editorial Winship -- the staunch old American idealist. He believes in honesty, simplicity, loyal opposition when necessary. He is not a subtle thinker, but an earnest one. "There is nothing that would improve the image of America more than if we passed a 'Ghetto Tax,'" he suggests. On second thought, he sees the impracticality of his proposal--"but what a wonderful commitment of national purpose." If you bring up America or the Globe in conversation, you are touching his soft spot. He waxes maudlin and concludes, "I know that sounds corny," more to emphasize that he takes his words seriously than to excuse himself.
Winship would like, perhaps most of all, to have a hand in political and social reform. TheGlobeis the instrument for political action he has been given to manage, and he has instnictively worked to make the old home-town paper an effective political organ. "Winship will promote anything aimed at the development of the core city," observes Alexander Haviland, the Globe'sexecutive editor.
"Much Much More Money"
It was Winship the reformist that initiated a 36-page supplement on poverty programs last month (March 19)> The report included the first comprehensive listings of agencies and programs--public and private--involved in the Boston area's War on Poverty. The supplement is unimaginative--but impressively thorough.
Where reform is concerned, Winship's style is anything but flashy. He represents the sound citizen with a stubborn faith in the system and in American ideals. "I'm not shouting from rooftops to tell people to throw bricks," he says. "I'm old-fashioned enough to think that's not the best way of getting political action." Characteristically, he proposes as solutions to the problem of urban unrest "much much more money" from the federal government and greater sacrifice from the business community.
A glance at an issue from the early '50's reveals how politically phlegmatic the Globeused to be. As late as 1956, the front page of the Globecarried almost nothing but local murders, fires, accidents, strikes and suicides, with an emphasis on the bizarre. A typical lead articles tells of a sideshow performer who walked into a Pittsburgh police staion and "told a weird and tearful story of having shot to death her roustabout lover on a lonely Kentucky road."
Now it is rare that non-political news gets lead headlines. Says Ian Menzies, managing editor of the Morning Globe,"Tom (Winship) would fill the whole front page with politics if he could." There remain, to be sure, vestiges of the old home-town paper. Pictures of by-standers comforting the victims of car accidents still get put on page two. Violent headlines are the rule, even for routine items. But the grosser forms of parochialism have been removed.
The editorial pages have unedrgone a similar metamorphosis. A decade ago, editorials were still being written in nineteenth-century Bostonian prose. In 1953, the Globe ran a lead editorial on Fitzgerald's translation of the Rubaiyat:
How useless has it proved to be, trying to give Omar a black eye? He is an educated man of the world, somewhat like Quintus Horatius Flaccus, good company, urbane, witty, tolerant... If the noble vintage of his petry ever made adipsomaniac or his indulgent smile ever broke up a marriage, that news has yet to come in over the teletype.
Editorial style now is terse and unpretentious. More to the point, charming irrelevance has given way to sober reformist mood.
Winship has chosen a political man like himself -- a mellow dex-radical named Charlie Whipple--to head the editorial staff. As an undergraduate at Harvard in the '30's, Whipple was a card-carrying Communist and was arrested picketing Sears, Roebuck. After working his way from office boy to reporter on the Globe,he spent two years as a guild organizer before returning to the paper. (He no longer agrees with the guild and is not a member, but he remembers that he "gave it may all in those days.")
Under Whipple's editorship, lead editorials have become as earnestly political as he himself is. Tea-table prose has been relegated to the "relief" editorial, an intentionally frivovlous piece at the bottom of the page.
Whipple's tampering with the editorial page has occasionally met with opposition. Since 1880, the lead editorials in the Globehave always been signed "Uncle Dudley." When Whipple decided to remove the embarrassing signature three years ago, he came up against stubborn staff resistance. Members of the staff argued that "people always talked about 'what Uncle Dudley said.'" Whipple went ahead and removed it. He adds parenthetically that he received only one letter after it was removed: "I'm glad you killed off Uncle Dudley--he was a nigger lover."
Readers had become less provincial themselves by the early '50's. According to Menzies, the influx of technically oriented people to Massachusetts when electronics plants began to go up around the new Route 128 provided new readership. The Globestaff responded to a group of more cosmopolitan readers--and began hiring non-native reporters.
Ironically, it was also at this time that the Globe began to become less concerned about reader response. For the first time in its history, the Globedid not have the feeling of being "sat on" by competitors.
When the Globewas established in 1872 it was a home-town paper in what Menzies calls "the most competitive news town since the word go." Boston, until recently, has had more papers per capita than any city in the United States. In the 1880's and '90's, six papers competed with the Globe;advertisers, by threatening to switch to other papers, wieled crippling power. If rain was predicted for Easter, advertisers forbade the Globeto print the weather on Good Fritay for fear that sales would slip. The Globetad no choice but to comply.
In 1941 the Transcript folded. However, the Globewas still one in six, and as the only fence-sitter was in serious trouble. Between them, the other papers captured most of the Democratic and Republican readers and threatened to squeeze out the Globe.
Even as late as the McCarthy period, the Globefelt forced to cling to its policy of vigorously dodging controversy. James Morgan, then editor of the editorial page, feared the Globe would lose a huge block of readers if it came out against McCarthy. He adopted a policy of silence. Says Whipple, who as an ex-Communist was no McCarthy sympathizer, "We tried to express ourselves between the lines rather than in."
Dubious as it sounds, the Globe did just that. If you search closely through. editorials of 1953, you find several cautiously couched barbs at the manner in which the McCarthy hearings were conducted. The strongest editorial asks, "Is it just, or indeed possible, to make our diplomatists the laughing stock of the world by forays among them which resemble a chapter in Dick Tracy?" On the whole, though, editorial writer Don Willard accurately sums up the Globe's McCarthy record as "cowardly."
Since the fifties, a series of foldings and mergers has reduced competition dramatically. The Post folded in 1956, the Record Americanmerged with theAdvertsier in 1961, and theHerald Travelermerged last July. The staff no longer worries about the Globe's circulation figures. When asked last week what circulation was, executive editor Haviland had to call the promotion department to find out.
The concentrated coverage that theGlobegave to the New Hampshire and Wisconsin primaries is a dramatic indication of their new political disposition. Says Menzies of the Globe'scampaign coverage, "We try for balance"; but what they try for often seems closer to exhaustiveness than balance. On a day when Kennedy and McCarthy both make news. Menzies tries to get an LBJ story and a Nixon story even if Johnson and Nixon have done nothing outside the routine. "What do we do on LBJ?" he asked the other day during a page-planning session, and staff members searched through news releases to find out how Johnson had spent the day.
Winship denies categorically that theGlobeis pushing peace candidates. He simply wants to get the issues and the candidates into the paper. "We're going to be damned scrupulously fair to all candidates," he insisted recently, and to substantiate it he pulled out a back issue with side-by-side pictures of Kennedy, McCarthy and Johnson. Nevertheless, he admits, "We gave McCarthy a break."
Silent on McCarthyism
If theGlobehas at least temporarily resumed an editorial policy of neutrality regarding candidates, they are prepared to take flak from readers on issues. The same paper that remained silent on McCarthyism for fear of losing readers was one of the first papers to come out against the war.
Primary resposibility for policy formulation lies with Winship and publisher William Davis Taylor. Winship glibly hands the credit for theGlobe'sstrength to the "wonderfully civilized Taylors" (William Davis--now running for the Harvard Board of Overseers--is only one of a number of Taylors who have owned and published theGlobe'sfor three generations). But although Taylor was responsible for the Globe's backing of Kevin White and consults with Winship on important questions, his contribution has largely been one of non-interference. The active policy-makers are Winship and Whipple.
Charlie Whipple set theGlobe'sfirm but moderate dovish position last May with a series of six page-long editorials criticizing American involvement step-by-step. (A reprint of the series has gone through three printings and has sold 20,000 copies.) Silnce then theGlobestaff has become increasingly dovish. Whipple is still wary of immediate withdrawal, but adds that "conceivably it might come to that under some conditions."
TheGlobe's opposition to the war is based on a sons-of-Lincoln idealism. U.S. involvement is not so much immoral in terms of universal humanitarian values as it is violation of traditional American values. Editorials are geared toward building a broad
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