[Begin Tape 1, Side A]
Ritchie: Last time we talked a little bit about your leaving Saratoga, how that came about. We jumped ahead at one point, and you were describing one of the situations in Danville. I wonder if we could start out with Danville today and how you were introduced to the community there, what it was like when you got there.
Bulkeley: Danville was November of 1976. As we talked before, Neuharth wanted me to go in and clean up behind the guy who had been there. When I went, it was a week or two after elections, so in terms of the government and political stuff, people were starting to look at new things. The staff had the five regular department heads, plus one gofer who had been a department head and had for years done just assorted odds and ends of things.
Ritchie: Were they all-men department heads?
Bulkeley: They were all men. Some of them had thought they would be the next publisher. The paper was without a publisher for about a week, I guess, between the promotion of the prior one and the time that I got there. Basically, the difference between Danville and Saratoga showed in almost everything. Danville is a working-class, blue-collar town, and in those days, in the mid-seventies, the sixties and early seventies had missed Danville altogether. In addition, the working class and blue-collar white people hadn't learned about initiative. There were so many generations of workers, union workers, small-business people who still considered themselves working class, not small-business owners, that it really was a very passive kind of a place that was reflected in the newspaper coverage. It was reflected in how they reacted to me. The tendency, if people didn't like something, was to wait until it was too late to do anything and then complain to each other.
Ritchie: You mean in the newspaper or in the town?
Bulkeley: In the town, in general. In any bar or coffee shop you could hear complaints about bosses or complaints about city council or complaints about one thing or another, that most of us think you're entitled to take to the person responsible, that you're entitled to talk to city council or your councilmen before a decision is made, and try to talk them out of it if you don't like it.
Ritchie: And work it out some way.
Bulkeley: And work out compromises. But that didn't happen in Danville. I think I mentioned the last time, even the plant managers of the big employers were so conditioned into just being cogs in a wheel, that they didn't really exercise initiative or do anything about change. They followed the patterns they inherited. That started to break up when I got there. For openers, my predecessor [Jim Graham] had been on the United Way and Chamber of Commerce boards of directors, and as became clear over time to me, usually when a CEO was changed, the new one
just picked up the responsibilities of the old one. When I came, those two organizations went to other people in the media, other media executives, to pick up the terms.
Ritchie: Were they men?
Bulkeley: Men. One of them got the retired radio station manager, and I've forgotten what the other one did, but they just automatically—well, they didn't automatically. That was one time they dropped the automatic pattern and did something else.
Over the next few years, as the community college president changed and two or three other plant managers changed, it became obvious to me that the new guys were picking up the roles and community service things that their predecessors had had.
Ritchie: It stayed with the position.
Bulkeley: The community service was part of the job description of the office, of the employment. In addition, I learned later that at least one of my department heads spent months running around town explaining how well he was really doing the work, that I was just the girl who was there.
At the same time, the president of one of the banks—there was still one major bank that was home-owned. The first day I was there, he was over in my office, out of curiosity, and he admitted it. And I didn't let him out until I had a mortgage commitment at a favored customer rate. I had learned that much, anyway.
A friend of my parents from Abingdon was by then engaged in an insurance company and based in Springfield, but had as his extracurricular stuff done community college work for years and was well known statewide by community college board members and other community leaders involved in education. His name was John Lewis. John very quickly wrote half a dozen people that he knew in Danville, telling them why I was worthy, and encouraging them to get to know me. He sent me a copy of the letter so I also had the names and knew who he was talking to.
A couple of the ironies, the executive of United Way was a woman, and was the woman who had organized it years before, and terrified all of the men—Hazel Cavanaugh. The president of the community college was a woman. She was president emeritus, she had been president. She had been a high school English teacher at the time that they started organizing adult education for credit, and that ultimately became the community college. But for some reason they were never considered peers or parallels, and the guys really thought they could beat on the girl from out of town. One of the other bank presidents called me in, and announced to me—he was from out of town and had been in Danville three or four years—that the paper had serious community relations problems, but he would be quite willing and charitably, on his own time, become an advisor to me on what news should go in the paper and what angle should be there. I thanked him politely and went on my way.
The ad director and I made a point of calling on twenty-five or thirty key customers in key accounts, to give me a feel for their relationship to the paper, because we knew that the paper had been doing that mid-seventies' overreacting to some degree to advertisers that not a lot, some papers fell into.
Ritchie: What was that?
Bulkeley: Automatically questioning anything that came from anybody who was supposedly establishment. It wasn't really being very constructive. It wasn't really working at covering things before decisions were made; it simply was going public with the same kind of harping that people did in the bars and the coffee shops, and then very arrogantly announcing, well, the newsroom was independent from the rest of the newspaper, never recognizing that the newsroom was part of the community and had responsibility to community.
Ritchie: Who would most of your advertisers be in a town like Danville?
Bulkeley: Danville was the center of a regional economy.
Ritchie: It's on the eastern border?
Bulkeley: It's on the eastern border of Illinois, five miles from the state line. Twenty percent of its economy and geography lap over into Indiana. But it basically is the center. The next circle of communities is Champaign-Urbana, the University of Illinois central city. North is Kewanee, Illinois, which is sort of a swing at the edge of the Chicago-Cook County area and the countryside. To the northeast is Purdue, Lafayette, and West Lafayette—Purdue University. Due east, there isn't anything until Indianapolis, along the interstate, but the Lafayette economy sort of bumps down into Crawfordsville and Terre Haute, Indiana, down to the southeast and south. Then to the south there isn't a whole lot. There are a bunch of little towns, and it gradually merges over to Eastern Illinois University in Charleston. But basically we were surrounded by papers, by cities with bigger papers, and all of the little towns of the countryside. The Danville economy was dominated by agriculture and by the heavy industries that I mentioned before—heavy industry manufacturing plants of seventeen Fortune 500 companies and four food-related, plus us, the newspaper.
Ritchie: Were you the only paper in town?
Bulkeley: Yes, the Gannett newspaper. The Commercial-News had been the only newspaper since the early thirties. At the turn of the century, there were four—one Republican, one Democrat, one business, and one other, which gradually had merged down into two and then into one that was left to DePauw University in Greencastle by the last two owners, left the paper to DePauw in the thirties, early thirties. The university, as a Methodist college, wanted to sell it to somebody who wouldn't allow liquor and tobacco advertising in it, looked around, found Frank Gannett, who didn't allow at least liquor advertising in his newspapers, and agreed to buy the paper. So he bought it in 1934. It was Gannett's western outpost until the expansion of the company that began in the late sixties.
Ritchie: So Gannett had owned it for some time.
Bulkeley: Gannett had owned it since 1934. As the western outpost, it really had pretty much run its own show. It had returned good profits, which gets me back to your question about retailers. By the mid-seventies, Danville had two department stores, one downtown, one in a small strip mall at the north end of town. Both had been home-owned, but by then one was owned by Carson Pirie Scott, had been Bloch and Kohl. They're long gone, and I've forgotten. Bloch and Kohl was merged with Carson Pirie Scott. Meis & Co. had been home-owned and had merged into another company. A whole extended family of Meises had owned department stores in the Midwest.
Ritchie: That's one I haven't heard of—the name.
Bulkeley: It may be gone now, but one of them came out of Indianapolis, and there were others scattered around there. So that one by then was not home-owned, but it still carried a name similar to the one it always had. There was a major furniture company. Sears and Penny's were both downtown. Downtown Danville's main street, named Vermilion, had been turned into a pedestrian mall early in that movement in the sixties sometime, to try to save downtown.
But the key to Danville in advertising—two keys. One of them was that the retail base had always been kept small. Compared with Galesburg, Illinois, near my home town, the retail base was about a third of the size, even though the demographics were almost identical—number of people, industry mix, heavy industry, agriculture, regional territory.
Ritchie: What was the reasoning for that?
Bulkeley: Henri Meis was quite clear early in bragging to me about when he ran his store, it had the highest sales per square foot of any first-line department store in the country for year after year after year. Before the interstates, it was enough for people to come ten, fifteen, twenty-five miles in to Danville to shop. As a passive kind of community, they dealt with what was there. They didn't know that the retailers were keeping the market tight so that they could make a lot more money per square foot for their effort than was made by comparable retailers where full, fair competition went on. Where that [the control] became a detriment, of course, is when the malls started. Champaign had bunches of malls right along the interstate. That whole side of the county could drive that way. Lafayette and Indianapolis had malls the other way. People could drive that way or to Champaign.
Ritchie: Because the interstate comes right through.
Bulkeley: The interstate cuts right through the south end of Danville and races across the prairie. Thirty-five miles is thirty-five minutes. The people in the little towns could swing right down to the interstate and to Champaign as quick as they could come to Danville. As Champaign had more and more movie theaters, people would go there. The point being that when time came to build big malls, because that's the way things were happening, or to replace the stores, Danville didn't have the retail sales to support it, and it didn't have the square footage record [or enough variety of merchandise] to keep anybody's interest.
The second piece was a tight real estate market. While it probably was no illegal intentional thing, when we were transferred there in late '76, there were so few houses on the market, it was almost a question of standing in line until the next one went on the market, taking what came along.
Ritchie: And grabbing it before someone else could.
Bulkeley: Taking it and getting it. So people would buy a house. Then they'd sit there and wait until the one they really wanted or the neighborhood they really wanted came, and then they'd move. There were people who moved every two or three years, even, as their housing needs changed or as their interests changed, or because the women weren't allowed to carry significant roles in the community, and for something to do, they moved and did their houses over. Also with all of those industries, there were a lot of middle management and up to the plant CEOs who had moved in and out of town. But it gave the newspaper tremendous real estate lineage. There were over 100 real estate firms that the newspaper had on contract, which meant a minimum ad in every day, and most of the time they had houses listed, too. There was a lot of turnover in the bottom-of-the-heap housing, but the prices were reasonable.
Ritchie: Was there not much building and construction?
Bulkeley: No, they only built what was needed. There were developments and there were houses being built. We looked at a couple across the lake. The bottom of Danville, besides having the interstate, had a river, and a branch of the river ran down its west side, had been dammed to make the lake that was the city's water supply. Across the lake was the establishment country club surrounded by the growing establishment subdivision, which is where we were supposed to live, but we wanted to live more in the city, partly because we wanted to try to do even a little town with one car, partly because I didn't want to spend my time running back and forth to the office, and didn't want to have to commute that much.
But the combination of a tight real estate market but with lots of realtors churning the property with still in the mid-seventies the end of the captive retail, retailers could spend less than the statistical norms on advertising, because they didn't have to go anywhere except into our paper. They didn't have to do the radio stations or other newspapers or shoppers. There was a little shopper in town that some people had financed getting started, to send a message to the newspaper to shape up, but it was not well managed. It took some of the grocery store inserts, the advertising supplements it was carrying when I got there, but it was not well run, and nobody was serious about it really. They were just trying to send a message to the newspaper.
Ritchie: This was during your tenure at the newspaper?
Bulkeley: It was there when I got there. Our ad staff had been told to leave alone the people who were advertising in it and not even call on them, although some of them were small businesses, service businesses and retail businesses we should have had, and didn't, because our rates weren't structured to encourage small businesses. Once the shopper started and had them in it, our staff was told to leave alone anybody who was advertising, that sooner or later those people would, of course, have to come to the newspaper. But the shopper disappeared primarily of its own volition within a couple of years simply because it wasn't well managed, and we started building more competitive rates. We also tried to operate with more integrity. I found the ad rate structure was based on annual bulk rates. You got a lower rate per inch at the higher volume you advertised.
Ritchie: Did Gannett set these rates? How were these rates set?
Bulkeley: Each property had its own rates, and it basically was what the market would bear to get as much revenue as possible with as little cost. But the bulk rates were really to try to lock in big customers, they were built for big customers. The rate per inch would be lower based on higher volume.
Ritchie: If you advertised every Saturday in the paper?
Bulkeley: Or X number of inches per year, then whenever you used those inches. But the principle of bulk-rate contracts was if you advertised more than you'd anticipated when you signed it [a contract], and went to the next [price] layer, at the end of the year you'd get the rebate. That would bring your average rate down to whatever you had earned by going to the higher level. If you didn't come up to the level you'd advertised, you'd be charged the difference. So if you had had a contract that said you should pay two dollars an inch, but your annual total came at the one-dollar-an-inch level, the paper was supposed to go back and bill you the difference, with a valid contract that says you could. But nobody had done that at the paper. The big advertisers who knew to ask for their rebates got them. Little advertisers were neither short rated nor rebated. The contracts were not resigned every year or when the rates changed.
So for all intents and purposes, we had no integrity in our rate structure, and no basis to establish integrity because we didn't have current contracts.
Ritchie: Why did this situation come about?
Bulkeley: Because Danville was sending enough money to Rochester that nobody paid any attention. It just was a lot easier if nobody raised the issue, if the big advertisers or medium advertisers didn't know they should get their money back.
Ritchie: Why tell them?
Bulkeley: And it balanced off against those who should have been asked for more, so it all came out all right, anyway. The same thing with circulation. We were running with 10 to 15 percent of our carrier routes vacant all the time, with the staff out trying to collect those routes. We didn't have carriers. We had terrible unpaid subscriptions. Once I got a new circulation director, we wrote off more than $50,000 for each of two years. In those days, our rates were probably $1.00, $1.25 a week, meaning we were claiming that much circulation we didn't have, because it wasn't paid for. It was uncollectible. Even when it was collectible or if there was somebody responsible, our circulation department wouldn't go to court or even to credit agencies to collect it. If they couldn't get it, they just forgot about it, because it wasn't good for community relations.
Ritchie: To press the issue?
Bulkeley: To press the issue. What they didn't understand was that we were the laughingstock of the community, at least in those parts of the community where people were getting away with our money. Little kids were able to rip off the newspaper, for goodness sakes. Again, some of that comes back to the class stuff—social class, which is different from economic class. Some of it relates, but not all of it. So we had all of that to clean up.
Our carrier force was turning over two and three times a year. Our district manager staff was turning over two and three times a year.
Ritchie: District manager for circulation?
Bulkeley: District managers for circulation are the people who supervised the carriers. So we were doing more wheel-spinning than getting anything done. Circulation is claimed as revenue when the paper is delivered, which also meant that while we had been claiming profits and revenue, we never got it. So when we wrote it off, had we been our own company, it would have been a restatement of prior years instead of just knocking the bejeezus out of my bottom line, which, of course, I got blamed for. Had nothing to do with my predecessor [Jim Graham] who promoted an inept circulation director and let him run the place into the ground. I got blamed, because we wrote off the money under my watch.
Ritchie: But had you let them pass it along, it just happened—
Bulkeley: The girl would have been responsible. Stuff was blamed back on the women publishers that happened on their watch, but it was never blamed back to the men who were there before them. I was at fault for the crooked controller in Saratoga. Never mind that he'd worked for two publishers before me, two men [Fred Eaton and Sal DeVivo] before me, who never caught on. The fact that it took me eleven months meant he got away with all that money in eleven months.
Ritchie: Where would this blame come from? From the higher-ups at Gannett?
Bulkeley: Basically a lot of the middle management staff at Gannett. The corporate guys were all right. Al [Neuharth] and Jack Purcell, who was the chief financial guy at the time, both understood that I had done something the guys hadn't and accomplished it, were quite helpful during the trauma. But Purcell left Gannett shortly after I went to Danville, and Neuharth was beginning by the late seventies to build toward USA Today and was also beginning to transition out, moving the next generation into key jobs. So it becomes the matter of the grapevine and the middle management guys at the corporation. There weren't very many women at significant levels on the corporate staff yet either, but one of them who was, was connected with some friends of ours, who kept sending messages saying, "She's got to cover her backside. They're still out to get her."
Ritchie: Meaning you?
Bulkeley: Meaning me.
Ritchie: And "they" being?
Bulkeley: Middle management, corporate staff guys.
Ritchie: How large was Gannett's corporate staff at this time?
Bulkeley: It had moved out of the fifth floor of the Gannett Rochester building up to a building called Lincoln Tower, one of the first high-class office buildings, taking two or three floors. So I suppose by then it was over 100 people, well on its way up. When I first went to Rochester, the corporate staff was a handful of people on the fifth floor. As it went public, it got to be more and more, and as the company grew, of course, it got to be more.
The other problems we had were things like open union contracts with the printers in the composing room and the press room. The contracts that had expired had language in them that in most properties had been negotiated out in the late sixties and early seventies, but for whatever reason they had not been negotiated out of Danville, and we had to make the progress in one contract in getting flexibility for new technology. We had to make that kind of progress in one contract when most properties had been able to ease into it over two- and three-year contracts.
Ritchie: So the situation with the union was not—
Bulkeley: Not very good. It was compounded by the fact that my production director and this jobless executive, who was helping with the negotiations, both of them sided with the union in our private conversations. The basic principle that we were trying to get in the contract, which was standard throughout the industry, was lifetime job guarantees in return for the freedom to use whatever was the most appropriate computer technology to come along. In those days, it basically was relieving newsrooms of the retyping of all copy that went on in the composing rooms.
Ritchie: Would these people be retrained as the technology changed?
Bulkeley: Yes, that would be part of the deal. Their jobs would be bought out or training would be offered to do the work with new technology. Knowing that was coming, newspapers had quit hiring new people for their composing rooms. When we were talking about Saratoga, we talked about the massive amounts of overtime it was taking to get the paper out, because they had quit hiring.
We faced the same thing in Danville. The Danville paper published all seven days a week, Monday through Sunday, with morning editions on Saturday and Sunday. So we had the same thing there, although not as extreme, and paying overtime simply to get the straight volume of work done, because they had started letting attrition reduce the staff, to reduce the number of people affected by the transfer to new technology.
In addition, the press room had been managed with a lot of unwritten agreements. That contract also said how many people we would have on the press crew, regardless of whether we needed them or not. But in addition, some of the peace with the pressmen had been bought by unofficially guaranteeing the equivalent of one more person in overtime, so we were running with—we had ten guys, but those who wanted overtime took it as they wanted it, because prior administrations had assured them of that much overtime as a way to get some of what they needed in contracts somewhere along the way. We were looking for relief from specifying how many people we had, and it was based on number of press units being run and configuration of the paper, which, among other things, limited when we could use color.
Ritchie: Had color been used before you got there?
Bulkeley: Some, but not a whole lot. That particular press was an ancient press that had been run by the Chicago Tribune before Danville bought it and installed it in the thirties. We no longer could get parts for it. Then it had been converted from letter press to what was called direct printing, which was a halfway in between toward offset. But if we broke a gear, or a gear got worn to the point that the unit couldn't run right, we had to have it custom-ground. At the same time, Gannett would not consider doing anything about the press as long as we had manning clauses in our contract. Manning clauses are the generic label for those that tell how many people you have on how many units and under what circumstances. Because there was no way they were going to let us put in a new press, that we should be able to run with a lot fewer people or with some fewer people, and let that press change get started under bad staffing patterns—inappropriate, unnecessary staffing patterns. So until we could get that contract changed, we couldn't do a thing about the press. So there were all of those things.
We talked some the last time about the newsroom still having news standards that reflected, at best, the late fifties or early sixties in content. The staffing in the newsroom was strange, because they had hired only at the entry level. Again, we've talked about that.
Ritchie: Was there anything positive about the job when you got there?
Bulkeley: No, not really. I hadn't expected there to be when Neuharth said that you had to change all the department heads. I just had figured, well, the sooner the rest of the people know that women can hire and fire—especially fire—too, the sooner there will be more women publishers. I had accepted the job because I was the only female and thought I had to accept moves because the men had to accept moves.
Ritchie: Did Gannett transfer people at many other levels?
Bulkeley: Yes. Department heads would be moved, transferred, and newspeople, in fact, are moved. Sales people aren't moved a whole lot except when they move into management, into the management jobs. Publishers were moved fairly often, usually to bigger papers. The man I followed had been at one other paper almost this size, and he had been in Danville as a young supervisor in an ad department, and had some relatives in the area, or his wife's relatives, but he really wasn't very interested in going back to Danville, and he did only the bare minimum that
they told him he was supposed to go do [the jobs], and then he just waited until they moved him. But his seniority, the fact that he had been at a paper that size was part of the excuse I was given when I raised the issue informally about the pay—he had all those years in size.
Ritchie: Prior to coming there.
Bulkeley: So he was overpaid for being in that job. Then why was he left there for three years? But anyway, what we ran into immediately in Danville was everybody we met wanted to know how we liked it. A massive insecurity complex. In Saratoga, everybody would tell us why we were going to love it in Saratoga with their list of things to do and their offers to take us places. Everybody in Danville said, "How do you like it here?" And we had to come up with ways to answer the question, because you don't tell people, "We're furious about being here and I am being treated like a little girl or an oddity," which I was.
In terms of the paper and running the paper, the fact that there had not been a woman there before meant I got a lot of invitations from women's organizations to come speak, which gave me a lot more access to the community than anybody had had or exercised in a long time.
Ritchie: These would be clubs of one type or another?
Bulkeley: Even the secretaries at the community college, the DAR, Daughters of the American Revolution, the PEO, one of the adult women's sororities. I don't know what that stands for, because I'm not a member, and it would be a secret anyway. But all of those kinds of organizations, plus the men's—the Rotary and Kiwanis and Lions, and all of the rest of them. I did thirty-some speeches in my first year or eighteen months in town, because I was asked. Most of the time when the women's groups called, they'd say, "We would never have dared asked your predecessor this, but—"
Ritchie: You're a woman.
Bulkeley: The men would say, "Of course, your predecessor would have belonged, so he wouldn't have had to speak, but since you can't join, I guess we have to ask you to give a speech." In Saratoga, I had gone to Rotary every week. It was a noontime meeting at one of the best eating places in town, and gave me access to people like the government executives from the county government who were in the next little town, I could see key people at Rotary and knew I could. That's where I began to understand the benefits of the service clubs in some places and under some circumstances, so that I knew later how to get our money's worth when my department heads joined, since I couldn't.
Ritchie: But you could attend meetings?
Bulkeley: In Saratoga, I was almost treated like a member. I was subject to fines. They would kid and fine me the same way they fined each other. When they did their every-other-year home show fund-raiser, I went ahead and signed up and helped, as their regular members did. They were a little surprised at that, but I figured I really should, because I was showing up all the time.
When I went to Danville, I was not even taken as a guest to any of the service clubs. They tolerated having me come speak when somebody on a program committee would badger them into having me come speak, but the time or two that I heard ahead of time about a speaker I wanted to hear, and made a department head take me, it was quite obvious that they were very unhappy
about having "her" (meaning me) there. So we just didn't push it. I didn't see any point in creating unnecessary conflict or conflict that at the time didn't seem productive.
Meanwhile, the women in town, I mentioned two of the senior women. There was also a woman staffing the real estate board. There was a woman who had ended up owning one of the travel agencies when she and her husband divorced, and a third one who owned a temporary help agency—all the low-level, non-threatening service work. These three decided that women really needed their own luncheon club, because they had all been subject to men whose luncheon clubs were sacrosanct, and you just didn't interfere with their Rotary days or whatever. So they invited a bunch of people—the family editor from the newspaper and some others—to come to a meeting to talk about the possibility.
This also was at the time when the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) was still pending, and Illinois was the state considered key to whether it could move forward and gather up the rest, and the extension was pending on the ratification period. So every meeting opened and closed and was sprinkled in between with, "Now, remember we're not an ERA organization." But it was clear that the women wanted a place to be able to get together and compare notes and talk, that they didn't get in normal business contacts. So I sat on the Bylaws Committee, having done bylaws lots of other times. I knew how to pick the pieces out of Roberts that we needed for bylaws and to write bylaws to support what they wanted. Basically they said, "Weekly is too often, but monthly isn't often enough," so they decided to meet on the first and third Wednesdays, I think. They said no service requirements, because service done as a requirement is not service, not voluntary, and is not done for the whole point of volunteerism. It's done just like a work assignment.
Bulkeley: No attendance records, because Rotary and Kiwanis both had required attendance, required service, but promoted themselves as a fellowship, which I really never understood, even though my dad and my granddad were big honchos, and my uncles were all honchos in one or the other.
[End Tape 1, Side A; Begin Tape 1, Side B]
Bulkeley: So we wrote bylaws and, among other things, did not put a service or attendance requirement in. By mid-1977, the Executive Club was born. The Sheraton kept posting it. The Sheraton was the in-town meeting place within walking distance of the downtown mall, a couple of blocks away. It kept posting it as the Women's Executive Club, and the men would say, "What are you women doing, being so exclusive?" And we'd keep saying, "You can join. There's nothing in the bylaws that restricts it."
Ritchie: It was open membership?
Bulkeley: We said, "You just have to support the goals of the organization, which are the progress of women in business." Well, they never did. If some of the men joined, it was after I left town seven years later. But that ended their complaints or their attacks on it, when we simply made clear to them that they were welcome to join, that they were even welcome to come as guests if they wanted to see what we were doing and to know that we were doing the same thing that they did at theirs. The club ultimately grew to over 100 people, and it was professional women as well as executives who were working. Some of the community volunteer executive women types went out and created ways to get paid so that they could join, because they considered themselves peers. In many ways when you think whole community, those who are running the symphony or the art
organizations or whatever, without pay, certainly were as important to the whole community as those of us who were getting paid. But as far as I know, the club always kept the "paid work" rule in.
By the time it was five years old, the Executive Club had such a positive reputation that when Jim Thompson, the governor, wanted to come to town to do a town meeting, his advance staff called me and said, "How do we get access to the Executive Club?"
Ritchie: So they were established and recognized.
Bulkeley: So it was established to the point that the governor wanted the Executive Club for his luncheon speech, not the Rotary or the Kiwanis or the Chamber of Commerce, because the chamber only did one big annual meeting a year for members and the rest of the time it was just the board sitting there doing not much.
I forgot where I was going with that.
Ritchie: Did the Executive Club ever address issues such as ERA?
Bulkeley: It never dealt with ERA because that issue ultimately got killed before the Executive Club had an opportunity to. Over time, we brought in speakers dealing with issues all the way from workplace discrimination to mainline community issues. To my knowledge and memory, it never took stands as an organization, but it made sure that members had the information they needed, and generally the officers were women who had encountered enough negative stuff and discrimination in the workplace that had anybody analyzed the speakers, they would have seen a decided feminist tilt to the whole thing. Women ultimately got enough confidence that they could deal with those things.
One of the things I did with all of this "but we're not an ERA organization" stuff going on was break all of the rules and put an ERA bumper sticker on my car and start wearing a formal-looking lapel pin "ERA," to show people that you wouldn't get struck down by lightning if you supported the amendment.
Ritchie: When you say you broke all the rules, what rules?
Bulkeley: Journalists and newspeople—I still consider myself a journalist, even though in that capacity I was the publisher—decidedly try not to even think their own position through, think through to a position on issues, especially those they're covering and that the paper is covering. The individuals connected with the paper try not to display partisanship on political or issue positions. The car I had was the company car, which probably also should not have been subverted into supporting a political issue, but I decided there are times when the rules have to be broken. One of the reasons for knowing why the rules are there is to know when it's appropriate to break them. So I put the bumper sticker on and I wore the lapel pin.
Ritchie: Were there any repercussions that you were aware of?
Bulkeley: Nope. I had a conversation with Henri Meis, who said, "What's that pin for?"
I said, "Henri, I like to talk about baseball."
"Earned run averages?" he said. "Really?"
I said, "Not really."
He said, "Then what is it?" So I told him, and he, ever thereafter, was tickled by the whole thing. But apparently I am one of the few people in town who ever stood up to Henri Meis, because he had made a bundle and also then married money, and in a working-class, blue-collar town, somebody who's made a bundle, you don't challenge or question or stand up to. But Henri and I were good friends all the time I was there.
Ritchie: Did you ever find it difficult at other times in your career to separate the political or your personal views from your reporting or your managing of the newspaper?
Bulkeley: Not really, except when I first started covering—and we've talked about this earlier—the suburb of Irondequoit. I didn't consciously build barriers between me and what I was covering and the people I was covering, and discovered that I indeed had opinions on the issues and the people in both the school board race, a school board fight going on over city/suburban school transfers in one part of the territory, and township elections. That gave me such huge fits then, never trusting the integrity of my own copy on any side of it, that I learned how to put the discipline in, that stops your conscious thinking short of taking sides or picking friends, which is why when we went back to Rochester eleven years after I'd left, I wasn't sure whether I had friends or leftover colleagues in that town. We had a wonderful time discovering that a lot of them were ready to be friends once I was no longer a single female reporter involved with the issues.
Ritchie: You were in a different position.
Bulkeley: Yes. So we could find out who was friend and who wasn't, or who could be.
Ritchie: Who became your friends in Danville?
Bulkeley: A lot of people thought they were our friends that we never knew. We found out, when I was asked back in 1991 to do the fifteenth anniversary luncheon speech for the Executive Club, there were a lot of people who thought they were our friends, but nobody socialized with us. Nobody invited us to things.
Ritchie: Who did you socialize with?
Bulkeley: So we ended up not doing it either. Danville, because of all of the kinds of insecurities and class-consciousness and things, some of the most interesting people it wasn't appropriate for us to do things with. On our own, we joined the little country club that had been set up. The establishment had set up a club called Vermilion Hills Country Club, with a nine-hole golf course on the opposite side of town from either the Elks Country Club, which was the middle-management country club, which I was never asked to join, and the Danville Country Club, which was the management country club. Those didn't serve everybody, so in one of their noblesse oblige—there was a public golf course that had been the original Danville Country Club, but it was in the flood plain of the one branch—I've forgotten the name—of the Vermilion River. So the establishment had moved out onto the hillside fifty years earlier. That still didn't meet the demand, so the establishment set up this little club called Vermilion Hills down on the other side of the river and the interstate.
What we discovered about Vermilion Hills is your work role stayed at the door. In Vermilion Hills, people were not allowed to talk about work. In Vermilion Hills, everybody was
on equal footing. So we had people we considered friends there, and goodness knows we sat and drank far too much more than once at Vermilion Hills, simply as a place to escape and relax with other people, including a night a major storm hit Danville we were down there.
Ritchie: Snow or rain?
Bulkeley: Wind and rain, damaged houses, knocked out the power, flooded some of the river valleys, creek valleys. David and I drove home through it. The phones were out. And as we came into town and saw the trees and the power lines all over, we drove straight home without stopping at the paper, but then I couldn't reach the paper [by telephone] until the next morning, and I wasn't going to go out in the mess by myself, because there were no street lights or anything. It was all very wet and dark, that dark that comes when it's still cloudy and when everything is wet and you just don't know where there's water and where there isn't.
The paper did a wonderful job. It's one of the things that showed me we had talent potential with that news staff. They just didn't know what to do when there wasn't a news disaster.
Ritchie: So they covered it?
Bulkeley: They covered it marvelously. Pictures—they had the whole story. They were an hour late on the press, but they had reduced power. We didn't have the computers yet. But nobody got scared of going out in the weather like the publisher did, or thought it was foolish. By then, since there was nothing I could do to help get the paper out, even as a reporter, I always felt if I wasn't covering a disaster, I shouldn't go near it and get in the way. It kept me from seeing the [Ku Klux] Klan march the one time it's ever marched where I lived.
Ritchie: In Danville?
Bulkeley: In Danville. Against the Iranians at the community college. The community college had both sides of Iranians—the pro-Shah and anti-Shah, and some of the royalty. Because it was a fast track into the University of Illinois, engineering and agronomy, they were coming there to go to Illinois, but they had to establish a college record in English before they could get in the state university. The community college, the Illinois system reimbursed for credits, subsidized community colleges for credits granted, completed, and never looked at the ratio of student-to-credit-hour, so the Iranians were allowed to take as much as twenty-three and twenty-four hours a semester in their second or third language in their first semester living in the English language. We found that out when David taught a class out there. I ultimately found it out otherwise. We [the newspaper] never took it on [as an issue], and we should have.
Ritchie: They allowed this to get the rebate money?
Bulkeley: To get the rebate money. David taught a sociology course out there, and the tenured sociology faculty members said, "Those are the textbooks. Here are the days of the tests. Here are sample test questions. I don't take roll." That was the intro to sociology. So one of the Iranian kids, as a for instance, said to David, "Dr. Finks, what you're going to do in this class with reading and writing and discussing, a reading list, it would be wonderful, and I would love to have time to do it, but I can't. I'm carrying twenty-some hours. I still read slowly in English, so I just can't keep up in here. I have to take this other one where I know this is what it is." Of course, the other thing is, they also had all the bodyguards registered at the community college.
Ritchie: The bodyguards of—
Bulkeley: The Iranian kids. Again I'm racing off on a different tangent, but they probably, if they had ever been called on balancing hours and credits, would have charged it somehow to the bodyguards. But the Klan marched, and because it was part of the history of this country, I really wanted to go see it, but I couldn't. I wasn't covering it. While we didn't think there would be trouble, I decided I'd better stay away, so I never went down to the march.
Ritchie: So you knew about it ahead of time.
Bulkeley: Sure, except if they're doing things that might be construed as illegal, the Klan wants all the attention it can get. But that's an example.
The news staff knew what to do [following the storm], there was no fear or hesitation about doing it, and did it rapidly, because the circumstances were very difficult with limited phones, limited power. The plant had power coming in two ways, and its backup line was fine. The other line was out. But the comprehensiveness with which that coverage was done, and the efficiency, was part of what said to me they really are basically gut newspeople and good ones; they simply don't know what to do when the agenda needs to be initiated or when there isn't news happening right in front of them.
Ritchie: On a day-to-day basis.
Bulkeley: That it was worth investing in trying to bring it up to speed or up to what I knew of modern news standards, current standards, and what I was trying to learn of what a community like that needs and wants from a newspaper, because it never occurred to me people didn't know that it was their democracy and how to live with it. I really never got a good handle on how you do a newspaper for people who don't know that.
Ritchie: How do you educate them to—
Bulkeley: To democracy. And how thoroughly you have to do it. I've learned a lot of that later, and I began to understand the social class thing and the impact that has on people exercising initiative and whether they think they can, or should, or whether they think they'll be punished as they are at work if they speak up. Nobody else knew it either. So where the paper began to lose connection with its public was long before I got there when it quit having natives in the newsroom. As college graduation became the entry requirement, it was no longer necessarily local people who hung around with local people who did the reporting to answer the questions their neighbors had about stuff. It was now the parachuted-in hot-shots from out of town who asked the questions they had learned in their college classes to ask, whether they were relevant to their readers or not.
Ritchie: And they had no bases in the community.
Bulkeley: Yes. The kids hung around with each other, the young reporters. The older people were either doing copy desk editing of what they got, with no ability to impact it, or they were doing features and being the best part of the paper because they were connected and would pick up on news stuff and do feature approaches to it later, or they were doing the sports or the "throw-away" country news, not the cross-cutting whole territory news.
I was uncomfortable from the day I got there with our news product, and I was not satisfied to the day I left. The editor that I inherited ultimately moved, was promoted. I brought in an editor from West Virginia. Ron Dillman was the editor I inherited. He'd never been anywhere else to work except for a year or two, and had been in Danville twenty years, but he still saw Danville as he had seen Danville growing up in one of its little satellite towns. When he was moved to St. Thomas as the editor and then ultimately general manager and chief executive of Gannett's paper in St. Thomas, he moved that paper much farther along than anybody and developed far more potential, developed far more reality out of its potential than anybody in Gannett ever imagined could happen.
Ritchie: With him?
Bulkeley: On St. Thomas, given the vagaries of how business is done there, the cultural work habits, power, electricity uncertainties, and all kinds of things. Chuck Carpenter came in while Ron was still there, and was there for a year, a year and a half, while Ron was. I moved him from Gannett's West Virginia paper. He had also worked at the Charleston [West Virginia] paper. Chuck basically came out of a working-class background, but, I've understood much later, was very strong into denial and very much into the trappings of being an executive. He rapidly bought a house out in the executive subdivision. Years after I left, he bought a bigger house in the next executive subdivision. He always resented the fact that Gannett started enforcing the personnel benefits rules. When I got to Danville, three newspaper people had executive country club memberships paid for by the newspaper.
Ritchie: Three people?
Bulkeley: Three people—the editor, the jobless gofer, the gofer with no portfolio, and the publisher. But I was not allowed to continue those. When the gofer left, that was the end of that company-supported membership, and when Ron left for St. Thomas, I was not allowed to buy one for Chuck. If I had operated the way my predecessor [Jim Graham] did, I would have done it anyway and buried the money somewhere.
Ritchie: Did you see this as an advantage or a disadvantage to the paper?
Bulkeley: I didn't really understand the different class reactions to institutions and to people in power and to information from institutions. I only started finding that reading in the eighties, when I was gone from Danville. I had thought that Chuck would relate better than I would, did, although I had worked very hard at getting to know all kinds of people. I had thought Chuck probably would relate better to non-establishment people than I did, but instead, of course, he related to the equivalent of the yuppies of the era.
Ritchie: Because he wanted that.
Bulkeley: Because he was ambitious and grasping to move up and have more status symbols as they were, and in a town like Danville, there weren't a whole lot of them.
Ritchie: When you say you moved him from West Virginia, how did you do that?
Bulkeley: When I had an opening that could be built into an executive opening, the process works through the corporation, and you simply work with the corporate news executive over candidates—what you think you need, what the corporate executive thinks you need, and you
ultimately agree on what you're looking for. Then he refers from within the company or people they want to bring into the company.
Ritchie: And it was a "he" in that position.
Bulkeley: Yes. Still is. Different "he," but it's still a "he." He would refer people from within the company who looked right for the job, and from then it goes like a normal job thing. You talk to him [the job candidate] on the phone, bring him in, bring in the most promising, interview him.
Ritchie: You said that he had been at Gannett's paper in Charleston, West Virginia?
Bulkeley: Huntington, West Virginia. He had also been at a Charleston paper which somebody else owned. When it was time to replace the controller, the chief business executive, I was allowed to hire out of the local market, because with all of those companies there, we figured there were probably executives ready to move into our size or over to our size.
Ritchie: Who had experience in the field?
Bulkeley: Right, in accounting and financial management. And I had a good bunch of applicants for that job. I shared the r&$233;sum&$233;s that I got with the corporate guys and agreed with them who I'd interview. After the first round of interviews, I reported and then I interviewed maybe eleven or twelve.
Ritchie: Were there any females in that group?
Bulkeley: A couple. I'm not sure that they had the credentials the men had. I don't remember right now. I may have that in a file somewhere, but I don't think so.
The corporate guys met with three or four of the candidates. Of the finalists, the one they wanted, would let me hire, wasn't what I wanted, and ultimately turned out to be an abject disaster. He had no notion of how to manage people.
Ritchie: The one that you hired?
Bulkeley: The one that they told me to hire. He turned out to be a disaster. What we needed was somebody who knew how to upgrade the department and move it from manual bookkeeping and doing a lot of work that we didn't even need, into the computer age and systems and financial accountability and financial management systems. The guy we hired was probably very bright as a work-alone accountant, and was absolutely unable to understand people or deal with them or understand change or how to lead change, and it took me a couple of years to convince the corporate guys to let me get rid of him, at which point they had somebody they wanted to move somewhere else, that was ready for a move out of a business office that by then had too much strength. So I finally got a good business executive, didn't have to do all of the financial thinking myself. But that was one of the cases, one of several cases, where I don't know whether it was intentional or not, but the corporate connection certainly undermined my ability to do the job.
Later, I—later? Same time? Somewhere along there, I ended up with a production director who was, at the time we moved him, a non-drinking alcoholic, except that the guys who transferred him in knew that, and they should have known better than to take him out of his support systems.
Ritchie: They moved him from another paper?
Bulkeley: Moved him from another paper, out of his support systems and into a tough situation, because again it was the change agent role. While he had the intelligence to do it, he didn't have the personal ego strength to do it, and had been a printer and moved into supervision within the trade. So he just didn't have what it took to move and to not drink and to do the job. Well, I had never been around an alcoholic of any kind before knowingly. My department heads wouldn't even tell me that he was a drunk. Some of them knew it. Because socializing at that level, you don't socialize with the boss, you socialize with your peers. They realized that he was a drunk. Some of the employees, the foremen in the departments knew he was a drunk, and nobody would tell me. I must have been there three or four years by then. He was there over a year, and a lot of them thought I knew it and was accepting it and putting up with it.
Ritchie: But there was no communication about it?
Bulkeley: No. And all of this stuff I had done to try to establish communication even with the department heads, none of it worked, and I went back not in a—I don't think in a furious punish mode, but in a trying to understand why wouldn't they tell me or be sure I understood those things. Well, the foremen—you just don't talk to bosses, let alone women that way, tell them those things. The department heads really weren't sure why, but a lot of it was the whole new relationships thing and the assuming I'd known it. But the regional president who was responsible and the publisher at the other property, both had known what the guy was.
Ritchie: And never told you?
Bulkeley: Never told me. Whether they didn't understand human dynamics enough to know that you don't move people like that into tough situations or whether the publisher was, as some of them will do, unloading a problem, and the regional president trying to help those who were out to get me, I don't know. There are times, of course, when all of the paranoia is there, and I assumed that they all did it on purpose—"Make her life as hard as possible and get rid of her."
It's the lightning rod role that those of us who have been there know and understand. You do what you can to protect yourself from it, but you never realize that sometimes people's own fear of those who are different consciously or subconsciously even transcends their company loyalty. They should not have been doing things that undermined the company. If the alcoholic couldn't hold his own where he was, he should have been retired on a disability or whatever, not sold somewhere else in the company to do more damage.
Ritchie: How did you deal with the situation when it finally came to your attention?
Bulkeley: He was moved on to sick leave, given an opportunity at company expense to dry out, then get his feet back on the ground, and be relocated into a job where he wouldn't be exposed to the kinds of pressures that would create problems, but until he had been through drying out and full evaluation, nobody had any idea what that might be.
I brought in a new executive, and I sat down with the different groups of people and repeated the same old stuff about, "I'm here to try to help all of us do the best we can, because the best of all of us is what it takes to make the best for the company," and regretting that it all went on, both apologizing but also trying once again to build better communication.
We got whopped with an OSHA [Occupational Safety and Health Administration] inspection in the press room. You and I talked earlier about the press contract. That contract ultimately was settled between our corporate guy negotiating with their international representative, while we all sat there not knowing what was happening, but the pressman's international rep and our corporate guy were on opposite sides of the table several places. So they really were doing an ongoing conversation about all of the issues between our subsidiaries and their locals.
Ritchie: So you had no role in that negotiation?
Bulkeley: We were sitting there, and we had the words to say back and forth, but after all of this discussion, all of a sudden our contract was settled. Their rep and our guy were gone the same afternoon. They caught the last plane out of town. Neither the pressmen nor I really quite understood how we got past an almost impasse and settled the contract, but, more important, I didn't understand that they didn't understand how to teach the new contract. They didn't fully understand what the new contract did.
Ritchie: "They" being?
Bulkeley: They being the press negotiators, the guys from the table. Part of the long involved negotiation is to be sure the union representatives know how to sell whatever the contract is, that they fully understand whatever's changing, and that they have the information they need to sell it to their colleagues once an agreement has been reached. Well, our guys didn't know what the contract was. They really didn't understand the changes, including the elimination of everything that wasn't written in the contract, like that extra 10 percent overtime they had all grown used to, or several of them had grown used to, so it was really more than that, because there were some who only worked their straight pay.
As we began managing to the contract, and as the overtime was gone, the pressmen all got frustrated and angry, but I didn't understand that. The alcoholic didn't understand it or wasn't functioning. So they did what they knew how to do. They went to OSHA. The stuff that OSHA found is all stuff pressmen had done themselves to the press. The showers needed to have the floors made bumpy again so they weren't slick. Some little stuff. But the things we really got whanged about were some of the press guards missing from the press, the units that keep people from getting pulled in between the rollers; the sound levels and the pressmen not wearing earmuffs or earplugs. I think there were one or two other things, all having to do with the press equipment, all having to do with the convenience of the pressmen that they had done it themselves. The company had to pay the fine. They called OSHA in.
Ritchie: Out of frustration?
Bulkeley: In the frustration, they went somewhere. They wouldn't come to the boss and try to work things out, because they didn't have anything they could file contract grievances on, and that's the only way they knew to talk to bosses—the union and people level.
Of course, then we started making them wear the earmuffs and the earplugs, put the press guards back on, had to have some made, because we were still on the old press.
Ritchie: Which they probably didn't like.
Bulkeley: They didn't like it, but I said, "I'm sorry, you guys did it. We didn't call in OSHA." The corporate guys, the good ones, knew that I wouldn't know a press guard from—well, I was going to say a hole in the wall, but I know about holes in the wall. And I went back there every day to see that they had the earmuffs on. Of course, they all said, "She's being punitive." Well, yeah, I suppose, but I also was trying to get enough of a feel for what was going on.
The other thing they did was organize. The part-time workers in the mail room and the park-time drivers organized them as a union.
Ritchie: So the press people were expanding their base?
Bulkeley: Trying to expand their base. Right. Of course, in any company that tries not to have unions, the first reaction is, "The boss screwed up." Well, yeah. I had no way to know about needing to teach contracts, and nobody ever made any effort to tell me.
I talked to my press foreman about why hadn't he ever alerted me to the problems of the press and the decibels. He said, "I brought it up with your two predecessors."
Ritchie: And they didn't do anything.
Bulkeley: "And they didn't do anything about it. I get tired of sounding like I'm complaining all the time. So I just figured if two of them had turned it down, you weren't going to make any different decision."
I said, "Well, okay, but understand that every time there's a new boss, no matter how many it is, it's a new chance to make things right. Sooner or later you're going to find a boss who wants to do things right. In this case, we have blown it, and we have all this crap we've got to deal with now."
When the corporate labor negotiator was in, we had a meeting with the drivers at one point.
Ritchie: These are the people who deliver?
Bulkeley: The people who deliver the paper in the countryside, some of it house to house, some of it bundles to carriers. More than half of our circulation was scattered around the countryside. That reminds me of something I want to talk about—the economy—in a minute.
The labor guy, after we had the meeting with some of the drivers, we met in the dining room, the lunch room, in the building, we walked back into my office, he shut the door and collapsed into the chair, one of the chairs, which I had never seen him do, and he says, "If I hadn't seen it, I wouldn't have believed it."
I said, "What?"
He says, "All of the hostility from the women at you."
I said, "What don't you believe about it?"
He says, "Well, it's clearly a class sexist thing. They know they're at the bottom of the heap and you're at the top, and they hate it, and they hate you for it. That's why they were
willing to do whatever anybody offered that would attack you. You had nothing to do in terms of how you're running this place. It has nothing to do with this union organizing thing. They responded to it out of the class and sex stuff, and anybody who knows anything about people who had been in that room would know that."
Ritchie: So they were joining the union, or thinking of it, thinking of organizing, to get back at you?
Bulkeley: It was an extreme class jealousy attack kind of a thing. Again we're talking late seventies, early eighties, in a working-class town. I had power that their men should have had. I had money that they should have had, or their men. As I say, John [Jaske, the labor lawyer] just was absolutely knocked out. He'd been doing Gannett's labor stuff for five or six years by then, all over the country, and came from somewhere else. His name is John Jaske. He's still in corporate legal staff, and one of the best guys I've ever encountered there. We had lots of talks about lots of things in between our negotiating stuff. But that's another of the kinds of places where knowing community and community culture can have an impact on a paper or a product that's supposed to be in and of a community, that, again, I don't think any of us understood in those days. I don't know that the outcome would have been any different.
Ritchie: How large was your staff there?
Bulkeley: The total body count when I got there was nearly 200 people and about 160 or 170 full-time equivalents, because the economy collapsed in the late seventies and never stopped collapsing. The technology provided some relief, but mostly jobs were lost. We were down to 135 FTEs [full-time employees] and about 150 bodies by the time I left.
[End Tape 1, Side B; Begin Tape 2, Side A]
Ritchie: A few minutes ago you said that reminded you of something you wanted to tell me.
Bulkeley: We talked earlier about the retail business and the economy of Danville. The other dynamic that was affecting the whole thing—the Danville paper, because of the strength of the economy and the 40-some-thousand jobs in Danville, had dominated the countryside all the way over into the Champaign-Urbana county and many miles farther in all directions than a normal prediction would have suggested. People worked in Danville, their jobs were there, so they did their shopping there. That also contributed to the ability of that limited retail base to more than hold its own for a long time.
All of that started to collapse in the late seventies. The first thing that happened was the real estate lineage started going down as interest rates started climbing, with inflation climbing toward double digit and into double digit, and the third factor was those giant jumps in minimum wage. Until this early nineties' round of increases, that was the last one before it. Minimum wage was jumping 30 and 40 percent a year. I had inherited a pay structure built up from the minimum wage. The least of the jobs paid a dime over minimum wage, but as it went up 30 percent a year for three years. The clerical jobs paid a little more than minimum wage and then upward from there. We had to move the whole thing.
Ritchie: So your payroll increased?
Bulkeley: Because of those union contracts and the time it took to get those settled, I had been limited in what I could do with anybody. But that started raising the payroll, compounded by the—
my predecessor hadn't really budgeted. The corporate budget instructions say, for instance, any increases over X percent, say 5 percent, in a line item or a department needed to be explained. So my predecessor would always just raise all of his expense numbers by whatever percent didn't require explanation. They'd spread it evenly across the year on the spreadsheets, but then they'd manage as they went. They didn't think ahead on, "How much raise should So-and-so get?" They'd wait till the union contracts were settled, then raise all of the professional departments the same amount, which also was archaic. Gannett had long since been preaching merit and merit pay and individual evaluation, none of which we were doing in Danville.
Ritchie: No evaluation?
Bulkeley: No evaluation. The department heads would come in and say, "I'd like to give So-and-so this much raise. He's going to retire next year, so we've got to get him way up for his pension," when he was carrying the lightest load in the department, for instance. I'd say, "Is there money for it?" They'd say, "Well, sure. We haven't been spending money, because we've been below in payroll." But no plans. Nobody ever thought through ahead of time what they were doing in the budget or anywhere else.
We started working toward that as I got department heads who were capable of it, but we had all of those things working against us when the economy started down and we started losing lineage with the interest rates up. The housing turnover stopped. The agriculture side of the economy, which was a big hunk of it, started having trouble. The banks were big advertisers, and started having cost concerns. So that recession that most people talk about as '81, '82, started in Danville in '79. Our lineage started down in the beginning of '79, and the jobs started to disappear out of our market.
Ritchie: What do you mean when you say your lineage?
Bulkeley: Lineage is jargon. Advertising space used to be sold by the agate line, which is a type measure, a measure of type. It's actually inches, quarter inches. X number of lines make an inch—I think fourteen. Twelve? Something. Anyway, it was still called ad lineage in those days, in the vernacular. But our advertising volume started down in '79.
So that recession that a lot of people didn't feel until later, we started feeling. Jobs started leaving the market late in that same year. Within two years we had 25 percent fewer jobs in our economy as the labor department defined it, which is about the same as our circulation defined it. But that also then meant we started losing our hold on the far reaches. People at the far edge bought our paper because they were coming to our town to work and they'd shop and entertain there, and their friends were there, so they needed to know whatever we told them that was going on. But when they no longer had jobs to come to there, they no longer needed our paper, and they gradually would shift over to the physically closer economies.
So by the time we got our circulation department straightened out, the economy started costing us circulation, starting costing us geographic reach. I used to watch the numbers of all of the neighboring papers. We could get them by township.
Ritchie: Circulation numbers?
Bulkeley: Circulation numbers by township, including the Chicago papers. There were a couple of tiny dailies within our circulation area and a few weeklies. The weeklies are where people would swing back and forth if they had related to other neighborhoods and communities.
But we simply started losing miles of reach. We really had dominated the economy all the way over into Champaign County. While there were two newspapers there, a morning and an evening, we still dominated the countryside and the little villages all the way over. Their morning paper folded. It had only about 1,000 circulation in our whole county. And the other paper switched to morning. It took the surviving paper six years to get its circulation numbers up to where the combined two newspapers had been, and in those six years, once a year it would saturate the whole countryside. For two or three weeks it would give papers away to everybody along every road and in every village, and offer them cut rates, and it still couldn't make any inroads.
So as unhappy as I was with our newsroom, people didn't always believe me, because we had this wonderful dominance in circulation area.
Ritchie: When you mentioned you would get the numbers from each township, how would you do that?
Bulkeley: There's an organization called the Audit Bureau of Circulations that is an agency created by the newspaper business and the advertising business.
Ritchie: Because they want to know where their ads are going?
Bulkeley: They want to know where the ads are going and that the circulation really is paid for. It's left over from the days of newspaper wars, when there were lots of newspapers in towns, and they were junking each other's papers, robbing the racks, hijacking the carriers. So those reports are available. We could buy them to get the township and little village numbers.
Ritchie: They would show what papers were going to what township, how many copies?
Bulkeley: Right. So I could always keep an eye on it. There also is a national magazine that does magazine circulation by county, so I could kind of monitor things like magazines I knew well enough to know their content and who read them, and national standards like TV Guide. Danville sits between two scattered-out television territories. "Area of dominant influence (ADI)" is the television language. So it had terrible television reception, which meant early in the cable television era, when cable operators were still mandated to carry the two nearest network stations of each network, Danville had been cabled—primitive by today's standards, but it got two of each network and two public television stations.
Ritchie: And the networks would have been Champaign-Urbana?
Bulkeley: The local network stations were Champaign and Decatur, which is forty miles west of Champaign, over towards Springfield, they were the two, and we were in that ADI officially. Then from the other side we had Terre Haute and Lafayette stations that made up the other set.
I learned at the time the Terre Haute papers had a strike in the early eighties—because of the number of people who asked me about it—I discovered that people in Danville watched that CBS affiliate in Terre Haute rather than the Campaign affiliate, and that has to do with the local news content that would reflect an industrial city. Terre Haute was a declining industrial city as Danville was by then. That had to do with their news interest. They weren't interested in what the local reporters in Champaign felt was important.
Ritchie: What connection does this have with the newspaper strike?
Bulkeley: Because Terre Haute television was covering the newspaper strike, and that's the only place people could get news of the newspaper strike, would be on the Terre Haute television station. But they knew about it. We'd carry a paragraph or two, but it really wasn't local news either. But that's how I discovered things like that's why television guides, TV Guide, sold much lower in our territory than in others, because it didn't carry the channels we got. Our own television schedule book was okay, the one the newspaper published, because we knew which ones we carried, but no other organization that tried to sell on television channels could match us. That also then told me that we had a way of showing the value of our television book, but our ad staff never could sell it. We simply had those other kinds of things to measure our own performance with, that for years simply weren't used by newspaper people. I don't know how I learned to use them, but I did. The zero-based budgeting they only started talking about for Gannett newsrooms in the late eighties, and we had been doing it. The Danville paper also—we talked earlier about the inane features package that Saratoga was buying and not using very much of. Danville was doing the same thing. Again it was a chance to raise the quality of our content without raising the cost.
But one of the clues of memory and how long memory lives, where you don't control change, where people don't have control over their own lives and their own change, one of the cartoons in that package was "The Born Loser," in those days only available in the package, and they [the features syndicate] used that as a way to try to leverage the whole package. They wouldn't sell it [the comic] to me independently. It was one of the most popular comics in Danville, in our area, in that area where people asked us all the time, "Do you like Danville?"
After I left, one of the first things my successor [Gary Stout] ran into in some places was, "Now can we have 'The Born Loser' back?" It had been out of the newspaper for nearly seven years.
Ritchie: Because you discontinued it?
Bulkeley: I discontinued the package. They wouldn't let me buy it separately. They wouldn't let the paper buy it separately.
Ritchie: Who is "they"?
Bulkeley: They would be the features syndicate that sold it—the Newspaper Enterprise Association in those days. The package had features for women's sections and editorial page columns, editorial page cartoons, home building pieces, comic page comics, all of those things in it.
Ritchie: But you didn't see that it benefitted the paper.
Bulkeley: Of the stuff we used, which was probably three or four comics, weekday and Sunday, and a couple of editorial page columns and some of the cartoons, we could replace with first line columnists and cartoonists and comic strips at less than we were paying to get the whole package. There was stuff in the package that we didn't use, that we could have, but even working through it and using it, we could see—I could see and some of the newspeople could see—that we could do better and quit wasting having all of this stuff come in and somebody have to sort through it for what we did want.
By the time I left, the paper was, as it turns out, able to buy "The Born Loser" independently. It had run into enough other things or other problems with the comic artist
himself insisting on it. So one of the visible changes my successor could do to show there's somebody new in charge was to put "The Born Loser" back in the paper.
That newsroom did not have dictionaries. There was nothing in the library except news clips when I got there in Danville.
Ritchie: So there were no reference books or materials?
Bulkeley: No reference materials. They didn't even have the newspapers within our territory. The weeklies within the territory and those two little dailies didn't even come into the newsroom. The editor assumed that our bureau people who covered those areas were reading those papers and doing what they needed to.
Ritchie: On their own?
Bulkeley: On their own.
Ritchie: Without providing them.
Bulkeley: If they knew that the newsroom wasn't reading them, of course, and we had—anywhere there were integrity problems it would have meant they were lifting stuff from the weeklies. I don't know whether we had that kind of situation.
Ritchie: Integrity problems or lifting from the weeklies?
Bulkeley: Well, I would consider that an integrity problem or lack of initiative or whatever. I don't remember whether we ran into that once we started getting them in, but, in fact, when I ordered them, I found out the newsroom still wasn't reading them, so I started reading them, to know the rest of the countryside better. But because of the way the budgeting was done that first year, we had enough money to—I just bought dictionaries for everybody in the newsroom and left a bunch more in the supply cupboard. We switched over to the NCR, the non-carbon paper copy sets, instead of using cut-up newsprint and carbon paper which everybody was always getting all over them. We subscribed to bunches of magazines and bought reference books—encyclopedia and statistical books. I just never understood how anybody could expect a newsroom to do a job without the basic tools.
Ritchie: But they had been doing—
Bulkeley: They'd been doing it for years, and it wasn't that great a newspaper. We staggered the magazine subscriptions so they didn't all come due at once. I said to spread them out over one to five years, those that you know are things people will use. Those you're not sure about, do on the shorter ones.
Ritchie: On a trial basis.
Bulkeley: But if somebody comes in after me and sees that as an easy cut and way to save money, you want to be sure you've still got access to outside material. I had forgotten, but that's one of the things we did early on to show there's a new boss, and I hoped to show there's a new chance to pitch ideas and things that needed fixing. As I already said, we learned later that it wasn't.
Ritchie: Did you get any staff reaction from this type of thing? You said they didn't read the newspapers.
Bulkeley: The editors didn't read the little newspapers. The newspeople were so busy discovering that we were providing other resource materials and the reporters in our newsroom weren't responsible for covering the countryside—the news or city councils in the little towns or whatever. But I knew that they were being used, I assumed, because people talked to me, and I wandered the plant all the time, carrying my coffee cup with me, if necessary, for cover.
The news staff also never did any learning things. In the Rochester newsroom, about once a quarter we'd have what was called a beer and cheese session with somebody—the DA [District Attorney] talking about change in the criminal law, or a judge or a politician, or a businessman or whatever. Anybody [from the news staff] was invited to come who wanted to, so we could learn more about whatever the speaker had to do with.
Ritchie: To get updated on changes in the law or something.
Bulkeley: Right, that might affect what we were doing or just because we wanted to know it. Sometimes it would be on writing—the mechanics—but more often on substance. We started doing these in Danville as I realized that I had really good newspeople who simply needed to be led into being better or being adequate for other places, because what was adequate for us wasn't good enough for many other places. So we set up the beer and cheese sessions and started doing those on a regular basis.
We did our own stylebook—the peculiar local spellings. Where the Associated Press stylebook would leave you a choice on what was the correct way to do something or spell words like "employees" or whatever, we set up our own local stylebook with all of those peculiarities. Just a lot of the things that I had taken for granted where I was before, our newsroom didn't do, because Danville had been so removed in terms of Gannett, that there hasn't been a lot of feeding back and forth of the good people.
Ritchie: Who did you report to at Gannett? Did you report to one person directly?
Bulkeley: When I first became a publisher, I reported directly to Al [Neuharth], as did every other local chief executive, which meant you didn't really report to anybody, because running a half a percent of the company, I wasn't about to think I should bother him with my questions. There also were corporate staff specialists by then in each major area—news, production, advertising, circulation, finance, personnel.
Ritchie: So if you had questions.
Bulkeley: But they were peers or service to us, not bosses.
Ritchie: Would they monitor you?
Bulkeley: They theoretically monitored the kinds of reports we sent in, including the occasional things we sent for the newsroom. All of the newspapers went in, and theoretically they read our newspapers on some kind of regular basis, audited to see where we were and what we were doing.
Ritchie: Did you ever get feedback from this in terms of your news coverage?
Bulkeley: Not a whole lot. Ron's [Dillman] capabilities and capacity, they weren't sure about when I went to Danville. He had been promoted around two or three people a few years before I went there, and without a whole lot of seasoning as an executive or manager, but because the [corporate] news guys didn't really know Danville other than what they saw, whether he was good or smooth or just smooth or what, as I got to know the community, I realized, as I mentioned earlier, that he still saw Danville the same way he'd seen it growing up outside of it. As a consequence, they were missing a lot of things, and his ideas about news hadn't really changed. He had upgraded through workshops or something a little bit on page makeup, but not a whole lot on content—not at all on content. There just were lots of things that the paper needed, that we couldn't do as long as he was there, because as long as he was the boss, people were going to do it the way he wanted it done, not the way she wanted it done. He would ignore or redirect. I spent a year going to the daily news meetings to listen to the interreactions. Well, even though by then everybody was saying the best feature of the day might well be better than any news and should go on the front of the paper, it didn't really matter at our place. The features page was locked up the day before. The deadline for the features section was mid-afternoon twenty-four hours before the paper was published.
Ritchie: So you couldn't move it.
Bulkeley: The story meeting wasn't until nine o'clock in the morning the day of publication, so whatever they had in features was too late. It never occurred to anybody that that created a problem. It just never was going to be. When sports stuff needed to go on the front, when the best of any sport is happening, it's stuff we all pay attention to, whether it's the World Series or the Kentucky Derby or the NCAA Playoffs. Those are the times that sports affect all of our lives, and particularly in the Midwest. You know people are going to be watching the basketball or the baseball or the whatever, and you work around it. It's time to put it on the front page. The sports guys would never agree to that, and nobody ever made them. I said, "You know, then what happens is the chance you have to show off for people like me, I read it every day. I have to. I'm paid to. But people like me who are out there are never going to know that you guys are good."
It's the same argument that I used on television in Rochester. If you don't occasionally go where the non-readers are, how are they going to know you have something to offer them all the time? Sports—if you don't put your wonderful stuff about the Indianapolis 500 on the front page, how are people like me, who otherwise only listen to it on Memorial Day, going to know that you're over there and you know all of the drivers and they tell you stuff that they don't tell anybody else? Well, the editor didn't care one way or the other. He wanted to showcase his hot-shot news reporters on the front, so he never fought with the old sports editor.
The sports staff was the last place in town to know, after the rules changed, that every high school in our territory—we had twenty-some school districts—the sports department was the last place to know that every one of them had girls' teams playing interscholastic sports. Our ad staff found it out first. That stuff just always went on and on and on. It just kept happening.
Ritchie: Were you able to change any of that?
Bulkeley: Oh, yeah, some of it got changed. Over time we were able to change the mix on the staff and start hiring experienced reporters. One of the best moves, a young woman—not young by then, younger than me—and her husband, she presented herself to me one year, had been a managing editor of a five-day-week, 10,000-circulation paper. When she married the sports editor, the company fired both of them for being married to each other. He picked up a job rapidly at DePauw in sports information, and they lived in between Lafayette and Danville.
She said, "I'm tired of this stuff. I'm only going to work for Gannett, so I'm not going to work until you or Lafayette has room to hire me."
Ritchie: Lafayette was also Gannett?
Bulkeley: Lafayette was a Gannett newspaper in the northeast corner of our territory. She had already done four years in Washington, in the Washington bureau, and I knew from the interview she knew how all those pieces fit together up and down the political, governmental, regulation, dollar ladder. So when we had room, we hired her at what for us was a premium, as the government affairs reporter, but she knew part of her job was to teach the rest of the people who were interested in government and politics, to teach them about negotiating space and that that was fair, about anticipating what was going to happen, not just reacting to government and political moves, initiating coverage up and down those chains, not just waiting for decisions, but talking ahead of time about what was going into decisions. And the staff flocked around her. She was a peer, so she wasn't threatening to staff. She wasn't a boss teaching a way they had to learn. I could see the dynamics happening and I could see the coverage improving.
Ritchie: It could have been you years earlier.
Bulkeley: And that was not too far off a kind of proposal I'd made that was ignored at one point in our staff.
Ritchie: What was her name?
Bulkeley: Judy Keen. She's one of those who ultimately ended up at USA Today. There was a period at USA Today where three of its seven or eight page-one reporters were women I had brought into Gannett, two of them out of Danville and one out of Saratoga. The one out of Saratoga was Marilyn Greene. I had known her first husband when we were all cub reporters together. She came back to work after fifteen years raising children, working for me and us in Saratoga, then was a features editor [at Gannett's Ithaca paper], married another editor at that paper. In Gannett, people like that didn't get fired. But anyway, I brought her into Gannett in Saratoga. She, Judy Keen, and Jean Becker, three women, all were on the front-page staff of USA Today, and I, of course, naturally said to the corporate news vice president one day, "Come on. Lots of days two of them have their bylines there at the same time. Do something and get all three of them on there at least once for me." And he knew that I was reminding him that out of two relatively little newsrooms I had produced more newspeople that understood the dynamics of that newspaper that still really wasn't understood by the trade, and could hold their own on the front page and were critically important reporters for him. It wasn't long after that, that I got my front pages with all three bylines.
Ritchie: So they understood how things worked.
Bulkeley: In many ways the front-page people at USA Today had it the easiest, because on big stories, the first layer or two of story affects everybody and everybody wants that layer of information. To some extent that happens at USA Today. But they also understood the stuff that traditional newspeople didn't think was important, that they as women who had lived through families and things on the cutting edge of change they understood was important news, and they knew how to cover it in ways that made the front page of USA Today vital to not just men, not just men looking for traditional news headlines. I wasn't smart enough to save a few of those front pages with all of their bylines; I should have.
Ritchie: Was Gannett pleased with how things were going in Danville? Were they aware of what a mess it was when you came in?
Bulkeley: No. They knew some of the mess, but the corporate staff was changing as the company grew and turned over and expanded. Danville was in the bottom half of the company, so the corporate oversight people were always the newest people on the corporate staff. The structure was increased, so instead of all of us reporting to Al, who was the chief executive officer, at one point they set up regional presidents or vice presidents. Anyway, they set up a regional structure, and we all reported to a regional executive. It was at that level—that first regional executive was a guy when I went to the National Women's Conference at the Decade for Women thing in Houston, that I went for Neuharth. His wife, Lori [Wilson], was chair of the Florida delegation. I went and let Neuharth know I was going, and he said, "I really only expected to hear from you if you didn't go, because I assumed you would go to that."
That was right before the regional presidents got control of our expense accounts. I said something about going in my monthly summary report to headquarters. The regional president wrote me a letter that said, "You travel too much. If I had control of your expense account, I would never have approved that trip." He had no idea that I was there because Neuharth expected me to be there, as much as I was there because it was history in the making, that I had a right to. In fact, there wasn't much expense. I guess there was a plane ticket, but the rooms in Houston were long since gone, and I stayed in an extra room my Good Housekeeping magazine friends had. But that was an example of the kind of sniping that happened even from my bosses.
The next round, the new regional president was a guy brought into Gannett for his name. He's now retired. It's [Bill] Keating, who was a longtime politician from Cincinnati who was connected with people who owned the Enquirer. He had been a member of Congress, had worked up through the elected official ranks in Cincinnati, ultimately to Congress. A conservative Republican, Catholic, who was so appalled at the stuff in the Nixon era, that he left Congress in the middle of his second term. He was on the Judiciary Committee and simply couldn't stomach the stuff and be a part of it anymore. Came back and was made the president of the corporation that owned the Enquirer. Cincinnati Enquirer is spelled funny, and it's not the way you expect. I no longer remember which is right, but I think it's E-N.
Ritchie: Yes. Isabelle [Shelton] had worked there in her early years, in the late forties. She was in Washington, but for the Cincinnati Enquirer.
Bulkeley: Bill [Keating] always insisted that no negatives would be sent to headquarters.
Ritchie: No negatives?
Bulkeley: No negative anything, like economy decline, that too many people use negatives as excuses for not producing and delivering, so he would not countenance negatives being reported to Rochester. The publishers all did monthly summaries of two or three sentences on highlights from each department and overall.
Ritchie: And you submitted these to him?
Bulkeley: And to the corporate chief executive office, the head of the newspaper division. I guess by then each division had a head, and then our division was broken into the regional executives whom we all reported to. But our reports went to headquarters and were circulated so that the staff specialists—see, we had that vertical structure, then we had the horizontal one connecting to the staff specialists. But their bosses would be the head of the advertising division on the corporate staff, not the head of the newspaper division. So we had a double report relationship with all of those people responsible for what happened to us. Keating didn't know the newspaper business.
The Midwest by now was fighting a recession. We'd talk about cost-saving stuff, and the stuff he'd say he was doing in Cincinnati was stuff we'd never had money to spend on in the first place. "Well," he'd say, "we cut back our messenger service among departments from twenty-four hours to twelve." He was head of not just the newspaper, but the joint agency that ran the common departments for both Cincinnati papers. The joint agency is the vehicle for getting around the antitrust laws. There's a thing called the Failing Newspaper Act, that if a city is about to lose one newspaper, they can merge all the departments under guidelines and controls and contracts, keeping the news department separate.
Well, Keating was the head of that, as well as the publisher of the Enquirer, but he didn't understand the dynamics of little places at all, where you don't have specialists anywhere and you don't have sixteen layers anywhere. We were long since down to one secretary who also did other stuff in the whole building. There were three executive secretaries when I got there. We long since had shaken out any excess reports and leftover, because nobody had ever evaluated at processes. But he'd say, "So we cut the messenger service." Well, we didn't have messenger service. When the woman at the switchboard finished sorting the mail, she called the department heads and told them their mail was ready, and they sent somebody down to get it.
Ritchie: He didn't really know how you operated.
Bulkeley: He didn't know how we operated. In the early eighties, he'd come in and visit, and I'd have him be in the lunchroom with open access of my staff, who by then was learning to talk to bosses a little bit. He wouldn't understand why would I let my staff have access to him and use up some of his precious time, having free coffee and doughnuts in the lunchroom for staff who wanted to come visit, to know he doesn't have warts or horns either. But he really was a waste of my time, because he didn't know about running newspapers. He wouldn't let us take the stuff we were having trouble with to headquarters to find out.
Ritchie: Because he wanted it to look good.
Bulkeley: Because he wanted it to look good, only wanted good to go. As USA Today started, as the economy was collapsing, as the company kept growing, the next layer of regional vice presidents was set in. The Lafayette publisher and I were asked to do regional vice presidencies.
Ritchie: So this was a new position.
Bulkeley: New position, new layer. We were reporting to Keating. I took responsibility for the small newspapers within the region. The Lafayette publisher was Mal Applegate—Mal, short for Malcolm. I took the little papers, the size I had worked at and was working at. We were, in effect, the corporate generalists providing oversight.
Because all of those newspaper publishers were first-time and had first-time department heads as I had, I decided, after trying it myself—they were scattered across Indiana and Ohio, basically. I had Richmond, Indiana; Chillicothe, Ohio; Marietta, Ohio, both in the bottom of the state, Chillicothe in the middle, south-central. Chillicothe was straight below Columbus. Marietta is southeast, near Parkersburg, West Virginia, in the river valley on the river. And Fremont and Port Clinton, which were two little papers up on the shore of Lake Erie. Port Clinton is on the shore and is a seasonal town and paper. Fremont was ten miles in and was the food production place for the truck farms that run all along the Great Lakes where the weather is warm enough, that are far enough south, including Rochester—the truck farms that grow in that old Ice Age sandy soil. So those two cities were totally different, even though they were run out of one plant. One paper was 4,000 or 5,000 circulation, the other was 10,000. But that meant Columbus and Dayton were really right in the middle of all of them. They were all two hours away from there.
So the first year on our budget, I just pulled us all together to talk through our budgets together, thinking if we went through them we might find ways to help each other save money or make money in the terrible economy.
Ritchie: You were still in charge of the Danville paper.
Bulkeley: I still was also the Danville publisher. Keating said it cost too much money having those people come in for an overnight meeting and feeding them meals, and ever thereafter insisted that I had to go visit their properties. That's the only firm direction I ever got from him.
A year and a half later, about fourteen months later, when we had what are called subsidiary meetings, one of Gannett's reporting structures in those years was that a cluster of papers would come together, the corporate staff equivalents would come in, and each department head would report to the group what was going on and what they intended to do.
Ritchie: How were the clusters chosen?
Bulkeley: Generally by geography.
Ritchie: So you would be with other newspapers from your area?
Bulkeley: Other newspapers from the area. In the olden days, all the New York State papers would usually go to Rochester, for instance.
[End Tape 2, Side A; Begin Tape 2, Side B]
Bulkeley: Keating would, of course, say to Mal and me, "Rehearse your people and make sure they only talk upbeat." Well, when they're turned loose, live, in front of corporate, you can't be sure that's going to happen. Then each publisher would have a private session with only the publisher and the corporate staff. If other newspapers were sitting in, everybody would leave the room except the publisher and the corporate staff, and that's where you talked about personnel problems or any of those things. With our economy so awful, of course each publisher chose to dump about the economy at those points where Keating couldn't stop them. I didn't mind that, because one of the things Dad always taught us was the boss has to know what's going on. You can't keep secrets or only say what the boss wants to hear
After that meeting, Neuharth was there. We had a session with a corporate staff—Keating, Applegate, and me. Neuharth read us a riot act about how little progress was being
made at these papers, the publishers not learning and growing, and the department heads. But in the course of it, I heard him saying how much authority I had, that I had never heard about before, how much initiative I had been expected to exercise, that Neuharth had expected to come by having these layers of supervision with somebody able to get into the properties, none of which I had been allowed to do, nor had I understood. I had really heard my job from Keating and the head of the newspaper division—Jack (John) Heselden. I had really heard a role not unlike what I saw the corporate plant managers having in Danville, that I could go look and see what was there and tell Keating, and that was it. That isn't what Neuharth expected.
I had also for years heard about Neuharth's terrible temper. So after this meeting, I said to Keating, "On a one-to-ten, where did that chewing-out stand?" I was thinking three or four, maybe. Keating said, "Well, his language was cleaner than usual. Of course, you and Madelyn were there." Madelyn Jennings, the personnel vice president. Keating says, "You and Madelyn were there, so he probably cleaned up his language for you. But otherwise, it was about a seven." Well, I was floored. If that's what he thought was a seven, no wonder he didn't want negatives to go on. But he also didn't know enough about newspapers to know he also wasn't giving us room to do anything about them, and they were going to keep piling up.
Ritchie: How many people reported to Keating?
Bulkeley: The two regional vice presidents plus the biggest papers. We basically split the papers up into the three sizes, so whatever the biggest papers in the region were at that time reported to him.
Bulkeley: Directly. I don't even remember what they were.
Ritchie: Did things change after this meeting?
Bulkeley: Well, my dealing with my publishers was a lot stronger, because I knew then that Neuharth expected me to take charge, so I did. USA Today by then was started, so a lot of people blamed USA Today anytime they had to cut their budgets.
Ritchie: Because that was taking corporate money?
Bulkeley: Because it was corporate investment and certainly was big losses, big investment. One of my publishers wanted me to sit with his news staff and talk to them. He had a small news staff. Terrible newspaper. What they did was awful. I did, and we talked economy and we talked USA Today and we talked lots of things. The first question was, "We've got these vacancies on our staff. How can we be expected to do better when we have to send money to USA Today?" Well, as it turned out, that paper's profits were lower than it had been the prior year, and the cutbacks, even had it been a family-held newspaper, there would have been cutbacks. The publisher was the son of the people we had bought the paper from.
Before the Neuharth chewing-out, I probably would have done a "If that's the way it is, that's part of being here. We'll get the long-haul benefits." I sat there and I said, "The staffing situation here has nothing to do with USA Today." We don't talk profits. I mean, you don't talk dollars and stuff in Gannett. Well, I did. I said, "The fact is, you're producing fewer dollars and a lower percentage of the gross, both. Either way you measure, this paper is performing worse this year than it did last year. Even if a family owned this newspaper today, those vacancies
would sit, because what's not being spent that's coming in is less than families settle for from their newspapers today. I know that from my experience." And the son was sitting right there. He was the one who had said, "USA Today is taking the money. We have to send it to USA Today."
By then I didn't give a hoot. I knew he was letting them moan and pout and complain, rather than admitting that he and his cousin, the controller, and his lifelong friends in the other departments weren't on top of it. I made no bones about it, and then I sat down with him afterwards. That got his attention. I said, "What Neuharth told us was that I am the boss, not Keating. You answer to me. You're not doing your job, and I've told you that, and you haven't listened to me. Now that I have your attention—," and we proceeded to set up what needed to happen at that newspaper. He didn't like it, but then he hadn't been happy before. So there was nothing to lose by taking him on.
Ritchie: And trying to set them straight.
Bulkeley: And trying to get some improvement, because the community was entitled to better newspapers than it was getting, either or both communities. I'd been around them enough by then to know that those papers were worse than they looked—even worse. There really was work needed, and as long as he thought he had some immunity from the girl vice president. The time the vice presidents were announced, we had meetings, we were all called into Chicago for meetings. Jack Heselden did the announcing, and he sat there in front of the people that Mal and I were about to supervise, and said, "This is a new structure. Not all of us agree with the people being put into these vice presidencies." Jack is one of the guys that from the beginning made no bones about the fact that he thought I had no business running newspapers.
Ritchie: And that's how he announced your new appointment?
Bulkeley: That's how he announced the appointment of me and Mal. I had no idea how other people reacted to that announcement. I know how I reacted; it was to know that there was Heselden undermining me again. I don't know whether his attitude was known among those corporate staff guys who undermined me as long and as often as they could, but that's one of the places where he did it in public. At least I think he undermined me in public. This "son of," who thought he had some kind of immunity because he was the "son of," was one of those who probably assumed that they just had to be nice to me because corporate had to show up once in a while.
Ritchie: He had been at this meeting where you were announced?
Bulkeley: Yes. I don't know whether he remembered that I had fired the "son of" and that "sons of" no longer had immunity, but it was after that, and that was the kind of situation when I finally began to be able to do with some of those papers what I thought needed to happen with them.
Keating never got over being a problem and never got over letting us talk to headquarters, which brings us back to what your original question was—did Rochester understand what I was doing. And the answer is no.
Over the course of those years from '79 until I left Danville, with double-digit inflation and, in fact, in the first two years, Danville lost 25 percent of its jobs, it lost more than 30 percent of its payrolls, the jobs lost were heavy industry overtime—I mean, that's all we lost. We gained the same service jobs everybody else was gaining—more fast food and restaurants and things, in spite of the terrible economy. Over that period from '79 through all of '83—I left there in April of '84—
our total costs were only 17 percent higher—15 [percent] maybe—in '83 than they had been in '79, though inflation was more than double digit three of those years, and nearly double digit the other two.
Some of that savings came from the computer production system that saved us overtime in the composing room. Some of it came from less business volume reducing our newsprint costs. Most of it came because we gave up staff and learned how to do the same volume of work with fewer people, with better people. And because we got everybody involved. One of the supervising clerks, the office supervisor for circulation, for instance, came to me at one point and said, "You know that night complaint clerk job that we have two people in at minimum wage? Well, for another 50> an hour, I could keep So-and-so, and she, with the switchboard person, can handle it. But if I can't pay her more, I'm going to lose her, and both of those jobs keep turning over anyway, because we just won't pay another little more."
I said, "Okay, let's try it. We'll keep her. When the other one goes, when we have a turnover that lets us raise the pay, we'll do it. We'll give her some of the raise now, but then we'll try it after that and see if it works." Well, it did. So instead of paying two people $2.80 an hour, or whatever the minimum wage was, by raising one person 50> an hour, we saved all of the rest of the other person. We stopped the turnover that had cost the office manager hiring and training time and occasionally filling-in time at an even higher rate, a much higher rate. We got better service. We got much better work from one person keeping hold of the whole job, and she didn't need to be supervised, because she was doing the whole job rather than a supervisor having to put together the two parts. It wasn't a huge savings in dollars to the bottom line, but in terms of principle and convincing materially that the people at the front lines know what it takes to do the job, it was a wonderful object lesson.
We stopped the turnover in those district manager jobs, the circulation supervision jobs, by identifying clearly the measurable parts of all of the jobs—the carrier training, keeping carriers, collections, sales—we put a weekly premium on each job [part]. At first, because we had so many carrier routes open and such lousy collections and sales, at first the standards would be set by each district, and what it took to get it up to snuff, but we left the pay where it was and then put a bonus on for each area of performance each week or every other week.
Over time, we found what caliber of people it took to keep the jobs together and how much we had to pay to do it, so we then converted it into a salaried job at the pay level, but expected the performance to stay at the highest standards. That took us a couple of years, and it tied up the circulation director a lot, but it gave him weekly training in ways that got people's attention, because they actually could make a difference in their pay each week. It helped us adjust. There had never been any adjustment to the two people in a household working and to the great increase in single-parent households. One of the reasons the district managers were failing so badly and being frustrated and turning over was that they were still expected to handle the territory that had been handled in the olden days when two parents were at home and one of them could help the kid [who was a newspaper carrier], and where kids had standards that said you do the job every day. But as we moved into one-parent households, there was nobody there to be sure the kid did the work or to help the kid if there was trouble. So the kids were having a terrible experience. We had a terrible time recruiting carriers, because everybody had done it and had a terrible time, or everybody knew somebody who had and it had been terrible, after those years of 200 and 300 percent turnover in carriers and in district managers. It took us years to straighten that out.
As we made improvements, we got our complaints down to the statistically normal acceptable level, and then they shot right back up again. People who had given up complaining learned word of mouth that, hey, complaints got action now. So the next whole layer of people who had quit complaining because, "It didn't make a difference anyway, and that's the way it always is. The boss never listens," all of a sudden found out you could complain and make a difference. So after all of this work and we'd gotten the thing down and it started looking right—boom—the complaints went right back up again.
Ritchie: Complaints in regards to circulation?
Bulkeley: Circulation, delivery, vacation papers not being stopped when they were supposed to, or restarted, new papers not being started, papers being not delivered on time or at all, all of the things people who pay at home complain about. So we went back through the whole thing all over again. We had the right people who knew their jobs. They didn't take nearly as long to get those complaints under control as it had, but it was altogether a four- or five-year process while all these other things were also happening in the economy and affecting us. The paper was smaller, so people who measure by bulk said, "Eh!" The paper was of less use in the outside territory, so we were having to reevaluate and rearrange routes. The driver routes cost a lot more to deliver than carrier routes, but even in the little villages we were losing penetration to the point that we could no longer have foot carriers—the kids—because the houses were too far apart.
Ritchie: So you needed people old enough to drive, and had a vehicle.
Bulkeley: We needed to have drivers, people who could drive. Ultimately they'd be so scattered out that it wasn't worth their while either, and we'd have to just go ahead and lop off the circulation and then do newsstand sales, find the stores in town, some places where people could buy it and promote it enough to try to maintain a presence in those places. So all of these things were happening at the same time.
The corporate guys were mostly managing strictly by computer printouts and getting the money to USA Today. That's the kind of pressure they were under. Keating, with USA Today in the territory, would do things like hire drivers to go eight hours to set up new USA Today sales, when we couldn't hire anybody else, but had to add in USA Today circulation. He'd be paying drivers to go forever into new territory so he could get his bonuses, but with the same people, we'd have to try to sell and deliver USA Today throughout the whole territory.
Ritchie: So you were responsible for that.
Bulkeley: For USA Today delivery within our territory as the production capacity reached the point that they could deliver to us. So there were incredible strains and tensions, but in spite of all of that, the people who worked for me continued to make the paper better and to do a better job with the resources we had and within the territory. The printouts the corporate guys looked at were current financial year, the month, and the year to date against the budget. They also would look against what was called the rolling twelve, the year ago—month and year to date a year ago. That's all the farther their history went. Nobody ever understood that under all of those pressures, changing the press in place, integrating the paper from zero color or minority of any kind, people of color, from all white to about 20 percent non-white, when nobody else could do it or was doing it, all the rest of those things, doing color printing once we had a new press that could handle color.
In 1983, we delivered expenses only 17 percent more than 1979. A couple of times in that cycle we'd do two fiscal years at flat dollars.
Ritchie: What does that mean?
Bulkeley: That means we spent no more money to do the paper in 1980 than we spent in 1979, in spite of that giant increase in minimum wage and double-digit inflation.
Ritchie: You were holding.
Bulkeley: We held our cost flat. We had to. Our revenue was going out the window. With no payrolls in town and those terrible drops, our retailers were closing or tightening up, and had it been a family newspaper, there would have been no choice but to batten down the hatches. We almost held our profit margin, but there was no way we could send 10 or 15 percent increases or even the same number of dollars to Rochester every year. They did not exist in our marketplace. But nobody ever looked at the long haul. Keating wouldn't allow me to talk about a 25 percent job loss, a 30 percent payroll loss. Most people's double-digit unemployment in those days was, in fact, new workers in the marketplace.
In the papers I was supervising, they all had the same number of people working in their economies throughout that period. Where they had double-digit unemployment, it was because more people [were] looking for work. Some of them had loss of heavy industry jobs and additional service jobs in their particular market, but they still had the same number of people collecting paychecks. We dropped from 42,000 people collecting paychecks to 32,000 in two years. It sort of held at that 32,000 area, but continued to shift.
Ritchie: Did you ever request a transfer?
Bulkeley: Constantly, and I was told to quit belly-aching. But also during the years that Jack Heselden was in charge of the newspaper division, no woman was named to a job in a bigger place than Al put me in before he turned over responsibility to Jack. The time that I went to Danville, Al was still making the appointments. By the time I left Danville, there were twelve women publishers, at least two others had moved at least once, and I still was the publisher at the biggest paper. There was one at one the same size—Niagara Falls—but there was nobody above that. As I say, three of us had moved at least once from a teeny paper to bigger, but we were all still in the bottom half. If you ranked the newspapers by size, we were in those that were in the second half below the median.
At the same time, men were being moved from papers our size, from the department head jobs, into publisher jobs in the bigger newspapers. A guy would go from being a department head in 30,000 circulation to being publisher of a 50,000- or 60,000-circulation newspaper, rather than one of us going from the 30,000 paper into the 50,000 or 60,000, which is how it used to work. The guys would go from department head to running the whole thing in the much bigger size.
Ritchie: And you were aware of this going on?
Bulkeley: Oh, sure. All of the announcements were always made everywhere, and every year at the time of the publishers' meeting, the American Newspaper Publishers Association annual convention, Gannett always bought ads running its pictures, bragging about its diversity, among other things.
Ritchie: Putting the women in the ads?
Bulkeley: The pictures of all of the publishers would be there. I was always asked, "How many are there?" And I always knew the number. A lot of the guys didn't; they'd come ask me, "How many of you are there now?" So I knew they didn't know the numbers, but they always knew the numbers of my operating performance. They always knew whether our monthly operating income was what the budget said, and of course it never was, because they all got the computer printouts.
At the same time, I said something to Al about a transfer not very long after the regional vice presidencies. I had assumed new job, new responsibilities, you had to stay a certain amount of time to get the work established, but within months, some of the guys who had been named regional vice presidents were being promoted to other newspapers outside of their regions, and new guys were being appointed to regional vice presidents. I was a regional vice president something over three years by the time I finally got moved from Danville and on a negotiated move back to Saratoga.
Ritchie: What do you mean by a negotiated move?
Bulkeley: By then John Curley was head of the newspaper division and was the heir apparent to succeed Al as chief executive of the company. When he got the job, I wrote him a note and said, "I've got to be moved. I don't fit this town. I've done all I know how to do with the news page, with the news stuff. It's not right. Somebody who understands this kind of place or fits here needs to come fix it. I don't know any more to do. I am (and I was) absolutely exhausted from all of the teaching I've been doing without getting enough new back in."
So we went in and talked. Curley said, "Come on in." I had a meeting in Washington. I met him, and he said, "Will you go to Rockford?" I said, "No."
Ritchie: Rockford, Illinois.
Bulkeley: Rockford, Illinois, was a Gannett newspaper about twice the size of Danville and, in fact, is where the guy had gone that I followed to Danville.
Ritchie: And you didn't want to follow him?
Bulkeley: He'd already been moved again a couple of times from Rockford. I said, "Rockford is another Midwest industrial place surrounded by an agricultural economy. What I'm telling you is that the culture of Danville is one I don't understand. I don't know how to do news for Danville. I won't know any better in Rockford."
"Oh," he says.
I said, "Besides, John, I left the Midwest on purpose. While Danville is different from the part of the Midwest I grew up in, there are lots of parts of the country that are a lot different, and if you're not going to let me go to them, then I'd just as soon—"
He said, "Well, where would you go?"
And I listed a bunch of places, and I said Saratoga. He said, "You'd go back to Saratoga?"
I said, "Sure. So would every publisher who's ever been there."
Well, later I learned about the people who think bigger is the only kind of better, and you measure success only by having more and bigger, and that that's the kind of standard and value that was John's first cut at anything—was bigger.
Ritchie: So he expected you to ask for—
Bulkeley: A bigger place. I said, "I like places this size. I don't like rush hours. I don't like having to drive, to assume half an hour to get anywhere. There are too many things to do, to spend my life running around in traffic or being bound to two cars or whatever. I like these places and I know enough about all departments, I can help them. You've really got to start putting people who know all departments in little places, and quit having the blind leading the blind because of all of these, if nothing else, the legal messes that you get in."
Well, he asked me some questions about Danville and what was wrong with it, some of which I couldn't answer. He said, "In terms of lost circulation, about the only other places in the Midwest as bad as yours are Gary, Indiana, and Terre Haute. Why is that?"
I said, "I don't know." Well, I didn't. I hadn't paid any attention to Terre Haute and Gary, Indiana. They're both heavy industry towns. He didn't ask me, "Why has your circulation gone down so far?" I could have told him that $100,000 of write-offs in two years, whole trailer parks that had disappeared as the economy went blooey, 1,000 empty houses on the market, contrasted with a handful when I went there. I could account for almost every paper that had been claimed as sold before I got there and that we were no longer selling, but he never asked me that, and I didn't volunteer. That's part of why you get such long answers now. I've learned to volunteer until I'm cut off.
Ritchie: What did he ask you? What did he want to hear from you?
Bulkeley: He wanted me to tell him why we looked like Terre Haute and Gary, and I couldn't, so I said I couldn't. I didn't know. He didn't ask any more about circulation. I don't really remember what else we talked about that day. It wasn't very long—half an hour, maybe. But he said, "You really would go back to Saratoga?"
And I said, "Sure."
He said, "Was it a mistake to go to Danville?"
I said, "Well, in lots of ways it was. Not in terms of size; that's no big deal."
Well, this was in January. He said, "Well, we'll get you out of there," but he didn't really know what was going on. He said, "That might solve some things that we've been looking at."
Ultimately, in April of that year, I was offered to go back to Saratoga and then to carry a corporate title that was a made-up title, with no portfolio, but to cover my association work and speechmaking and things that I did and was continuing to do, simply because there weren't other people to do it. The other women mostly weren't involved in association work.
Ritchie: Professional national associations.
Bulkeley: Right. Or they didn't have the experience yet to meet the assignment, though every time anybody asked, I only went where people could pay for it, because Danville couldn't
subsidize my travel like that. If I couldn't find some way to send it to Keating as a Gannett central region bill, then I wouldn't go unless somebody was interesting enough [to me] for my time and would pick up the travel costs. I kept giving them names, and I'd hear back ultimately that the women would never accept the assignments. Well, the women Al had appointed did and would. The next generation of women didn't, and I assume it's because they heard from the corporate guys about not to do it or, "Don't do like she's doing and screw up your newspaper. Look at her numbers, because she's never there. She's spending all the money running around." Again, some of this is reconstruction.
I found out later that the guy who followed me into Danville walked into the business office and said, "Show me where her $100,000 slush fund is, so we can get rid of it." That was somebody's estimate on how much money I was spending on community stuff and my own travel, out of that property. Of course I wasn't spending any. By then I had even figured out how to get the mandatory trips charged to Keating, not to my property. So he [my successor] didn't have any travel money for himself. The only question he ever asked me was, "How many University of Illinois football tickets does the paper have?" Well, we didn't have any. There had been twelve when I got there. The publisher mostly took his friends from the paper and the community all the time and did tailgate parties, but people didn't go with me. I wasn't all that hot anyway for it.
The ad director and other people, the guys who ran the stores, couldn't go out with my ad director. He was a department head. If they were going to socialize, they had to go with me, and I wasn't taking people to football games. So ultimately the tickets just atrophied and we cut them back and cut them back, and finally let them go. But the only question he ever asked me about the paper was, "How many football tickets are there?"
I told him, "None."
He said, "How can that be?"
I said, "They weren't being spent when we went on flat dollars. Even if advertisers were going with me, I'm not sure that that's the highest and best use of what money there is."
Well, once I learned that he thought I had a $100,000 slush fund, I understood both the question and why I didn't get any other questions.
Once again, I have lost your original question and where I was going with all of that.
Ritchie: To tell you the truth, I'm not certain either.
Bulkeley: Also at the time I left Danville, I used to know the number of how many people had been regional vice presidents. There were probably eight of those jobs across the country altogether, but there had been lots of men through them. At the time I left Danville, I still was the only woman in that job—the regional vice presidency. The Richmond, Indiana, paper by now had a woman publisher, one that had been moved from a tiny little Gannett paper into Richmond at my behest, because we needed a marketing person there, and that was her background. She was given my regional vice presidency. She became the second woman three years-plus after the job was established and twenty-some men after the job was established. This was all under Heselden.
Ritchie: And you had requested that.
Bulkeley: As head of the newspaper division. She would not have been in that region, there would not have been a woman in that region to succeed me if I had not asked for her as the next publisher, because the list that the guys came up with didn't have any women on it to come into my territory. Even though they were saying, "We know you need a marketing person there next, somebody with a marketing background," and she was an experienced publisher, for goodness sakes, with a marketing background, her name didn't surface on any of the lists.
Ritchie: What was her name?
Bulkeley: Pamela Meals.
Ritchie: I asked you if you ever requested a transfer. Did you ever think of leaving Gannett and doing something else?
Bulkeley: Yes. There were two different jobs that I pursued seriously. One of them was a one-year visiting professor job at Kansas that, in fact, was financed by the Gannett Foundation, so they only occasionally could have a Gannett person in, and hadn't for a long time. The dean was a friend of mine from my work in accrediting, so I talked to him about that job, because I knew that was a safe escape and I knew that people from other companies had used that as a way to bust a pattern, whether within their company or to get out of a mold or a stereotype. So Del, in fact, had set it up for me the way he would have for one of his buddies and hadn't advertised the job or anything.
Ritchie: What was his name?
Bulkeley: Del [Delbert] Brinkman. Del Brinkman had set it up. He may have advertised in the pro forma affirmative action way, late seventies, early eighties. He probably would have had to. But they had me in to do a Women in Communications thing on campus and ran me past the faculty at a cocktail party at the dean's house and all of that stuff. I think it was the regional vice presidency that came along at that point.
The other thing that happened was a workshop on integrating newspapers, led by Jay Harris, who was still faculty and staff at Northwestern at that point, a black journalist, and Bob Maynard, put together by Phil Currie, whom we've talked about, by now a corporate staff professional on dealing with the news side, on integrating newspapers, that brought in people from all departments and of all kinds, colors, and ages, and seniority. Spent a couple of days.
Ritchie: Who sponsored this?
Bulkeley: Gannett meeting. What they did at the end of the meeting, after talking about all of the departments and how they're seen by the people who are different, in their own experiences, in the first place I found out that people who are different [i.e., African-American, Latino, etc.] basically run on the same motivations and interests that people who are the same, and that indeed they all have troubles being heard, that bosses will hear the suggestions from the white males that they don't hear from the person of color or the female, that they all had learned ways to deal with credibility in the community when somebody would say, "I want to talk to the man who's the boss," or whatever.
We learned stuff like black communities' carriers getting robbed because it's whitey's newspaper, and particularly if it's a white carrier in a black community, robberies are not unusual and nobody will help. But where there were black kids in good circulation departments, the black
communities looked out for them and protected them. All of that kind of stuff that we now know routinely, nobody knew in those days.
Jay and Bob closed that workshop by doing the altar call. Around the room, everybody had to say one thing you were going to do different because of this conference when you got home.
[End Tape 2, Side B; Begin Tape 3, Side A]
Bulkeley: Between what I picked up from that workshop myself, what I knew and had already done from having been the only and the first and the visible female, and knew not to ever again allow it to happen to anybody, and then the altar call from all of these people from all the different parts of newspapers, I went home with the information I needed to truly overhaul that newspaper, at least in terms of making it a place where people of color could come and be welcomed and contribute, and short of hanging from the rafters, the least accepting of the people. But it gave me the knowledge and the ideas to be able to lay out plans for the whole place.
Ritchie: Until this time, was the staff predominantly or exclusively white?
Bulkeley: My best department heads had made efforts to hire minority people. They had not been very successful for a variety of reasons, and mostly because they [the people of color] were all alone. We had a black district manager, a black guy who was the only one in circulation, and we weren't smart enough to not send him to Indiana. He got sent to Indiana, which is still Klan territory. Our Indiana territory is the northern reach, and Danville is the northern reach of that southern Indiana hotbed of Klan activity.
Later, during the economy mess, at one point we had our district managers walk every route with every foot carrier to be sure we knew what the situation was, and along the way they'd visit with customers. We ran into customers in Indiana who said, "We moved over here to get away from the blacks, and now they show up in your paper and on your staff all the time."
Ritchie: Were there a considerable number of blacks in the Danville area?
Bulkeley: Before the 1980 census, we didn't have the numbers, but the schools were nearly 30 percent black, which we knew from other places meant the city was somewhere between 12 and 15 percent. As I recall, the census showed 17 or 18 percent, all in the city. But there still was one black physician. Ron [Dillman], on introducing me to the city, shows me where the black physician lives, and says, "He was the first one to move over the line at that street." I found out later, that had been fifteen years earlier. To Ron's thinking, that was still so new, it was worth commenting on. We went through the area where the public housing was and part of the segregated part of the city, and Ron says, "If it weren't noon, I wouldn't drive you through here." That's just old, old thinking.
The other thing was, that percentage means there were between 5,000 and 6,000 black people in Danville. As David would do heavy duty community volunteer stuff, on the symphony board, for instance, he'd get there and it would be all white, and he'd say, "Why is the symphony board all white?" People would say, "Well, Elizabeth is on the school board and David just became school principal," or whatever. They'd name the five or six black people they knew who were capable of serving on the board, and then they'd say, "So who else is there? They were all too busy."
Well, David would say, "The other 5,000, there must be some people of competence." Nobody knew there were that many, let alone who they were or where they were.
Ritchie: Or what their abilities might be.
Bulkeley: Or what their abilities were. But armed with this stuff from this workshop, I hauled the department heads out to the country club, to the private meeting room, and we spent a day going through stuff and laying plans, starting with counting the pictures and the names of non-white people in our local coverage, including the inventories of carriers, the penetration. Living was still so segregated that you could identify by block the color of people that lived there. We simply established inventories of all of those places we could, and by then we had long since established what our normal turnover was in staff, so we could start talking about what percentage of hires had to be minority, rather than what should the number be at the end of the year. Because if you didn't have turnover and had expected to, I didn't think it would be fair to dock somebody on an evaluation. So I knew we had to track turnovers. What else did we track? We tracked how the Gannett Foundation grants were being used.
Ritchie: What did that have to do with minorities?
Bulkeley: Foundation grants went to nonprofits doing community service work. Up till the time I got there, almost all of the money went to the Boy Scouts and Junior Achievement, which were white organizations in Danville.
Ritchie: Did the local newspaper dispense these?
Bulkeley: Good point. In those days, each local newspaper had its fair share of Gannett Foundation money for which it could recommend grants. The foundation's main asset was still Gannett stock. The federal laws required spending 5 percent a year against asset base from 501C3s. The Gannett system in those days was a very little foundation staff. It's a totally separate organization, but because the money came from the Gannett communities, Frank Gannett's direction and will, both when he established the foundation, then when he left the money to it, were that the money should go back to Gannett communities. So there was a formula, but basically the size we were to the Gannett size would say how much our fair share of the annual money was. So we could recommend grants which the foundation would then make. In forty-some years of access to the foundation, Danville had hardly taken any money, less than $100,000, and it had all gone to the Boy Scouts.
Ultimately, by the second or third year, I created a committee of employees in order to have enough outreach to figure where it was going, and so that also became one of our tools. If we say that this is everybody's and everybody's community and everybody's newspaper, then the grant money ought to go where it's needed, and in that case the black community was certainly entitled to a fair share.
I earlier mentioned the Iranians. The only other minority in Danville were international physicians, immigrant physicians, both Asian and Mediterranean, Mid Eastern. Danville didn't have Hispanics. A few Greek restauranteurs and things, but basically the minority in those days in Danville was black.
Ritchie: No ethnic groups had settled there?
Bulkeley: One public housing unit had Vietnamese, and I've forgotten which tribe. They weren't Hmong. But they didn't stay there very long. It was such an inhospitable place and so segregated, that as fast as they could get their feet on the ground, they left.
So anyway, we set up a full plan, and by then I understood the need for presence in the black community. We couldn't just give lip service. We knew what jobs we could hire out of the local community, that basically the journalist jobs were the only ones that required a college education, and indeed one of the daughters of the physician was in journalism at Illinois at that point, only the editor didn't know it. We identified where our grapevines were. The least jobs we had were the mail room jobs putting the ads inside the paper, the grocery ads and things. Those had mostly been filled by the schoolmates of the foreman's children or the people the foreman and his wife knew in their little town.
Ritchie: The foreman in charge of mail room?
Bulkeley: The foreman in charge of the mail room. But among other things, they told me at one of the public housing units, those are wonderful jobs for some of our tenants, because they're outside of school hours. The mothers know they can get home, and even though they're not predictable, those who don't have any training certainly can earn work discipline and start earning money and start establishing some pocket money and self-esteem. Even though it's not money that's going to free them from public housing, it's money, and they haven't been able to earn any. So we just started pushing the grapevine to all those other places where it hadn't been, but where there were people that could do the work we needed.
The schools had integrated the staff, and the school superintendent was quite willing, as we brought professional staff in, to help connect ours with theirs, so they had fast access to the minority community of like class. Again I still didn't understand all the class stuff, but schoolteachers and entry-level journalists, entry-level schoolteachers, were all paid about the same and had comparable educations. In the cases of minorities, they probably had comparable kinds of family push and encouragement at home or at least experiences, so it would give them a way to start.
But our early hires—while I knew some of the things to do to help take the first or the only pressure off, I didn't know enough of them, and I didn't know the territory well enough. One of the black women nearly killed herself, a black reporter, because outside of work hours she'd go around to activities at all of the [black] churches, and on weekends she'd spend her whole weekend going to activities at the black churches. Another sign of the class thing in Danville is that there were 120 churches for 40,000 people in the city. There were sixteen black churches for 6,000. Her first name was Benita. I don't remember her last name right now. She was physically exhausting herself, trying to establish the paper's interest and presence and using herself as the evidence.
Ritchie: In the black community?
Bulkeley: In the black community, finding nobody to socialize with, but also not sitting still long enough to really socialize and build a new community for herself of friends.
Ritchie: She had been brought in from outside?
Bulkeley: She had been brought in from outside. They all were brought in from outside. Kim Crockett wasn't about to stay home and work when she, in fact, had access to bigger places, and
went first, I think, to the Rockford paper. The last I knew, quite a while ago now, she had a major reporting or editing job in the Cincinnati newspaper.
Another of the early ones had been in the Champaign paper, had moved over into book publishing to get regular hours during a critical period for her kids, did not want to go back to the Champaign paper, which was still mostly white, and we were, too, but we were at least a company and Champaign was a home-owned paper.
Ritchie: She was black?
Bulkeley: Black. She wanted to work on the copy desk, which was fine, but because of the driving and because she had kids, she negotiated for, and I went along with, a four-day work week. Well, my supervisors in the newsroom didn't understand that, and they didn't understand that we needed her just as much. It didn't really matter when the forty hours were that she worked; we needed her ability and her presence. They never really understood flexible hours and how to negotiate them.
As we started laying out the plans and making them public within the building, one of the editors at one of the open meetings, one of the middle editors, said to me, "You mean we're going to give up on our reach for quality in order to have minorities?"
And I said two things. "With evaluation processes in place, any person, black, white, yellow, three-headed Lithuanian, who doesn't carry his or her share of the load will no longer stay on this staff, and you've made enough excuses to me for enough of your white people that I don't buy that quality crap. Second, the way we get money, particularly in a terrible economy like this, is to find new customers that cost as little to deliver to as possible. There are somewhere between 2,000 and 4,000 households of black people who do not buy this newspaper. They live closer to the plant than most white people do. If the time comes when they understand this is everybody's paper, not just whitey's, we'll have money to fill jobs on your staff that we can't fill now. So don't tell me we're wasting money and lowering the quality. If you think that way and continue to think that way, I'll take your resignation." He stayed.
Ultimately, as USA Today borrowed some of our people, we ended up with four or five openings and were in a position to fill them in the newsroom. The editor came to me and said, "Okay, we're ready to hire nothing but minorities," and we proceeded to, and it took us maybe three months, but that's all. A lot of newspapers will say there are not qualified minorities out there. Even today, 1993, they will say that, and it's simply not true. It was not true in 1982. One of them had worked for a paper in Indiana as a reporter for five years, and for all five years was their only minority. As she came over to interview with us, it was about the same size paper, but by then we had pretty good representation throughout the building, except in production, where we weren't hiring—in the press room or the composing room. But because of the local market and turnover, inside sales and outside sales both had people of color, and the other clerical jobs were well mixed. As she walked through the building, you could see her relax and lighten up, simply become less tense, less defensive or protective, probably is a better word in a job interview situation, because she found out she was no longer going to be the only one, that we had reached what probably was critical mass, although who knows, where you can maintain the mix, because of the grapevines.
We also for a long time told our minority employees first of openings before we even posted inside. We gave them advanced notice, because they were still having to convince people that it was an okay place for black people to work. One of the things we didn't keep track of and
only suddenly realized that it had happened was when we would run classified ads for job openings, when we suddenly started having as many people of color apply as white people, out of the community that was 20 percent maybe African-American. To have as many applying or more said to me we'd institutionalized and community connected at least at this level.
Ritchie: It was a place that they would be accepted.
Bulkeley: They knew they would be accepted and given a fair shake.
Ritchie: What did you mean when you said USA Today had borrowed some people?
Bulkeley: Part of the staffing at USA Today in its start-up years, because they didn't know what it was going to take to do the job, they had their projections, but reality never quite fits the plans, they also were insistent on—and rightly so—as much mix in terms of race and age and experience and original location as possible. Some staff people they knew well enough to know they wanted on the staff, and they hired and transferred and took onto their payroll. Others went for tryouts and would be there for up to six months, and maybe would be offered a permanent job, but maybe would be sent home again. Some people agreed to go for only a trial period, and said, "I don't want a job there, but I will come help," and wanted the learning experience to enrich their own performance at home. So there were all of those kinds of things. And because of our own profit situation, we had to be careful on whether we filled all of our openings or not, but as long as somebody was on your payroll but at USA Today, there was no vacancy anyway.
The Gannett Rochester newspaper were the ones known best to those putting USA Today together. I think between them they lost something like 15 to 20 percent of their news staff initially. Because of the growth of news staffs in the seventies, that still left those newspapers with more people than they'd had at the time I was part of those newsrooms. We were down on bodies in Danville because we had been consolidating low-paying jobs, three entry-level jobs into two much better jobs and some savings, for instance, trying to find the right mix. With all of those schools and all of those communities, it took a certain number of bodies just to be out there covering the news, but at some point it also took better experience to try to give it some balance and perspective, and what does it all mean, and what really is important.
So we were hurting in terms of bodies to some extent, because we at one point were also down 20 percent. The 20 percent, when you're starting it at 37, and 20 percent when you're starting at nearly 300, is quite a bit difference. And 20 percent when you've got two products is quite a bit different than 20 percent when you've got only one.
That bringing in and deciding we were going to get over the hump and do it happened in 1983, so by the end of that year—one of Gannett's internal things was called the Frank Tripp Awards. He was an early partner of Frank Gannett. They were awards by departments for innovation. So I went back and reconstructed what we had done over the five-year period in terms of affirmative action and hiring, that it was grapevine.
The corporate people were still only collecting numbers at the end of the year, not turnover, and letting everybody off the hook because they said, "We couldn't find anybody." But if 20 percent of your staff turns over and you've got that much opportunity, you can wait on some jobs, or you start with the tough hires first. If there aren't enough minority journalists to satisfy everybody who's looking, then you go there where you've got the most openings, so you've got the most flexibility. You don't wait until you've got one very narrow job and then say, "Gee, I couldn't find anybody who was qualified," unless, of course, you have no intention of changing
the status quo. Then you do wait until you've got the narrowest job possible and say, "Gee, I went to all of these places and they didn't have anybody for that job," but they never say they filled four general assignment entry-level jobs. The corporation was not asking for turnover as part of the accountability for minorities. We were, and we filed it with the corporation all the time, but nobody ever picked up on it. So anyway, as much as I could reconstruct, I put the whole thing together.
One of the critical points, another of the turning points was when some people in the black community that the paper had not identified until we started being out there came to us and said, "Our kids need to understand newspaper. Help us help them do a newspaper." Well, what grew out of all of that was a weekly newspaper in the summer with black high school and college kids doing all of the reporting and deciding what the stories were, coming in our newsroom to do the writing and the editing, with our staff helping edit, but under serious constraints. Part of what I knew was to let people tell their stories their own way, and I had to let those kids have their head to get what they thought was the story or found was the story. We had to be careful about grammatical demands. We insisted on basic standard English and on those elements of style that made sense, like doing time, date, place, in the same order all the time, using the same abbreviations all the time for street and address and correct spelling and stuff. But it was up to them to decide what was important and why.
We published an eight-page tabloid newspaper with our staff working as volunteers, basically, to work with them, and a couple of critical staff people, some of whom had the contacts in the community to do it, to help, because they'd been there forever, one of whom was Berniece Courtney. We called her Niecy. Niecy had grown up with a lot of the people who by now were the leaders of the black community and had been in the tiny little part of town that was integrated, so she knew a lot of the people we didn't, and I ultimately moved her from number two out of three in the features department into our personnel role. She really was coordinating our affirmative action stuff and our community outreach.
But it was a wonderful paper. Of course, because it was covering a part of the community and talking to people who had never been talked to, they kept scooping the newsroom, which drove the newsroom crazy. They named the paper Black Awareness. I suppose today it would be AAA—African-American Awareness. Out of that bunch, four or five out of the first group of twelve or thirteen went to journalism, only one of whom had started out that way. One of them—I came in one day for my share of the work. We did our meetings and things out in Laura Lee Fellowship House, which was the black community center. Laura Lee had been one of the early black leaders. But then we'd work in the newsroom, and they even helped do the paste-up. Even our union guys from the composing room would stay and help on their own time. We printed a couple thousand copies which pretty well saturated the black community and community centers—the stores and barbershops and churches. We ran it off the newsprint that would have been thrown away anyway, because it was too short to do anything with, too short for part of our newspaper run.
Ritchie: Because of the size?
Bulkeley: Because it would only print 1,000 or 2,000. Too short to paste in to make a whole new roll of newsprint, because where you paste paper together it wastes copies or it breaks and damages others. So we were using newsprint that would have been thrown away, printed on spare time in the press room, and all of the rest of our staff time was donated the first year. They scooped the newsroom. We published five or six or seven copies. We did not save enough,
because it rapidly became a collector's item in the community and with people who had been part of it.
The next year would have been '83. Through the Fellowship House, we got a grant from the Gannett Foundation that we used to hire a journalism faculty member. Eastern Illinois University had one black journalism faculty member. We hired him to be the presence at the Fellowship House and to do the editing and most of the work that we had mostly done on our own time and nearly killed ourselves the summer before, though we all intended to do enough working with to keep learning from all of it. Well, he never really understood the cycle of a weekly publication, that you story plan ten days ahead of publication. As people finished their assignments, they then get plugged into the next week's publication cycle. He never really understood that, as many times as we tried to talk it through. Whatever I was doing, I wasn't paying close enough attention until I started seeing how awful the paper was, and it turned out they were having to ramrod poorly done and poorly edited stories, and nobody was working with the kids enough, because this guy that we were paying never got through his head how far ahead you had to start on things. He was starting two or three days ahead for one week's paper, and it just doesn't work that way, not in anybody's weekly newspaper. You always have to have things working farther ahead than that. So our staff moved back in on it, trying not to put him down and to find things he could do to help, but also to take over the advanced planning.
We also at the same time, because of what we'd done the first year, were getting help from Gannett newspapers and news service. Both let us borrow one person a week to come in and meet with and work with the kids, so they were seeing minority reporters other than our own, but our own minority reporters also were latching onto, and our department heads, because these were the best Gannett had in those days, many of whom—well, one of them is now in line to be president of the Gridiron.
Ritchie: Who is that?
Bulkeley: Jessica Lee. I first met her in El Paso [Texas], which is a Gannett newspaper in one of those joint arrangements with another owner. I'll tell the Jessica Lee story in a minute. But she was one of those who came in to work with our kids, and there were others.
Ritchie: So they came from different Gannett papers.
Bulkeley: They came from different Gannett papers at Gannett's expense, to work with the kids. Since the cycle was screwed up, the printed results weren't as good that year as the first year, but I think in terms of morale and encouragement, we had a lot of the same kids back. It probably was those folks and the networks that they started building then that accounted for the numbers of them that went into newspapering. Niecy [Courtney] stayed at that newspaper for years. She by then was a widow. She ultimately remarried and retired a couple of years ago. I tried to get her to keep track of the kids, and not only the ones from Black Awareness, but also those who joined Gannett first at Danville, to show that while Danville, because of the economy, maybe wasn't carrying its financial share of the load for the corporation over the eighties, that it more than carried its share of the load for building the future of the company and of the news business.
Ritchie: Were there any other programs like this?
Bulkeley: Not in those days. I'll back up a minute. There were a couple of national companies or organizations sponsoring workshops that would take one or two kids from big cities or
communities in for workshops on campus. One of them was at Berkeley. The Newspaper Fund, which is the foundation related to the Wall Street Journal Company, would finance workshops for a couple of weeks, but these all took kids out of their community. It didn't give them the impact so that at some level they got to understanding of the role of news and news media in community and the responsibility to the public and to readers for accuracy, accurate representation of what people told you for news, proper behavior and demeanor in dealing with news sources. Those kids would never more do a Sam Donaldson shout/yell/crap/abuse news reporters, those kids who grew up learning news on the streets, if they had to keep their job, which isn't all that different from my original work for the Argus girls.
"Argus," by the way, means "sentinel." It comes out of Greek or Roman mythology. I looked it up after we talked about it, and I didn't go back and look it up again when I remembered. I forgot the particulars. But it's in unabridged dictionaries.
Ritchie: Had there ever been a black newspaper in Danville?
Bulkeley: No. Of course, this one didn't last once we got our own news fixed. I have no idea of all of the black reporters and journalists and salespeople who have been through there and gone on to other things. Between that and my other stuff, though, there's at least one black publisher Gannett has that's a woman I brought into Gannett. I met her through an accrediting trip to a backwoods Arkansas state university. I knew from talking to her that she'd gotten everything there was to get out of a journalism education. She wouldn't come to Danville. She followed up and wanted to come to Gannett, wouldn't come to Danville. She said, "It's not a big enough place for me to have what I expect in a community." And she probably was right, but she went to Rockford. She's now the publisher, ironically, in Chillicothe, Ohio, again one of those papers that reported to me once upon a time.
Ritchie: What is her name?
Bulkeley: Wait a minute. She's been promoted. Her name is Dorothy Bland. She was in Chillicothe. She's been promoted, and I've forgotten to where. That was just in the last few weeks, sometime this spring, maybe, or early summer. But she would not be in Gannett if it had not been initially for me. One of the guys that she worked with as assistant to, in fact, had been my first editor in Saratoga. And one of the guys that I took a chance on, one of his other publishers had said, "He's doing all he can do," but again it was another case of somebody who needed to get out of his home town. Once he got out of his home town, he blossomed. As it turns out, Dorothy ended up doing her assistant to the publisher, learning the other departments' work, for this guy, and then went on to one of the papers that I used to supervise. Even in a company as big as Gannett, the pieces just keep overlapping and connecting.
Ritchie: Did the summer program for the black students continue after you left?
Bulkeley: I think they did it one or two more years, and maybe only one. Whether it had outlived its usefulness, because the newspaper was doing a more complete job, or whether the publisher was unwilling to invest staff people in it, and didn't understand the dynamics of it, I don't know.
Ritchie: You were going to talk about the Frank Tripp Award.
Bulkeley: I wanted to talk about Jessica Lee, too. The Tripp Award, I simply put together our whole program and said we didn't know it had worked until this year, but it's really a five-year thing, and eventually it got recognized at the corporate level. It did not get the first prize in
Frank Tripp. Somebody who wrote a newsroom management manual did. One of the guys. But anyway, it got a second-place recognition, so at least it got on the record somewhere.
Jessica I first met in El Paso. The publisher down there who also ran the joint agency asked me to come down and meet with some of his women executives, because while he was trying very hard to do things right, he wasn't sure he was. He thought if I'd come down and visit, I could give him ideas on what more to do. He was one of the good guys, had come out of some other business into newspapering, and Gannett inherited him when it bought into the process. I think there was some Women in Communication stuff they put together, too.
So he said, "Would you meet with some of the women while you're here, stay over and meet with them?" I sure, "Sure." Well, as some of them heard I was coming, a lot who hadn't been invited wanted in on the meeting. Frank Fueille was smart enough and secure enough to say, "Okay, whoever wants to come." So we ended up at the country club. He knew to do that—the establishment country club where women still weren't allowed to join, but we ended up in a country club dining room on a Saturday with sixty-some women, including Hispanic and black women. Jessica was a bright young reporter doing government reporting. I didn't know what in the world I was going to do with this crowd, but I recognized that the number was equal, and they were from all departments. The number was equal to or somewhat bigger than I had to run my whole newspaper in Saratoga, and this was just the female contingent out of the joint agency and the two newspapers.
So we started with the "Which departments are here?" And then I pointed out that this was how many people, that the room represented the number I had for a whole newspaper, and that was all the empowering it took to break loose all of the questions and all of the discussion. Frank wasn't doing anything wrong. There were some things he wasn't doing that could help, but he was as close to the cutting edge in terms of women and minorities as we knew in those days.
Ritchie: This was in the early eighties?
Bulkeley: Yes, it would have been early eighties, and maybe even late seventies. But it gave me a visible—and you could feel it in the room—feel for empowerment and what empowerment does in terms of freeing people and energizing them. It also, among other things, set Jessica loose, as she ultimately was in the Washington bureau and covering the White House and is now—as I say, whether it's the White House Corespondents Association or the Gridiron Club, I can't remember, but I think she's the first black female in Gridiron and also on the ladder at the other one. She spent years taking advantage of being one of the smartest and seniorest black females and would tell them where she was going and then disappear and come back with big reporting projects done, having been out of touch for days, breaking every rule in the book, but she was good enough and we were then enough into it, she could get away with it. So she has been able to always stay as a reporter, but she has made her own mark and helped change how things are done that way. And I think Frank knew she was good even then. I like to claim being part of those who helped keep her keep going and keep her involved with the company.
Ritchie: Did you ever regret that you didn't stay as a reporter?
Bulkeley: I don't think so. While there's some reporting I'd like to do now, as one of the possibilities of what I'd like to do now, I think if I had done my original plan of working my way to Washington as a reporter doing my own fixing the content as I went, it would have taken longer for the industry as a whole to do some things. Sure, Neuharth would have had women publishers anyway and Gannett would have had. Sure, somebody would have integrated newspapers anyway.
There was an Ohio newspaper—Akron, Ohio—that went from an all-white newsroom to an integrated newsroom at the same time I was doing the whole newspaper in Danville. It was not a Gannett paper. I think it was Akron or a suburb. No, it wasn't Akron, because that's where the guy went next. It was a suburb, close enough to a big city that he could bring in black journalists who were liberal arts graduates, for instance, who would come to his town because it was close enough to a big city.
Ritchie: Which you didn't have the advantage of.
Bulkeley: I didn't have the advantage of. The University of Illinois had some minority faculty, but that was early in minority faculty days. So the closest minorities were the Rantoul Chanute Air Force Base, which was already gearing down, and not all journalists thought all military people were a peer class anyway. NCOs [Non-Commissioned Officers] weren't considered peer class; only officers. I'm not sure that the air force had much for minority officers, particularly in small bases that were being phased out.
[End Tape 3, Side A; Begin Tape 3, Side B]
Bulkeley: In fact, it was far enough down the air force pecking order by then that it had a woman in charge of it. It must not have had a whole lot to offer. So our minorities who wanted entertainment had to go to Chicago. The black Elks Club in Danville still had black musicians stopping by on their way between St. Louis and Chicago. Danville had a big enough black community during the days of jazz moving north, and Danville also had had a hemp plant during World War II and before, which meant it had some of the best marijuana in the country in the forties and the fifties and the sixties, and it was close enough to Route 66 that it became a regular stopping point for black musicians. Bobby Short's home, of course, we talked about that earlier. But they still, even in the seventies and early eighties, were stopping by for jam sessions at the black Elks, but that wasn't enough variety and diversity, and no access to social life other than sitting around the club for the young black reporters when we started to have enough. And they were beginning to be accepted by white reporters and editors and other people in the community.
Ritchie: So you were at a disadvantage there.
Bulkeley: In terms of integrating.
Ritchie: In terms of location.
Bulkeley: And in terms of location. But all of those things would have happened. They wouldn't have happened as soon. The minority stuff, had it had champions other than me and the affirmative action guys on the corporate staff, had it had white men learning from it, could have been transported other places faster, but because of that crowd that was working to discredit me and my work all the time, even a lot of that stuff didn't get carried beyond Danville unless there were people promoted from there who took it with.
I remember one time being told by Madelyn Jennings, whom I mentioned earlier, Madelyn told me about a Danville alum, a young black man, who had just been on a panel at the editors society, had come to Danville after my time, had moved on in an entry-level editing job somewhere else, was on a panel at the American Society of Newspaper Editors, as an editor, and one of the audience questions was, "Does it make any difference?" And that young man who was one of the few blacks where he was, and was an editor, said, "It sure does," and talked about being
in Danville, where by then he'd had a black supervisor and a black critical mass, going to a place as a supervisor without critical mass, and the problems he had gaining credibility and voice.
Ritchie: When he was the only one.
Bulkeley: When he was the only one, and having the confidence to stand up at a meeting when he was still in that touchy situation, having enough confidence in himself and in his ultimate bosses to be able to talk about it out loud in a public place. He did the equivalent of what I did at that state publishers meeting when I talked about the unfairness of the flood overtime money, the flood ten years earlier in New York State. I think he did the equivalent, or maybe even more so, because I was a publisher by the time I spoke out and was heard. I wasn't always heard as a publisher within Gannett or within the industry. He had enough courage and presence to say that. Madelyn told me the story later, so she knew, so I'd know that the message was continuing, at least some of the ways and means.
But a lot of the institutionalization just didn't take, because they weren't listening. I had for years told them that they needed more in the news and that if they wanted to work in the newsroom, they needed to follow me with another news publisher because as good as Chuck [Carpenter] was at some things, he couldn't handle the complexities of what we were dealing with in the newsroom. He could carry them out, but he didn't have the front end creative capacity to see and put things together. But once he saw what needed to be done, he could do it like gangbusters.
And they didn't believe me. They sent in a guy to shake all of the excess spending out, because they hadn't looked at five years to know that we had been doing that, and, in fact, we had been doing it since I got there, because there was a ton of waste, a lot of it token waste, but, nonetheless, the palm tree on the ship's deck, the kind of stuff that says people aren't going to give up on their own little pieces until the boss has given up. So the guy who went in after me, of course, didn't find any money, had promised them $100,000 out of that nine-months budget that was left, because they had told him it was there and he had trusted them.
Ritchie: He was quite certain it was there?
Bulkeley: Yes, and it wasn't. A lot of stuff then went by the wayside, even some of the stuff that was doing community-building that needed doing. The guy from what in those days was Mobil Oil Corporation, who put all of their money into Public Television but also ran the first so-called advertorials—institutional ads, company ads in newspapers that state positions on public issues, I cannot remember his name, but he was a major honcho and also one of those that showed the whole world public relations people should have input into corporate decisions because of community reaction, and that they knew how to read that.
He spoke at a Gannett meeting one time and talked about the horrible relations between media and business, and that something needed to be done about it. At one point I said, "Herb [Schmerz], so come to Danville." One of our learning tracks in our beer and cheese sessions was teaching my reporters who simply didn't know business and didn't understand business and learned it only at home where their folks were union members or blue-collar workers without unions, but always on the bottom end of things. "Come to Danville and watch and hear what's going on, where they've learned to talk to each other and understand where each other's coming from, and that teaching and learning is part of what has to go on."
Well, I went home and I wrote him a letter. We did an annual "Letters to the Editor" banquet in Danville, inviting writers of letters to come hear some big speaker. I went home and I wrote him, and I said, "Come be the speaker," and already had arranged to work with the Economic Development Corporation to put that together with our "Letters to the Editor" dinner, accomplishing a whole bunch of things, getting them a name speaker for the dinner so everybody who paid membership would be interested in coming, getting regular people who had found enough voice to write letters together with business leaders, just all kinds of mixing and knitting together a whole community kind of a thing.
I got him to agree. Neuharth made the company planes available if we needed it, but, of course, he wasn't going to need our plane; he had his own. I got the whole thing set up, and that's when I was moved.
Ritchie: Back to Saratoga.
Bulkeley: Back to Saratoga. So I left before it was totally put together. The Economic Development Corporation was doing the dinner detail. We were simply going to buy the tickets to the dinner. The Economic Development Corporation was going to handle all the logistics other than our letter-writers. They negotiated the meal price based on the number, based on our people coming. My successor [Gary Stout] canceled our participation, canceled the plans we had for the pre-dinner cocktail party to give this guy proper access to business leaders, which he should have had and which they should have had, so there was no cocktail party at all. Nobody else moved into the gap.
None of our people went to the dinner except me. I went back for it and had, in fact, arranged house sale or movers or something, to help cover that cost. So all of this deal that I had set up with Neuharth looking in on it, because Neuharth thought that the challenge to him to come and creating a forum was superb, and it was only because he knew Neuharth was watching, that this guy was willing to do it. Neuharth was looking in on all of it. But my successor and his bosses, who had made this commitment now for money, canceled all of the company stuff, and it wasn't that big a deal. I mean, it wasn't going to make or break his $100,000 commitment one way or the other.
That kind of stuff then continued, so I don't know whether Black Awareness died because he wouldn't let people do it. He also diverted Niecy [Courtney] into selling newspaper in education copies, out nagging school districts to buy papers, and that kind of stuff to try to shore up numbers and bring in the money he'd promised, since he couldn't do it by saving. So lots of the dynamics I simply was cut off from ever thereafter, and David and I were so exhausted and worn out with the whole thing, that we didn't even make a big deal effort about keeping in touch until we were invited back for the dinner, that luncheon, and the fact that anybody asked, said, "Well, I guess I should go." Then David decided he'd go, too, and as it turned out, that's when my father died. He died six weeks before that. So we ended up taking my mother with us, because she wasn't able to stay alone at that point.
David called one of his golfing buddies and had him gather up the people by then we wanted to see and catch up with, to go out for dinner with. The Executive Club not only did the luncheon, they did a cocktail party. By then they had a women CEO subgroup of the Executive Club, and that group just did dinner at the country club which by now some of them were allowed to join on their own.
When I went to Danville and exercised my perk of joining the country club, I just edited the country club forms and put my name in the application, and where it said "wife's name" put David's and scratched "wife." The clerks processed the membership as my membership, even though women weren't allowed to be full members of a club in those days. That would have been '77. Several years later, one of the wives of a board member, one of those who ultimately created her own business so she could be in the Executive Club, and who discovered her own name and presence while we were there, discovered this membership thing and pointed it out to her husband, who was on the board, and said, "You've got a couple of choices, but my guess is you probably better go ahead and fix the bylaws, not make any big deal about it, because sooner or later somebody's going to sue."
One of the ones who had been treated the other way was a woman who was the chief operating officer of a local savings and loan, whose bank ultimately authorized her membership and was paying for it, it went through the books in the name of her husband, who was the manager of a supermarket.
Ritchie: Because she wasn't allowed.
Bulkeley: Because she was a woman. She happened to find out about that. But shortly thereafter, they just quietly changed the rules at the country club. The golf pro also had fixed it. On the long weekends, when we first got there, all of the special events all three days on the golf course were for men. At some point they started fixing it so at least one day was couples, and then the golf pro started letting mixed couples or women out on the course on Saturdays, as soon as the last of the men had teed off, even though the rules said two o'clock in the afternoon or something. So some of those things, even in that little town, we ultimately got some of those things fixed simply by people recognizing that the time has come and it's time to do otherwise. But in terms of visible social class structure busting up, we never got anywhere. That has broken up some since. Some of the things that have happened there since were seeds that we planted, that just took a long time to germinate. So it's a different place than it was when I lived there, and might even be a lot more interesting to us now than it was. We would never go back there and live, but we have talked about going back for a vacation.
Ritchie: This might be a good place to stop today.
© 1994, Washington Press Club Foundation.
Washington, DC. All Rights Reserved.