[Begin Tape 1, Side A]
Ritchie: Christy, in our earlier sessions—now we've done seven—we've covered much of your life and career. Today we'd like to summarize some of that and discuss some new areas, too. I thought first you might talk a little bit about the influence of family and growing up in a small town in Illinois.
Bulkeley: I grew up in Abingdon, Illinois, a town in west central Illinois, that was both industrial and agricultural. The influence of that and in a family that was influential in the town, I think has had significance throughout my career, some of which I still am only uncovering. Part of it was with the family being factory owners and managers in that little town. We encountered some social-class things that I didn't understand at the time, but more important was growing up in small schools where all kinds of people were in the same classroom. We grew up with rich kids and poor kids and smart kids and dumb kids, and families that achieved from nowhere and families that were dissipating inheritances. All of those different kinds of people were in our everyday life, so we learned very early an appreciation for all different kinds of people, which I think gave us a head start over peers who grew up in suburbs, for instance, that were all alike and where the standards and expectations were so similar.
In addition, my early journalism work was in that small town. Two women had started the weekly newspaper there—Gene Cunningham and Mary Lou Stover. I started working for them as early as eighth grade and learned accountability in a hurry, because in our town of 3,500, everybody knew everybody. If I spelled somebody's name wrong in the paper or left out a middle initial, I heard about it from the very people that I had offended or insulted by doing wrong. If I reported a meeting so that people who attended it didn't recognize it, I heard about it. If I did well or did right, I heard about that, too, but I think it's a kind of accountability and consciousness that the newspaper, that journalism, is for readers, that I learned in that little town, that you don't learn necessarily in bigger places.
We learned resourcefulness in how to entertain ourselves and how to learn from what was there, how to take advantage of whatever assets we had. The entertainment, of course, was sports. High school sports was the primary activity most of the year, but we had summer band. Our folks took us to Chicago so we had a lot of the big city advantages with none of the detriments. We also had lots of people that we considered ourselves accountable to—friends of the family who would ask how we were doing at school, or later when we went off to work, would want to know about our careers and what we were doing. People who in their own way would teach us things along the way, whether we knew it or not, at church, civic organizations, Scouts, 4-H, when we played with their kids, and all of those other things.
Our family, in addition, grew up with in many ways stricter rules than a lot of our peers had. Our allowances were budgeted from the time we started getting them, and there were certain things we had to do every week in order to have our allowances. When school stopped, our allowances stopped. Then we had to work around the house or the property. By then we lived in the country. We had to work around the property for room and board, and we had to meet our
church pledge, we had to meet our savings account pledges, and were free after that to earn whatever we wanted to, doing work, grass cutting, clearing the timber, weeding the strawberry bed, washing the windows, any of those things.
Dad also brought us up doing cost accounting. As we could do work faster or better in some way that was measurable, we could negotiate for higher hourly pay from him. In many ways I think I got both an MBA in financial management and a marketing degree all at the same time simply by growing up in that small town, because we were always in close contact with everyday people.
Ritchie: You mentioned that you started working at the newspaper in eighth grade. What brought you to that newspaper? What attracted you to it?
Bulkeley: I discovered journalism through Girl Scouts. I did a journalism badge as one of many I did during eighth grade because school was boring and not very interesting. Well, "boring, not very interesting"—a little redundant. School didn't keep me challenged, and the piano lessons and practice weren't enough either, so I did a lot of Girl Scout badges. One of them was journalism. I learned enough doing that badge and in meeting with Gene and Mary Lou, whom we all called the [Abingdon] Argus girls, I learned enough to know that through journalism I could, if I had to, earn my keep, working with whatever field I really got interested in.
My mother had said for years that I could be a dress designer. Mother was trained as a portrait artist, four years of art school beyond high school, plus more portrait training beyond that, and never really got to use that when she ended up being the wife of a factory owner in a small town. So she wanted to be sure that I could, in the first place, earn my keep if I had to, but, in the second place, make a career in art. I don't really know whether I had an aptitude in art, but she had it all figured out—where I could go to school to do my training for dress designing and how to get jobs. As I say, I wasn't really interested in that, but when I found journalism, it gave me an answer for all of those people who said, "And what are you going to be when you grow up, little girl?" I could say, "I'm going to be a journalist." And they'd say, "Like Gene and Mary Lou?" And I'd say, "Well, maybe." Or maybe they'd just stop dead when I'd say "journalist," because they were expecting "nurse," "secretary," "schoolteacher," or "wife and mother." That would have been in the fifties when women really didn't aspire to do more than—other than the traditional things. I know better than to say "more."
Ritchie: So Gene and Mary Lou served as role models for you.
Bulkeley: Quite. The old weekly in our town was run by a husband and wife together. Then Gene and Mary Lou started the paper, so I had no idea until after I was out of college and in paid work that women didn't have as much to offer journalism or that people thought that. I just thought that women could do anything in journalism, too, because that's what I had seen in my home town.
Ritchie: What kind of attitudes did you encounter when you attended the University of Missouri Journalism School?
Bulkeley: Primarily positive. The University of Missouri School of Journalism, when I looked at it during high school, seemed to me to be quite open to all kinds of people in journalism. Again, I wasn't looking for people who understood women had as much to offer as men did or that talent didn't come based on gender. But I had been to the [National] High School Institute at Northwestern University in Evanston. I had been there between my junior and senior years in
their journalism program, and got the distinct impression that some people there thought women had less to offer than men. Well, I attributed that to big-city school, private, fancy university, and figured it had nothing to do with me. I didn't sense that at Missouri. As Mother and I made the rounds in the journalism school, people were quite welcoming and positive and very high on the school, so I just automatically went there. Actually, I applied to Northwestern, too, and as one of my first overtly snide acts, did it so I could get accepted and then say no and go to the state university in the next state. But I never really had a sense at Missouri that the faculty or the people in town thought women had less to offer than men did. I really feel I got a solid grounding in "all things are possible."
Ritchie: Did you get that feeling when you went to your first job in Rochester?
Bulkeley: No. My first job was my first big being discriminated against. I figured that out later, too. I was one of just two people hired in June of 1964. I was hired by The Rochester Times-Union, which only a few months before had come under Al Neuharth's management. Gannett had hired Al Neuharth away from what was then the Knight Company, to be the heir apparent to Paul Miller, the head of Gannett. I accepted the job offer to go to Rochester, was there within two weeks after school stopped, after I graduated. My job was city desk clerk. I was paid reporter scale because the Newspaper Guild and management had never thought the job was worth fighting over. I was paid $100 a week, but my job was the city desk clerk job, while the summer intern and the other person who was hired at that time were both doing actual reporting. The only time I was glad that I was tied to the city desk was a month later when the riots broke out. What few women were on the staff weren't allowed to go out and cover the riots, and I was glad. I'm a physical coward and would have had to say or figure out some way to avoid that anyway. But basically I had the same training that the guys did, had the same kind of experience, but I was doing city desk clerical work, putting the weather data together, doing the futures file, answering the phone call for the bosses, taking dictation from reporters.
Ritchie: How did you break away from that?
Bulkeley: I broke away from that job mostly by sticking it out until the next crop of new reporters was hired so there was somebody to replace me on what we called the "Who" desk, because that person did the daily events calendar which was called "Who, What, When." So we called it to the "Who" desk.
At the University of Missouri, the job placement service was the model for its time. They required that you stay in your first job one year. The sense was it took a year to get your feet on the ground in a new place, to know whether it really was a good fit, to know whether you were going to be able to develop your potential and do the kinds of things you thought you could and get the help you needed to keep developing. I was relieved of the "Who" desk three weeks before that year was up. If I hadn't been, I would have quit or found another job and then quit. But three weeks before the deadline, I was promoted to general assignment reporter, which is what I thought I was hired for in the first place.
Ritchie: How were you accepted by other reporters then?
Bulkeley: The other reporters, most of whom were men (there were two women in that newsroom on the city side, the hard news reporting), the other reporters generally were accepting of anybody. We still had wonderful mixes in the newsroom in terms of age and experience. By hiring only entry-level people every year for the two or three openings, they did not short themselves of a mix of generations, because career reporters stayed until they retired as reporters.
I started going to city council meetings that fall, the fall of 1964, because government and politics is what I was interested in. So I started learning the city council by going to the meetings. The two reporters responsible from my paper, The Times-Union, treated me as I would hope most professionals treat anybody who expresses an interest in their work. They were most eager to share and to teach me what they could, to treat my ambition respectfully. Soon thereafter, I started going out with the whole city council majority after the council meetings, and learning a lot more about city government and council politics, and was able to repay my colleagues at the newspaper by telling them things I learned at those post-council debriefing sessions. Some of the councilmen were giving me the "Isn't she cute? She thinks she's a reporter" treatment, and were talking about things in front of a reporter they should not have been if they had wanted to keep them out of the paper, political decisions that shouldn't have been political, that kind of thing. But basically my colleagues at my newspaper were fine. There were some men at the morning newspaper, the Democrat & Chronicle, who treated me like a bother, a mascot, or whatever, and there were some good ones there, too, but I encountered all of them in the press row at the city council meetings if nowhere else. So it was mixed, but my guess is, most new reporters ran into mixed treatment.
Ritchie: What about when you moved on in your career to become editor and publisher? How were you accepted by your staff and colleagues then?
Bulkeley: A decade later when I became editor and publisher at my first newspaper, which was The Saratogian in Saratoga Springs, New York, most of my staff was fine. I had one department head who really thought he should have had the job and continued to undercut my authority most of the time I was there. I had a controller who had been helping himself to benefits not authorized for himself for years and had taught two other publishers the business office. So those guys were both problems. My news editor, the managing editor of the newspaper, the production director were wonderful. The circulation director was okay but incompetent.
The community was wonderful. Saratoga Springs is a very special kind of place. It's always very positive about people and ideas. It treats everybody with respect, whether it's a lame little old guy who's the guard at the race track or some green kid who's trying to be a waitress in the greasy spoon or Mary Lou Whitney or the ballet stars or the orchestra stars. Everybody is treated with respect in that town. If I was good enough for Al Neuharth to send to run the paper, I was good enough to run the paper and was going to be treated like the publisher. The president of the home-owned bank, Newman Wait—we called him Pete—Pete called the day I got there and assured me of mortgage access which, as a single female in the mid-seventies, was unusual. I had never even considered buying a house in Rochester because I knew that single women couldn't get mortgages unless they had some man to sign on for them, like a father or a well-to-do brother, and I wasn't about to exercise that kind of dependence. But anyway, Pete called and immediately offered a mortgage and asked if the bank could throw a cocktail party to welcome me to town. He understood that I would be a curiosity in that town, but that also that party was a very important entr&$233;e to the people who were important to Saratoga, be they local business owners, be they the arts supporters, the men and the women who make Saratoga the special place it is.
There were other businessmen who did similar kinds of mentoring in their own way. There were guys, after I was married, who would approach my husband at the country club and said, "Will you please straighten her out about thus and such situation?" David would look them in the eye and say, "My only job is to sleep with the publisher. If you want me to talk to her, my consulting fee is $40 an hour, and I'll be glad to work on your behalf if you pay the fee," which usually was enough to stop them. Some of them were insulted. Some of them saw the humor in it and understood the message.
Ritchie: You mentioned the word "mentor," and I wonder if you can tell me who some of your mentors have been through the years and how you learned from them.
Bulkeley: I've had lots of people—today we'd call them mentors—who were important to my work, my learning how to be a journalist, learning to be a journalist, how to do better and more than I started out to do. I've mentioned some of them—the Argus girls [Gene Cunningham and Mary Lou Stover]; the publisher of the newspaper in our region in Illinois, Chuck Morrow at the Galesburg Register-Mail, who hired me one summer between college terms and made clear that I was the best person, even then, working for him, and that if I wanted to come back I could ultimately run that newspaper. Well, as it turned out, he died of cancer long before I was ever ready to go back to the Midwest.
There were college faculty members who would help me do scheduling and concentrate in the kinds of things I wanted to concentrate in, even though they didn't quite meet the guidelines for journalism school or for graduation. Some in the journalism school, an editor named Tom Duffy, who had been the editor of the Metro East Journal in East St. Louis and had wonderful stories about getting to know the mafia in East St. Louis as well as the newspaper stories, wonderful stories about dealing with the intensely personal conflicts of interest. He's one of the first ones I heard from about World War II, when women staffed newsrooms while men were out saving the world for democracy. One of his stories was about the women on the wire desk whose fianc&$233;e was in one of the casualty lists that she handled, and Tom didn't know it until days later, because she never batted an eye. She exercised the highest professional detachment, the kind of detachment that got the world famous reporters through the assassination of John Kennedy, still doing their work, through the assassination of Martin Luther King [Jr.], Bob Kennedy, and the rest of it. That's where we first heard those stories, from some of the real newsmen, real journalists who were part of the faculty in those days at Missouri. Tom was important.
A man named Bill Bickley, who ran the copy desk and was head of the copy editing sequence, who was thoroughly real-world—the University of Missouri Journalism School publishes a city daily newspaper separate from and different from the campus paper. It's really a city newspaper where city council is covered, the county government, and the rest of it. But Bill Bickley would make sure any of us who could handle it ran into all of the kinds of copy editing and page makeup experience he knew we would run into when we got into jobs. They all in their own way paid attention to us as individuals. Shortly before graduation, when I was working nightside, I "Mr. Duffyed" Tom about something, and he says, "Call me Tom now." He says, "Professionals call each other by their first names." Well, that's not a bad last conversation to have with a favorite faculty member. I had others later, but not a bad way to get sent off into the world.
My first job, the city editor and his assistant, a man named Herb Jackson and Don Fradenburg, knew I was dying in the clerical job. They encouraged me in going to not only council meetings on my own, but they pointed out parts of the suburban area that didn't get covered, where they thought I could learn if I'd go listen to those meetings and sit in on them. Then they saw, when they knew I was doing that, they gave me time to write the stories, even though I wasn't supposed to, partly because I'd been to the meetings without pay, but I wrote the stories on company time so I think legally we probably were in compliance with the laws, though I didn't know wage and hour laws in those days.
Cal Mayne, the editorial page editor who ultimately recruited me out of the newsroom where, in effect, I made the end run around a lot of management tiers and into management and very shortly thereafter then was promoted to Saratoga. The men in Saratoga that I mentioned, in
their own way some of my best employees and department heads, even when I was a publisher, were wonderful mentors. They taught me what I needed to know about the people that worked for them. My production director, Frank Ketchem, came in one day and said, "I feel like I've lost a third of my vocabulary. I have trouble getting things said."
I said, "I don't know why, Frank."
"Well," he says, "I have to clean up my language, and the guys in the composing room don't think they can talk when you're around because they have to clean up their language."
I said, "Do you really think you know words I don't know?"
"Well, you're not supposed to say some kinds of words in front of women," he said.
I said, "Okay. Let me work on it."
So the next time I went out to the composing room, I tripped over something and did a "goddamn son of a bitch" loud enough for everybody to hear, and we never again had a language problem. But that's very important teaching, and to me that's part of what mentoring is, is people who have enough confidence in their own role and are willing to share what they know that will help another individual do his or her job better. There were lots of people who did that with me and for me along the way.
Ritchie: And have you, in return, done it for others through the years?
Bulkeley: I sure hope so. I sure tried. There are women publishers in Gannett who are in Gannett because I encountered them somewhere along the way and brought them to the company. There are women executives and very good journalists lots of places whose lives have crossed mine somewhere along the way. There was a time when three of the front-page reporters at USA Today were women I had brought into Gannett at their mid-career, one who had been raising children for years after an early journalism career, two others who had come to the newspapers I ran, for various reasons, but all three of them were of the seven or eight people who were front-page reporters for USA Today, and some days all three of their bylines would be there. Well, I'm not the only one responsible, certainly, for what they achieved and continue to achieve, but I had a piece of their career along the way. In the communities there also are women who have been able to do more than they ever thought, or different than they ever thought, because of the example or things they heard me say that struck home. I cannot give you a list of half a dozen people without whom my career would not have happened or of half a dozen people whose careers would not have happened without me.
Ritchie: So it's an ongoing process.
Bulkeley: But it's ongoing and it changes as circumstances change. Our dad insisted that we all owed other people whatever we had that they needed, whether that's money into the church pledge or information we had that they needed, which I think has something to do with my being in journalism, knowledge we had, access to something they needed, access to the boss, any of that kind of thing. We really were brought up to share and to pass on long before people knew about mentoring and were consciously trying to do it or were aware of it.
Ritchie: A few minutes ago you mentioned the word "detachment." Can you remember any situations where you found it difficult or you had to consciously try to detach yourself from a situation you were covering?
Bulkeley: There were a number of times when I found myself more interested in people that I was covering than I thought a reporter should be, or making judgments in news issues I was covering when I really thought I should not have had an opinion on whether it was good, bad, or indifferent. The role of the reporter is to lay out all of the options and all of the facts so that people in the democracy can decide what they want to do, look for the options and the consequences at an early decision stage, show people what would happen, and let them decide. At least that's my understanding of democracy and the role of journalists.
So in my first major assignment in Rochester, I was covering the township of Irondequoit, the town of Irondequoit, which was a 60,000 community immediately adjacent to Rochester. We covered for a zoned page, a page that circulated only in Irondequoit. But during the township elections the fall when I first got there, I realized that I had gotten to know the Democrats who controlled the town board and the executive, the town supervisor, and had a lot more confidence in them than I had in the Republicans who were challenging them. Coming from somebody who grew up in downstate Illinois, Everett Dirksen Republicanism, that's a funny situation to discover. But I also knew, because I was covering it, I really should never have allowed my own reactions to gel to that point, and it drove me crazy because I never knew from that point on whether my coverage was detached and fair and objective enough, or whether I would, through some subconscious process, write more favorably than the facts allowed about the guys whose judgment I trusted or, in fact, not write fair enough because I was afraid of doing better by them than the facts allowed. [Tape interruption.]
[End Tape 1, Side A; Begin Tape 1, Side B]
Ritchie: Was it ever difficult to keep your personal beliefs or political beliefs out of a story or out of your covering a situation?
Bulkeley: After that incident in Irondequoit and a parallel one at the same time involving a school board in the township that had adopted a city suburban transfer program, I learned the discipline of not letting my own judgments reach a decision point as nearly as I could tell. Even when I was covering government and politics, on election day, I'd have to sit down and think real hard about who I was going to vote for, because I tried to maintain what I call detachment, remembering that the democracy was everybody's, and the newspaper was to provide the information that everybody could use to make their own decisions, that it was not up to me to decide what was good, bad, or indifferent, because most situations can be read several ways, not just either/or.
There were other kinds of ethical problems that came in when I was a publisher. Do we want to talk about those now?
Bulkeley: The most critical was during the Danville years. [Tape interruption.]
Ritchie: Why don't we talk a little bit about some ethical situations that you encountered later as a publisher.
Bulkeley: The biggest string of serious news coverage in community problems I encountered that were ethical dilemmas came in Danville, Illinois, when I was the editor and publisher there in the late seventies. One of them involved the birth of Siamese twins at one of the local hospitals. There were a lot of complicating factors, but nobody outside the hospital much knew about the Siamese twins until the state filed criminal charges against the parents, the medical teams, and the hospital for ordering not feeding the Siamese twins. Apparently—and we probably won't know until we're all much older—when there were seriously damaged babies such as these twins that at birth people didn't know whether it was a "monster," one child with extra limbs or two children, the practice often is to simply let the baby die. The nurses did not. The babies were kept alive. In five days the state filed criminal charges, and the whole town was at risk of being torn apart as people sided with the family or with the state and the people who had filed the charges, gotten the charges filed. Anything like that is an absolutely no-win situation under any circumstances.
I discovered that the state child welfare department official [Greg Koller] who was responsible for the criminal charges and keeping the issue stirred up by making outlandish statements regularly was the prot&$233;g&$233; of a friend of mine [Gabe Russo] from Rochester. I decided we really had to get the rhetoric down and let nature and the processes of the system work, without all of the unnecessary hate language that was being stirred up, so I called my friend in Rochester and explained the situation to him and said, "The parents, the medical team, the judge, the people who turned in the complaints all have to live in this town, and we all have to live together, and I think your guy is going to make it impossible if he's not shut up. If you agree with me, can you, and will you, please shut him up?" And we never again heard from that state child welfare official. My friend Gabe Russo indeed called him and told him he didn't need to say any more and he'd be in serious trouble if he did. So as a journalist, that's interfering in a news story, certainly. As a publisher responsible for a whole community, I think I had to do that. We also wouldn't publish letters to the editor on the situation.
Ritchie: And that was your decision as publisher?
Bulkeley: That too was my decision as publisher. With the criminal charges, with all of the hate language that was being thrown around, I wasn't sure anybody could write a letter to the editor that would contribute to the discussion, and because we had allowed lots of intemperate kinds of letters to run in the past, I was afraid if I let any in, no matter how constructive, they wouldn't necessarily be seen that way. So I simply said, "This is a criminal case. It's impossible to make fair judgments on letters. We will not publish any for the time being."
Ritchie: How did your staff react to your decision?
Bulkeley: They were furious. I also maintained control of the coverage. Again, late seventies. One of the men in the newsroom came to me and said, "One of the rumors is that the father had a vasectomy and then had the vasectomy reversed, and that's what caused the Siamese twins." Well, if the men in my newsroom knew so little about their own bodies and about reproduction that they would seriously talk about that kind of a rumor and give it any credence at all, I was afraid of what could happen with coverage of sensitive issues, the nuances, if I left it totally to them. So I stayed involved. I had the editor title. I had the corporate authority to be involved in the newsroom, so I stayed on top of it until the whole thing had settled down into a reasonable situation.
The story is very long and I don't need to tell it all, but basically every out-of-town reporter that came in was told by news sources on all sides that they had to get their background out of our clips, that news sources would not give them background. They didn't have time to
deal with the fifteen or twenty who came into town. The out-of-town reporters, of course, were all from big places and were used to ignoring the local newspaper, but they had to come use our library to read the clips, because the sources from all sides of that story said, "Their coverage is accurate, it's right, we don't have any quarrels with it, so get your background there and then we'll talk about any other questions," which I guess is probably one of the highest compliments a newspaper can have in that kind of a situation.
Another situation was when our United States representative [Daniel Crane] was charged with ethics violations for having sex with a page, one of the high school kids serving the Congress. His wife and kids lived in our town and were in our town when the news was released. He was on his way home from Washington. He did not even get to tell his wife, who either was with child at that time or had been pregnant at the time the episodes were going on. He did not get to tell her in person; he had to tell her by phone and then head out. I ordered our staff to stay off their personal property, off the residence. I didn't want our people to be the ones badgering the wife and kids. I ordered them not to lead out-of-town media to the property or to the country place they had over in Indiana.
Even then, and again this would have been late seventies or early eighties, I was so tired of the ambush journalism and all of the rudeness that we saw just watching newscasts or read about in big cities, that I wasn't going to allow anybody to stay on my payroll to pull that kind of what I call crap. It simply was not necessary to do the story right and fairly. So I issued those orders, and again my news staff was furious, but they complied, and I never heard a complaint from anybody in the community that our people acted as other than professionals doing a job.
Ritchie: What kind of reaction would you get from the Gannett headquarters on issues like this?
Bulkeley: I have no idea. I never asked guidance. I never called somebody and said, "This is what I did." We just did it. Nobody ever said anything to me. So whether anybody was even ever aware of those things happening, I don't know.
Ritchie: Did you ever feel a conflict between your personal values and the corporate values?
Bulkeley: I had conflicts between my values and the corporate values relating to some degree to changes in news content and format during the Saratoga years. I had stronger conflicts over ways of managing the property wherever I was and managing with integrity and what was integrity and what was fair corporate oversight.
The easy example is budgets. We prepared and submitted honest budgets with no more spending in them than we felt necessary to do the job that our plans called for and that would support the revenue we anticipated. But that was never enough. The corporate staff people always felt they had to take out some spending and add in more revenue. A lot of the publishers played that game, and I had seen it when I was a reporter. I watched. In covering government and politics as a financial system and a financial exercise, I watched people inflate budgets so that they had enough after cuts to live with.
I talked to Al Neuharth about it and said, "Do you really expect us to be playing these games in budgeting and to submit false budgets with low revenue estimates and inflated spending so your corporate staff has something to do, or do you expect honest budgets?"
He says, "I expect honest budgets. There's enough they have to do without playing games with people out in the field."
I said, "Will you please tell them that? They don't know it."
So I've always submitted honest budgets and we always got them blown up higher and far beyond the capacity of our community to deal with.
Ritchie: So there was a certain amount of pull between you and the corporate headquarters, whether in Saratoga or Danville?
Bulkeley: Yes. Some of the headquarters staff and I never got along. There was healthy tension with some of them and some of them certainly were very good friends. Again, part of that list, how I define mentor, there were people on the staff who would warn me where were the guys who were making a career out of trying to bring my career down.
As the first woman publisher in Gannett who was publisher and CEO of the property (actually there had been one ahead of me who was publisher of a small daily reporting to the bigger daily in the neighborhood), I was the first woman publisher who reported straight to Neuharth, and I was the only woman publisher for three years. It was three more years before another one was named. For the eleven years I was a publisher, there were guys in Gannett who knew where I was and what my operating statistics were, even when they didn't know any more how many women publishers there were. From growing up as a daughter with two brothers, sometimes I think I get paranoid, but I don't think that's paranoid. I was a lightning rod. There were peer/colleague/age peers who thought I should not have been a publisher. There were people in Al Neuharth's generation who argued with Al about whether I should ever have been named and whether I should have been allowed to stay a publisher as long as I did. I was aware of most of those because of my friends on the corporate staff who would warn me who was trying to do what kind of attack on what I was doing. By the same token, I was the first one to change a newspaper staff from all white to nearly 20 percent non-white at a time when everybody was talking about it and nobody was doing it.
Ritchie: So you had the capability and the power to do your budget and to hire and fire, and to hire as you would have liked.
Bulkeley: Gannett publishers did not have hiring and firing authority over their department heads. The corporation was involved with that. Below the department head level, the publisher was the final say, working with the department heads and supervisors on hiring and firing. Budgets—the corporate staff had the final say. They would add in whatever they thought and say, "You agree with this, don't you?" Well, no, but they put it in anyway, and then put the thing in the computer the way they had changed it, and it was their version of the budget against which you were measured and evaluated.
It did not have room for situations such as I encountered in Danville when the economy started to collapse in 1979. By 1981, we had lost 25 percent of our jobs in Danville. We had double-digit unemployment not because of more people in the work force; we had double-digit unemployment because our jobs had dropped from 42,000 to 32,000 in that economy. That affected income in the economy, it affected income in even greater percentage because those were the double-digit inflation years. Those were the years that minimum wage was jumping, that the three-year increase cycle, after not increasing for eight or nine years, minimum wage was going up 20 and 30 percent every year, and we had minimum wage jobs. Those were the years that interest rates and inflation were double digit. Interest rates affect an agricultural economy, which ours was.
Losing those jobs and 30-some-percent in payroll easily also meant we lost control of territory around Danville. The job base was so strong in our community that Danville was the center of the countryside all the way to the Champaign-Urbana University of Illinois border. My newspaper's territory pushed all the way into the next county in that direction. We commanded more than half of the countryside north toward Kankakee, Illinois, northeast toward Lafayette, Indiana, southeast toward Terre Haute, Indiana, and southwest toward Charleston. Because our economy was so strong, people worked there, people shopped there. When the jobs disappeared, those people went to their more natural urban centers in the other directions. We could see almost weekly our newspapers dropping off.
Ritchie: The circulation.
Bulkeley: The circulation, as people needed the newspaper where their new jobs were and where they were shopping and where they were redirecting their lives because Danville no longer had anything for them. That started in '79. By '81 we had lost all of those jobs. We never really flattened out, but the job loss slowed down to a trickle. At the time I went to Danville in '76, there were half a dozen houses on the market. When I moved in '83, there were 1,000 houses on the market. There was no block without at least one house for sale.
We ran that newspaper on almost flat dollars. We incurred no more cost one year to the next for five years. Some of that was because we got our first computer system to capture the original typing of the reporters, rather than having to pay composing room employees to retype everything. That saved us some money, certainly. Some of it was needing less newsprint because we had less circulation and less advertising, but most of the reason we could run on flat dollars for five years was because the people who worked for me were so good and, as they understood our situation, responded to it. We shared with everybody regularly not in absolute dollars and cents, because that was violation of all sorts of corporate policies, but we talked about "no new income" means "no new spending," and we've got these new demands to meet, or we want to give raises if we can. I never had to lay off a person to meet our spending goals and to keep our spending down except one member of the press crew. The press contract said if our page reduction ever equaled the percentage that was a person on the crew, we were entitled to a layoff. Well, when you've got unions and you've got a contract, you have to live with the contract whether you like it or not. Our pages were down nearly 15 percent for a whole quarter, which, with a ten-member press crew, meant I had to lay off a member of the press crew. That's the only layoff I ever did to live with five years of flat spending, because we knew what our normal turnover was. Normal turnover slowed when jobs were tighter, but it didn't stop. If we had promised to cut jobs, we knew how soon we could get a job cut through turnover, and we lived with it that way.
I had a supervising clerk in circulation who came to me once and said, for instance, "I have these two part-timers that we're paying minimum wage, who answer the phone and take complaints, but I spend about half of my time recruiting and training somebody for that job. So-and-so is about to leave if I can't give her a twenty-five-cents-an-hour raise, because she can get that much more down the street. If I only had her, I wouldn't need a second person. Can we eliminate that other job and change the amount of pay for the job?" Well, of course! Minimum wage was over three dollars an hour or getting to three dollars an hour. If I could keep somebody for a quarter or fifty cents, relieve the supervisor from hiring and training, get the job done with one person instead of two, we were all far better off. There was more money for profit, there was a better job instead of two awful jobs. There was one job that was at least decent and paid a little bit better. The supervisor had more time to do her stuff.
Ritchie: So you were in a position to do much of this on your own, as long as the bottom line that headquarters looked at was all right.
Bulkeley: Well, they were never satisfied with the bottom line, because I could never meet what the corporate staff built into the budget. That economy didn't turn around until the late eighties. My department heads and I had to satisfy ourselves with what we thought was reasonable under the circumstances, knowing that to meet the corporate budget would have destroyed the newspaper and in many ways reduce the community's capacity to function. It was small enough it had no television stations; it had only radio stations. So it did not have a complete way to talk to itself. We were the best it had. We really had to try to make up for the fact that there was not the headline live, in place stuff you could get from television, that we had to do newspaper job and television job both. So we made conscious decisions on where we were going to draw the line on meeting the budget the corporate staff gave us and living with our consciences and what we could, in good conscience and good faith, ask from that community and from the people who were working for us.
Ritchie: What do you mean when you say "we made"?
Bulkeley: The department heads would have been the ad director, a man named Bob Miller; the circulation director, Dennis Lenart; the editor, who by then was Chuck Carpenter; the controller was either Bruce Cannady or Bruce Klink. I had two very good controllers there. Who did I miss? Production director, Joe Casey. We sat down together and said, "This is the shortfall compared with their budget. Here's what it takes to meet it. Are we going to do it or where are we going to draw the line?" And we made those decisions and lived with them. As I say, basically we ran on flat dollars. But in Gannett at that time, nobody ever looked beyond twelve months—the calendar year or twelve months. Nobody ever understood that we survived with no more expenses year after year when everybody's expenses were going up, and that a lot of it was because of our ability to manage not because of stuff like plugging in a computer that let us cut payroll.
Ritchie: Do you think a man would have managed the situation as well?
Bulkeley: I have no idea. I have no idea whether anybody else would have managed it the way I did. I almost literally killed both of those marketing department heads. The stress of trying to find more money in a market that didn't have any, year after year after year, and we also were all aware that because we never met the corporate budget numbers, the assigned budget, because we never met it, we were never going to get promoted. Putting sales executives through that, where there's a no-win situation in terms of traditional sales evaluation year after year after year nearly killed both of them. One of them had a stress episode. The other one developed an aneurism and explosive blood pressure. Both trace straight back to stress, and that was in the fourth or fifth year of this terrible economy.
So I would never do it again the way we did it. I did not understand the toll on those guys, and they didn't deserve that. Nobody did. I'm not sure what I would have done.
Ritchie: Would you have managed it differently?
Bulkeley: Somehow I would have managed it differently had I understood the implications of what that was doing to the people who were carrying so much of the load. I don't know how I would have managed it differently, but I would have figured some way or found some way or we would have all quit and blown the whistle on the mess. I don't know what we would have done.
We talked about options at the time, but I don't really remember them anymore other than knowing that we were all putting our own future on the line.
Ritchie: We talked a little bit about personal and corporate conflict. Did you ever feel professional and personal conflict? You obviously put a great deal of time and effort into your career. Did you have any personal life?
Bulkeley: I had no personal life to speak of really before I was married. Those years in Rochester as a single female, I just worked all the time, except when I had to do laundry or get the snow tires put on the car or taken off the car and all of those things that I had to do for myself. After I got married and had a reason to go home, I had to learn different ways of working, because I couldn't just add more hours to the day to get done what had to be done.
After the marriage, the real personal conflicts were being in jobs that didn't allow time for things like international travel. Before we were married, David had done some travel in Europe and Russia, and there are things that still today he wants me to see. I had only done a little. When I was single, I had done a couple of trips to Central America, one to visit my brother and one to do the Mayan Indian stuff with my mother. But I've never traced the family roots in England and Wales, for instance, that I would like to do sometime. I would like to see the stuff David thinks I ought to see. There are things neither one of us has seen we'd like to see, but I was never in a job when I could take enough time to make it worth the effort of getting there—passport, shots, getting to Europe. This was long before the SST [supersonic transport], which was beyond anybody's affordability anyway, but all the time and the adjusting to time zones and things. So there were those kinds of conflicts.
I don't know that I ever had personal friendships on the line because of conflicts with work or anything like that, or personal belief systems that weren't compatible or negotiable with work. That just seemed not to happen, and it may be because I was so absorbed in what I was doing that I didn't build friendships with people that were going to make conflicts.
Ritchie: Did you have friends who were other females in the business?
Bulkeley: I had newspaper friends, I had journalism friends that I met along the way and indeed should have talked about more than probably in the mentoring thing, such as Marjorie Paxson, who was the president of Women in Communications when I first got involved, when it still was Greek-named—Theta Sigma Phi. Marjorie eventually became a Gannett publisher and partly because of my intervention. People like Judy Woodruff and Pat Carbine and all kinds of women who were pioneers in their own parts of journalism and who also lived on the cutting edge—Tad Bartimus, who was one of the first AP [Associated Press] bureau chiefs, who was one of the first women assigned to Vietnam during the worst of that war. One of my stories is Tad saying, "Where did you ever get the courage to go into management?" She, who put her whole life on the line in Vietnam! And I said to Tad, "That doesn't take courage. Where did you get the courage to go to Vietnam?" And she says, "That wasn't courage; that was just following the story." Well, okay. There are all kinds of us and all kinds of journalists and lots of people that I can pick up the phone and pick up a conversation as if we had seen each other yesterday and it's maybe been six years. [Tape interruption.]
[End Tape 1, Side B; Begin Tape 2, Side A]
Ritchie: Christy, you've been described as Al Neuharth's "cutting edge female." What did that title bring with it?
Bulkeley: Being the first woman publisher in Gannett, that sounds like a self-description—"cutting edge female." Being the first woman publisher in Gannett and in many ways in this generation—some companies still don't have their own—brought with it a lot of opportunities and a lot of grief as any place of difference does. The opportunities, of course—at least I considered them opportunities—were chances for access to people I would not have had access to in constructive ways. I was on a Pulitzer judging jury the first two years that I was a publisher, because they knew in the mid-seventies they needed to have a better mix of jurors, and that's a very high privilege to be one of those who makes the first cut at entries to the Pulitzer Prizes.
I was invited to do speeches lots of places that were fun places to go, sharing the platform with people that I considered stars, when I never really considered myself a star. That meant some travel and things that other people were envious of. A lot of people never understood the invisibility. I would sit at meetings of the Publishers Association.
The best example is a program meeting for the Publishers Association annual convention. Kay Graham, the chairman of the Washington Post Company at that point, was chairing the meeting, and asked us to go around the table, offering our ideas. People would get oohs and aahs and little questions as they offered their ideas. When I offered mine, there was dead silence, as if I'd never said anything. The guy next to me did his stuff. We went around the table, and a friend of mine across the table, H.L. Stevenson, then the editor-in-chief at United Press International, H.L. "Steve" did my idea all over again, in my words, and it was the best idea they'd heard. Now, that story is common for women who have been the first ones and for people of color who have been the first or the only in meetings. That was the most graphic time I'd encountered it, and it convinced me of the need for added authority of some kind to back up our own ideas. It simply added to other evidence I'd had that, "The girl can't be right. The girl can't know what she's doing."
Some of the reporting I did in Rochester was cutting-edge reporting, but my bosses didn't know I had developed it and needed to teach somebody, so when I left that particular reporting beat, I never was allowed to train my successor in how to do the reporting of county government as a financial management exercise. My reporting had given the public control of the budget during election campaigns, and that all disappeared when I left the beat. So that's a kind of invisibility and lack of credibility in your own work that comes with the territory of being the first and the only. The visibility that kept some of the corporate staff on my back, even though I was cleaning up messes of the publishers I followed, the publisher before me in Danville was paid twice as much as I was, yet I was specifically ordered to fire the department heads that he refused to fire. He had intentionally lowballed a budget and gotten away with it, and was paid twice as much as I was, and was promoted out of there. That goes with the cutting-edge territory.
But I also had lots of trips on the corporate jet with Al. I had Al's ear when I wanted to test ideas. As a mad genius at new ideas, it was a wonderful place to test ideas. People with less imagination or less smarts or fewer tracks running in their head don't see the connections or don't feel connections that Neuharth could feel. You could throw an idea at him in one sentence and get a full reaction back if you understood how his head worked. I got full support for my professional association work because I was cutting-edge female and Neuharth wanted it done.
By the same token, when the new Gannett management generation came in, I was criticized for professional association work. I was criticized for asking questions at company
meetings, even though I had been trained to do that by Al Neuharth and John Quinn, his key news executive. But I was seriously criticized more than once, even after I quit asking questions and started stepping back, even when I explained that I didn't do professional organizations except to advance the agenda that I was given. When I was told to let other people do the speeches, if I was asked to do a speech, refer them to other Gannett people, I said, "I do, and the other Gannett people turn them down, so they go outside of Gannett. If you want Gannett to have visibility, you have to tell those other people it's okay, because they're saying no. Or tell them to call you and ask and not automatically say no."
So the pendulum swings, and "cutting edge" means you're at more risk, but by the same token, people who understand change and the risk with change will do what they can to make it a highly rewarding experience rather than disaster.
Ritchie: Did the direction of your career change when the staff at headquarters changed—the upper management?
Bulkeley: When the Neuharth successor generation came into Gannett, I had been in Danville seven years, which is far longer than I should have been, and a lot of it was because of the economic stuff. A lot of it was because of the transition period that was happening in Gannett. Other people were making a lot of the decisions that Neuharth used to make. During those Danville years, women were not appointed to jobs any bigger than I was in in Danville—probably what we today call the glass ceiling. The transitional executives were not going to move women any farther than Al already had. There got to be more of them, but women would be promoted from one publisher job to another and still be in papers that were in the bottom half of Gannett's size, while men would be appointed to their first publisher job in papers in the top half. Glass ceiling.
When the new generation came in, I remembered other times when I had been told I didn't get a particular job because I hadn't told anybody I wanted it. So I went straight to the new boss, to John Curley, and I said, "I need to get out of this town after all of these years of economic strain and being in a community that isn't compatible and that I don't really understand and haven't been able to figure out. I can't do the news job right. I've done all the stuff I know how to do. You need somebody in here who can handle it, who can figure it out, or who is of the same culture that this community is." It was a very working-class, blue-collar community where people for generations had not been allowed to be creative or to take initiative or to have ideas. Its last flourishing in that way was immediately after World War II when some inventors surfaced and made some good money out of there, but by then, of course, that was a whole generation or two later.
So Curley was surprised when I told him I was quite willing to drop the professional association stuff and go run the Saratoga paper, because he's of the belief system that says you always have to be doing bigger things, that success means more and bigger. Well, success doesn't mean that to me; it never did. I had learned enough that I thought I knew what kind of a newspaper Saratoga really needed, and that it needs a different kind of paper than it had. It was growing, and the paper should have been growing, and it wasn't, so I wanted to go do that. In fact, he let me. A couple of months later I was offered that job. In that same conversation with John, I turned down a bigger paper. He asked me to go to one of the bigger papers, and I said no.
Ritchie: Why did you turn it down?
Bulkeley: Partly because it was Midwest, partly because it was another heavy industry community. I didn't know whether it was the passive culture such as Danville had at that time or whether it was a more creative kind of community. All I knew was I really wasn't ready to do that. I didn't want to stay in the Midwest, and I really didn't have whatever it was going to take to run a bigger operation in an industrial community, which probably was still fighting recession, too. So I told him no, that I wouldn't do that, and listed a bunch of places I'd be interested in going, and ultimately I got to go back to Saratoga, David and I. The Saratoga publisher [Mike Coleman] in fact went to the paper I had turned down.
Shortly thereafter, I thought I had, in effect, negotiated with John a long-term stay, showing what could happen with a little newspaper and training department heads and reporters for him, knowing I would have regular turnover and be in a training situation because I'd always been in one anyway. Well, it became clear within a few months that John or somebody wanted me all the way out of the newspaper in Gannett. The statistics gave them enough statistical excuse to stand up in a first-pass firing, if that's what they wanted, and my boss put me on warning. I knew how to do that. As regional vice president for a few years in Illinois, I had learned what factual basis you could use to fire a publisher and indeed had put some on warning, so I knew what was going on.
Then my boss called and said, "You're going to be offered this job at the [Gannett] Foundation. You'd better take a good look at it."
Ritchie: Which meant?
Bulkeley: Which meant that if I didn't take that rescue, there would not be another one, and I would be fired at some point. That's the way I read it. With the written warning already on the job evaluation, it would have been hard if there were other clues or if he had any other intent. He might have. I'm second-guessing; I never confronted him on it.
Ritchie: Did you think of fighting this?
Bulkeley: Sure. I hadn't recovered from Danville and the move and getting to Saratoga and immediately losing three of my five department heads, losing all three capable ones to promotions, so thus running the paper shorthanded. There were all sorts of reasons. Yeah, I looked at whether I should sue and what the odds were. I went back over the statistics period the years when there was clearly a glass ceiling, a limit on how far women could go in Gannett. I looked at the secondary evidence of what I had accomplished and whether in a personal case that would stand up against the corporate computer printouts, which is what they were managing by, and I looked at what I'd heard from the women who had sued, about their own cost, the cost to all women in the companies where they were while the suits were pending, the cost to the company and whatever progress had raised their expectations enough so that when they were at some point they did feel they had to sue.
I decided that with Gannett, whether I had grounds to sue or not (I never got a legal opinion), but I decided I wasn't going to even go that far looking at it, that Gannett, in fact, was ahead of the rest of the newspaper business in progress of women and people of color. With USA Today, some people in Gannett in a way understood content changes and different products for different audiences—not enough, but some. There were a whole lot of reasons, and I was afraid that if I even went to a lawyer about a lawsuit it could slow down what was happening. John Curley was a newsperson in origin, and his brother Tom, who is now the publisher at USA Today,
there are a lot of good people in their generation of Gannett managers, and there were good people in the rest of the company in a lot of places.
I just decided I was offered a chance to do some stuff I'd wanted to do at the Foundation. It gave David a chance to live where his family was for the first time in twenty years, in Rochester, and we had lots of friends there. So I really didn't expect to stay seven years at the Foundation. I really thought after a year or two, I'd poke around and find myself another job in the newspaper business, but I got into stuff there that was so interesting, that I wanted to follow through. It was a multiple-year process. There just never came a good time to find my way back into journalism.
Ritchie: Did you feel that you had accomplished what you set out to do in journalism? I know at one time you said you wanted to change how the East covered the Midwest.
Bulkeley: I set out, I thought, to improve the coverage for the Midwest, because I didn't believe even in the fifties and early sixties that we were getting the coverage from Washington that we needed to make our decisions for the democracy. I found out in those years in the Rochester newsroom that mismatches between news and what the public knew it needed to know to participate was a systemic problem. It wasn't just a funny regional question about the Midwest. There were lots of things news media could do to keep the public more connected with their communities and this society and to keep themselves, the media, better connected with media than they are today. The gaps weren't quite so clear in the sixties.
Anyway, I found out that to do what I set out to do really meant changing systems, and that if systems can be changed, bosses have to do it. So when I also understood that Neuharth wanted me to be a boss and not do my original reporting career plan, I decided, "Well, I'll go along with it for a while. How long does it take to fix things? It shouldn't take very long when you're a boss." Right. Well, that's not true, as anybody has learned who has tried to do systems change. It's even hard within a small group to institutionalize change. Some of the reporting that I did in Rochester did not get institutionalized. Some of the changes we made in Saratoga in the two and a half years I was there were gone when I went back in seven and a half years, even though they were as valid, or more valid, than when we had them before.
So, no, I didn't meet my immediate goal, but in many ways I participated in a much bigger and more important work and still have time to do more in keeping the information available to the public that it needs to find and develop its own potential, because that's what I was really trying to do through journalism, was help the democracy work better for people than it was. I saw more potential than was happening.
I still think there's opportunity to do that, although goodness knows in the years since I started, television has fragmented all over the cable and the satellites, and it's no longer just three networks and no longer a handful of radio stations, some with news staffs and some without. It's no longer one or two newspapers, and between them every house has a daily newspaper in a community. The statistics are terrible for the traditional news media. Women have been defecting as readers from daily newspapers even faster than men have in most recent years because of mismatches between expectations. There is research that shows very clearly what the public needs and wants and thinks it's entitled to in order to participate as citizens in community, citizens in the democracy, in order to be willing to vote and to give money to candidates and to give money to nonprofit organizations to do work for homeless or Girl Scouts or whatever.
The news media is not paying much attention to that. Many parts of it are not looking at it at all. They're inventing their own solutions and taking far longer to get to the same conclusions in many cases than if they'd been willing to hear and to learn and to listen what was being offered by people who are different. Not just women and not just people of color, but people in other pragmatic parts of the academy. There are pragmatic political science people in universities—pragmatic theologians in seminaries and divinity schools, pragmatic sociologists, all of whom really hope that they can help the democracy work better, which I think is what most of us hope, not just for our own selves. Most of us have plenty and don't need a whole lot more, but we see increasing numbers of poor people, and that's not the way it should be. It doesn't have to be that way, if we can quit navel-gazing, if we can quit being driven into hiding in our own little corners of communities. A lot of people disconnected from doing community stuff at all.
Ritchie: Do you see your career going in this direction of combining your background with new education?
Bulkeley: Among the many possibilities for what I do next, I've spent those seven years at the Gannett Foundation learning a lot about changing systems all the way from local community to federal. I had a hand in making possible the first national literacy legislation. We changed some state governments in terms of adult literacy through a program I designed. And some other things. Just routine projects. Through that I saw everyday people being far ahead of the "experts" in possible solutions to a lot of the problems we deal with. I think there are ways to show the news media, or some of the leading news media, how to hear and see what's happening on the streets in their towns in a different way than they do now. I think there are ways to show them that a lot of the coverage that is being invested in in big ways can be condensed and collapsed and replaced with more constructive coverage that means more to more people and thus will sell more papers or stop the loss.
Ritchie: Do you see yourself as having a role in this?
Bulkeley: There are lots of ways I can help do that if I can find somebody who wants to let me. I'm about to finish a two-year theology degree. I've never done master's degree work before, and finally discovered I couldn't learn theology fast enough on my own, so I've taken two years to do a degree, in a seminary which is a pragmatic place to do theology. So most of my work has been how do I apply the stuff from the theology class or sociology of religion or religion and politics, how do I apply that to something that means something in my world. So I've done various attacks on the media—not attacks, but various ways so the news media can see belief systems and how much that has to do with how people react.
I'm doing another paper for one of my classes on how to train gatekeepers in a newspaper, how to show them where religion is, because it's most places and they don't know it, so that they, in turn, expect reporters to find it and to see it when it exists, rather than shutting it off the way I was ignored and shut off at that meeting of that committee years ago. In many ways religion is the same; it's part of the life of far more people than sports is, but you'll never know that to look at a newspaper or a traditional newscast. It even gets more money than sports does, but you'd never know that. So if you want to measure it by the way traditional society measures, the news media ought to be trying to do religion, but they don't even have to do that if they just learn to see it where it is. So that's one of the things I can do.
I certainly can do project management or public relations or any number of things. I don't really know what I'll do next. I've got a few more months and a few more years to sort that all out and see what's the best place. I will not, if I can avoid it, ever again work where I'm a moving
target. That takes too much time and energy, and there's too much to be done to waste it on people who think everything operates in little compartments or by computer printouts. That isn't the way the world is, and it's not going to be. I'm not going to waste my time on them anymore.
Ritchie: Looking back over your life and career, is there anything that we haven't talked about in our interviews that you'd like to add today, or that I haven't asked you?
Bulkeley: There probably are lots of things that would be useful to other people if I could remember to tell the stories, but there also are lots of other people who have been cutting edge in their own places of journalism and of social change. I think probably the greatest strength we all have is knowing how to live in change, which a lot of people still don't have, and that change means information and knowledge are the most important product. That means the news media should be more valuable today than they ever have been, the media that look at and cover the institutions of community. People really need community. They need to be able to connect with other people. This ought to be the best times of all for the news media. They ought to be more in demand than they ever have been. My experience shows me that they ought to be more in demand. My experience shows me a lot of why they aren't, but I'm not the only one who knows that. I suspect adding my theology degree to a journalism degree gives me credentials nobody else has, but whether that leads me to insights beyond what we've already shared, I would guess the answer is no. It confirms a lot of what I suspected and thought I knew, but again as somebody on the cutting edge, it helps to have outside validation, because there aren't patterns to follow. And increasingly there won't be patterns for anybody. I mean, increasingly we're going to have to learn as we go and learn to share and learn to be part of community, because Lone Rangers can't survive in our kind of economy, our kind of society.
Ritchie: Do you feel that you're still cutting edge?
Bulkeley: Not really. There are lots of times I can go into rooms and learn things, and there are lots of times I can go sit in a whole meeting and never find a question to ask that isn't being asked. The seminary has been wonderful, because more than half the people there are women, more than 30 percent of them are people of color, African-Americans, Hispanics, Latinos, Asians, Asian-Americans, Africans, African-Americans, all ages. In fact, the kids right out of school with all that energy and vim and vigor are in the minority, and we have to be careful not to stomp on it, because we need our batteries recharged, too.
But there are just so many accomplished people and so many things happening, and you'd never know it to look at traditional news, and that's too bad, because it would satisfy the computer print readers if the media could reconnect with all of those people. It would make the papers, the broadcast, more valuable for the advertisers who need to be in a lively environment for their ads to pay off. It would be better for everybody. But I'm not the only one who knows that. There are a lot of people who know that, and they're working in various ways to try to change a massive culture of traditional news media, who are also looking at brand-new things coming at them out of places that they never expected to find competition. It just makes it a very scary time for them, and I understand that, and I'm no threat to anybody. I never set out to be, either, but I sure turned out to be.
Ritchie: We thank you very much for sharing your experiences both today and in the audio tape interviews that will be compiled together as a transcript.
Bulkeley: Thank you. It's been fun.
© 1994, Washington Press Club Foundation.
Washington, DC. All Rights Reserved.