Because this session was videotaped,
material from other sessions may be repeated here.
[Begin Tape 1, Side A]
Kasper: Well, Dorothy, Jean Gaddy Wilson said to me that you were the godmother of the transformation of the women's pages from society news and diet news and so forth to substantive news. How would you describe your role in the transformation of the women's pages from society news to substantive news?
Jurney: Well, I think a great opportunity was open to me to make use of the background I had, both on a small newspaper back in Michigan City, Indiana, plus the fact that I was an assistant city editor and acting city editor on the Washington News. So that my orientation was towards the presentation of news and women were beginning to do so many things outside of the home—things important in the community and also to their own—it seemed that the role of the women's pages should be to report this news. And society was not an anachronism, but it needed to be cut down in size a little bit as far as the space devoted to it.
Kasper: Can you describe a little bit what you remember about the old society pages—what they looked like and what the contents of them were?
Jurney: Well, yes, because it seemed to me that it—not really the old society pages, they were still in existence in as late as the early 1970s when I went to the Philadelphia Inquirer. The front page of the women's section, I guess it was probably called society section, was devoted to weddings and to a column—a very well-written column, very well-reported column—on social functions in the Philadelphia area. But, it went on for columns and columns, not just for the front page, but inside too.
Kasper: And the society column reported on what clubs people attended or what functions they attended or where they—
Jurney: Social clubs.
Kasper: Social clubs.
Jurney: Yes. Not women's organizations. It was indeed a high society kind of reporting. But it had its place. I didn't believe that it should be killed altogether because a lot of—particularly in Washington—a lot of the—what do I want to say—the business of—
Kasper: Political happenings took place in—
Jurney: Yes, yes. That's right. And there were a lot of discussions, not only among diplomats at a party, but also among congressional leaders, and the good social reporters were reporting those things.
Kasper: So at least in Washington they were also reporting political news at the same time they reported social news.
Jurney: That's correct. It was a part of that. It was not designated separately. But I am afraid that the editors in charge really didn't see it that way.
Kasper: How did they see it?
Jurney: Well, it was rather obvious from the way they changed the section over to what is now called Style and practically eliminated all reporting of social events which is such a big part of Washington life. That's the time that they put various
kinds of entertainment, reviews, into the section which took up the space and, as far as I could see from being a reader, there was no attempt made to really cover what was going on in women's lives. And this was at the time of so much of the women's movement when it should have been in that Style section.
Kasper: Now, take us back a little bit to some of the other newspapers that you worked on in Miami, the News, and the Herald, to earlier society pages. Now what were some of the contents of those pages as you remember them.
Jurney: Well, I think the Miami News and the Miami Herald had advanced already when I joined them, but I was able to strengthen it. We cut down on the amount of space that was given to weddings and engagements. Then we added reporters to the staff, and I'm talking particularly about the Miami Herald. Reporters were added to our staff, and very good ones, so that they were able to see what women's organizations were accomplishing in the community, not only culturally, but as I say, as the women's movement grew, and it was very strong in the Miami area.
Kasper: Now when you talk about the changes that you personally made, or that you were instrumental in seeing made, can you address some of those changes—the specifics. I mean, I remember, for instance, when we talked earlier about, I think this was at the Detroit Free Press, that you were instrumental in seeing that some of the women's news had second day coverage.
Kasper: And I remember something about makeovers, too. Can you talk about that a little bit?
Jurney: Yes. I think you are referring to the fact that as the equal opportunity—EEOC—Equal [Employment] Opportunity Commission—began to hear women's complaints, particularly from the Detroit area. These were complaints about discrimination in the automobile companies against women. And it suddenly occurred to me that we ought to be looking into what the EEOC was doing in our area. And the government agency did furnish us information about complaints that had been made to them, about cases that were going to court. Also about that time, the—and I'm not going to recall the right terminology here—but the government rulings or directives which said that colleges and universities had to give equal opportunity to women professors and we discovered that this movement was very strong both at the University of Michigan and Michigan State University. So we sent a reporter up to talk to a couple of the women professors who had, I think, been denied—what is it you call it?
Jurney: Tenure. Yes. And their problems in getting equal pay also. So we reported that on one day and then I told this reporter, who was Helen Fogel, now still on the Detroit News, to follow that up and let's see what that day or the next day brought in changes. So she did. And I must admit, we didn't have the strongest second-day story in the world. I don't think there were all that many changes that came about as the result of our first story, but it was the legitimate second-day story which brought out new facets of information about the developments. And one of the bosses on the Detroit Free Press took me to task for "why were we writing this story about the advancement of women in universities," you see.
Kasper: So he objected to the subject matter.
Jurney: I think that's what was in his mind.
Kasper: Was that really a first for that paper too, to cover something as controversial as that?
Jurney: Well, the city desk had not been doing it. And, as a matter of fact, I think we entered a lot of areas that the city desk probably didn't have the staff or the time to report on these things or maybe were not as much aware of what was happening among women in the UAW, for instance, or in the level of professors in the University of Michigan. You really had to get in there and be a part—an observer, sure—but accepted, win the confidence of the people and understand
where they were, what they were doing, and then you could have the basis of a factual story on these things. I don't think the newsroom had time or interest in these.
Kasper: Well, do you think that that was in particular because they were women's issues? Or do you think it was—
Jurney: That may have had a large part to do with it.
Kasper: Because certainly pay issues have been of interest to city side sections of the paper in the past.
Jurney: Not necessarily pay issues as they related to women.
Kasper: Exactly my point.
Jurney: Yes. [Laughter]
Kasper: Can you remember some of the other stories that you began to cover that perhaps raised the ire of management in the papers that you worked for?
Jurney: Well, I think we were treading perhaps on marginal ground when we began to report on the development of human sensitivity training. You remember, there was a period, and in the Detroit area these training sessions, which lasted for a week as I recall it, were initiated by the Junior League, and certainly the city side would not have been interested in anything the Junior League was doing unless it had been that somebody had absconded with the charitable funds. But I sent a reporter to attend one of these sessions and she wrote her own experiences. I think that was sort of sensational as far as the male news editors were concerned. And I recall that we ran the story of a woman, who is now a senior editor on one of the top magazines in the country, who wrote about her early psychological difficulties and hiding in the closet. It was a very personal story. And I remember the managing editor, who came to me and said, "That didn't have any part in a newspaper." Fortunately, the executive editor knew that he had called me down on this and he complimented me on running the story.
Kasper: I also remember another cutting-edge kind of a story that you mentioned before about covering the issue of homosexuality in the Detroit schools.
Jurney: Oh, yes.
Kasper: Was that another troublesome spot for you along the way?
Jurney: Yes. It was kind of interesting. I had learned—well, I knew that good things were going on in the Detroit public schools, and I regret to say that apparently they are not continuing. But at that time, I was able to employ a couple of women on a part-time basis who were teachers and also journalists. They did columns and also some kind of news stories as to new programs that were being initiated in the schools. And one of these had to do with homosexuality.
Kasper: Do you remember what year this was, how far back this goes?
Jurney: Well, I went there in '59, so I would guess it was maybe '65, somewhere in there.
Kasper: Which was certainly a tough issue to address back in 1965. Your management—
Jurney: Oh, yes. Homosexuality is a word you did not mention. You scarcely mentioned the word "sex" in a newspaper. Anyway, these two women wrote about the kind of courses, and in what grades they were being offered—not offered, but included in the academic program. So I had, of course, to tell the managing editor that we had this series of five or six stories which dealt with what the public schools were doing. I wanted to use the word homosexuality and include it probably in the headline. And this managing editor was astounded, overcome, overwhelmed, didn't know how to combat this. The only way that I was able to resolve the problem
was to use what we called a kicker or overline on the main headline saying, "How to Raise More Manly Sons." It seemed ridiculous to me.
Kasper: I also remember your mentioning something about coverage of news in the black community when you were at one of the Miami papers.
Kasper: And that, it seems to me at the time you were there, was also pretty much a no-no.
Kasper: I mean the black community's interests and concerns were not addressed in the paper. Is that correct?
Jurney: They were ignored. Just like women's things were ignored. We were just not—we weren't a part of the living, breathing community. I think we started—I had a wonderful older woman who was excellent on interviews and certainly had no racial bias. I remember she did an interview with Lena Horne, who at that time was appearing at one of the top Miami Beach hotels. I can't recall the name of it now, but really the top one. She was not allowed to stay overnight there. She had to stay back in Miami at the black hotel. But this woman, Beatrice Washburn, who is now deceased, did a wonderful story on Lena Horne.
Kasper: Did she address the issue that Lena Horne was able to appear in the hotel but had to sleep elsewhere?
Jurney: Oh yes. Yes.
Kasper: She did.
Jurney: Oh yes. That was a part of it.
Kasper: That was a brave thing to do.
Jurney: Yes. Well, we had very understanding—Lee Hills was our executive editor there, and he was an excellent editor and would have no objection to that. We did not write a headline on that subject.
Kasper: There were also a couple of other cutting issues that you addressed too. They were child support and unwed mothers. Do you remember some of those that were stories that you assigned to reporters in the papers that you worked on?
Jurney: Yes. I think particularly in Detroit where there was a real movement to do something about the problem of unwed mothers—education, making them better mothers, hopefully reducing the number of unwed mothers in the community. And so we could report on—and I remember this home that was established about—this would have been about 1967. It was called the Lulubelle Stuart Home and I helped name it. Lulubelle Stuart had been a black woman doctor in the community who was celebrated—not widely in the community—but in the black community she was celebrated. They had some very fine programs for women, and, again, the schools in Detroit were trying to help unwed mothers. I don't know that they went so far as to have day care for the infants at that time, as I think they have done in later years.
Kasper: You were also instrumental in instituting something in the women's pages that were called makeovers. I mentioned it earlier. Can you explain what makeovers were and why that was unusual for the women's pages during your tenure?
Jurney: Well, I don't think anybody—as far as I know, nobody before had done this, but I knew that sports sections and the news sections of the paper could get news in that maybe happened at ten, twelve o'clock at night. But we on the women's pages were supposed to have our final deadline about noon, or certainly no later than two, in the afternoon. And yet, and I think we did makeovers more in the social end in covering society news, there were very important parties where
Henry Ford was there, and the president of General Motors; and what did they talk about, and what did their wives wear, and so forth.
Kasper: This was during your tenure at the Detroit Free Press.
Jurney: Yes, it was.
Kasper: It was some time in the sixties, then.
Jurney: Yes. So that I got permission from the editorial management and was told that if I could work it out with the composing room, we could makeover our pages—change our pages—from one edition to another. So the reporter and photographer would go and cover one of these parties and rush back to the paper. Then somebody would stay there, usually myself, to edit it and write the headlines and get it through the composing room.
Kasper: And this was significant because it seems to me that it treated women's page news more as news.
Jurney: Yes. That's right.
Kasper: The fact that late-breaking news was worthy of being included in the paper in its new and revised form.
Jurney: Yeah. We didn't do this just for society coverage, but if there was a very important speaker. For instance, if Martha Griffiths would have been talking, and it would have been an extemporaneous talk, something that we couldn't have gotten in advance, we would have been able to say we want to makeover columns one and two for this new story.
Kasper: Tell me, in your opinion, what happened to the women's pages and women's page editors when substantive news was incorporated? What was the next step?
Jurney: Well, I don't think substantive news was incorporated as much as it should have been, Anne. There were some newspapers that were doing what we were doing in Miami and in Detroit in writing about significant events that women were particularly interested in or that were particularly important to the family. And you could generally get a news handle for something like that, but not many newspapers had encouraged women's editors to do anything like it. Well, there are a couple of reasons for that. As long as women's pages and women's editors didn't complicate the life of the managing editor or the executive editor, it was hands off, you know, why bother with these things. It's going along all right. Let's not stir up a fuss. So as long as pictures of engaged couples and weddings filled up those pages and the advertisers were happy with that, they let well enough alone. But there were forward-looking newspapers, and I think the Miami Herald was one, and certainly the Free Press, and I'm thinking of Vivian Castleberry's paper in Texas—
Kasper: The Dallas Times Herald.
Jurney: Yes. There were a few papers like that that could see that, to keep up with what was happening in the world of that time, they should be reporting women's activities. But I think that probably what happened—the Washington Post was very influential in not carrying through with that movement. I guess they thought that they had too much society news, and they probably did, but they didn't go along with the track that I think was important and was lost to readers as a result of what the Washington Post did. They made a survey throughout the country, got ideas from various editors on it, and they established their Style section and cut down their society news but replaced it with entertainment stories—movie reviews, cultural events, which are important, but it took the space away from what should have been real news—hard news reporting in the women's areas.
Kasper: What happened to that hard news reporting? Did it disappear entirely?
Jurney: The women's movement did not help any at this point. Gloria Steinem and Bella Abzug, probably, although I remember Steinem's efforts more, maintained that women's news should be treated like any other news and should appear throughout the
newspaper, on page one, or the local pages, and so forth. In theory, that was fine, but it didn't work out in practice. It simply disappeared from newspapers.
Kasper: So you feel that this was a loss.
Jurney: Oh, yes.
Kasper: This was a turning point in American journalism and it was a loss. Is that correct?
Jurney: Yes. I think it was a great loss to the readers, and probably a loss, as far as the newspapers were concerned, in the interest of the reader in the newspaper.
Kasper: So you feel that the substantive news on women's pages were of interest to the general readership. Did you feel that that was so?
Jurney: I want to say that it could have been, if well done.
Kasper: It had the potential, is what you're saying.
Jurney: It had the potential. And if there was a speaker or if something happened at the PTA that would have been important to family life, now that should have been reported, and well reported, and should have been of interest to both men and women.
[End Tape 1, Side A; Begin Tape 1, Side B]
Jurney: Well, I think I should mention that I was born in Michigan City, Indiana, and my father was a publisher of his small town daily. We had 6,000 circulation but it was a very good newspaper. After I graduated from the School of Journalism at Northwestern University, it was 1930, and it was the height of the Depression. And so I went to work for my dad. The only other opportunity I had was to work for the Michigan Tuberculosis Society.
I remember walking down the street one Saturday morning during the Depression and my dad saying, "You know, I can't pay the employees until the paper boys come back with their collections for the week." And the cost of the paper, every subscriber would have paid fifteen cents for the week's delivery of the newspaper. And that's what we were dependent upon for our pay. I started to work for $25.00 and was shortly cut down to $15.00 a week.
I worked for the Michigan City News until 1939, when my father had sold the paper a couple of years before that. My brother had already gone to work for the Gary Post Tribune and he told me that they were looking for a women's editor there. So I applied and got the job. That was a very interesting experience because of all of the many nationalities that lived in Gary and were active in the community. And I don't think their activities had been reported either. You see, these nationality people were present because they worked in the Gary steel mills.
Kasper: What year was it that you went to the Gary Post Tribune?
Jurney: In 1939, was when I went to the Post Tribune in Gary and was there only two years. By this time I had been married to Frank Jurney and, this was just before World War II, and he was going to the Panama Canal Zone and so I had the good fortune to go down there and work as the assistant to the press representative of the Panama Canal. And my job was to report on the construction of the third locks that the U.S. government was building. We wrote those stories for the Panamanian newspapers.
When it came time for us to leave the Canal Zone and come back to the States, we had a short interim in which I worked for the Miami News as an assistant editor. But then Frank was assigned to a job in Washington with the Engineer Corps. And so I looked for a job, first on the old Washington News and wasn't hired because they wanted to know how long I had covered police. Well, seldom, you know. But I did get a job on the Washington News—
Kasper: It was the old Washington Star, wasn't it, that you had applied to?
Jurney: Yes. Washington Star.
Kasper: That wanted you for the police beat.
Jurney: That's right.
Kasper: Yeah. But then you applied to the Washington D.C. News?
Jurney: Yes. And because I had had this news experience on my dad's paper and I knew a great deal about the inner workings of a newspaper—composing room, the importance of circulation, advertising, etc.—the Washington News did see an opportunity to hire me as an assistant city editor, and then I became acting city editor.
Kasper: Can you talk a little bit at that point about how you moved so rapidly in the few years that you worked with the Washington D.C. News to an acting city editor? Didn't the war have something to do with that?
Jurney: Yes. I got hired because of World War II.
Kasper: How is that?
Jurney: There were not as many men around for the jobs and those that were there—there were a couple of men who were excellent editors, but as they got drunk from time to time and didn't show up to work, I was there and able to do their job. So that's how I became an assistant city editor. Then, when the city editor was promoted to be the executive editor of the paper, I was acting city editor. But the war was over and—I worked on the Washington News during the death of Franklin Roosevelt, and that was a very exciting night, working all night long calling reporters back to work and so forth. But John O'Rourke, who was the top editor of the Scripps-Howard paper, called me in one day and said, "Well, you know, the men are coming back from war and we have this young man who was a cub reporter in the sports department and I want to make him the city editor. And Dorothy, I would like you to teach him his job." And he said, "You know, I just don't think it would work to make you the city editor, and you know the reason why?" And I said, "Yes. I'm a woman."
Kasper: And he agreed with you.
Jurney: Yes. Yes.
Kasper: He agreed that it was because you were a woman.
Jurney: Oh, yes. That was right. And I said, "Well, Mr. O'Rourke, if I have to teach whatever-his-name was, Daniel, his job, I will need more money." So I did get a raise in pay for it.
Kasper: And didn't you also tell me that it did not work out for Mr. Daniel? That while you trained him to take your own job, in the end he was nowhere near up to par in terms of the needs of the newspaper. Isn't that correct?
Jurney: Well, I don't think he stayed there very long after that. I don't really know how that worked out. But a couple of the men who had worked for me when I was acting city editor said, when they knew I was leaving, that they had been worried when they knew they were going to have to report to a woman boss, but it had worked just fine. So I was glad of that.
So, I didn't want to stay in Washington anymore, and Frank had an opportunity to go back to Florida. I originally worked for the Miami News again, but came to a parting of the ways with them.
Kasper: What year was this that you moved to the News?
Jurney: That would have been, well, '46 to '49, that I was with the News and working in the women's section. And the women's editor was very socially oriented and did not really understand the thrust of women's news which I wanted to see in the pages.
So when I didn't get transferred to the city side, I quit, and made application at the Miami Herald. And on the basis of a very strong letter of recommendation from Mr. Stevenson (whose first name I can't remember), who was the top editor by this time of the Washington D.C. News—the strong recommendation that he made—I was hired on the Miami Herald. And as I think I referred a little earlier to getting into black news in the community with the interview with Lena Horne and so forth, that was the beginning of the civil rights movement in the South. And we not only did black entertainers, but we were able to report on what was happening in a couple of the black sections in the Miami area. They were upgrading housing, largely with the backing and the help of white community leaders. But we reported that in the women's section—oddly enough. And I was with the Miami Herald until 1959.
I guess largely because I had separated from my husband, it was time for me to leave Miami and looked around the country. The sister newspaper of the Miami Herald, the Detroit Free Press, offered me a job. So I went to work for them in 1959.
Kasper: And you felt that that was the kind of the heyday of your career didn't you at the Detroit Free Press?
Jurney: Yes. I remember John S. Knight, who owned the papers, this was before Knight-Ridder merger, and Mr. Knight told me, "Well, you're going up there where they play hardball." And that was true. The staff was large and it was excellent. Kurt Luedtke, who became an executive editor there, made it possible to hire more good people in that section. So we really had top-flight men and women reporters in what was generally called the women's section. It had been called the family section when I went there. I wanted to change it back to For and About Women because I felt it was more personal. Family was sort of—there wasn't as much emphasis on upgrading the family and the problems of the family at that time and that would have been—let's see, what year did I say I went up there? In '59, the early sixties, there wasn't that much emphasis on the family. So we changed it back to For and About Women.
Kasper: Was that more successful?
Jurney: Well I thought it focused our story planning better. And under that we could do lots of community news because, you know, men were pretty busy earning livings and the women were more into cultural and community affairs. And, of course, we did a lot of reporting from the colleges and universities in Detroit—Wayne State University, Mercy College, University of Detroit. It was, I think, to my knowledge, that was the first time, at least, which I had really tried to get news from the academic community. And I guess I was not aware of the development of academic outreach. And, you know, in many cases they were ahead of what the community was doing.
Kasper: And yet had a strong influence on the community.
Jurney: Yes, that's right. If the community knew about it.
Kasper: And you left the Detroit Free Press. Why is it that you left and went to the Philadelphia paper?
Jurney: Well, here again, John S. Knight played a role in my life. Gene Roberts, who was the executive editor of the Philadelphia Inquirer, had been there—well, Mr. Knight had owned the Philadelphia Inquirer only about two years and it was a paper that was very run down. And the former owner of the paper was not so much interested in making a good newspaper as he was in his social position in the community of Philadelphia, so that he did not strengthen the paper. When the Knight family went in there, we had to rebuild the paper—editorially. The Bulletin, of course, was an extremely strong competitor and I guess had greater circulation than the Inquirer had. So Gene Roberts, in talking to Mr. Knight, was talking about his problems in, I guess they called it the women's section or For and About Women, and Gene told me that Mr. Knight said, "Well why don't you just get Madame Jurney and let her strengthen your section." So that's how I got to the Inquirer. By this time, I was approaching retirement age. I was there only from '73 to '75 as an assistant managing editor, which I had been in the latter part of my stay in
Detroit. From about '73 to '75, I was an assistant managing editor there in charge of some of the feature sections of the paper, which was then true in Philadelphia, as well.
Kasper: And after you retired, you did not retire from journalism. Among many other things, I know that you had an appointment to the American Society of Newspaper Editors and you were one of the first women who was one of the AP Managing Editors on their board of directors. Is that correct?
Jurney: I was the first woman board member of the APME—Associated Press Managing Editors organization. In fact, I became a board member before I was even a member of the group. I was asked to do that. Derick Daniels at the Detroit Free Press nominated me for a membership of the American Society of Newspaper Editors which proved very important to me, not only in newspapers, but afterward. I think when we talked before, I pointed out that women did not have an opportunity, women's editors had no organization in which they could share ideas and experiences on a paper. But getting to the ASNE meetings, I could see why some of these men were so smart—they got all of these ideas at this professional meeting. It also made it possible for me to know a lot of the top editors and publishers in the country, which was very valuable to me in doing, for instance, I see you have there, the tabloid paper on New Directions for News.
Kasper: I wanted to talk about that a little bit. In the early eighties, I know that you and Catherine East decided to do a study of newspaper coverage of women's issues that resulted in this New Directions for News publication in September of 1983. And I have to tell you, I've always said, that the cover of this thing is probably the most perfect example of how one large picture is worth more than a thousand words. It shows these various desks, you know, at a newspaper—there's the metropolitan coverage, and the business coverage, and sports coverage, and government coverage. And at each one of these desks, there is a guy with a computer and a typewriter and, you know, the sort of up-to-date technology of how you report news at a newspaper. The last desk is women's coverage. It shows this neanderthal-looking fellow with a beat up old typewriter on a rock and some sort of old-fashioned telephone next to him—which just, as I said, says it all—it relegates women's coverage to the place that it had always been in American journalism. But the point of the study wasn't just to be funny. I mean, the point of the study is maybe something you'd like to tell us a little bit about, why you and Catherine undertook this study.
Jurney: Well, Catherine East and Virginia Allan called me one day to come and meet with them. They wanted to know what role newspapers had played in the defeat of the Equal Rights Amendment, which Martha Griffiths had maneuvered through Congress, and then the states failed to ratify it in sufficient number. So I said, "Well, we can't study just Equal Rights Amendment coverage because we will not be credible with the male editors of the country. We have to have more issues." So, in the end, we took six different issues which were important, as we said, at the time, to women. We now say, six social issues, you see, important in America.
Kasper: Right. Can you list those? Do you remember what the six issues are?
Jurney: I'd have to look.
Kasper: I think I know most of them. There was the ERA. There was Title 9. There was education. There was housing.
Jurney: Family issues—family law.
Kasper: Family law issues. And I think I've failed on the sixth one.
Jurney: Not equal pay for equal rights—
Kasper: Comparable worth.
Jurney: Yeah. Comparable worth.
Kasper: Comparable worth was the sixth one. Right.
Jurney: And we started that back in—it was '75. '75 and '76.
Kasper: Was when you actually started the study?
Jurney: Yes. We got ten newspapers to furnish their clippings or printouts of material that they had used on certain stories which dealt with those issues. Then when we gathered the material and weeded it out because they sent us some things that were not germane, then we did a very thorough study with the help of graduate students at George Washington University, which sponsored this study. And, of course, in the end we found that unless there was confrontation or some combativeness in the news, the papers weren't really very interested in reporting it or they cut all of the substantive issues out of the story. And a lot of women reporters, women who went to the IWY (International Women's Year) Conference in Copenhagen particularly, complained about the reporting. They would send back stories which were related to the issues that the women felt very strongly about and were the subject of that worldwide conference. But what the editors back home would pick out would be that part that showed that the Israeli women walked out, or the Muslim women walked out of the conference, or something like that.
Kasper: Or that they were fighting with each other.
Jurney: Yes. And so a part of our report in this tabloid paper, our findings in '83, had to do with the fact that New Directions for News were then, and are now, essential if newspapers are going to succeed in interesting their readers. They have got to learn the ways to report on the things that are important in our democracy and do it in a way that readers will be interested—will read the paper to find out this news. Because, while the electronic media does a good job of spot reporting, even the more in-depth reporting on television, you can't go back to it and say, "Now, what was that point? Did he really, or did she really, say that?" But in a newspaper you can do that. What grew out of this thing in '83 is the current program, also called New Directions for News, which is headquartered at the University of Missouri and is now, well I think this current year, we were supported to the extent of foundation and individual newspaper contributions of about $320,000 to conduct what is now called the Think Tank to develop story ideas, to learn how to reach the newspaper reader of tomorrow.
Kasper: And wasn't New Directions for News instrumental, too, in seeing that reporters weren't just general reporters anymore, that they also became expert in certain areas. For instance, if Supreme Court decisions are going to be handed down as they are on an annual basis, there need to be reporters who were, if not lawyers themselves, are trained in understanding and reporting on the law—
Jurney: You're absolutely right.
Kasper: And science and medicine. Wasn't New Directions for News instrumental in seeing that there was that kind of background out there?
Jurney: Well, I think as far as reporting on the Supreme Court, I think the Supreme Court itself saw that newspapers were not understanding the significance and the various aspects of many of the rulings of the Supreme Court. They brought this to the attention of the newspapers in the country and they had developed some kind of mechanism to let newspapers know what a particular finding meant. But New Directions for News picked up on this and said, "Yes, newspapers should have more expert reporters." There were some science reporters, and I remember the Detroit Free Press had an early science reporter, a woman, who did nothing but write about scientific happenings. Religious reporters or reporters on religious issues came along. But we need still today more reporters who are better informed—informed in depth on the subjects that they have to cover.
Catherine East was telling me as I rode out to see you today that she appeared on a TV program in which the reporter hadn't the vaguest idea what this conversation panel was going to discuss on TV. She had no background for the women's movement and what had happened down through the years.
Kasper: That happened to me recently, too. I was attending a conference at the National Institutes of Health and one of the major newspaper chains had sent out a stringer,
Page 130 somebody who was not a health or a science writer, to cover the press conference on this major health topic—
Jurney: And very technical.
Kasper: —and very technical. And the woman happened to be sitting next to me. She was a young woman. She didn't know anything about the subject matter and she was terrified. I helped her with some of the material, but as it turned out, she had to write her own report and she made an error. And it was a serious error, and the newspaper—I can't remember, it was a newspaper in the South—had to make a retraction because in fact it was dangerous to report to American women something about—
Kasper: —this issue and health that they would be ill informed about.
Jurney: Publishers simply have to spend more money in developing experts in various fields, of reporters and editors.
Kasper: Where do you see the role of women journalists in some of the work that's going on at New Directions for News and in these changes in American journalism? Where do you see the role of women who are reporters and editors and managers and publishers today in making some of these changes that we are talking about?
Jurney: Well, I think that women editors certainly have a very broad vision. I really can't speak to whether men also have this broad a vision or not, but because of women's acculturation and experiences in life, they know that there is more to living than what happens in the police court and the fire stations and the government buildings and state legislatures. And I think they are more receptive and as they are strengthened now to do their own thing in being an editor, that we will be getting more of that news. I'm amazed always to see that the breadth of stories that are in the New York Times which used to be such a—the gray New York Times—now has some very human stories on page one.
Kasper: What do you see as the vital role of newspapers in American society?
Jurney: Oh, well I think that it's so important to have better newspapers to give readers better information because I think our democracy depends upon it. I see newspapers as an adult education. I think it is a mistake if newspapers are going to try to appeal only to the best educated people in the community as I saw advocated in this week's Editor and Publisher. It may be easier to sell newspapers to them, certainly there will have to be less emphasis on—sex is the only word I can think of—sexy-type stories—I don't want to use the word pornographic, but I can't—titillating stories—less emphasis on those—and a way to report, in an interesting fashion, the important things that are happening in the communities across the country.
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