Because this session was videotaped,
material from other sessions may be repeated here.
[Begin Tape 1, Side A]
Kasper: Well, we're here today with Charlotte Moulton who was a wire service reporter for the United Press from 1942 to 1978. Charlotte was also the Supreme Court reporter for the United Press from 1949 to 1978. So it was almost thirty years, isn't that right?
Moulton: Right. Yes it was.
Kasper: Yes. A long time. Charlotte, let's talk a little bit about your entry into journalism and about the fact that World War II was an opportunity for women to enter into journalism.
Moulton: Yes it was because the men were being drafted at the time that I went to United Press; some of them were volunteering also. So the men were leaving and they really needed women to run the show, so to speak. So women started to come into the business.
Kasper: And you started in 1942. You came down from Boston, isn't that right?
Moulton: No. Well, in 1940 I came down from Boston and I worked for the government for almost three years.
Kasper: But before coming to Washington, you'd worked on a small newspaper in Boston, is that right?
Moulton: Oh, a Methodist weekly—a church paper—I was a secretary there and did what secretaries are supposed to do.
Kasper: Then, in 1942, when you went to work for the United Press, what kind of work were you doing with them?
Moulton: Oh, I was in the morgue. Do you know what a morgue is? It's a file room where they keep their newspaper clippings. Nobody had cleaned out the file room—[Tape interruption.] The morgue is a place where they keep files that the desk men and other reporters can refer to when they're writing a story. That morgue hadn't been cleared out for quite a while and there were lots of things there that they really didn't need.
So the first thing I did was to go through the whole thing and throw a lot of stuff away. Then I was to do the clipping and file the material from the New York Times and the [Washington] Post and probably the Wall Street Journal.
Kasper: How did you go from—?
Moulton: I moved up by making a pest of myself and telling the bureau manager that I wanted to be a reporter. In the meantime, more women had come to be dictationists—to take the stories from the reporters who telephoned them in from outside.
Kasper: Had the dictationists prior to that been men?
Moulton: Yes, the dictationists had been men. Gradually, women took over the dictation jobs.
Kasper: Because of the war?
Moulton: Yes, because of the war. So they were being promoted on a lower level of reporting, so to speak, after they'd been there a year or so. So I thought, if a dictationist can be turned out to do reporting, I guess I could.
Kasper: So did they move you to dictationist or what was your next—?
Moulton: No. They moved me to a beat outside. The beat lowest on the totem pole was a combination of the Interstate Commerce Commission, the Federal Communications Commission, and the Post Office Department. So I just had that beat which really was not what you'd call on the top, like the White House or the State Department.
Kasper: But, on the other hand, it was also the place where you got your reportorial start, is that right?
Moulton: Definitely, yes. And, of course, I'd been helped a little bit when I was in the morgue. Harry Sharpe, the head of the night desk, gave me releases and stories to write, so I got a little help that way.
Kasper: But then your first beat being this combination beat was also your first chance to actually go after material in the making, is that right?
Moulton: Yes it was.
Kasper: So you learned "on the job," as we say.
Moulton: I certainly did learn on the job. And sometimes it was a little painful, but I got there after a while.
Kasper: Can you give us some idea of what it was like to do that—to learn on the job, on the minute.
Moulton: On the minute—well, we haven't talked about "deadline every minute," have we?
Kasper: No, I mean how you learned the ropes. You weren't trained in journalism, and you had just prior to that done very little work as a journalist. How did you learn and how did you cover those beats without much formal training?
Moulton: Well, I just went in there and, when they put some material out for us, I would have to read it and telephone a story in and hope for the best. Of course, I think, for instance in the ICC, I had a friend who was working there for a trade paper and he helped me and explained things to me. So I gradually worked into it—with my quota of mistakes—but eventually I got to know how to do it.
Kasper: Describe what it means to be a wire service reporter as opposed to being a staff reporter, let's say, for the Washington Post or the New York Times.
Moulton: A wire service reporter—we had that motto, "deadline every minute." In the days when I started, which was fifty years ago, there were a lot more newspapers in this country and abroad, too, I guess, than there are now. They would go to press at different times of the day. If you worked for one of those papers, you knew when the press times were and when you had to get your story in. Maybe three or four times a day they might have a new deadline. But with a wire service, you have to serve all those papers that are going to press all the time. So your deadline is every minute because they're going to press all the time—a "deadline every minute."
Kasper: About how many papers did the United Press serve at that time when you first started working for them? Do you remember vaguely?
Moulton: I have a vague recollection that there were three thousand clients of one kind or another all over the world. It wasn't just in this country; they served Europe and Asia. But I really wouldn't want to make that a solid figure.
Kasper: Now, if I were to sort of rephrase the question. When a staff reporter, let's say, for the Washington Post, knows that there's some news breaking and she is sent out to gather the news and then come back to her desk and write it up and submit it as a story for the paper that evening and, of course, it comes out the following morning, how would it be different for you? What would you do as a wire service reporter on a particular story?
Moulton: That would depend on the importance of the story. If it was more or less run-of-the-mill and late in the day, I'd come back to the office the way that person does and write the story. But if it was a very important story, I would rush to the telephone and dictate it to one of those dictationists who was sitting in the office waiting for me to call.
You know, you have to dictate your story right from the notes you take (or the material provided). You can't sit down and write it.*
Kasper: And there's no chance to really think this out in clear English language and present it in a written form that you'd be comfortable with. You really had to often respond quickly.
Moulton: Well, that's what you were supposed to do. Send it in a form you'd be comfortable with right away. [Laughter.]
Kasper: So you had to be better than your average journalist in some sense, or quicker.
Moulton: Well, you tried.
Kasper: What was the process next? You've submitted your story. The dictationist has taken it. What happens next?
Moulton: Well, the dictationist gives it to the desk. The editorial desk is right there near the dictationist. They were all men on the desk. The editor would take it and look it over and make little changes and possibly change the grammar or whatever. Then he would give it to the teletype operator who was sitting right there ready to put it on the wire for our clients.* But, of course, I wouldn't be the only person who was dictating at the time. We had three dictationists and a lot of the time they were busy all the time. So the stories had to go through the person who was really the head of the desk. He would get them from three other men who were sitting on the desk editing various stories. Then he would decide the order in which they went on the wire.
Kasper: Depending on their importance.
Moulton: Depending on their importance, right. Or, possibly, some client could have asked for a particular story, and if that was the case, he'd try to get that on in good season. But, generally speaking, it was in the order of importance.
Kasper: And when you say the story went "on the wire," what did that mean?
Moulton: It meant that every paper that subscribed to the United Press service would have a wire in that office and this story would come right out in their office. And we had bulletins. When it was a really important story, the teletype operator would ring this bell—one, two, three—and the bell would also ring in the client's office. So if he was
* Ms. Moulton later added: This situation is complicated by the fact that a wire service operates around the clock, with separate sets of editors for morning and afternoon papers. Incidentally, newspaper reporters can't always return to the office. They are up against their own deadlines. Government agencies have press rooms, with desks and typewriters for reporters who have time to compose stories there.
*Ms. Moulton later recalled: Sometimes the desk man would stand behind the dictationist and rip the copy out of the typewriter after each paragraph.
across the room doing something and the bell rang—one, two, three—he would know that it was a bulletin coming in and he'd better go over there and see what it was.
Kasper: And what was that funny story about bulletins, hot bulletins, and hot, hot bulletins?
Moulton: Oh, yes. Well, after a while there were so many bulletins that Mr. Frandsen, who usually ran the desk, thought that we ought to distinguish [them]. So he said we'll have bulletin, then we'll have hot bulletin. If you really had a story that was just going to make everybody gasp, you'd say hot bulletin when you were on the telephone and that would go through the switchboard. The switchboard operator would say, "I have a hot bulletin here," and then Mr. Frandsen, if all the dictationists were busy, would say which dictationist would be cut off and this hot bulletin substituted for whatever that story was.
Kasper: And these stories, as you've indicated, would go domestically to a number of papers, but they also went abroad, is that right?
Moulton: They did go abroad, but actually we had a foreign desk in the office which handled stories to go abroad. That desk sent stories to New York. The domestic stories, of course, went to New York for New York's purposes, but they went immediately to clients in this country. Whereas, the foreign desk stories would be edited in New York and then go out to foreign clients.
Kasper: I see. At one time you thought about going abroad for the United Press, is that correct?
Moulton: Oh, after I'd been there a number of years, yes, I thought it would be fun to go overseas and see what was going on over there. In London I tried. Well, I went on a European trip myself one year and so I stopped in the London office and asked them if they wouldn't like me to work there. I didn't get a real answer, I guess, when I was there, but I did get a letter from the manager there saying that they just didn't have room for another woman at the time.
Kasper: Were there any women in the London office?
Moulton: I think at that time, as I recall it, the London manager said that they had an English person who was helping them part time for the women's side of the business, so to speak.
Kasper: Like the women's page?
Moulton: Women's page material and—they didn't need a woman for anything else. [Laughter.] And that was par for the course, really, I think, as far as women were concerned. I don't think it was anything to do with me personally.
Kasper: How is it that you got the assignment to the Supreme Court beat?
Moulton: Well, the assignment to the Supreme Court. In those days, the Court handed down opinions on Monday. It was called Decision Monday in those days. I would go up
to help the reporter who was there whose name was Ruth Gmeiner. After that had gone on a while, Ruth Gmeiner was transferred to the White House and they looked for somebody to replace her. I had been her helper, so to speak, and so they thought I fitted in perfectly since I knew what went on up there, at least partly. So I got it that way.
Kasper: Describe the initial kind of work that you did with Ruth at the Supreme Court, the way the Court was laid out, and how the decisions were physically handed down.
Moulton: On Decision Mondays, Ruth (and, of course, when I got the job, I) stayed in a little cubbyhole, you might say, down on the ground floor of the building. The helper would be upstairs in the courtroom at a little desk in front of the justices' bench. When an opinion was announced, the Chief Justice would say, "We have the case of Adams against Smith and so forth." A young man would come around from the end of the justices' bench and he would put a copy of the opinion on the little desk where our helper was sitting in the courtroom. He or she would send it to the reporter downstairs in our cubbyhole through a pneumatic tube. He'd put the decision in a little cylinder and shove it down the tube and it would land with a clunk down there. You would take it out of the little box-like thing—open the door and take the opinion out of the cylinder—and hope that you understood what it said immediately, as you had prepared a lot of material. You should know immediately whether you've got a hot bulletin or not much.
Kasper: But those pneumatic tubes are now long gone at the Court, is that right?
Moulton: Oh, yes, definitely. When Chief Justice Burger came on deck, he didn't like the idea—well, he didn't like the shape of the bench in the first place. It was a straight line—the justices sat right in a straight line across. He thought it would be much better if they sat like a half hexagon so that they could hear each other better. When the justices would ask a lawyer a question, he thought that one justice didn't always hear what the other justice was saying and that a half hexagon would be better for the situation. So when they changed the shape of the bench, they removed the reporters who were sitting at little desks in front because I think he [Chief Justice Burger] really didn't think much of the idea of having them there anyway, that it was something between the lawyer who was talking and the justices, and he wanted that space eliminated. So the reporters were consigned to side benches somewhere in the courtroom and the tube business was eliminated.
Kasper: The pneumatic tubes were consigned to history.
Kasper: They were kind of a symbolic item in the history of the Court. Everybody refers to that period when the opinions were dropped through these pneumatic tubes to the floor below and the complicatedness of folding a very thick opinion into these tubes with the priority being when you received the information at the bottom; if the opinion wasn't in the front and you had to shuffle through all these papers to get the final opinion, everybody had the threat of being confused as what to do next.
Moulton: Well, the rule was to put the back of the main opinion down first. If the opinion was too thick to get in a single cylinder, you should always put the back of the opinion in this first cylinder because the reporter would look at the back to see if the case had been reversed or affirmed, which would give you a pretty good idea of how the case came out. And having material there all ready to move, you would want to have that as the first thing you would look at. It would be whether the appeal had been affirmed or reversed. But sometimes it says "affirmed in part" and "reversed in part," so that was a bit of a problem. Then there were dissents, you know, the justices' dissent from opinions, and they had concurring opinions. You might get five cylinders full of opinions.
Kasper: And you'd be required to make sense of that in a matter of minutes, wouldn't you?
Moulton: Supposedly, you would.
Kasper: What was the time frame between when an opinion would be received in this little cubicle and the expectation that you would get something on the wire?
Moulton: Well, I remember one big case, and I can't remember which one it was, came down through the tube. Of course, the teletype operator was sitting right at my elbow. As soon as I either put a new lead on the story (I had my typewriter out there, and I'd type a new lead, if I had to, but I already had leads made)—
Kasper: In advance?
Moulton: In advance, yes. Everything would be down there that was necessary and would be already typed and ready to go except what was in the opinion. And one time, this particular case I remember, the teletype operator types out what I give him and then he puts a time on it. Well, in the early days, the Court began its business at noon—and this particular story, the first paragraph was timed off at 12:02. So it took two minutes, approximately, to find out what the opinion said, and if necessary write a sentence saying what it said, which is a fairly short time. [Laughter.]
Kasper: A number of people reported to me that you were not only quick to get your stories on the wire, but that you were extremely accurate. And that very frequently newspapers around the country might even wait an extra couple of minutes to get Charlotte Moulton's story on a Court decision because the feeling was that yours were inclined to be far more accurate than either your competitors' or anybody else's. Do you want to say something about that?
Moulton: Well, I think that's going pretty far, really. I don't remember knowing anything about that at the time, that some paper was keeping it's—
Kasper: Wire open.
Moulton: Yes, stopping the presses or whatever. I really didn't know about that.
Kasper: Well, that's what I was told. I was told that there were papers that would keep the wire open for Charlotte Moulton's story so they could be sure that they did report the Court case accurately.
Moulton: That would be a paper that took both the Associated Press and United Press and Reuters, maybe.
Kasper: Right. Can you speak a little bit about the contrasts between preparing all the many weeks, and even months, and then this hurried-up business of Decision Monday. What was your work like at the Court?
Moulton: When I wasn't out in the little cubbyhole handling copy, I was back at my desk. The press office had an adjoining room where reporters had their little nooks. I would be there looking at cases as they came in to see whether I wanted to write something about them. In the first instance, whether the Court accepted the case for review, or whether it refused to review it, in which case the lower court ruling would stand. A lot of times, in a particular instance, it would be just as important to have written something if the Court did not take the case. As far as the Supreme Court was concerned, they weren't going to touch it. So the lower court's ruling would then be final. It didn't always mean that the Supreme Court liked it, it just meant that they didn't see a reason under the Constitution or whatever to review it at the time; or maybe they were waiting for a case that attacked the particular issue better.
But, anyway, we really had to quickly look over what we called the Court Orders, which came down after the opinions on Monday. It listed the cases that they would hear arguments on and the cases that they wanted no more to do with. And, in some instances, the orders were just as important as the decisions themselves. So the other days of the week I would write material in preparation for Decision Monday. This was early on.
Later, they began to hand down decisions at other times and on other days, but early in the game it was Decision Monday. The rest of the time, you would just work on things that you would use on Decision Monday, poring over these petitions that came in and trying to understand them.
Kasper: Did you have to read all of the briefs that were associated with a case that you knew the Court was going to hand a decision down on? Did you have to read all the materials and determine all of the background to try to anticipate what was important to report on before the decision was rendered?
Moulton: Pretty much all of them. Some big cases would have a lot of briefs because what we call "friends of the court" would file something. Some particular group would have a particular interest in the subject matter and so they would want to tell the Court their ideas. They would file something and you would want to look at it, you wouldn't read the whole thing, but you'd look at it. But you'd read the whole of what the main parties to the case had to say. They submitted a petition to start with, and if the Court took the case, then they would all file briefs. So you had to read those, too. And sometimes, well, some of the cases were not exactly exciting and you'd sit there reading that thing, and you'd know you'd have to write a story about it, but you really couldn't—
[Laughter] you could barely make yourself do it. So it got a little bit boring at times, or I should say quite boring.
Kasper: And this demand upon you to become a legal expert on everything from, let's say, obscenity to natural gas laws, I mean how were you able to do that?
Moulton: I really was not an expert on all those things. I just wrote what they had in the brief. If I didn't understand them, I could always call the lawyer and ask questions. And some of these friends of the court people, they would be really good people to call because they could say, "Well, you know, if the Court does this, this will be the result." And that's something you'd need to know.
Kasper: But there was not a great deal of interaction between— [Videotape interruption.]
Moulton: There was always a certain amount of—oh, what shall I call it? I can't think of the word, but social activities going on at the White House that a woman would naturally cover—you know, parties and things. The social page.
Kasper: Who preceded Ruth Gmeiner?
Moulton: A man.
Kasper: A man. Ruth may have come largely again because of the war and Julius Frandsen. Isn't that possible?
Moulton: Well, she didn't know Julius until she got there.
Kasper: She didn't know Julius before she came?
Moulton: Well, and I don't know Ruth's personal history to know exactly what brought her to the United Press, but no, I really don't know how she got the job.
Kasper: Basically what we're documenting here is how did women break in, I mean, that's the issue. So, you know, you can take your predecessors or your precedents back further and then you've got nothing, you know. I'm a sociologist. Social change occurs in such subtle ways, and then it's sort of like something goes on sub rosa, and then it pops up to the surface, and you say, "Hey, how did we get this, you know." And you can't always find the roots. You can take it back far enough, but then you—
Videographer: You wonder, was there some enlightened individual who decided that based on merit, or at least where you went to school, whether you got the job or not, or whether you were a good poker player at Friday's.
Moulton: It could have had something to do with it.
Kasper: That kind of stuff. You bet.
Moulton: Let's see, have we missed something?
Kasper: No, I was just going to ask that last question about work and whether you worked with staff or whether you ever got to talk to the justices. I mean, I know the answer, but I think it's interesting to whoever is going to be watching this to find out how you gathered all the information or asked the questions without any legal background. You know, how did you get the information you needed to report on it.
Moulton: Just out of those briefs is all. I think we should say something about [the fact] that I did not talk to the justices.
Kasper: Exactly. That's why I was giving you that opportunity.
Moulton: You haven't asked me yet, have you?
Kasper: No, that was going to be my next question. [Laughter.] And then I was going to go into this wonderful piece here about—I mean, you wouldn't believe the cases this woman has covered.
Moulton: Yes, well I covered Justice before—that was another reason why I went up there as Ruth Gmeiner's helper because I was then covering the Justice Department. Yes, it was a law-related beat and that's why they picked me to go up there, I'm sure. I don't think I ever said that.
Kasper: No, you didn't when I asked that question. You didn't relate that. Maybe you could interject it?
Moulton: Yes. All right.
Kasper: So, in terms of being able to report on a lot of the difficult material, aside from speaking to the attorneys in the amicus briefs, were you able to work with staff, or were you able to ever have a conversation with a justice so that you could get some clarification on difficult material?
Moulton: Well, of course there was a public relations officer there, but I think he didn't do much to help us with the content of the cases. He could tell us if somebody perhaps was going to file some important brief, so we wouldn't leave the building.* But that was the type of information we got from him. We did not talk to the justices about the cases or much of anything else. Once in a while, I don't know whether that was—I think that was the era when we were invited to the Court Christmas parties upstairs, but we did not talk to a justice about a case. That was "no, no, no." When I first went there, I think, I did go up to see each justice at the beginning of the term just to say, "Hello, I'm with the United Press and I'm going to be covering the Court this term." But it didn't go very much further than that. Once in a while, a particular justice, Justice—we had better stop this, I can't think of his name.
Kasper: A particular justice who was friendly to you or made a particular comment?
Moulton: Yes. Justice Douglas is who I was trying to think of—William O. Douglas. He was the most talkative one of all in the sense that, well, he did more things. He was very interested in the environment and he went on trips. He did all kinds of things besides being a justice. So he was one that we could talk to occasionally. But, basically, the Court
* Ms. Moulton later recalled: He would distribute copies of justices' speeches, perhaps answer questions about their summer plans—that kind of thing.
was a closed corporation. People didn't talk to the justices. They had their own private meetings and decided the cases.
Kasper: Your tenure at the Supreme Court coincided with probably one of the most active and enlightened periods of the U.S. Supreme Court—the Warren Court and the Burger Court. Can you discuss, or at least name for us, some of the most important cases that were decided in that time period which remain some of the most important cases ever decided by the U.S. Supreme Court?
Moulton: I have a lot of old clippings upstairs. I was looking all through those when I knew you were coming over here. I made a note of some of the really important cases that we had and I wrote them down here.
I think the first really big one was the desegregation of the public schools. That case was in 1954 and they argued it one term. We were all ready for the opinion to come down through the pneumatic tube—to receive the final verdict. But the Court's orders that day said they were going to re-hear the case, they were going to hear it again. And I don't know whether that was because they wanted to give the public a little more time to get—that they really knew what they were going to do, but they wanted to give the public a little more time to adjust to the idea.
Kasper: That was Brown versus Board of Education, which was really a landmark case.
Moulton: Yes. But anyway, there was a little sentence in the Court orders that said, "This case, Brown against Board of Education, is scheduled for reargument next term." So, of course, that was a hot bulletin. They weren't going to decide it that year. Then, of course, the next year was 1954 and they did decide it and outlawed segregation in the public schools. But that was only the beginning of all kinds of opinions that came down about school desegregation because the South was not particularly enthusiastic about desegregating its schools. It held off as long as it could, and people kept filing lawsuits, and the Court kept saying, you know, get with this and do it. So we had that going for a long time.
Well, then, another case was the one-man, one-vote case, you remember, which required equal populations in voting districts. That was a real biggie. And do you remember the Rosenberg spy case—Julius and Ethel Rosenberg? On that case, well, I believe there were several appeals, and the Court wouldn't do anything to save the Rosenbergs. They had actually adjourned for the term, and some of them had already left, when another appeal came on behalf of the Rosenbergs. They had to come back in session and act on it. So that was pretty interesting.
Then, of course, one time President Truman seized the steel industry because there was a strike and steel wasn't being—it was just shut down. So that was a biggie. The Court said Truman shouldn't have seized it. Then loyalty oaths. You remember Senator Joseph McCarthy's quest of finding communists—loyalty oaths arose from that. So there were a lot of loyalty oath cases. Prayer in schools—the Court ruled out use of a New York State official prayer in the public schools and later, in another case, the Lord's Prayer and Bible reading in the schools. And the rights of people held on criminal charges to be told that they can be silent. If the police are holding a person, the person has to be told that
he doesn't have to talk if he doesn't want to, that anything he says can be used against him, or he has a right to an attorney.
Kasper: Is that the Miranda decision?
Moulton: Miranda decision, yes. Then there was capital punishment and, of course, all the states had to overhaul their capital punishment laws.
Florida had a law making it a crime for a man and woman of different races to live together. The Court struck that down. And, of course, the abortion decision that everybody is talking about now, Roe against Wade.
And there were a couple of very important free press cases. A Montgomery city commissioner won a half million dollars from a jury because of an advertisement in the New York Times which dealt with the student civil rights demonstrations. The Court said that civil libel suits like that could not be filed by a state official unless the official could show that the paper knew the material was false or acted in reckless disregard of the truth.
The Pentagon Papers case was a very biggie. The Court said that the Post and the New York Times could print this material that they had received (it was secret material about the Vietnam War) and the printing of it was challenged. The Nixon Administration said that it would be dangerous to publish that, but the Court, after waiting five days, when we were hanging around holding our breaths to find out, said that the papers could publish it. But every justice wanted to say something about the Pentagon Papers case and so there were nine opinions in that case.
Kasper: Which I assume means that you had to read all the nine opinions and report on them, is that right?
Moulton: Yes. Pretty much. Then, of course, the year I retired was 1978. That case that Allan Bakke brought. He was a white man who didn't get into University of California Medical School and he claimed reverse discrimination. And the Court said, well, he really should have been admitted, but, nevertheless, the school could have considered race. Considering race was okay, but they didn't do it quite right in the Bakke case and he could have gotten in. So, those were all hot bulletins.
Kasper: And these were all hot bulletins that you personally covered and wrote the wire service story on for United Press.
[End Tape 1, Side A; Begin Tape 1, Side B]
Moulton: Well, it felt quite—I would get quite excited about it at the time, and also you don't stop writing when the opinion has come down. The next thing you do is call a lot of people and say, "What is this going to do to you?" or whatever it is the case is about. Then, as time goes on, you'd try to trace a little bit. You know, there's likely to be another case on the same general subject come up. So you put them all together the next time you write and you might, after six months have gone by, interview a few people and say, "What effect has this had?" So you continue, you don't end, your covering the subject matter with the opinion itself.
I think it was a great time to be there, in the Warren Court years. Warren and his fellow justices did an awful lot for the culture of the country.
Kasper: Did they ever ask you to write pieces that would demonstrate the kinds of effects those decisions had on society?
Moulton: Would I ever?
Kasper: Yes, would the UP ever ask you to write that kind of reflective piece on what the outcome of these decisions meant for the country?
Moulton: Well, they might, or I think, a lot of times, they left it up to me. The night desk had the job of filling up the Sunday papers which, sometimes, would require a lot of features or material such as you've just been describing. Harry Sharpe on the night desk would call and say, "Will you write me a Sunday piece about such and so?" Then I would dream up some myself probably to write. Then the United Press had a sheet that it sent out (I think it sent it out every week) to all our clients that had feature pieces in it that didn't have any particular time element. They were not hot bulletins, but they were pieces about what was happening in the country or the results of some opinions or whatever. That would be another place where you would put a story like that, undated.
Videographer: You also were really present at the rise of television news which displaced a lot of things that you used to do. A lot of the small newspapers went out of business and it became local television stations that really gave people the news. And your wire copy was right in the newsroom—clickety, clackety, clackety, clack. I mean how did that—did you see your copy being read over the air? Did you recognize your beat? Did television affect the way that you went about your business?
Moulton: I had retired in 1978. And maybe then—well, I suppose it has been since then more of a conflict, shall we say. I don't recall—the broadcast people had their—well, early in the game, they didn't. But as time went on, ABC, CBS and NBC had their own reporters up there and they'd run out in front of the building with an opinion and have the cameras out there and tell what the Court had done.
Videographer: Their own version of it, too.
Moulton: Right. Right. Exactly. They really had to be on the ball, those fellows, because they were out there in person talking. I was on a sheet of paper, but they were out there themselves.
Videographer: One last question, if I may, and you should probably direct your answer to Anne as though she had asked the question. As the spirit of the Court changed under Warren and Burger, did that change the kind of journalism that you practiced, your reporting of cases of a different nature? Did it change as television changed court reporting? How did it change the nature of how you practiced your craft?
Moulton: I don't think it changed the way we practiced our craft. It certainly changed the type of story that we were writing because the Burger Court didn't have that equality sort of benchmark that the Warren Court had. The Warren Court was, we used to say, pretty much about equality among all the people in the country. The Burger Court took a little different tack and they chipped away a little bit at some of the Warren opinions. They didn't exactly—and I don't mean Warren personally, but the Court's opinions in Warren's time, the Burger Court didn't overturn them exactly, they just said, "Well, you know, you really don't have to do it quite that way," and they'd take a little chip out of it. And, well, I wrote stories about that, of course, I mean, when they did that, I said that. And there were big stories, but somehow they weren't quite as exciting as the Warren years.
Kasper: I said earlier, I'm really sorry that I wasn't able to come out here during the spring. I can't believe a whole year has gone by.
Moulton: Well, I couldn't either. When I saw the date on that transcript of the interviews.
Moulton: Boy, in the early days I called him Thurgood.*
Videographer: So we're looking at this picture of you, "Monday's a frenzy for a court reporter." It's a picture of you in about 1962.
Moulton: Yes. I don't quite know what she expected me to say about that.
Videographer: Well, it was a feature story about you in what magazine? Do you remember?
Moulton: No, it's on there somewhere, but I don't remember. I'd have to look at it and see what it is. Somebody came up to interview me and then wrote that. Some young thing.
Videographer: What are we looking at?
Moulton: We're looking at me taking a Supreme Court opinion out of the cylinder that came down through the tube. I'm obviously doing that to have my picture taken and not because I'm going to report that particular case. [Laughter.]
* Ms. Moulton later added: We must have been looking at a picture of Thurgood Marshall. Of course, when he was arguing NAACP cases before the Court in the 1950's, the relation of reporter/lawyer was far different from the later reporter/Supreme Court Justice.
I forgot to say before that we had a line going up to the reporter who was upstairs so that I could talk to the person upstairs, but he couldn't talk to me because the Court didn't like any little flutters or talking or anything up there. So he would have to answer my question by writing a little note and putting it in another cylinder and sending it down. But there were times when I would like to know something that was going on upstairs and I'd ask him.
Videographer: Do you know what date it was?
Moulton: Oh, probably somewhere in the fifties—1956, '57, '58, something like that—or maybe even the early sixties. But that little machine-like thing, you see, at the left there, was the teletype operator's equipment and he was as near me as that, so all I had to do was hand the copy to him and the story would go down to the office and it would be edited down there.
Videographer: What's this?
Moulton: I did write quite a few stories about legal matters that didn't have anything to do with the Supreme Court and that happens to be a story that I wrote about state courts and about how some of the judges on state courts were subject to a great deal of criticism. The Tampa Tribune seemed to like it. [Tape interruption.]
Videographer: Tell us what we're looking at.
Moulton: That's when the Court decided the public accommodations part of the Civil Rights Act. The Court was considering racial discrimination in hotels and restaurants and it ruled it unconstitutional, so a lot of people were very interested in that. [Tape interruption.]
Videographer: How do you feel considering what's going on at UPI now?
Moulton: Terrible. It was just terribly sad. I go up there to the Court occasionally to do a little free lance. All I do is photocopy stuff now, I don't write anymore.
Carl Stern was the best, you know, they don't come any better than Carl.
Kasper: He went to CBS?
Videographer: Cokie Roberts covers it now.
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