Monday, January 12, 2009

Retiring editor tells all...

I've just listened to this on the radio, but thanks to the Web I'll be going back again... Former 'Post' editor details the 'Rules Of The Game' is the headline NPR's Web site put on Terry Gross' wide-ranging interview with Leonard Downie Jr. on his retirement from the position as executive editor. 'Rules Of The Game' is also the title of his new novel -- about an investigative reporter in Washington.

Len Downie spent 44 years at the Post, starting as an summer intern in 1964. He had been executive editor for 17 years when he stepped down last September; he remains a vice president of the company. In the interview, he answers Terry's questions about "to publish or not to publish" decisions, confrontations with the government, and the "end of an era" for big financially strong newspapers.

Speaking of "rules of the game," here's something I didn't know: While editor, Downie did not register to vote or read the paper's editorial page. He tells Terry why... and where he thinks journalism is going. (If you think his novel might be interesting, there's an excerpt on the NPR Web page.)

Later on the same show, Terry interviews Christian Science Monitor editor John Yemma on the paper's move to become a Web-only daily with a weekly print newspaper. Yemma mentions that the Monitor has already moved away from the standard model of a daily newspaper -- it hasn't owned its own presses or delivery trucks for years.

For class discussion: Downie and Yemma tell Terry about "firewalls" within their organizations -- between the news and editorial-page staffs or between news and advertising.

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