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By Teri Finneman
Oral History Committee Chairwoman
We continue our series examining members’ oral history projects with this feature from Nicholas Hirshon, an assistant professor in the Communication Department at William Paterson University. A former reporter for the New York Daily News, Hirshon has written two books of sports history, Images of America: Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum (2010), about the former arena of the NHL’s New York Islanders, and Images of America: Forest Hills (2013), about the neighborhood that long hosted the U.S. Open. His email is email@example.com.
This irks me as a historian. I have devoted much of my research to shedding light on the rich past of my hometown, where few scholars tread. And I could not do it without oral history.
At the annual AJHA conference in October, I presented a research-in-progress on a sports television program with a Forest Hills connection. I grew interested in the topic several years ago when I was working as a newspaper reporter and covered the closing of a bowling alley near my boyhood home. I learned that the alley had hosted a short-lived NBC game show named Phillies Jackpot Bowling in 1959 and 1960. The program had a pioneering format in which professional bowlers competed for tens of thousands of dollars by attempting to bowl six consecutive strikes in nine tries. Phillies Jackpot Bowling was instrumental in raising interest in bowling across the United States and precipitating an era when top bowlers earned more than many baseball and football stars, a dynamic that is unthinkable in the modern sports landscape.
After I transitioned from practicing journalism to teaching and researching it, I wanted to examine the history of Phillies Jackpot Bowling. The problem was the lack of sources. No clips from the show seem to have made their way online, and only one episode has survived, available only for on-site viewing at an archive in California, thousands of miles away. None of the people involved in the show left an archive. Reports in newspapers and magazines offer an incomplete picture of events.
Oral history proved fruitful to fill in the gap on previous projects. But Phillies Jackpot Bowling went off the air more than half a century ago. I figured everyone involved in the show had died long ago. Not true. To my surprise, I was able to track down and interview four bowlers who appeared on the show. Their vivid memories of the program provided much-needed color and made possible my tribute to my hometown’s history.
Today the bowling alley is no more. The alley was renovated into a furniture store when I was still a reporter, and I wrote articles advocating for a historical marker nearby. The owner agreed and put up two plaques, one on the façade and another inside with a display of bowling memorabilia.
Now it’s up to me – and oral history – to put the plaque in context.
Do you have an oral history project you would like featured in the newsletter? Email Teri Finneman at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Volume 3, Issue 1 of Historiography in Mass Communication was posted at http://history-jmc.com/Home.html in early January.
The Table of Contents is:
Michael D. Murray, “Characters I Have Known: Reflections from CBS News (and the AJHA)”
Historical Roundtable: Studying the Colonial Press
David Copeland, Roger Mellen, David Sloan, and Julie Hedgepeth Williams
Kobre Award Interview: Mike Sweeney
Book Award Interview: Peter Hartshorn
(Editor’s Note: Prof. Candi Carter Olson presented her paper, “Because of the places she had to go: Changing women’s roles through the Women’s Press Club of Pittsburgh,” at the 2016 AJHA Convention in St. Petersburg. The Intelligencer asked Prof. Olson how she started researching the Press Club, what her research means and why it’s important.)
By Candi Carter Olson
Utah State University
Like most journalism historians, I’m regularly asked to tell people why they should care about my topic, which is women’s press clubs and their members. After all, women’s press clubs seem like something that should be relegated to the past, even though some still exist. Women’s press clubs sprang up in the late nineteenth century in response to a growing need for professionalized women to organize in a way that they could educate other women and promote women’s literary accomplishments.
Many of women’s press clubs lasted only a few decades, and those that made it to the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s integrated men into their membership in response to changing societal norms. For example, the Women’s National Press Club voted to allow men in membership in 1970 and changed its name to the Washington Press Club.
While women’s press clubs were at their height, we newswomen seemingly made a lot of progress. Due to a number of factors, there was a drastic increase in women on news staffs throughout the United States during the early-to-mid twentieth century. Even though most newswomen reported for women’s and society pages, many also took on formerly masculine-bastion roles as war reporters, political reporters, and leaders across the newsroom. The changes seemed so large that the women’s movement’s push to drop women’s and society’s pages in the 1970s seemed logical: Women were conquering newsrooms. Their stories needed to be seen in all sections of the newspaper as well.
Statistics show us that after the 1970s, women’s progress into newsrooms stagnated. This happened for various reasons, although my interest, obviously, is in whether the drop in newswomen’s organizations affected these numbers.
The 2015 Status of Women in the U.S. Media report drives this point home: Today, women produce only 37 percent of the bylines in newspapers, and they’re only 32 percent of the on-air faces that we see on our nightly news. Wires and internet news sources have the best representation, with 38 percent of wire bylines and 42 percent of digital news being produced by newswomen. This, by the way, was the first year in several that this survey found an increase in women’s representation. The percentage of women in supervisory positions in newsrooms is no better. A 2016 American Society of Newspaper Editors Diversity survey found just 37 percent of supervisory positions were occupied by women.
By researching women’s press clubs, I am finding stories and strategies of newswomen that made a difference in women’s stories becoming a mainstream part of the news industry and in women’s faces becoming more common across the newsroom.
The Women’s Press Club of Pittsburgh, whose earliest years I presented at AJHA in October, is the second oldest women’s press club extant in the United States. It was organized by seven so-called newshens in 1891 ostensibly for “friendly intercourse and the advancement of women’s interests in journalism.” Throughout its 125 years, the group has strategically used its organization to grow numbers of women journalists.
One of my favorite stories from this club’s first decade involves the club getting around male newsroom leaders by inviting in their wives, training them to be writers, then deploying them to become professional writers themselves. Because they were married to the editors, these women also had the ear of the person in charge of hiring and used it to get women reporting jobs. Janey Coard Smith, who at 15 was the youngest charter member, recalled,
"Several of the papers did not at that time approve of women writers on the staff, so we cunningly conceived of inviting into the fold, as associate members, wives of outstanding editors. Many of these were marvelous women in more ways than one, and ere long every paper had two or three women in editorial rooms. Those associate members were very helpful, inspiring, several of them later developing into writers."
Through organizing, the WPCP found strength in numbers.
The group also used stereotypical ideas of feminine behavior—such as the image of the perfect hostess and homemaker—to reassure the public that newswomen were not challenging men’s roles. They held an annual banquet, where they showed off their performance skills through music and plays they wrote themselves, and hosted the public to the height of the time’s fashion.
The 1895 banquet excluded men; however, Pittsburg Times Managing Editor Morgan E. Gable sent a congratulatory note to the women’s press club on the event. This letter sums up the importance of women’s press club in advancing the cause of newswomen in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries:
"Though you have not sent me an invitation to your banquet, you will find that the Times will tomorrow say editorially that the time is not long past when a woman in a newspaper office was a curiosity. …They crowded out no man. They have made a distinct field of usefulness for themselves, which grows steadily as time rolls on. That is to say, they have come to stay."
(Editor’s Note: Cayce Myers, an assistant professor at Virginia Tech, presented his research-in-progress, “Managing the ‘Prophecy of Wilson’: Carey T. Grayson’s Role in Crafting the Public Image and Memory of Woodrow Wilson, 1919-1921,” at the 2016 AJHA Convention. The Intelligencer asked him to tell us more about how he came to do this research, what it means, and why it’s important.)
Grayson is standing on the stop of the caboose of the train above Wilson. Photograph courtesy of the Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library, Staunton, VA
By Cayce Myers
Carey T. Grayson was more than a White House physician for Woodrow Wilson. He was the president’s confidante, friend, and, at times, the public face of the White House. Working so closely with the president Grayson was witness to the most significant events of Wilson’s presidency: the Paris peace talks after World War I, the Western tour promoting the League of Nations, and Wilson’s stoke and subsequent convalescence during the latter years of his presidency. In fact, it was during Wilson’s stroke and recovery that Grayson’s role was the most significant. Working with Edith Wilson, the president’s second wife, Grayson not only provided Wilson medical care, but also communicated with the public providing information about the president’s condition. Fiercely loyal to President Wilson, Grayson’s public communications provide unique insight into how the White House handled the crisis of Wilson’s health, and, in turn, began crafting a historical narrative of his presidency.
I first learned of Carey Grayson while researching the archives at the Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library in Staunton, Va., on a Niles research grant awarded by Virginia Tech. I was initially interested in how Wilson’s staff, notably his private secretary Joseph Tumulty, dealt with the press during Wilson’s stroke and recovery in 1919 to 1921. However, as in doing all archival research, I found something unexpected along the way. Talking to the archivist at Wilson Presidential Library, I found that one of the most interesting figures in Wilson’s health crisis was his personal doctor Carey T. Grayson.
Grayson’s papers are located at the Wilson Presidential Library, but they were privately held for years. A real admiral in the U.S. Navy and later chairman of the Red Cross, Grayson led a remarkable life that intersected with many luminary figures of the first half of the twentieth century. Fortunate for historians he was a saver of correspondence and a writer of numerous letters and diary entries. What was most interesting in Grayson’s papers was his correspondence to the public concerning Wilson’s health. After Wilson’s stroke in 1919 the president received many letters from well wishers who suggested a variety of remedies for his illness. Grayson responded to many of these people, and attempted to cast the president’s condition in the best light possible. At the end of Wilson’s presidency Grayson also played a role in crafting the remembrance of Wilson. His correspondence with Wilson biographer Ray Stannard Baker shows that Grayson recognized the power of history and memory.
This work is part of a long-term project I have worked on that examines early uses of public relations and image management. Many early U.S. histories of public relations do not include the contributions of figures like Grayson who found himself in the unique and unanticipated position of handling press and image management issues. Examining the work of Grayson shows the unique and organic way public relations, press relations, and image management developed in the U.S. in the early twentieth century.
(Editor’s Note: Prof. Pete Smith presented his paper, “‘A Lady of Many Firsts’: Press Coverage of the Political Career of Mississippi’s Evelyn Gandy, 1948-83,” at the October 2016 AJHA Convention in St. Petersburg. The Intelligencer asked Smith to tell us more about how he got interested in Gandy, what his research about her means, and why it’s important.)
By Pete Smith, Mississippi State University
I recently found myself in a spur-of-the-moment conversation with a couple of friends about the recent presidential election. I listened carefully as they presented their cases—including the idea that Clinton, against campaign advice, did not show enough emotion in her public appearances. As I quickly pointed out, Clinton has been dogged by a cruel double standard: show even a tiny bit of emotional vulnerability and be perceived as weak, portray a more serious tone (as her male counterparts have and do), and be criticized as being cold and unapproachable.
In fact, the academic literature in this area reveals that men are often framed according to the political issues they champion, while women politicians are judged on their images—their marital statuses, physical appearances, or specific personality or emotional traits.(1) However, this research, while focusing on women of national reputation, mentions very little about women politicians of state and local importance.
In an attempt to fill this gap in the scholarly literature, I spent my 2016 spring sabbatical examining, among other projects, the press coverage of Mississippi’s Edythe Evelyn Gandy (1920-2007), whose tenure in state politics stretched over three decades. After being elected to a term in the Mississippi House of Representatives (1948-52), Gandy served as a state assistant attorney general in 1959, two terms as state treasurer (1960-64, 1968-72), state commissioner of public welfare (1964-67), and commissioner of insurance (1972-76). Her political career hit its peak when she was elected lieutenant governor (1976-80), an office she held before making two unsuccessful bids for the state’s highest office in 1979 and again in 1983.
I didn't remember the details of Gandy’s career, but I have flashbulb memories of seeing TV interviews and political ads about her statewide campaigns. Those scant memories had real staying power, in any case; three decades later, I set out, using some forty scrapbooks from the Evelyn Gandy Papers (located in the McCain Library & Archives at the University of Southern Mississippi), to investigate how Mississippi’s local newspapers, the AP and UPI wire services, and several regional publications (e.g. the New Orleans Times-Picayune) portrayed Gandy’s image over a 35-year period.
I brought home some 2,000 photocopied pages for analysis, including countless news articles and editorials, political cartoons and photographs, and discovered three significant press frames: First, a “first” frame, which presents women’s political contributions as a novelty; Second, frames emphasizing stereotypical, feminine characteristics, whether that be Gandy’s physical appearance (e.g. her height, weight, dress, or her facial features), her manner of speaking (e.g. being “soft-spoken”), or the titles assigned to her (e.g. “lady”); and, Third, an “iron magnolia” frame, which creates the perception that the woman candidate is either too feminine or too masculine.
The “first” frame, as I call it, was the most persistent of Gandy’s career, beginning with her election as assistant attorney general: “Assistant Attorney General to Be Woman for First Time,” read the awkward headline from a January 1959 issue of the Memphis (Tenn.) Commercial Appeal, as the paper’s male editors attempted to describe something outside of their sense of “normal.”(2) As the press struggled to define Gandy’s success as an elected official, it consistently framed her in the most feminine, and patronizing, of terms: “The attractive Forrest County native appeared in a black dress,” a May 1963 UPI photo cutline noted in reference to Gandy’s appearance during her swearing in ceremony as state welfare commissioner.(3)
Whether referencing her wardrobe or the way she carried herself in public—her “always eloquent style,” as one journalist observed—news coverage of Gandy consistently made the point that she was, above all else, a proper southern lady.(4) For instance, a UPI report published shortly after her 1960 election as state treasurer made reference to Gandy’s “ladylike answer” when she refused to reveal her age.(5) In fact, the moniker of “lady” was perhaps the most consistent of feminine labels used to define Gandy’s image—as a September 1978 headline from the Memphis (Tenn.) Commercial Appeal (published during Gandy’s first gubernatorial campaign) confirms: “The Lady of Jackson and Her Smile.”(6)
Building upon the perception of Gandy as a “gentle lady”—as longtime political columnist W.F. “Bill” Minor referred to her in August 1978—the press used an “iron magnolia” frame to describe her image during the final stages of her political career.(7) In particular, this frame made note of Gandy as a “tough” political opponent, but continued to over-emphasize the same traditional feminine characteristics that defined her as a conventional southern woman. “With a new wardrobe, a new hairdo and a firm handshake,” Jack Elliott of the Jackson (Miss.) Daily News said in a March 1983 editorial, “Evelyn Gandy is on the [campaign] road again.”(8)
In Gandy case, these three press frames were part of the hegemonic process that took into account Mississippi’s history, its culture, and the local and regional press as contributors to the state’s lack of progress. In a broader sense, the results of this analysis (which is forthcoming in a future issue of American Journalism) reveal the value of media history in understanding recent political circumstances—including the idea that powerful women like Hillary Clinton must navigate a much more difficult set of cultural standards if they are to win the day.
1. See, for example, Diana B. Carlin and Kelly L. Winfrey, “Have You Come a Long Way, Baby? Hillary Clinton, Sarah Palin, and Sexism in 2008 Campaign Coverage,” Communication Studies 60, no. 4 (September-October 2009): 326-43; Yasmine Dabbous and Amy Ladley, “A Spine of Steel and a Heart of Gold: Newspaper Coverage of the First Female Speaker of the House,” Journal of Gender Studies 19, no. 2 (June 2010): 181-94; and Karrin Vasby Anderson, “‘Rhymes with Blunt’: “Pornification and U.S. Political Culture,” Rhetoric & Public Affairs 14, no. 2 (2011): 327-68.
2. “Assistant Attorney General to be Woman for First Time,” Memphis (TN) Commercial Appeal, 2 January 1959, Edythe Gandy Papers (hereafter abbreviated as “Gandy Paper”), Box 1, Scrapbook 1, University of Southern Mississippi, McCain Library & Archives, Hattiesburg, MS.
3. “Miss Gandy Takes Welfare Office Post,” Mobile (AL) Register, 19 May 1963. Gandy Papers, Box 4, Scrapbook 1.
4. Phil Mullen, “Pisgah Folks Enjoy PTA Banquet, Miss Gandy Gives Inspiring Talk,” Madison County (MS) Herald, no date. Gandy Papers, Box 3, Scrapbook 1.
5. “Woman Treasurer Prepares to Take on Man-Sized Job,” Jackson (MS) Clarion-Ledger, 22 September 1959. Gandy Papers, Box 1, Scrapbook 1.
6. James Young, “‘The Lady’ of Jackson and Her Smile,” Memphis (TN) Commercial Appeal, 10 September 1978, Gandy Papers, Box 32, Scrapbook 1.
7. Wilson F. Minor, “Eyes on Mississippi: Gandy on the Spot Over Ousting Burgin,” Jackson (MS) Reporter, 3 August 1978, Gandy Papers, Box 31, Scrapbook 1.
8. Jack Elliott, “Evelyn Gandy’s Just Itching to Show Off Her New Running Shoes,” Jackson (MS) Daily News, 6 March 1983, Gandy Papers, Box 40, Scrapbook 1.
(Editor’s Note: The Intelligencer spotted the paper, “The History Gap: Collective Memory, Journalism and Public Discourse on Racial Achievement Disparities in Progressive Communities,” by University of Wisconsin-Madison doctoral student Caitlin Cieslik-Miskimen and Prof. Sue Robinson at the November 2016 National Communication Association convention held in Philadelphia, and asked them to tell us more about what why they did this research, what it means, and why it's important.)
The History Gap
By Caitlin Cieslik-Miskimen
The story of the difficulties facing contemporary journalism is well worn: consistent budget cuts, which have led to the elimination of pages and positions, which has led to less column inches devoted to matters of local concern, which has also created less room for in-depth, contextual reporting. But missing in this narrative is a consideration for the impact these cuts have on journalism’s ability to construct and maintain a community’s historical memory. This was the subject of research myself and Dr. Sue Robinson undertook last summer—an unexpected offshoot from a larger project that examined the public discourse about achievement disparities in progressive communities in the United States.
We wanted to find out how people talked about issues related to the achievement gap and how reporting on this topic helped or hindered efforts to close the gap. We spoke with more than 20 community leaders and activists, parents of public schoolchildren, politicians and school superintendents and administrators, and read more than 2,000 media texts and comments spanning the last five years. The reality of life in these cities for minorities—high unemployment and low high school graduation rates—is often the product of cultural, economic and political forces with a much longer history than public discussion acknowledges.
As a media historian, I view the world through a certain lens, one that constantly searches for the appropriate historical analogy, historical parallel, or historical tidbit that helps to better explain a current situation. But increasingly, in the interviews collected for this project and the newspaper articles analyzed, we began to notice that often discussions about how best to solve these issues happen with a certain present-mindedness that obscures history.
Take, for example, the situation in Evanston, a northern Chicago suburb that prides itself on its educational offerings, public commitment to diversity, and progressive ideology. In 2010, the superintendent of the Evanston high school district announced a detracking initiative. This bold move would eliminate freshman honors classes in the humanities, with plans to eliminate all freshman-level honors courses. The goal was to boost the number of minority students in honors and AP classrooms, but the plan was met with strong resistance from the community. As these conversations continued, those on the school board realized there needed to be a larger, more detailed community discussion about race and Evanston’s history. Equally difficult in getting the city to understand the achievement gap as a historical problem was confronting the contradictions in how Evanston residents thought of their city and its history.
Interviews and articles cited Evanston’s progressive stance on education, specifically mentioning as a point of pride the fact that it was the first Northern city to desegregate its schools in September 1967. But missing in the conversation was the acknowledgment that the 1960s was also the genesis for academic performance differences, primarily because the Black population was impacted disproportionately through the closing of community-building institutions.
“This goes way back,” said a school official in an interview. “And you know, nationally, that’s overwhelmingly what happened. We didn’t close the White schools and bus the White kids into [Black] communities. That’s just not the history of this country. And Evanston...the same thing happened there.”
Another top school official added, “And we closed the institutions. We closed the Y. We closed the hospital in the heavily concentrated African American ward, the fifth ward.”
These interviews revealed something missing in community conversations, and in newspaper articles covering these issues: history. The city of Evanston wasn’t alone in its historical blind spot. In the course of an interview with an Ann Arbor school board member who had made addressing and eliminating achievement disparities a central feature of her tenure the subject of history popped up—or, rather, the lack of history.
“[Newspapers have] gotten rid of longtime journalists, or have longtime journalists move on so there’s not necessarily the institutional memory about the district,” she lamented. “And so when the -- you know, they’re going to a meeting and they’re reporting on something, you know, reporters don’t necessarily have the knowledge that, you know, this is a discussion they had 10 years ago, this is a discussion they had six years ago.”
Anyone who wants to effect institutional change is, to a certain extent, beholden to history. All people and institutions are historical products, and whether they are aware of it or not, they make use of historical narratives when making choices about the present and future (Tyack & Cuban, 1997). Historical memory plays a central role in how a community knows itself. It helps a community understand the past, explain the present, and make predictions for the future. Communication is key to the process of remembering, and journalism has often acted as key agent in forming memory. Consequently, the collective memory surrounding education issues at the local level has become thin without the necessary historical context that would be useful in understanding to resolve these disparities.
The achievement gap is “one of the most entrenched challenges of American society,” in part because it represents the confluence of a number of social, cultural and economic forces. The problem is many layered, and any solution to eliminating the achievement gap, must acknowledge the historical elements at play. Walter Lippmann acknowledged the allure of oversimplification in Public Opinion, writing that it “tends to preserve us from all the bewildering effect of trying to see the world steadily and see it whole.” We hope that this study furthers the conversation about the essential role history plays in contemporary conversations by helping see these problems whole, and the issues that arise when journalism neglects to include it. For without access to accurate historical maps, solving these types of issues becomes harder, lengthier, and more frustrating.
Lippmann, W. (1922). Public Opinion.
Tyack, D. and Cuban, L. (1997). Tinkering Toward Utopia: A Century of Public School Reform. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
About the authors
Caitlin Cieslik-Miskimen is a PhD student in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and studies media history. Dr. Sue Robinson is an associate professor in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at UW-Madison.
(Editor's Note: Tim Nickens, Editor of Editorials at the Tampa Bay Times, represented and spoke about Lucy Morgan at the 2016 AJHA Convention in St. Petersburg on the occasion of Morgan receiving the AJHA's 2016 Local Journalist Award. He pointed The Intelligencer to a transcript of an interview with her [http://ufdcimages.uflib.ufl.edu/UF/00/00/55/34/00002/LucyMorganchapter2wpd.pdf], and also to a 2005 profile about her in the St. Petersburg Times, by Jeff Klinkenberg, which appears below.)
A lobbyist driving on College Avenue shouts at her from his Jeep.
"You doing something bad?" she hollers back.
"Tell me something I'm not supposed to know."
"Not me, Lucy."
In Tallahassee, nobody calls her Ms. Morgan, or Mrs. Morgan, or even "that Lucy Morgan," though she knows some folks describe her as "The Bitch."
She is just plain Lucy. Perhaps it is the spectacular drawl that goes back to her Mississippi roots that invites informality. Or the fact she sometimes is observed knitting doll clothes for her grandchildren _ while listening to testimony at a murder trial. Anyway, Lucy doesn't object to "Lucy." Nor does she mind being addressed as "darlin'," "sweetie" or "honey."
"Ah have always liked to be unner-ahstimated," she says in a raspy voice that sounds like she has been munching acorns. Subtitle: Lucy is happy when somebody important underestimates her, when somebody thinks she is not as smart as she actually is. "To be a Southern woman in a cap'll full of good ole boys is an advantage. When they fand ayout A'hm serious it's too late."
Princess with a poison pen
If Lucy were a character in a Puccini opera it would have to be "Turandot." Lucy loves opera, Puccini especially. Frankly, Turandot is her kind of gal. Turandot is a fetching though calculating princess who over the years has lured many a prince to his doom.
Lots of princes have tried to win Turandot's favor. But the femme fatale enjoys toying with her suitors. She tells her latest beau she will marry him if he can provide the answer to three trick questions. A prince who answers wrong is not sent packing _ he is beheaded.
In Florida, where Lucy retires this year after nearly four decades of reporting for the St. Petersburg Times, lots of politicians, lobbyists and sheriffs begin massaging their throats nervously the instant Lucy starts asking questions.
They know Lucy's pen indeed is as mighty as the sharpest of swords.
Want to see some heads?
In 1982 she was Pulitzer Prize finalist for exposing a drug-smuggling ring in Dixie and Taylor counties that resulted in 250 people going to jail, including government officials. In 1985 she and another reporter, Jack Reed, won the big enchilada for investigating big problems in the Pasco County Sheriff's Office. Her Pulitzer hangs on an office wall.
For two decades, she has headed the paper's Tallahassee bureau, covering governors, legislators, judges, sheriffs and lobbyists, including some who actually intended to make the state a better place. Not all of them, of course. Frequently she caught a dunderhead doing something stupid, embarrassing or illegal and felt the need to tell her readers all about it.
Cue up Turandot on the CD player!
Off with their heads!
"I would rather have an enema than be interviewed by you," Jack Latvala, former Republican senator from Pinellas County, once barked after a trying day.
"There was once a great Green Bay Packer offensive guard named Jerry Kramer," says Democrat Bob Graham, the former governor and U.S. senator. "He was asked about his coach, Vince Lombardi. Kramer said, "Coach Lombardi treated all his players democratically. He treated us all like dogs.' I would say Lucy was a very democratic reporter."
A scary quote. Lucy always liked Graham. She thought he was that rare, honest public servant.
She is going to miss him, though perhaps she won't have to. Her reign might be over, but she aims to work part time for the newspaper, maybe do an investigative piece or two, nothing terribly big, though heaven knows what she could turn up. Perhaps she will get a chance to put the straight-laced Graham on the hot seat one last time.
She ain't dead yet _ she is only 65. A few drops of poison must be left in that trusty old pen.
Underestimate at your peril
"Hey, Alan," she shouts to an insurance lobbyist whose ear is glued to his cell phone. "You doin' somethin' bad?"
He grins and nods in the affirmative.
"You want to confess?"
He grins and nods no.
"Nothing ventured, nothing gained," Lucy mutters, ambling away.
A walking contradiction, this Lucy woman. She is the wife of an old-fashioned guy who owns what might be the last flat-top haircut in the state. Mother of four grown children, grandmother of eight with one great-grandchild, she can cuss like a cowboy with hemorrhoids. Then she quietly gets back to her knitting.
She has seen operas all over the world. Pavarotti is her favorite. Loves ballet, too. She is glad she got to watch Baryshnikov in tights. "Nice tush," she says.
She is a wine connoisseur who eats with elbows on the table. She likes to be the center of attention and frequently interrupts whoever else has grabbed the spotlight. "Lucy, let me finish," her husband says calmly.
A shopaholic, she loves buying new clothes when her husband isn't paying attention, though she inevitably dresses casually, part of her "go ahead and underestimate me" strategy. She shows up at work in a modest blouse and stretch pants tugged over her farm woman's sturdy frame. No heels, just sneakers.
Walking with a limp, surrounded by an intoxicating cloud of Estee Lauder, she is breathless while hobbling up the hill toward the state House and the people's business.
So innocent and huggable! Lucy, why aren't you home baking an apple pie?
Duck! For God's sake, duck!
"Look," she has been known to advise a self-important rookie senator. "You don't have to be a horse's ayass. You can be straight with me."
Perhaps he is too shocked to reply just then. No matter. Sooner or later he will learn about his responsibilities, his reason for being, and answer Lucy.
"Lucy was relentless," says Rob Hooker, a Times deputy managing editor who worked with Lucy on her celebrated stories in west-central Florida in the 1980s. "She has wonderful people skills, the uncanny ability to get people to talk to her and tell her things they shouldn't have."
Nervous evildoers tapped her phone and pawed through her garbage looking for dirt while she investigated them. They followed her car and threatened her _ anonymously, of course _ over the phone at midnight. They scared her children and grandchildren. They put out a bumper sticker: "Screw Lucy Morgan." They menaced her sources; sometimes Lucy felt compelled to meet sources in a Belk Lindsey department store in New Port Richey. While Lucy tried on clothes in a changing room they'd pass crucial information about the Pasco County Sheriff's Office under the door.
In 1973 an ambitious district attorney wondered where she was getting information about corruption in Dade City and dropped a subpoena on her lap.
"I would go to jail rather than reveal a source" was Lucy's credo.
A judge sentenced her to eight months because she wouldn't tell.
"I was prepared to go to jail," she tells people now. "I thought I might finally get some serious reading done."
At the bookstore she purchased the complete works of Lord Alfred Tennyson, the Victorian poet best known for The Charge of the Light Brigade.
"Just always wanted to read him," she says.
Alas, the Florida Supreme Court ruined her chance for some absorbing reading. Overturning her sentence, the court also granted reporters at least a limited right to protect sources.
Starting at the bottom
She was born on Oct. 11, 1940, in Memphis but moved to Hattiesburg, Miss., before blowing out even a single birthday candle. Her mother Lucile divorced her father, Thomas Alin Keen, an alcoholic, when she was a baby. Lucy credits her personality, and her success, to being raised by a strong mother, grandmother and aunt.
"Mother never remarried," Lucy tells people. "She had a serious suitor once, but she always said she had never met a man to whom she would cede her closet space."
Her mother ran a pharmacy, listened to opera, sang in the choir, once chased a purse snatcher and regularly booked passage on tramp steamers bound for the South Pacific. She took pride in her two smart daughters, Kay and Lucy.
Kay got a doctorate in psychology from Harvard.
Lucy graduated from high school.
"Mother was disappointed when I got pregnant and got married at 17," says Lucy, who never finished college.
She married a coach and moved to Crystal River. The marriage failed after nine years and three children.
"It wasn't a good situation," Lucy says. "I was a single, stay-at-home mom with three kids under the age of 6 and negligible work experience."
One day an editor from the Ocala Star-Banner called. He was looking for someone to cover news in Citrus County.
"She was looking for a part-time reporter and got my name from the local librarian who told her I read more books than just about anyone else. The editor figured that a good reader might be able to write."
Sometimes, at a midnight fire, Lucy showed up accompanied by her three toddlers.
Lucy loved firefighters. She loved cops. They were sweet on her, too.
"It wasn't like it is today," Lucy says. "I'd be at the scene of an arrest and a cop would yell, "Lucy, grab the handcuffs and give 'em to me.' "
Occasionally a male officer asked her to check on a female inmate lying passed out in a pool of vomit in the drunk tank.
"It was actually a lot of fun."
When chaos, order collide
Lucy was hired at the St. Petersburg Times in 1967. Her first boss was an old-fashioned guy who wore his hair in a flat top. He was Richard Morgan, perhaps the most detail-minded editor in the history of the company _ the kind of manager who handed an anxious reporter three excruciating pages of instructions on her first day of employment. Instructions typically might cover the 480 official minutes in the workday and suggest the reporter sleep close to the phone in case she was needed to cover a fire.
Their marriage, in 1968, had to be kismet. She thrives in chaos. He is all about order and stability. "Lucy has the patience of a lit firecracker," he says on his way to making the bed while wearing pajamas that look suspiciously like he might have ironed them.
In 1979, when her teenage son Al was killed in an auto accident, Richard was a comforting presence. After all, one of his children from a previous marriage had been killed in an accident, too.
Today they live in a sprawling five-bedroom, north Tallahassee home surrounded by pine trees, camellias and azaleas.
Lucy, who learned many lessons from her mother, allows her husband one little closet. "You ought to look in her closets," he whispers. "She's like Imelda Marcos. I've never seen so many shoes. What does she have, 75 pairs? One day I'm going to count those shoes."
"We will stop talking about my shoes and my closets this minute," Lucy orders from across the room.
At 74, Richard is retired and looking forward to Lucy staying home, if only because he needs help with the housework. He is among the few people on earth who regularly has the courage to tell Lucy things she does not want to hear. Recently he was delighted to send her an e-mail pointing out an embarrassing spelling error in one of her stories.
They share their bed with two Siamese cats, Lewis and Clark. Shellshocked lobbyists who have been grilled by Lucy ought to listen as she babytalks those spoiled cats. On the den wall hang 30 photographs, paintings and weavings portraying felines.
Patrolling the state Capitol, visiting offices, Lucy knows who is a cat person and who is not.
"Jeb sleeps with a Siamese," Lucy purrs, though hopefully she only has his word for it.
Even so, she says she has frequently been disappointed by Gov. Bush's desire to conduct the people's business outside the presence of reporters, namely her.
"I felt like you put me over your knee and spanked me," he complained after an especially critical story.
Sounding exasperated, he now says, "We still haven't figured out where she gets all her sources."
One time Lucy cooked him supper at her house. She has a good recipe for chicken amandine.
The source, not the story
With retirement pending, she is worried about the future of journalism.
Sometimes reporters are too quick to confront, too quick to chase the "gotcha" story. Lucy prefers quiet investigations. She prefers to examine public records and read the fine print _ before dropping the guillotine blade.
"You don't want to shoot rubber bands," she says. "When the time comes you want a loaded gun."
She tells young reporters to value a good source more than a good story.
One of her best sources ever was an alcoholic named George, who mopped floors at the Pasco County jail. He liked Lucy because she always stopped to chew the fat. "You treat me like a human being," he told her.
He often called her with tips he had gleaned from eavesdropping at the Sheriff's Office.
"The sheriff one time got tired of the leaks and made everybody on his staff take a lie detector test," Lucy says. "Everybody but George."
One Christmas George knocked on her door carrying a jar of his grandmother's jelly. George had long hair and a rough demeanor, but Lucy wasn't afraid to welcome him into her home.
"The trouble with reporters today is they avoid people like George," she says. "A good reporter should be comfortable with all kinds of people _ not just people exactly like them. If you don't want to talk to someone like George you might as well be an editor."
Friends, lobbyists and opera
In a few weeks Lucy will officially yield her job as Tallahassee bureau chief to Steve Bousquet, a veteran political writer. He says he is nervous about replacing a legend.
She is nervous about it, too, though not for the same reason. She says she won't miss counting paper clips, but fears being out of the loop.
Last spring senators named the press gallery after her. She can't imagine not sitting in her regular chair next time the Senate is in session. How could state government go on without her?
Well, she still has a few days left.
In her office, she is listening to a selection from a Verdi opera, "Libiamo, ne lieti calici," the drinking song from La Traviata. Anna Moffo and Richard Tucker have such beautiful voices! As she listens, head bobbing, she quietly is investigating the lives of lobbyists.
Lobbyists like her _ "I have some good friends who are lobbyists" _ but mostly they fear her.
The late Dempsey Barron, a hard-drinking senator, enjoyed telephoning Lucy whenever his office was overflowing with lobbyists. "Come on over for a chat," he'd say.
When Lucy arrived, lobbyists scurried out of the office like cockroaches fleeing the bathroom light.
"Until later,' not "goodbye'
Five years ago she shattered her right ankle in a fall. In January, when she is officially retired, she plans to submit to surgery No. 8, this time at Mayo Clinic.
When her bones knit, she hopes to do a little part-time work. There are a few people who need investigating. Also, she is considering writing a memoir.
She and her husband own a lovely cabin on a mountain in North Carolina.
Mountain cabins are isolated places. They are good places to think and to listen to opera and to pet cats and to knit doll clothes and to drink wine and to write memoirs.
Of course, a mountain cabin is a perfect place for serious reading.
Lucy still has that Tennyson collection she hoped to read the time she was sentenced to jail for not revealing sources.
One of his famous poems was “A Farewell.”
Flow down, cold rivulet, to the sea
Thy tribute wave deliver:
No more by thee my steps shall be,
For ever and for ever.
Flow, softly flow, by lawn and lea,
A rivulet then a river:
Nowhere by thee my steps shall be,
But here will sigh thine alder tree,
And here thine aspen shiver;
And here by thee will hum the bee,
A thousand suns will stream on thee,
A thousand moons will quiver;
But not by thee my steps shall be,
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