Interviewee: Fred Pettijohn [Pj]
Interviewer: Julian Pleasants [P]
Date: August 18, 1999
P: This is August 18, 1999. I am in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, with Mr. Fred
Pettijohn. Would you tell me when and where you were born?
Pj: Baltimore, Maryland. May 11, 1917.
P: What did your parents do?
Pj: My father was an accountant working in the Washington/Baltimore area when I
was born. Four months later, he and my mother saw the light and moved to
Florida, [to] Tallahassee where he was with the old Florida Railroad Commission.
P: You grew up in Tallahassee?
Pj: And went to public schools in Tallahassee.
P: What was Tallahassee like in the 1930s?
Pj: A lot of slippery red clay, sleepy, a lot of friendly folks, people who were not too
anxious to see newcomers come to the city. Their theory was, newcomers bring
nothing but trouble.
P: How big was Tallahassee then?
Pj: Gosh, I have been asked that before. Just as a guess, I would say somewhere
between 8,000 and 10,000 people.
P: Were there many government employees there at the time?
Pj: Well, it was the state capital. It was the main source of employment. I would
think that the percentage of government employees was higher then than it is
P: How did the Depression affect your family?
Pj: Very lightly. Government--whether state or federal--families are usually affected
the least by a depression. Salaries go on, generally, at the same rate.
Promotions may slow up or stop but compared to what is happening to the rest of
the population, you do well.
P: You went to Leon High School. What were your best subjects? What were you
Pj: English, journalism. I had decided when I was in, about, the eighth grade that I
wanted to be in newspaper work. We did not have a school paper at the time,
but we had an energetic high school student who had a mimeograph machine
and put out his own high school newspaper once a week. To show you what
kind of a paper it was, he called it Ye Weekly Snooze, and the lettering on the
masthead played the E on the end of Snooze, so you thought you were the
weekly news. He was quite proud of that title. Anyway, he had a reporter for
each class, and I ended up as the reporter for my class. After a year, I thought,
this is really what I want to do. I talked to my father about it and he said, well, I
am sure it is interesting, but I can tell you now, you will never make any money in
the newspaper business. For a number of years, I thought my father was
brilliant. He could see far into the future and see you would not make any money
out of it.
P: At some point, you were the assistant sports editor at the Tallahassee Democrat.
Pj: Yes, [in] 1935 and 1936, and the title was mainly that title. It held nothing. It was
pretty empty. The editor of the newspaper left to manage a gubernatorial
campaign, and they moved most of the editors behind him up a notch, so the
sports editor really moved up to become the city editor. I came in, laid out the
page, handled the copy, edited all of it, wrote all of the heads. For that, they
called me assistant sports editor. They paid their assistant sports editor $6 a
week, and they gave it out grudgingly. I can tell you that.
P: You were still in high school?
Pj: Yes, and I was a mid-semester graduate, so I continued to work. This was a
long time ago. I continued to work up there after the campaign was over
because I graduated from high school in January, but it had no effect on the so-
called assistant sports editor's job.
P: Why sports?
Pj: Well, I liked it. I thought I knew something about it. My father had been a good
athlete and was, I say it in the kindest possible way, kind of a sports nut. He still
followed baseball, in particular. He did not care much for football and looked
upon basketball with great scorn. But boxing and baseball intrigued him. He had
gone to a number of big-league ball games and had his own ideas on who the
great players were. I grew up in that atmosphere. My mother was a pacifist if I
ever knew one but, strangely enough, she liked prizefighting. When I worked in
Washington before the war, she came up to see me two or three times and the
first question she would pose, either in a letter or on the telephone about her trip
up was, who is going to be fighting while I am there? And if there is a better fight
a little later, I will come a week later and catch that. So, it was just kind of a
natural thing for me to do.
P: When you covered sports at this time, FSU was not yet co-ed.
Pj: No, they were not.
P: So, there was no football [and] no baseball, but you did have, I guess, a class C
Pj: Class D.
P: [Did] you cover sports in Florida or national sports?
Pj: Are we talking about when I was assistant sports editor?
Pj: We had Lincoln High School, which was for blacks. We had Florida High, which
was in conjunction for Florida State College for Women. And we had Florida
A&M, the Rattlers, who were one of the outstanding Negro teams in the nation,
even back then. We tried to cover them. We did not cover all of them, but we
tried to cover them for their big games, good games. Most of those were
beneath the lordly gaze of our sports editor, so I caught the assignment on those
and loved it. To me, it was a way to get a lot of experience in a short period of
time. Instead of covering one team for its season, I was trying to cover parts of
four teams for their seasons.
P: Did you also do some of the Class D baseball?
Pj: No, he did that entirely. He was paid to act as official scorer, and he was not
about to give that up to any lowly assistant sports editor.
P: Probably pretty good money, too.
Pj: In those days, yes. It was about $6 a game. You had to go to the game anyway.
It was like finding money.
P: Now, you also worked for the Florida State News. What was that?
Pj: It was an opposition daily paper to the Tallahassee Democrat. I do not
remember how long it lasted, from the mid-1930s, I would say, until shortly
before World War II. World War II probably finished the Florida State News, a
pretty good newspaper. Comparing it to the Democrat, they did a pretty good
job. Like most underdogs or newcomers, they were good hustlers. When I went
to college, I was their college correspondent. The Democrat did not truck with
college correspondents in those days, but the State News did, so I sent them a
P: About what was going on at the University of Florida?
Pj: That related to Tallahassee and Quincy and Havana students. It was mainly a
P: Who graduated ...
Pj: And who was on the dean's list ...
P: Football players and that sort of thing?
Pj: Yes, and there were quite a few at that time at the school.
P: Why did you choose to go to the University of Florida instead of somewhere
Pj: Well, I registered at LSU [Louisiana State University] which, at that time, as far as
we could tell, had one of the better journalism schools in the South. I was pretty
much determined to stay in the South, and I think my family was happy with that
decision. A day or two before I was going to report to LSU, two cars full of my
high school chums came by and hotboxed my mother and I about going to
Florida. To show them how strong-willed I was, I gave in. My mother said she
would take me to Gainesville the next day. I remember, we talked to the dean of
men and my mother said, this is the first time that Fred will ever have been away
from home, and I am concerned about him. The dean looked at my record and
said, Mrs. Pettijohn, I think we can tell you that we will have your son home by
Thanksgiving. She had a great sense of humor, but that did not strike her as
funny. It did me and I thought, well, it does not hurt to laugh in front of the dean
of men. He obviously had used the line before with varying amounts of success.
I wanted him to know he had someone who was quick on the uptake. It turned
out, he was not right, but it was close there for a while.
P: When you started, what was the campus like?
Pj: [It was] 1936. Beautiful, really. You are familiar with it now, and it is rather
crowded. It was somewhat sparsely built then. The buildings were nicely
spaced. There was a lot of room between the ones on campus, grass and kind
of a rolling contour.
P: Where did you live on campus?
Pj: I lived right by the old, I think it was, College Inn. It was a den of iniquity.
Obviously, the good locations had long been gone and had I been a little keener,
I would have known there was something wrong with the availability of a room
right across the street from the campus. All-night card games. They had a
bunch of former athletes who had graduated and either were not able to find
work or it had never occurred to them to look for work. So, they played poker
mainly at night and fleeced the freshman who were coming in.
P: What was your major?
Pj: In those days, Florida had general college. You had no electives. All of your
hours were concentrated in what they called C1 through C6. So, you got into an
elective in your sophomore year, and mine was journalism.
P: Did they have many journalism courses?
Pj: Well, they had what they called the school of journalism. I can only recall two
people on the staff. The head was Elmer J. Emig, and I am ashamed to say I
cannot remember the last name of the other man. It was something like Bill
Phillips. The classes were all held in Buckman Hall, which was one of the
original dormitories when Florida began to grow in its Gainesville location. It did
not say much for the college to be in Buckman Hall. It was pretty well used up by
the time we were in there. It never looked really clean, but I do not think most of
us were too concerned about the cleanliness of classrooms at that time.
P: You indicated that you worked with campus publications. Which ones?
Pj: The Alligator and the Seminole.
P: What did you do with the Alligator?
Pj: With the Alligator, I did sports and some general news after I had done a year of
P: How did that help you in your journalism career?
Pj: Well, I thought at that time, and I am still pretty much married to the idea, that
any time that you had the opportunity to write under some degree of pressure-
and obviously pressure for a college publication is not the same as it is for a
daily, and the Alligator was a weekly at that time-and have somebody go over
your copy and either talk to you about it or tell you it was all right or bounce it
back at you--I thought there was a great benefit in that and the more I could do of
that, the more eager I was to do it.
P: What about your work with the Seminole?
Pj: I ended up as kind of a late-appointed features editor. The editor could not
decide which way he wanted to go on features and how light he wanted to go,
and he finally moved me into that.
P: That was a yearbook, right?
Pj: Yes. Not any kind of a job of much importance. [I] laid out some pages, cut lines,
and edited copy.
P: Describe the impact of your education at the University of Florida. How did it
influence both your life and your career?
Pj: It sent me out into the world with, I think, a pretty stable feeling of confidence. I
had done a lot of work in the school. I had a lot of trouble in my early years with
some classes, scholastically. It was somewhat ironic that my father was an
accountant, and I just hated math. Maybe it was because he always had a
shortcut for me and occasionally the teacher would ask me, where did you come
up with that shortcut? It made answering somewhat difficult. You learn to live
with people in college. Either you learn to live with them or you learn to live
without them, but it is much better if it can be the former. I enjoyed being in
groups of people, in the fraternity, in school, and in whatever I might be doing on
campus or in the classroom. I came out feeling I could pretty much do a good
job in anything related to writing subjects, regardless of what the media might be.
P: When you graduated in 1941, what did you plan to do?
Pj: That was wartime. I was waiting to be drafted. I had wrecked my ankle playing
baseball, and I had to drop military my sophomore year because I could not wear
boots and that was a booted unit there. There was some question as to whether
this was enough to keep me out of service or not. Like most guys my age, I did
not want to be kept out, but by this time, I had moved to Washington and was
undergoing a variety of jobs. I worked a while with the old Washington Times
Herald. I worked with an outfit called Dickey and Associates. I ended up with the
Office of Defense Transportation, headed by a man named John L. Rogers. I
started out there running the mailroom and when I was assigned to that, I
thought, this is truly a government snap. When the mail started coming in at the
rate of 10,500 pieces a day, I had a little change of my opinion about the snap. I
had forty-five or forty-six women working for me most of the time. I went from
that to writing letters over the signature of the executive director. He was mainly
concerned with the legislative branches of the federal government and state
government, governors and so forth. Good experience. Tough man to work for.
I guess I got used to working for somebody who could be unreasonable in your
own mind. He was a tough taskmaster [and] had long ago given up the idea of
complimenting anybody who wore pants. He saved his compliments for people
in feminine attire. But he was smart. He knew his business. He recognized
whether or not you could do the job he hired you for, very quickly. If there was
any doubt in his mind, you were reassigned.
P: Whatever happened to the Washington Times Herald?
Pj: It folded. At the time I was there, I think there were six dailies in Washington.
P: It was a pretty good paper, was it not?
Pj: It was a pretty good paper, and it had Bob Consodine, who later became a
hellacious columnist in and around Washington [and] was the star of the Post for
a number of years.
P: At this point, you were still not in the service?
Pj: No, I [was] not.
P: Had you applied to join the military?
Pj: No, I had not.
P: Were you just still waiting to be drafted?
Pj: Right. I had my basic enrollment while I was still on the campus at the university.
When I transferred to Washington, they told me at the Washington office that I
would probably be a civilian longer than I would have been had I stayed in
Tallahassee because they were not taking that many people from the
Washington area. The allotment was low or something. It was more than I could
understand at the time but, at the same time, it was not something I wanted to
quarrel with. And it was true. [It was not] until 1942 before I went in.
P: Were you eventually drafted?
P: What was Washington like in 1941 and 1942?
Pj: It may have been the wildest city in the United States west of California. There
were nothing but women everywhere, and servicemen from all around just broke
their necks getting into Washington on the weekends. It has always been a
pretty good party town, but it was just hyped beyond all manner of
P: Plus, at that time, it was still pretty much a small Southern town, was it not?
Pj: Yes, it was a sleepy town that had gotten misnamed as the capital of the United
States. It did not realize what it was, I do not think. Traffic was just awful. I
forgot, I worked for Chesapeake and Potomac Telephone Company as a
salesperson. A real experience. It taught me one thing: not to go into sales. It
was run by a boy from Alabama named Turnbull. We had twelve salesmen. We
were not allowed to sell in the District. A salesman in the District started out at
about $100,000 a year which, in those days, was humongous money. Nobody
was going to scratch into that. We worked Arlington and Alexandria and down
into Maryland, just around the perimeter of the capital.
P: There must have been a huge number of people moving into the city, working for
the Defense Department and all of these other government agencies.
Pj: Every mode of living was just overloaded. Housing was hard to find.
Transportation was difficult. Buses: I remember they had pushers [to pack
people into the buses] who were there by the door, and I did not know what they
were when I first went up there. Somebody said, there is room in the back.
Somebody in the back said, you would not say that if your poor old mother was in
P: What was your reaction to Pearl Harbor?
Pj: I was stunned. It was beyond my comprehension. It happened on a Sunday. I
was at a Washington Redskins football game. We kept hearing, will General so-
and-so report to headquarters? And nobody could figure out what was
happening. Was it some kind of a drill? Why were they calling all the brass in?
We soon learned what it was.
P: When that happened, did you realize at that point that this was the ultimate
P: Talk about your Army experience. You were in the China/Burma/India campaign.
Pj: We landed in Bombay and went into the interior by train, and they had a
somewhat unique rail system at the time, India did. [Each region,] what would
compare to our states or counties, had a railroad gauge, and when you got to the
county region line, the gauge changed and so did the train. So you got off and
got on. The bathing facilities were non-existent. There was a hole in the back of
each car where you went to the bathroom. It was unbelievably hot. We had
been training in Georgia and, finally, at Camp McCall, North Carolina, which was
very pleasant. We thought we were kind of adjusted to the heat. You know, I
had grown up in Tallahassee with that. I thought I was immune to the heat. We
set up our training base in a town called Jorhat, [where it was] 120 [degrees] in
the shade, and there was not any shade. We trained there until we went into
Burma to Myitkyina, which was a rail center. When we got to Myitkyina, it
probably was [mid]-1943. The Allies needed the airstrip at Myitkyina to keep
planes from flying a circuitous route.
P: This was over the hump?
Pj: [Yes.] It had been kind of a vacation spot for the British in the Far East. We
were not there at the time but when we got there, the local rumor-mongers
among the troops who had preceded us said that the British men, women, and
children were marched into the Irrawaddy River and beheaded. From what I saw
with the Japanese from then on, I believed the story, continued to believe it.
P: You were in an artillery unit?
Pj: Yes. I was in an air transportable or airborne artillery unit. We had been
designed specifically for this China/Burma/India theater. We could fly guns, 40
millimeters on a C-47 or a C-46. We could load them on gliders and land them.
We were designed and set up to move quickly by air for whatever distance they
wanted to move us, which was one of the reasons we ended up in Myitkyina. We
were an outfit with some firepower that they could get in there. We won and lost
Myitkyina three times. Every time that we would take it, and your judgement of
who owned it was who owned the railroad station, which happened to be one of
the few buildings of any size left standing, we were relieved by the Chinese army
each time and each time they relieved us, they lost it, until finally we took it back
a third time and held it. We stayed there and provided air support while all
portions of the strip were put in working order, and the Japanese bombed it.
They had a guy with a low-power engine called Washing Machine Charlie who
flew overhead, usually at one of the meals, and tried to drop bombs on meal
formations. They had bombers who came over about once a week, enough to
keep you alert. We were there during a monsoon. In what might be a rather
pleasant place to be in dry weather was hell in wet weather. You could not move
anything, including your own feet sometimes. But it was cooler. Mosquitos were
fierce. Eventually, we moved from Myitkyina into China on what was then called
an A1A priority, which was about as high as a unit got in being moved. There
was an airstrip that we were flying B-29s out of, in the Chendu Valley.
Somebody had to provide some protection for them. There were reports, if not
just plain rumors, that the Japanese were going to try an airborne strike to knock
the U. S. out of the base. There was nothing there to stop that except, I think, a
unit of MPs. The rest of it was all Air Force. I think we were the only real ground
troops that were there. So we went in and because of the terrain and the design
of the field, [we] had to build gun locations that were raised fifty to sixty feet
above terrain so you would have a field of fire in all directions, and could protect
them. We had four batteries of eight guns to a battery, which we put in circles
around the airstrip. The Japanese never tried an airborne attack. They did have
bombers coming in. They had some fighters coming over. For what purpose? I
do not know whether they were taking pictures or not. But we supposedly had
radar which would advise us of incoming unpleasant people. From thirty to forty-
five seconds ahead of our signals, the Chinese who worked at the field took
cover. They had some method of communication that we never did break. They
were close, though, at least a half minute and in some cases a full minute ahead,
which becomes important to a guy who is looking for a foxhole or looking for a slit
trench and he is the last one there. You do not like to give somebody a thirty-
second jump on you. You might have been a world-class sprinter, but you do not
like those odds at all.
P: When were you mustered out of the service?
Pj: November 1945. I had three battle stars, which gave you points toward your
mustering out. You were trying to reach a total. I forget what it was, seventy-five
points, or something like that, to be eligible to go in the first wave. Almost
everybody in our outfit was eligible. The only exceptions were some newcomers
who had transferred in as replacements, and we did not much care what
happened to them. We had won the war.
P: [What was] your reaction to the atomic bombs?
Pj: My surprise, I guess, equaled Pearl Harbor. We had no idea that we had any
kind of a capability like that. We were in a staging area. Lord Mountbatten was
supposed to lead a seaborne invasion which would land on the coast of China.
In our portion of the mission, the landing spot was ringed by a string of mountains
that had limited access to and from the beachhead. We were to be stationed in
the mountains protecting the passes. We were down to one change of
underwear, one pair of socks, the uniform we were wearing, [and] what arms you
normally carry. It did not look like the kind of thing that I would have volunteered
for. Then suddenly, to be delivered to what was then akin to heaven, was
unbelievable. We did not get a lot of information about it. If we were told that it
was an A-bomb, I am not sure that any of us really comprehended what it meant.
The Japanese had been bombed twice with special bombs. After the second
time, they had decided to surrender. The next question was, when do we leave
for home? We could not believe our good fortune, though. I did not know many
optimists overseas. We took the attitude, and I guess it was a defensive posture
that helped you through a lot of things, that maybe the war would never end.
Maybe we would never go home. I remember when we thought we had been
over there a while and we were pretty tough and salty, we bumped into an
Australian outfit, and they asked us to eat with them. Some of my guys said-you
know, thinking we were old timers over here, and we can impress these
foreigners-how long have you been over here? And one of them said, 1938 or
1939. That ended the tough conversation about how long has anybody been
anywhere. They were changing the subject.
P: How did the war experience impact your life?
Pj: I felt that I had demonstrated to myself that I could handle people and could lead
people. I was used to being in uncomfortable and dangerous situations. I had
pretty good control of my emotions. I thought I probably needed a good break
when I got back to the States but given a good break, I thought I could capitalize
on it. I had gone into the service with a year's freshman military at the University
of Florida that gave you a limited amount of unreal military experience, and I had
been appointed to first sergeant after I had been in the service six months and
remained so until I was mustered out. Somewhat late in the game, I was offered
an opportunity to go to OCS [Officer Candidate School] but thought I was better
off with the outfit I was with. I was comfortable there. I did not want to change to
what was, to me, a drastic unknown. The report was that you were being sent
from OCS to combat in Europe. There was plenty of it there, and you would get
all of that you wanted, probably, if not a hell of a lot more. Like most people
coming out, I had some transitional problems. Language was one of them. I had
to learn, again, that my mother was there, and there were certain things I [should]
not say in the house. When she got tired of reminding me, my father reminded
me of the same thing. I was easier to live with when I came home than I had
been before I left, a lot. I had matured immensely. Things that I once
considered, oh, this is something I just do not want to do, I went ahead and did it
without giving much thought. The Army is a great leveller. If you have trouble
with humility, they can do a lot for you. I thought it would have been tragic had I
not gone in the service because I felt I had benefitted so much from it that it was
almost a totally selfish outlook. You know, I had thought through high school and
college [that] I was a leader to some extent but after coming out of the service, I
realized that I was a leader more in my own mind than in anybody else's. But I
enjoyed the feeling of knowing that I could go into almost any situation. I
certainly could survive the early part of what tough-going there [was], [which]
might be learning what the routine was, and then I would progress from there
with whatever I was going to do.
P: Let us go back to your newspaper career. In 1947, you came back to the
Tallahassee Democrat, and you were the sports editor. How did you happen to
get that job?
Pj: I was working with the VA [Veteran's Administration]. While I was working with
the VA, Elaine and I had married. What I was willing to do with the VA as a
single person, I was not willing to do, as a married person. The man who ran the
Tallahassee office at the VA was a man named Busness. He gave me a superior
rating for the year, and people in the office at St. Petersburg told him that there
were not any superior ratings. He was an older man at that time. He continued
to stick his neck out. I begged him, just change it to whatever they want
[because] I do not care. I didn't know then that I was going to leave that quickly,
but that finished poisoning the wells for me. Then, too, it was pretty clear that if
you did not have a war wound or if you were not disabled, your future in the VA
was going to be somewhat limited because as it downsized, the people who had
the less points going in were going to be the first ones going out. That is as it
should be. The Democrat was going through a series of changes with their
sports editors, and I had gone to school [with] and had been a very close friend
of the man who was then the managing editor of the Democrat, Steve Yates.
Steve called me to talk to me and asked me if I wanted the job as sports editor of
the Democrat. I told him I would call him the next day, and I called him the next
day and told him I did. He said, okay, I think you can start in about two weeks,
something to that [effect]. For whatever reason prompted me, I do not know,
[but] I said nothing to the VA at that time. I was quite surprised about three days
later when I picked up the Democrat and saw that they had a new sports editor, a
boy from Panama City named Les Wilson. I called Steve and asked him what
had happened and he said, someone else on the staff had lined this up-there
was nobody else to line it up-and there was nothing he could do about it. He
was sorry. He hoped he had not jeopardized my position with the VA. I assured
him that he had not because they knew nothing about it, unless he had told them.
So I continued to work for the VA. I had been traveling from Orlando to Miami
and then had come back into the Tallahassee office and was assigned to Florida
A&M University. The officers at Florida A&M and the professors, the first thing
they wanted to do was shake hands with you. This was not something that
happened to you in the Deep South before the war. That took a little adjustment,
which I did not find difficult. I remember I was on the front steps of the Florida
A&M administration building one day with the president of the school, and a
Middle Florida Ice Company truck came around the corner, tires screaming. You
could hear the load shift. The president said, now, the man driving that truck is a
nigger. He said, we all have to pay for him. He said, if there were not any of
those, our relationships could be really good. But, he said, when you think about
our race, you think about that ice truck driver before you think about my staff.
P: Eventually, you ended up with the Tallahassee Democrat though?
Pj: Yes. Wilson did not work out. Steve called again. We had, kind of, a strange
interview session, I guess, with me being very hesitant. Finally, I agreed to give
the VA five days notice, and that was mainly to protect myself against what might
happen again. But when I went home and told Elaine about it, she was not
thrilled, so she said, how do you know you can do this? I said, I can do this. So
she said, well, I do not know. I said, okay, I am going to take a story out of the
Democrat and you read it, give it back to me, and I will rewrite it; I will give it to
you, and you can tell me whether you think it is as good, nearly as good,
passable, whatever. It was a story about Babe Ruth, whom I had met as a child
and still thought he was one of the world's greats. Anyway, I passed Editor
Elaine's first test and went to work for the Democrat.
P: And you were there for six years. What, specifically, did you do all that time?
Pj: I covered the Class D baseball team. I covered the birth of Florida State
University in all sports.
P: This is pre-Bill McGrotha?
Pj: He succeeded me, in 1953. I went out and found McGrotha for the Democrat. I
had known Bill since he was sports editor in Thomasville and thought highly of
him, thought that he was a good man for the job. I had a lot of success with the
Democrat. I had won the state's AP [Associated Press] sportswriting award two
years in a row, the first person who had ever won a writing award for consecutive
years. Actually, I was runner-up and then won it the next two years. Fort
Lauderdale News had decided to go back into the Sunday field. It had been in
the Sunday field and was knocked out by a lack of newsprint in World War II.
They only would service their long-time customers. [So] the News was finished
as [a] Sunday paper. So, they were going back in the first Sunday in June, and
the editor who was doing the hiring was impressed by people who had won
writing contests. He sent his political writer by the Democrat office to talk to me.
He told me that Jack Gore wanted to talk to me and I said, about what? He said,
he was not specific, but [about] a job with the Fort Lauderdale News. So, I called
Jack and talked to him on the phone and asked him what kind of money they
were talking about. We discussed it and, again, Elaine was a factor. I had had
an opportunity to go a number of places: Atlanta, Birmingham, Chicago. We
were starting a family, and she did not want to raise a family in any of those
places. I said, what about Fort Lauderdale? She said, that would be great. We
will raise the children there. She had had a photo studio in Palm Beach during
the war years, so she was familiar with the area, much more so than I was. So,
we decided to take the offer and drove down here. I got here with about a 102 or
103 [degree] fever, talked to the people at the News, took the job, had a month's
issue of back papers to look at, and promised them I would come to work the
next Friday. In the meantime, Elaine went out and rented a house about five
blocks from here, so we were pretty much all set. We had to sell the home that
we had in Tallahassee. She stayed in Tallahassee to sell it, and her father drove
her and our two sons down here. She had previously told me she would not
come until I had finished painting the walls of the new house blue, Williamsburg
blue, and I assured her that would be done, perhaps in record-time. She got
down here later in June. I took the train down. We were a one-car family then,
and it looked to me like we were going to be one for a long time.
P: Tell me the difference between the Fort Lauderdale paper and the Tallahassee
Democrat at this time.
Pj: There was not a great deal of difference in circulation. The Democrat was up
around 18,000 to 20,000. Fort Lauderdale was about 22,000 in the summertime
but about 35,000 to 38,000 in the season. It was more sophisticated. It was a
P: Who owned it?
Pj: R. H. Gore, Sr. He had been a newspaperman himself and was, by far, the most
colorful creature I had ever met. It looked like the Fort Lauderdale News was a
growing paper, and Tallahassee was pretty much limited to the growth of the
state government. There were not any other large industries there. There was a
crate factory that [had] mainly black employees.
P: What was Fort Lauderdale like in 1953?
Pj: Wonderful. It was quiet. June was quiet. A lot of places closed up for the
summer. You could drive all over town without any problem. The beach was
wide-open. Like most newcomers, we took our kids to the beach every day.
Unlike most working men, I got off at 2:30 or 3:00 in the afternoon. So I was able
to spend a lot of time with the children at that particular stage. We just thought,
this is the most wonderful thing that has ever happened to us.
P: Were you competing with the Miami Herald?
Pj: Oh yes. In our minds, we were. In the Herald's minds, I do not think we were
much competition. They had a bureau. They had a Broward section in the
Herald. Just taking alone the people on a beat or on the street working, they
probably had as many, if not more, people than we did, in their basic office. Old
man Gore was a lot of things that are good. Throwing money around was not
one of them. He liked to keep most of the money that came in, which meant that
he did not want to pay anybody much. He owned a TV station, he owned a radio
station, and he owned the only newspaper in Fort Lauderdale, which gave him a
leg up, for sure. I worked for all three. One of the reasons I came was, I had
only seen TV twice in my life, but I engineered a TV show. I started out once a
week and grew to seven times a week, and I engineered a radio show five days a
week. That provided enough income for me to make a profitable move down
here, with the salary from the Fort Lauderdale News. The News was different
from the Democrat internally, in that at the Democrat, all of our employees had
been mainly fairly long-time Tallahassee people, both in the back shop and in the
newsroom, where as in Fort Lauderdale, with a few exceptions, the people were
on the go, looking to go somewhere and improve themselves, or had slid far
enough down the ladder that they ended up here. Oh, there was a kind of a
strange character who loved it down here because he could go to three different
racetracks, one after another in the seasons.
P: Your paper was an afternoon paper?
Pj: Yes, it was.
P: There was no morning paper?
Pj: There was no morning paper, locally, no.
P: So the Miami paper was the morning paper?
Pj: Yes, it had the field. The Miami News, strangely enough, had been the strongest
paper in the county before I got here. How that happened, nobody was ever able
to explain it to me, but they lost it forevermore to the Herald and, eventually, to
us. They were in competition with us, mainly around the Hollywood area and
[with] street sales at the racetracks. The Herald had the morning field to itself.
We had the afternoon field to ourselves. We began to take advantage of some
things. We moved the Saturday paper which, in the way of income, was never a
good one. We moved it from Saturday afternoon to Saturday morning. It gave
us a leg up covering Friday's sports. The University of Miami played all of its
games on Friday night. Advertising built up very quickly. Before I left, we had
the largest Saturday newspaper in the United States, in the number of pages,
helped by a real estate section that was gigantic. It still is large, but it was
gigantic. It was almost embarrassing. You know, nobody who lived here long
read it, but the advertisers loved it and thought it was a great deal.
P: What sports did you cover when you came to Lauderdale?
Pj: I covered the Fort Lauderdale baseball team on a limited basis. The man who I
had succeeded as sports editor was kept on by the News, without my knowledge
I might add, and he was the official scorer and, again, he did not want to lose
that. When he was bargaining with them and they wanted him to stay, that was a
good chip for him, and they agreed [that] he could keep on covering the Fort
Lauderdale Lions. So my biggest coverage was boxing in Miami Beach. All the
big names were fighting down there then for Chris Dundee [Miami Beach boxing
promoter; member, International Boxing Hall of Fame]. The Miami Hurricanes,
football primarily, but whatever Hurricane sport I wanted if they were doing well,
in basketball or baseball.
Pj: Yes, but we had a race writer. I went to the Florida Derby and the big race at
Hialeah, but I did not do the straightaway story. I did either a column or a color
piece for the paper. I did not feel put-out. Racing was not that big to me. I did
not know a hell of a lot about it, and it is like everything else: you are limited in
what kind of a job you can do if your knowledge of the sport is limited.
P: You went, almost immediately, from sports editor to managing editor. How did
that happen and why did you decide to do that?
Pj: It happened because the man who was managing editor was a good
newspaperman but a sensitive newspaperman, and that is a difficult thing to live
with. Old man Gore was too roughshod for him to live with comfortably. He had
occasional attacks of ulcers, and he finally reached a point where he just could
not take it. He was nearing retirement. He wanted to stay until retirement. They
dropped him down to assistant managing editor and, I think, left his salary where
it was so he could continue living here. His wife liked it here. He was a fugitive
from the Detroit area. This had to be like heaven to him. Me taking the job was
a little more difficult. I was bothered by several things. Was I ready to leave
sports? You know, it was 1954. I was thirty-seven years of age, and that
seemed fairly young for me to be leaving a field in which I had demonstrated I
could do pretty well in, against any competition. Was I ready to come under the
direct fire of R. H. Gore, Sr., who was a factor? Did the newsroom job scare me?
No, not that much, not that part of it. I was more concerned about Gore, Sr.
than I was [about] the people I was working with. I worked well with most of
them. But, I was told that if I did not take the job, the current city editor was
going to take the job, and I thought-this sounds a little altruistic-this was a
terrible thing to happen to the newspaper. He was a person who talked a lot and
did very little, and I was not sure that he was able to do a lot more. Another
factor which was important from the first is I now had a family that was growing
along, a five-year-old and a three and-a-half-year-old. I needed more money,
[which] I was not going to get [doing] sports in Fort Lauderdale. So, I had to talk
to them. In the new job, do I keep the TV shows? Do I keep the radio show?
The radio show is going to be difficult, because it was keyed only to sports, so I
had to be prepared to give that up, and I had to be prepared to get what money I
could out of the managing editor's job. So, I had told Mr. Gore, Sr. [that] I was
afraid I did not know enough about the city. I had only been here about six
months. [I said,] I do not know enough about the city, I do not know much about
the people, I do not know much about the politics. I do not know anything about
your hand in all of this, but what experience I have had in life tells me that you
have a very large hand that is not seen in this, and that is of some concern to
me. I said, if you will give me six months, I will study the news end of the paper
as much as I can, I will talk to as many people as I can, I will learn as much about
the job as I can, and, at the end of six months, I will either take it or I will move on
and get out of your way. So, he thought that was fair, and that was what
P: Explain to me, when you took over as managing editor, exactly what your duties
Pj: The managing editor of the Ford Lauderdale News, if he is really the managing
editor, does the hiring and firing of the entire staff. He buys all the features in the
newspaper. He oversees the production of every news page, with the exception
of the editorial page and the op ed. He is responsible for getting the paper
closed up in the pressroom or to the pressroom on time. In my case, the
managing editor also wrote a column five days a week. This was Mr. Gore's
suggestion, which was more than a suggestion.
P: What did you write about?
Pj: Not on sports. Well, the name of it was Across the News Desk, and that is about
as close as I can come. It was anything that I got hold of that I thought I could do
anything with, if it had an angle that I saw, or maybe everybody else saw it and
maybe mine was a little bit different. Because I was managing editor and could
not get out on the street a great deal, it was lightly local, though I knew enough
people by then that I could get by with a sprinkling of local one or two days a
week and, going somewhere with wire copy, I tried to editorialize all of it. I tried
to keep the column on the light side at that time. I felt it was more successful that
way. I represented the newspaper [by] speaking to groups. I handled the
payroll, made all the promotions, made all the reductions, made all the
P: Six years later, you became executive editor?
Pj: We went into a second newspaper. I became executive editor so I would, in
effect, be the person that ran the news pages of both newspapers, the News and
the Sentinel. I continued to buy the features for both newspapers. I hired the
key personnel, though I did not continue to hire or fire what I would call ordinary
staff members. [The Sentinel] was now the morning paper, located in Pompano.
We had an office up there. It was printed here. It was kind of hanging like a
hammock between West Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale and allowed to go into
neither one, so it obviously had a very gloomy future, I thought. When we got set
to get the Sentinel started, the reason we started it was [because] a family in
Indiana wintered in Pompano and noticed there was no daily paper in Pompano,
so they decided to come into Pompano with a five-day-a-week afternoon
newspaper. Well, the old man [Gore] could not stand the thought of that, so we
beat them out on the street by a week or two. At that time, I was writing a
column for both newspapers. We played it on [page] 1A in the Sentinel, which I
was not entirely happy with because I had some reputation, [and this was] a
brand new newspaper, home location away from here. They thought it was of
some value but when we had the final meeting to decide on the Sentinel, we also
decided that it could not come into Fort Lauderdale. We decided that because
two of Gore's sons were editor and general manager of the afternoon paper.
They did not want to compete. They were both people who had a lot of talent but
did not have either a lot of ambition or a lot of drive. They did not want anything
to rock the boat.
P: It was called, though, the Fort Lauderdale Sentinel...
Pj: No, it was not. It was called the Sun Sentinel, and the Associated Press never
would accept that. They said it had to be attached to a city. I do not see that
USA TODAY is attached to a city. Until [the] Fort Lauderdale News folded, the
AP forever referred to it as Pompano Beach Sun Sentinel; to hell with the people
who own this newspaper. We did not have it on the masthead. It did not appear
anywhere in there as Pompano Beach. We were trying not to limit [the
newspaper's circulation]. It gets back to the meeting we [had]. All of the
departments heads and the leading managers of news departments [were] in this
meeting and R. H. Gore is running the meeting and he says, does everybody
agree that the newspaper should not come into Fort Lauderdale? I said, no. And
he said, what? And I said, no. He said, no what? I said, no, I do not agree that
the paper should not come into Fort Lauderdale. He punished me; for several
weeks, he did not speak to me. That was a form of punishment that he ladled
out. Some people deliberately got punished, I think. He was smarter than I was.
But now, I had a new assignment with my job. I had to meet with R. H., Sr. at
5:30 every morning [and] discuss with him what our news play looked like for that
afternoon. The Sentinel was a baby to a lot of us. He never had much interest in
the Sentinel, to tell you the truth. He got it started [and] it looked okay, [but] the
Fort Lauderdale News was his child. He wanted to know, and we went through
the paper page by page, why the Herald had this story that we did not have and if
I said, well, we had that story but you missed it, he said, where was it? I said, it
was on 3A. He said, it was not properly displayed or I would not have missed it.
So, it was a cannot-win situation, and you learned to live with it.
P: Did he set editorial policy?
Pj: Not really. He set the editorial page policy but nothing else. His son wrote 95
percent of the editorials that appeared then.
P: What sort of political bent was the newspaper?
Pj: Ultra-conservative. We were much to the right of Barry Goldwater and looking
for room to move further, but further out in that direction was pretty much a
wasteland. We were one of the few papers that declared early and strongly for
Barry Goldwater. We were a paper that could not tolerate the mention of Eleanor
Roosevelt. R. H. Gore had been governor of Puerto Rico under Franklin D.
[Roosevelt] and as such, he wanted English to be the primary language in Puerto
Rican schools. Eleanor, for reasons he was not sure of the derivation, wanted
Spanish. To no one's surprise, Eleanor prevailed, and he wrote a letter to FDR,
typed it himself-the reason I know that is, I saw the copy, and I know no
secretary typed that letter-and told FDR very plainly, if you want Eleanor to be
governor of Puerto Rico, I suggest you appoint her; if you are going to support
her in what I think is the most important decision that involves the people of
Puerto Rico in the United States, then there is no place for me here. The old
man, as I have indicated, was not careless with the nickel. There was a gunboat
coming in to Puerto Rico, and he arranged to move his family back to the
mainland on that gunboat. The story was, when I reached Fort Lauderdale, that
they had to send the gunboat in and get him off the island. You could envision
shots being fired, them laying offshore and bombarding. It was a freebie, and he
took advantage of it.
P: What ultimately happened to the News and the Sentinel?
Pj: The fate of the afternoon paper in the average city was pretty well spelled out.
We thought instead of dying a slow death, why do we not manage our own
demise? We have another newspaper, [and] it is not like we are going out of
business. Why not stop circulation, division by division, and slowly back out of
the afternoon field, heavily recommending the morning. It seemed like a pretty
good idea. A lot of people did not understand it. A lot of people did not like it. A
lot of people said, no, if you are going to fold up in the afternoon, we are not
going to go with you in the morning; we are going to go with the Herald who we
know will be in the morning for the rest of our lives. And well, I had some
sympathy with that. I could understand where they were coming from. This was
pretty much happening near the end of my career, my active career [in] 1982.
Our policy was, which was then a Chicago Tribune policy, that you retired the last
day of the month in which you were sixty-five. I was a May 11 child, so I bowed
out on May 31, 1982.
P: And by this time, you were a morning newspaper?
Pj: No, we had not made the transition completely. That was still going on and was
not accomplished until I had been out, I would say, about eighteen months,
maybe two years. It was a slow step-by-step thing.
P: At some point, the Chicago Tribune purchased the newspaper?
Pj: The Tribune bought us in 1963.
P: That has always been a pretty conservative newspaper.
Pj: The Tribune, yes. It was a natural marriage. The Tribune was one of the few
papers the old man would consider selling to. He sold it for $18.1 million and in
1963, nobody in the newspaper business believed that the Tribune had paid $18
million for that shitty little paper in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. They did not know
that having the Fort Lauderdale News press running was a lot like having the
United States Mint running. You know, we had a small compact circulation. We
had a growing advertising rate. We had a popular newspaper with people. It
was well read, which had been demonstrated many times. It was rolling in
P: Plus, the potential was unlimited.
Pj: Oh Lord, yes. He backed out a couple of times. The boys had told me, he will
back out, he will not sell, he will keep raising the price, and he will finally reach a
point where the Tribune will get tired of this and say, to hell with it; we will go buy
someplace else. He agreed with them at $16 [million], he agreed with them at
$17.5 [million], he agreed with them at $18 [million], and then chiseled them for
another $100,000 and sold.
P: How did that affect what you did, once you dealt with the Chicago Tribune?
Pj: The difference between a home-owned, family-owned newspaper and part of a
chain, you cannot measure. It is too wide, and it is too deep. It gave me a
certain amount of freedom that I had not had, in that I did not have to go to the
office at 5:30 any more. I did not have to undergo a daily grilling. I could look to
making sizable increases in the overall payroll. I could look to adding people to
the staff. The president was a holdover, a man named J. W. Dickey, who knew
nothing about the newspaper business but was a delightful man, a pretty good
businessman but was tighter than Gore was. So, you still had a battle running
things through him if there was a dollar sign attached. We thought that we would
probably get some necessary help in the way of training from the Tribune. We
thought we would get a ton of suggestions from them. We did not. We settled
and got a suggestion, which surprised us. We were new to the newspaper
family, too. We were their first acquisition. They did not quite know what to do
with us. They were happy they had us. Nobody believes this story when I tell it
today, but they told us, we are really not interested in the Sun Sentinel; if you
have some people who would want to take it over, we would sell it to them very
reasonably and we think we could give you press time and print the paper for
you. Ted Gore, who then was enroute to being president of Gore Newspapers
Co., and I were interested. We did not think that it was the smartest thing to do
at that particular stage of our lives, leave the Tribune with what money we could
raise, and Gore would have to raise most of it, to go into business for ourselves
and compete with them. So, we gave it up, and they kept the Sentinel. Now,
they are awfully happy they have it. There is no one left who remembers what
was said at that meeting. If we repeated it, there is no one who would believe it
now, so it is a story that is never told.
P: In 1968, you became the assistant general manager. What duties did you have
in that position?
Pj: Well, I was overseeing all of the departments in the newspaper, editorial less
than any of the rest of them. I felt editorial was in good hands. I felt that
everybody was looking for me to concentrate on editorial and spend as much
time as I could with them. I thought it was an opportunity to know better the rest
of the departments in the newspaper. There were two senior managers who
both had been considered the competitors for the general manager's job. The
[position of] assistant was [at] Gore's insistence. He was not ready to make
anyone general manager. He wanted to be president and general manager. It
turns out he got exactly what he wanted. The agreement between he and I was
that when I showed him I could handle a job, I would be the general manager.
P: So then, the next year, you took over that job?
P: And he was still president?
P: How did you get along with him?
Pj: He and I got along fine. The old man [Gore Sr.] once told me that the secret of
my success with him was that I was the only person whom he had ever met who
could along with both Ted, the general manager, and Jack, the editor, [and] could
get both of them to take the suggestion that I had for their argument and prevail,
and that I could remain friendly with both of them. I told him I did not think that
was a great compliment but in a stage in my life when I was scratching for
compliments, I would take that.
P: So, at this point, it is Ted who is the president, is that right?
Pj: Yes, and Jack was the editor.
P: Eventually, in 1970, you become first vice-president, correct?
P: And, in 1977, editorial director?
Pj: The Tribune, by that time, had decided it should have some of its own people on
the scene in Fort Lauderdale taking a very active role in the newspaper. This
was a shock to us. They had always gone the other way. But they had several
rising young people that they were interested in getting experience, and the
people ahead of them were short of retirement. There was nowhere to put them,
so they started looking around at the newspapers they had, which were Fort
Lauderdale, Orlando, and what is now the Los Angeles News out on the coast,
and they were in a couple of other smaller California towns. Anyway, they were
not happy with Jack Gore. Jack had the misfortune to continually find himself at
odds with things that they suggested for him, in particular, and in the newspaper
in general, and they decided to send Byron Campbell in here as general
manager. Obviously, there was no room for me there. The person who I was the
closest to on the Tribune was Clayton Kirkpatrick, who then was the editor of the
Tribune. I am sure he told Campbell that I would be valuable to him in and
around the newsroom. So, at age sixty, in 1977, what they had in mind for me
pretty much had to be acceptable to me. The market for sixty-year-old one-time
editor's current general managers was not blossoming, so I said, yes, I will stay
until 1982 when I could take early retirement, but if I was happy with the job, fine,
I would continue until retirement. Campbell and I got along great. He was
aggressive, wanted to do things with the paper that had never been done,
wanted to move the paper into Fort Lauderdale, wanted to move the paper into
West Palm Beach, and asked me to write a memo for him, giving him an outlook
of where I felt the newspaper ought to go in the next five years. I did, and the
first point I made was, bring it into Fort Lauderdale [and] move it into West Palm.
You know, you have two circulation centers, and you are ignoring both of them.
P: This is what you had wanted in the beginning.
Pj: From the first, yes. He [and I] thought alike, so that got us off to a good start.
We remain friends today. I found him easy to work for [and] he seemed to find
me easy to work with, so we got along well. They were not happy with Ted, and
Ted retired. Campbell became editor, and the Tribune sent someone else down
as general manager. I continued to function as editorial director and, as such,
dealt with both newspapers, was the key man in several things in both papers,
and was the decisive vote if the two editors were at odds.
P: Did you write editorials?
Pj: No. While Jack was here, I had written the 3 to 5 percent that he did not write.
When they asked me about that, I told them I did not want to write editorials,
[and] that I thought that I could be of more value on the news side than I could on
the editorial side.
P: What financial, editorial, or circulation problems did the newspaper have when
you took over as managing editor, or general manager?
Pj: The newspaper itself had no financial problems. As we have already indicated
earlier, it was literally a gold-mine, an unadvertised gold-mine. Mr. Gore, by
design, gave a limited amount [of information] to editor and publisher. He said,
why should other people know how good things are here? It will just attract them
to the area, and we do not need competition of any kind. With all that money,
you had a problem, in that the Miami Herald paid handsomely to the South, and
we paid unhandsomely to the North, as did the Palm Beach Post and Times as
far as we knew. They were pretty generally in the same salary brackets that we
were, but we lagged way behind the Herald. We lost a few people to the Herald,
mainly because most of the people who we hired had applied to the Herald first
and George Beebe, who was managing editor during my early years and through
a great deal of my career, had made a promise mainly to his own mind-I do not
think he ever made it to anyone from Fort Lauderdale, but it is possible he did-
that he would not raid the Lauderdale ranks. I do not think he ever broke it. It
may have been broken after his time. But it was certainly a high-class attitude to
take, because there was a time when he could have certainly hired 75 percent of
our people away without any trouble, I would think.
P: When you took over as general manager, what specific goals did you have for
Pj: We were trying to improve the press room, which involved new presses mainly.
We had to reduce running time. By this time, the weekend paper run was heavy.
We were trying to always increase circulation. We always had a tough nut down
in the Hollywood-Hallandale area. They had a paper of their own which filled a
niche, and they got their national/international news from the Herald, so there
was no place for us in that position. We probably wasted more circulation dollars
in that area than a prudent man would have lost.
P: How did you go about increasing circulation?
Pj: You try to tell people what a good job you are doing and do all the marketing
devices and all of the tools. Along with that, newspapers do not advertise.
Occasionally, you see them on TV now, but this was back in the mid-1950s. We
did a lot for the news on the Governor Gore's TV station and radio stations. We
did no billboard of any kind. We did not do anything else, so if you did not watch
the TV station, and there were thousands of people who did not, or if you did not
listen to the radio, and there were thousands of people who did [not], you did not
know we existed. It is possible for there to be a hell of a lot of people here at any
one time who [did] not know we existedd, because the influx of tourists from
November through April was unbelievable. The number that we retained as
year-round residents was becoming even more so. If these people were from a
metropolitan area, the chances were that they were going to end up with the
Miami Herald, and you could not blame them. We increased our sampling, which
we had done on a limited basis because sampling costs] money, takes time, and
is slow to produce results. So managers who are looking at their budgets are apt
to say okay, now, that is enough sampling this year; we may sample one day
next year. I wanted to change the attitude of the people at the News. I wanted
them to respect what they were doing here, [that] they were a winner in Broward
County. If we were a loser in Hollywood, we just had to grin and bear it. But we
were doing a good job elsewhere. Like anybody else who had been in the
newsroom, I wanted to improve the reporting. I wanted to improve the editing. I
wanted to improve coverage overall. I wanted to eliminate, as far as possible,
the stupid mistakes.
P: When you were nominated to the Florida Newspaper Hall of Fame, the citation
read that you earned a reputation as a tough editor with an unerring instinct for
quality and an expectation of commitment and dedication from reporters and
editors. Is that a fair statement?
Pj: Well, there is a grain of truth in there, I think. Yes, I felt I was a tough editor.
P: Do you not have to be?
Pj: I thought you did.
P: What errors most upset you?
Pj: The dumb ones. Dumb geographical errors: they do not know where the airport
is located [or] they do not know the difference between the Fort Lauderdale,
Hollywood, and Greater Miami Airports. You know? It seems nonsensical to say
that, but that will come up in a story. Somebody had a story the other day that
was tracing the repairs that had been made to the Andrews Avenue Bridge, and
they said the Andrews Avenue Bridge was originally built in 1939. If that was
true, there was only one bridge to downtown. I have pictures, this newcomer that
I am, of the fish scales by the Andrews Avenue Bridge where they weighed the
catch for the day and the tourists came down and looked at them and
[exclaimed], oh boy, that is a big one. [When] somebody gets confused in a
story, I am irked that they got confused. I am irked when somebody sells them a
little bit of con, and they go for it. I want them to be better than that. But I got
mad when they just made dumbass errors where there was nowhere to put it but
in their own lap.
P: What would happen, normally, in a case like that? Would you, the next day,
rectify the mistake?
Pj: Not unless somebody asked for it. I did not believe in correcting errors that
nobody was interested enough in to correct me.
P: Would you put the correction on the same page that the story was written on?
Pj: I would not promise that, but I would say we would come as close to that page
[with the] recognition as we could.
P: So if it was a local news item, the correction would be...
Pj: Probably on the second local page rather than the lead local page. The
correction itself was a real readership interest only of a fall-off number of people.
You know, you have to generalize and worm your way out of that.
P: In your view, what are the most important functions of a newspaper like the Fort
Pj: I think, overall, it should represent the needs, the desires, and the dreams of the
people whom it serves, the area in which it serves. I think it has to provide some
leadership. I do not use the word strong leadership because I do not want to go
overboard in extremely strong recommendations for political offices, which is the
first thing people usually zero in on when you say leadership.
P: Did you make recommendations for campaigns?
Pj: Yes, we did. Always, from the time I came until the time I left. We sometimes
recommended a man we knew had no chance, to prove that we were looking for
people of quality, not recommending winners.
P: You mentioned the dreams of the community. Does the newspaper reflect the
thoughts of the people, or do you try to persuade the people as to what their
dreams should be?
Pj: That is an old [question], and there is no right answer. My thinking is that it
should reflect. I do not want to build their dreams for them. I do not have any
idea how many different dreams are out there. If I can settle on one important
one...if you want better schools, yes, I will help you with that, and I will take a
strong hand in that. Reduced crime? Everybody wants to reduce crime. Very
few people have ever reduced crime, but we are a law-and-order people, yes.
When you get down to finer things, [like] is it better to have an art museum than a
new Olympic swimming pool?
P: Would you take specific editorial positions on controversial issues like abortion?
Pj: Yes, almost anything.
P: What was the paper's view?
Pj: It was a Catholic newspaper.
P: That answers that.
Pj: Right. There was no quarrel about it.
P: As you look at the paper from, say, 1953 to 1982, how did the readership
Pj: It became more liberal. It was more diversified. The flight of the white person
from Dade County was underway, and we were the beneficiaries of a great deal
of that, mainly west of the Turnpike, or west of Interstate 95 I should say. They
brought with them a liberal touch, and they demonstrated it in almost every
election that we ever held. By this time, there was a strong Jewish vote. They
demonstrated that in elections. While I was still with the paper, there were
discussions of, is there room for an Anglo-Saxon Protestant to run for office in
Broward County and have any feeling he could be elected? There is in Fort
Lauderdale, but is there in the county as a whole? And it was shrinking. There
still was, at the time I left, and Clay Shaw [E. Clay Shaw, Jr., congressman, 22nd
District, FL,1981-present; mayor, Fort Lauderdale, 1975-1980] has demonstrated
that he has the staying power.
P: So, the demographics also changed, in that you got an increased number of
African-Americans and Hispanics and other groups in this county, if not
necessarily in Fort Lauderdale?
Pj: More in the county than in Fort Lauderdale. I do not think the African-American
population changed that much. It was somewhere between 16,400 and 18,000
during most of that time, to my knowledge. I think it is somewhere around 18,000
or 19,000 now. Hispanics, obviously, have gone up. The Jewish would have
been the big gainers.
P: If we leave out the increase in population, how did the state change from, say,
1953 to 1982?
Pj: North of Orlando, politically, the state changed very little. South of Orlando, there
was a Republican bastion being built in Palm Beach. Republicans could be
elected in Broward County. There still was not a place for them in Dade. As you
know, the Jewish vote normally goes to the Democrats. The black vote goes to
the Democrats. The Hispanic vote was not a power at the time I left. The threat
was there and it was growing, but it was not the power that it is now or that
anybody dreamed it would be. Geographically, the area that I am farthest from, I
thought changed the least. I thought the, what we call the old redneck Floridian,
was disappearing, and I thought I could call them that because I felt I was one
myself. We had a jaundiced view of Miami, Fort Lauderdale, and Palm Beach
when I was in Tallahassee: don't trust one of those.
P: It still exists.
Pj: That is right, and it will, for a long time to come.
P: How did the state and particularly south Florida change economically?
Pj: Medium-sized businesses, with national business and sometimes with
international business, found that they could operate very profitably in south
Florida, in the right locations. Cities were able to give them good deals on
property, on rights of way, and things of that type. The employment market was
good for them. The labor was cheap, compared to what they were paying in New
England, New York, Chicago, or wherever. Electronics had come in. It was a
growing field. It could be accomplished in a normal-sized building with work
forces of 100 to 500 people. [This] does not mean much when you look at any
one of them but when you see that there is an influx of them and that the county
as a whole has been a little smarter than you were and had seen this possibility
before you did, it made you feel pretty good.
P: Did the newspaper take any position on the growth of the area, in terms of traffic,
overcrowding, overpopulation, pollution?
Pj: [We] recognized these problems, brought them to the table, and discussed them
in some detail. If it was something like traffic, you could get your hands into it
with some hope of success. If it was something like pollution, which very few
people understand, I have not found [that] many people give a damn about it or
are against it. Again, it is kind of a selective thing. You are not trying to pick
winners and losers, but you have to husband your strength. You cannot just
scattershot and make people think you are against everything. You have to pick
out the things you can attack and approach intelligently. If you cannot do it in
that manner, you better stay the hell away from it until you educate yourself
enough to be able to go back into it with a basis of leadership and education and
an intellectual approach if you have to.
P: Were reporters different from how they were when you started out, from 1953 to
Pj: Yes, they changed a great deal. They were less mobile when I left than they had
been when I came in 1953. This was a spot for newsmen on the move when I
got here. None of them had any time in the state, hardly. Very few of them had
much time in the South. Why did they come down here? Health. A lot of them
had wives [whose] doctors said, go somewhere in Florida and work, get the hell
out of Lincoln or wherever it was where you freeze your ass off in the wintertime,
she needs a moderate temperature. So they came down here. We got a
wonderfully good business editor named Jim Rosemond, who had been [a]
managing editor [in] Cincinnati, simply because his doctor said, your wife should
live in south Florida. She could not stand hurricanes or the thought of a
hurricane, so she did not want to live in south Florida, but she did not discover it
until she got here and lived in the hurricane season.
P: Nowadays, of course, everything is the Internet and computers. Do you think
reporters are less hard-nosed and tough?
Pj: Everybody had one of those, or two. The bigger you were, the more of them you
had. We had a couple at our size [of newspaper]. We had one who was a
transplanted Canadian, who was as tough as anybody who has ever been
glorified in the movies or TV, and he [would not take] no for an answer. He
would back you down and keep backing you down until you finally told him the
truth, and people were afraid of him. They called him old man Gore's hit man.
P: Is there less investigative journalism these days?
Pj: I do not know. I cannot answer that. There is much more in Fort Lauderdale.
They have had for ten or twelve years a team of a man and a woman who lead
almost every investigative situation they have, who do it well, who have been
contenders for a Pulitzer several times. I will not say they have been close
contenders, but contenders. They have tackled [and] have had some success
with state issues. Reform in laws governing pawnbrokers was one of their most
recent. We did not have the manpower to do that in my time. If we could cut a
man loose on one assignment that we thought could be wrapped up in three to
five days, we did it. If we could not match that, we probably passed it up and
said, we cannot spend people on that because we are going to lose [somewhere
P: When you started, say from 1953 again, until you retired, what was the major
media competition for the newspaper? Obviously, in the beginning, television
was not a major factor, but toward the end it would have been.
Pj: Yes, and it was for the Fort Lauderdale News. It was sounding the death knell
for the News. People were not going to come home, read the afternoon paper,
and miss the news which was current and had everything from noon on, [while]
we were cutting off at 11:00, 11:30 [or] 12:00, depending on which edition you
had. You had to just be blind if you ignored that. By the time we were moving
on, the Herald was not that big a factor with us. Their circulation in Broward
County was on a decline. I think, today, it is somewhere around maybe 20,000.
That may be an ignorant estimate, but I think it is fairly close. They do not do
much up here in the way of marketing. They do not do much in the way of
sampling. They used to sample me once a year, easy. I have not been sampled
in five, six, seven years by the Herald.
P: So over a period of time, you really took the Herald out of competition in this
Pj: Yes, and they took themselves out.
P: What about the Palm Beach Post?
Pj: It never has been what I would think was a real competitor of the Fort Lauderdale
operation, when you had to go as far south as Delray Beach to find that we were
a competitive factor with them. They gave up in Boca Raton at one stage, which
we could not believe. They said, the Sentinel has that area, so we are going to
give it to them; we will concentrate on the other areas. Maybe that is what we
should have done in Hollywood, so I should not laugh at them. Maybe they were
smart. But [with] TV, the shadow was getting heavier all the time.
P: If you looked at the overall value of a newspaper, how would you rate your paper
compared to the other newspapers in the state, in terms of the quality of the
P: Yes. Would it be in the first echelon? Would it compare with, say, the St. Pete
Pj: We would have been behind the Herald. We would have been behind the St.
Pete Times. We would have been level with Orlando. We would have probably
been ahead of Tampa. We would have certainly been ahead of Jacksonville.
When you get past those, you are dealing mainly with smaller papers. I cannot
think of one of such quality that they would get into the top echelon. I am sure a
lot of editors would be offended to think that. The Pensacola News Journal
would like to think that it is a good newspaper, but it is going to have to be a
newspaper, first, before it is a good one.
P: Over a period of thirty years in the business, did you see any change in the
letters to the editor or guest columnists?
Pj: Yes. The professional letter writer was born during that period. I did not know he
existed, though I read the letters to the editor every day and read a number of
them before they appeared in print. But I was [at] a party one night talking to a
man whom I had just been introduced to and I asked him, if he worked, what did
he do? And he said, I write for the Fort Lauderdale News and I said, that is
interesting; what area do you cover? He said, oh, I do not cover an area. He
said, I write letters. And I said, and they pay you for that? He said, no, they do
not pay me for that. So I said, in actuality, you do not work for the Fort
Lauderdale News and he said, no, he did not. I said, the reason I am questioning
this so hard is [because] I am the executive editor for the Fort Lauderdale News
and Sun Sentinel, and your name was strange to me; I have never seen it on a
payroll, and I just had to pursue it. And I started paying more attention. I asked
the people who handled it and they said, oh yes, they are people who write six,
eight, ten letters in a six-, eight-, ten-month period. If we do not get a letter from
them in three or four months, we think, have they died? Have they moved? I
read a letter to the editor the other day by a woman whose husband had been a
city commissioner who had died fairly early in my career around here. She had
written a letter to the editor about me when I changed jobs once, and she was
elderly then. She is still writing letters to the editor.
P: What is the benefit of those? Do you think people read them very often?
Pj: [They are a] high readership item on every readership study we ever took.
People want to know, without the newspaper trying to tell them. They want to
feel the pulse of the public, and this is one way they can do it. They want to
know how Julian is reacting to this. Is he as mad as I am? Am I the only one
who does not like the idea that they have switched sides on the school teachers
now and after getting ready to fire them, they are going to pay them?
P: Who determined which letters got in? Obviously, there is a length limitation.
Pj: We [had] a length limitation [and] they have to be signed.
P: [Did] you check to see if it is a real person?
Pj: We checked] to see if they are signed. We asked] them for phone numbers.
We asked] them for addresses. We [told] them that we may call. We [did] not
call every time, but we [would] see that you [were] still at the same address. The
determination to print the letter under ordinary circumstances when I was there
was pretty much so cut-and-dr[ied] that we had a girl who was on the level of a
secretary, or a little above, who [made] that determination every day and seldom
had a problem. If she was overwhelmed by letters to the editor on one subject,
she was told to come see us [and] we would try to make more space available
and do it quickly so those letters could be accommodated, so the letter writer
would get the feeling that we are trying to keep up with what the public is asking.
We were always accused of only printing letters that favored us or favored our
stance. Most of the letters we received were against us and against whatever we
proposed. They ignored this completely when they were reading it. Oh well.
P: But that is pretty logical. The people who agree with you are not likely to write a
Pj: Sure. They are not going to write you.
P: Did you use many syndicated columnists? How did you choose them?
Pj: We tried to come, as a general rule, as close to our philosophy as we could for
the majority of them. We always had at least one that swam against the tide of
our conservatism. This changed for the better after the family ownership
disappeared. We could not possibly have maintained a liberal columnist with
R. H. Gore alive and dealing with the paper. It could not be done.
P: But Bill Buckley [William F. Buckley, Jr., founder of National Review] would be
P: How expensive are those syndicated [columns]?
Pj: Not expensive at all. Ridiculous prices, really.
P: Why do newspapers not use more of them?
Pj: I do not know.
P: Most newspapers do not use more than three or four syndicated columnists, on a
Pj: Yes. Well, three or four is a pretty good number, and it depends on your space
situation, too. If you have a completely open op ed page, three good columnists
along with a cartoon or two will pretty much eat up that page. We would run a
syndicated columnist in sports. We ran Ann Landers. We ran Dear Abby. We
had a tough syndicated situation, in that people with something good always
went to the Herald first. Why? To get more money. The Herald would pay them
$45 while we would complain about $7. The Herald turned down Ann Landers
when the guy came through the first time and I said, oh, we want that. We still
have her. We still like her. She is still popular. She still draws a lot of mail. The
first month that we had her, I asked that her mail be sent to our office. Though
she was new, they had not run into this before, I said, I want to see what kind of
mail she draws, I want to see what kind of readers she has, I want to see how
they match up with the people who are writing to our paper and the people who
we think are reading our paper. [I said,] I am not going to do anything with them; I
am not going to sell them to opposition or anything.
P: What about cartoonists?
Pj: Lowe has been the cartoonist here since, I would say, 1985 or 1986, somewhere
in that area.
P: Does everyone understand his work?
Pj: I am sure they do. I am sure they did when he first came on board. He is Carol
Channing's son. He is Channing Lowe. He will never tell you that. You have to
drag it out of him. He is a real nice kid. I think he is talented. He draws a lot of
P: So, generally speaking, somebody in that category would be free to pretty much
write or print or draw whatever they wanted to?
Pj: He has been given a great deal of freedom. He was the first full-time editorial
cartoonist the paper had, so we were late getting into that game. Your
syndicated cartoonists are excellent. If you can find one who is anywhere close
to your philosophy, the temptation to grab him for $8 or $9 a week is
overwhelming. You know, we cannot do without this man. Well, for $200, you
can get a fairly decent guy of your own. Whoa, too much.
P: Where did most of your advertising money come from? We have already talked
about the real estate section, but other than that.
Pj: We had the biggest classified section in the state. Bigger than the Herald? Yes.
Producer of results? Positively, or it would not have remained the biggest. I
think it is still the biggest in the state. Why? A good, tough question that I never
have answered to my satisfaction. We had at that time a strong element, and still
have, of elderly people who shop the classified pages. I always thought they
were probably responsible for the response you got with a lot of ads. I ran a
couple of classified ads during my time, and we were overwhelmed. People
would start calling early, and they were still calling late, long after it had been
P: Did you take any kind of advertising?
Pj: That has to be answered in stages. At one time, pretty much, yes. Gradually, as
we continued to grow and continued with success, we began to limit some of the
fields which we had previously welcomed.
P: Liquor advertising? Tobacco advertising?
Pj: Liquor advertising, tobacco advertising, we ran.
P: What about something like, and it has been in the news recently, this sex club in
Pj: We were challenged on that not long ago, and the paper responded by turning
down sex club advertising. The answer before had been, well, we are not sure
that is a sex club. $100 for membership, come and do anything you want. What
kind of a club would that be?
P: What about your view of advertisers boycotting a particular editorial? How do
you react to that?
Pj: The first thing I do is martial the best people whom I have, from the overall
newspaper standpoint and from the advertising standpoint, and ask the head of
the local store, or whatever it is, if we can take him to lunch and talk about the
situation in which he is violently opposed to something we have done. We would
like to have a chance to give him our side of the story directly and, just as
important, we would like to get all of the details of his opposition to it. We
understand [that we may] offend somebody with a stand that we take. But we
would like to be able to live with you and still maintain our standards and still
express our feelings in areas that we think are important and if you are included
in that, we are going to have these situations. It does not mean that the answer
to them is to boycott us, because you do not ever want to get into a contest with
a man that buys ink by the barrel. You will lose.
P: Plus, I do not know if this would affect advertisers, but it is a First Amendment
right. They have the right to advertise, and you have the right to publish.
Pj: They would ignore that, pretty much.
P: Did you ever have any major problems with labor unions?
Pj: Yes. We had the Teamsters come in, and we got them out. We had the
Newspaper Guild, the newsroom union, the union that is in all the northern
newsrooms. They were in for a while. We beat them.
P: So, the newspaper was essentially non-union.
Pj: Essentially, yes. The production department was always union from the time I
got here, and it exercised different amounts of strength depending upon what the
paper let them do. You know, they did not run the paper but sometimes...
P: They could stop it.
Pj: Damn right, they could stop it.
P: What about the issue of linotype to computers? How did technology affect the
Pj: You were able to produce a much better newspaper, and you could do it in less
time. You did it cleaner, you did it in a healthier environment and, gradually, you
got a different class of people.
P: Better educated?
Pj: Yes, better educated, better type of person. The pressmen and some of the old
linotype operators were pretty crusty, salty people. They would do things that
could be embarrassing. I remember the head of our production department was
a man named Floyd Piles, and they would slip in a classified ad that read, Floyd
Piles eats cow puckies. We had a hard time explaining to Floyd how that got in
P: Did you work strongly to improve the number of hires, both from minority groups
and from women?
Pj: In the later stages of my career from minority groups, yes. From the time I was in
authority in the newsroom, always women. I found that if I had fifteen people,
eight women and seven men, six of the women were probably superior to six of
the men. There was a good man that was better than any of them. There were
two women who were not worth a damn, probably, at the end of the line. Of
course, there were a couple of men down there with them, too.
P: Were women in managerial positions?
Pj: Well, besides the women's pages?
P: They were coming in. Before I left, we had a woman as city editor on the
morning side. We had a lot of specialty jobs that women took. We also have a
man who does fashions on the Sentinel side. They were good. Women are
good at asking blunt, tough questions. They are good at continually asking the
same question, like your wife might nag at you for something. This comes
naturally to them. If we had a complaint about the effectiveness of a reporter, it
generally involved a woman. Why can you not get that woman out of here?
Nobody can stand her at City Hall. She is into everything. This was kind of a
small-town, small-time reaction that you got with some frequency.
P: What percentage of the paper, and I do not mean just the production end of it but
the writing of the paper, would be minorities, Hispanic and blacks?
Pj: Early in my career?
P: The whole thirty years, really.
Pj: They had a black columnist when I came here. Directly, when I was doing the
hiring, I hired four blacks and more Hispanics than I could count. This was
before the flight from Cuba. None of the blacks panned out at all, though later on
we hired some who were, I think, very good.
P: What was your relationship over the years with the Florida Press Association?
Pj: I was a strong supporter. I sold them on the idea of the newspaper members of
the Florida Press sending a person to the campus for a week as a visiting
fireman, attending classes, answering questions, [and] meeting with people. I
saw the Florida Press as a means of accomplishing a number of things statewide
that you could not do on your own.
P: How has the relationship between the Florida Press Association and newspapers
changed over this period of time?
Pj: While I was there? It strengthened. At one time, we had a Daily Press
Association and a Weekly Press Association, and the prediction was [that] the
twain would never meet. We came together. I guess I was vice president of the
dailies at the time. We came together and agreed that each side would elect a
president in alternating years. The board was pretty much the same way. I
thought we were very effective. From the daily standpoint, we began to have
some effect with politicians, particularly in the panhandle, that the dailies could
not reach because they were serviced by no daily, but the weekly was effective.
P: Did you have somebody covering the legislature full-time?
P: How did you go about covering the Florida legislature? In writing editorials?
Pj: They might write a column for a Sunday issue, if there was a situation where we
felt we could get a good column out of it that had some angles or ideas that you
could not quite reach in a news story or that we could not effectively portray in a
news story. In fact, one of the first ones we sent up there is still up there and is a
female. She has lived up there for years.
P: So she is there not just for the sessions. She is there year-round?
Pj: Year-round, right. Originally, when I first came down here, we did it by the
session. Then, we hired somebody who was servicing some other papers, and
this was not satisfactory at all. You know, how could we find another paper that
we shared our wants with? So, we gave that up and eventually moved to a full-
P: Give me your impression of some of the governors of the state of Florida. Let us
start with Claude Kirk [Jr., Florida governor, 1967-171]. You have a good story
about Claude, I believe.
Pj: Well, it is a story I have always liked. He was thinking about running for vice
president of the United States, and he thought that he would capitalize on his
introduction to Don Maxwell, the editor of the Chicago Tribune and pay Don a
visit to see if he could garner some support from Don. Don knew him; I do not
know how favorably, but he knew him and knew of him. Claude showed up in
Don's office one day, accompanied by a Florida highway patrolman. Claude,
during the course of the conversation said, you know why I have this highway
patrolman with me who is packing a six-shooter on his hip? Don says, I have no
idea; why did you bring him with you? He said, if you do not agree to back me
for vice president, he is going to shoot you. Don, in a very disgusted manner,
said, get out of my office and do not ever come back, and take your Florida
highway patrolman with you. Claude went into his usual serenade, why, I am just
joking. Maxwell said, I am not; I am very serious, and I do not suffer clowns
during my working hours. So, Claude left, never to be vice president of the
United States, I do not think.
P: Your views of Reubin Askew [Florida governor, 1971-1979]?
Pj: Reubin brought a real feeling of sincerity and honesty to the office. Reubin, at
one time, credited us with the biggest push he got in going for governor. We
endorsed him when no other paper in south Florida was interested in him. He
felt that was a turning point for him in that campaign, and he went on to be
governor and a good one. He was effective and, I think, honest, sincere, a hard
worker [who] led an exemplary life. [He has] never been touched, to my
recollection, by the slightest breath of scandal. [He is] a rather colorless man.
You wonder how he would do in modern politics where TV exposure plays such a
role. I cannot see him attracting very much of a female vote. He had a little
charisma, but he sold you on his sincerity and his honesty. God bless him. I was
always thankful for him.
P: [Robert] Bob Graham [Florida governor, 1979-1987]?
Pj: Bob Graham was a man that we felt could not make up his mind. He was
talented in a number of areas. I think he was bright. I think he was a quick read.
I think he was a quick study. But, when you got down to it and you were waiting
for the decision, Bob was not ready to make a decision. And it was not
necessarily a decision where you were asking him to shoot from the hip; it was
something that you would think, under ordinary circumstances, a man with his
ability, his experience, his training, and his insight should answer fairly quickly,
but he did not. You got tired of that as the years in office went on. It never
changed. It never improved, to my knowledge.
P: Do you think he is a better senator?
Pj: A much better senator. He is not faced with that in the eyes of the public as he
was as governor, when his decisions were individual decisions that only he could
make and [when] he was working frequently against time and against the
problem of time. He did not work well against the problem of time.
P: Bob Martinez [Florida governor, 1987-1991]?
Pj: I knew less about him, probably, than almost any of his predecessors or any of
his successors. I have always thought it was unfortunate that when the
Republican party landed two people in the governor's mansion in Florida, one of
them was Claude Kirk and the other one was Martinez. I did not think either one
of them did anything for the Republican party, in Florida or as a whole. I did not
think they particularly covered themselves with glory, though Claude was such a
flamboyant guy that he was interesting and certainly was good copy and a man
who, if you followed him around that day, you would have a fine story or two. It
would not always glorify Claude, but you would have a good story.
P: What was your relationship with the Florida Society of Newspaper Editors?
Pj: I was not a heavy participant of that. I took the view that we were mainly talking
about the editor of the newspaper and/or the person who wrote the editorials,
and I split that from the Florida Press Association, which was what I called the
working press. I went to ASNE meetings. They were generally held in
conjunction with Florida Press. Our editorial writers, during the early stages, did
not choose to go. When they chose to attend, I usually left the ASNE to them,
and I stayed with the Florida Press. I think they were a good organization. I
never thought that they did as much as they could or should, and I did not see
that they were particularly concerned about effectiveness or their lack of
P: Was the newspaper ever involved in making suggestions for education of
journalists? Did you prefer they have, for example, liberal arts background or
more practical experience?
Pj: At one time, we leaned heavily on practical experience. If you have a small staff,
it has to have a certain amount of diversification to do a great number of things,
and you do not find that with inexperienced people. Then, too, the field from
which we were hiring was generally experienced, and I have already said that I
thought, as a whole, they were people more on the decline than on the rise. We
tried to turn that around, hire younger people with either attendance and/or
graduation from J-school or liberal arts.
P: Would the preference be a journalistic degree?
Pj: I think so, yes.
P: Is it better to learn on the job, or is that the only way to learn to really be a
Pj: I hate to say that is the only way, because I do not believe that is the only way,
P: Is it the best way?
Pj: I think it is the best way, yes.
P: But they need the academic background?
P: That does prepare them?
P: What do you think during your tenure with the newspaper was the greatest
contribution that your newspaper made to the community?
Pj: The greatest contribution we made was, [regarding] the Ferre brothers from
Puerto Rico, who wanted to build a cement plant at Port Everglades. Except for
the ocean side, it would have been completely surrounded by high-priced homes
of happy and content retirees who certainly did not want to get up and face a gob
of cement dust blowing onto their beloved patios every day. Ferre was intent on
doing this [and] was not particularly concerned how much it was going to cost
him. No one could understand why he was so bent on locating it in Fort
Lauderdale. Port Everglades, we could understand, but he did not understand
the demographics of it and did not seem to give a damn. We spent a lot of time
and a lot of money sending reporters to locations of cement plants. When we
could find one of Ferre's, we went there first. We did a good job on it. We had
the city commission, as well as the county commission, fully apprized as to what
we were letting ourselves in for, and Ferre never could get in. That was early, a
triumph. Our greatest loss, and thank goodness we lost: we were bitter
opponents of the tunnel on U.S. 1, and I am afraid that it amounted to no more
than the fact that Mr. and Mrs. Gore, Sr. were victims of claustrophobia. He
would never let you drive him through the tunnel, and woe be unto you if you
were at the wheel and went ahead anyway and drove through the tunnel. You
would have to handle a ton of manure before you drove through it. I was one of
the few people who worked for the paper who lived on this side of the river.
Ironically, it did not make any difference, but he was just violently opposed to it.
P: But, in the end, that turned out to be a ...
Pj: A godsend.
P: What about your contribution to the state as a whole rather than local?
Pj: I do not think we were ever a statewide force, not through 1982. I cannot think of
anything we did that was a benefit to the state. I would like to be able to give you
an answer that is better than that, but I cannot quickly, or off-hand.
P: Who do you think were the most important journalists or publishers or editors
during your time at the Lauderdale paper?
Pj: The Knights [of Knight-Ridder, Inc., parent company of the Miami Herald] in
Miami, for sure.
P: Now, this is John S. Knight? Why was he so significant?
Pj: Because he was a shining light in the field of news coverage. He was a man
who had been in it, done it. He used to tell the story that he loved, that his father
told him, that he would never amount to anything in the newspaper business and
he immediately started to bust his ass to prove his father wrong. He was
somebody who, regardless of what business you were in, I think, if you met him
at a meeting or a party or listened to him, you were impressed with him. He had
seemingly done a little of almost everything. He was, at heart, a common man.
He loved the races and loved horses and loved horse race writers--if they were
good, fired them if they were bad. He worked to raise the level of the Herald in
P: Knight Newspapers had the Charlotte Observer and the Cincinnati paper...
Pj: Yes. They were in Detroit. They were in Chicago, lost out in Chicago. They
were in San Jose, very strongly.
P: So it was a fairly significant group?
Pj: Oh yes, it was, and still is, though the flagship is having troubles because their
readership has moved away from them. Dade County is somewhere between 25
and 40 percent white. The rest are Hispanics and blacks. Blacks are not good
newspaper readers. The Hispanics cannot stand the Herald, ergo the Herald has
nobody to read their ads or their newspaper copy, compared to what they did
P: Other journalistic giants during this period? What about somebody like Eugene
Patterson at the St. Pete Times?
Pj: Right. Eugene came in with a reputation already made, as I recall.
P: From the Washington Post?
Pj: Yes. But, yes, he was an outstanding figure. The man who owned the St.
Petersburg Times [Jameson Poynter] was an outstanding figure, such a giant
that I cannot think of his name. Certainly Al Neuharth, without any question I
think, was a leader in Florida journalism. I think he was a leader in the national
field, first in Florida.
P: With COCOA TODAY?
P: What do you think about the idea of a national newspaper?
Pj: Well, it is pitched to the traveling man. It is a smart pitch. As long as men travel,
USA TODAY will be a success. The traveling man cares nothing for local news.
The average one does not care about what happened in Belleville, Illinois, last
night before he got there, but he does want to know what is happening around
the nation. He only travels five days a week. They only publish it five days a
week. That is not accidental, [it is] very smart. They picked out a good target,
they zeroed in on it, and they never flinched. They had some tough times, I am
sure. They had a lot more tough times than anybody has ever admitted. Like
most newspapers, they like to say, well, we did this and we did that. They
thought COCOA TODAY was the most successful daily that had come on the
field. Well, the Sentinel thinks the same thing, and it is getting up over 300,000
circulation [and] 400,000 on the weekend. They probably have Cocoa by a
couple hundred [thousand], with the closest count you can give them.
P: What about the criticism of USA TODAY, that it is McNews, that is all brief news
summaries, that it does not have thoughtful analysis.
Pj: So is TV. People are now accustomed to getting their news in little bites. At one
time, they were not, but TV, by necessity, cannot stay on a subject too long
P: What does that say about our society?
Pj: It says our society has changed a great deal. We are not nearly as interested in
details as we once were. We are not interested in devoting a lot of time to any
one little subject as we once were. People once sat and poured over a
newspaper, read every story. My father was an omnivorous newspaper reader,
read everything in it. I take that back, not the woman's page or the comics, but
every serious bit. [Readers today] are very selective. I think the day will come,
and it may not be as far away as you would think, when people will be able to
subscribe to sections of a newspaper rather than take the whole thing.
P: Do you think the newspaper as we know it today in its physical form is going to
die out and that everything will be on the Internet?
Pj: At some time, yes. Quicker than I once thought, yes. I think the Internet has
made tremendous strides, and I am not a big computer guy.
P: So, what happens when you go down in the morning for your breakfast, and you
want to read the newspaper? Do you think all the restaurants are going to have
computers so that people can hook up to the New York Times?
Pj: I had never thought about the restaurant eater. That is a good question. Not too
difficult to solve, I would not think. You get multiple copies run off, and you ask
somebody before you serve them, would you like to see the news? Yes. Is there
any particular field that you are interested in? Yes. And he tells you, and you
accommodate him. You have been able, at no cost, to give him several services
there and he goes away fairly happy, though he wishes you would learn to cook
P: Is there an intellectual decline here?
Pj: I do not know how much of a decline there has been. I think when you get into
heavy reading, there is always a heavy mortality rate. My guess would be that it
is probably true that there has been a decline. I do not think it is a monumental
one. I think it is a shift rather than a decline. I think that, mainly, you find that the
heavy readers are heavy readers in spots. They have things that they really
concentrate on and if there is anything about that on the editorial or op ed page,
they are going to read it, [even] if they have to go to some trouble to track it
P: Because people today do not have the time to read the entire newspaper.
Pj: No, they do not. They are not going to read the entire newspaper, and I do not
equate the heaviness there, necessarily, with news coverage.
P: Were you, or was the newspaper, involved at all in the Freedom of Information
movement in the state of Florida?
Pj: We were involved, but I do not think we played a strong role.
P: How did you feel about the Sunshine Law?
Pj: We liked it very much. I thought it should have been narrower and stronger. I
did not think that after somebody had been through a review of their standing in
the Sunshine Law for a year, that you carried much threat to disclosing what his
financial standing was, because I thought he could manage that without you
P: Did you have any issues over publication of controversial documents? Did you
ever run across any particular issues?
Pj: That involved us directly?
Pj: We ran across a speech that JFK [John F. Kennedy, 35th U. S. president, 1961-
1963] made about Cuba, which was supposedly off the record and which our
editorial writer editorialized and brought the wrath of the White House down upon
us, in thundering fashion.
P: But there were no legal challenges?
P: Do you feel like, as a leader of the newspaper, you need to be a leader and a
participant in community activities?
Pj: I think you need to be a participant. I think in some communities, you probably
need to be a leader. But, if you are in the normal community which has a
number of men with leadership abilities, I think the newspaper would serve itself
well to duck those jobs and to be as effective of a participant as you can without
having to move into the spotlight of leadership.
P: I notice, for example, you are on the board of trustees at the Holy Cross Hospital,
the Chamber of Commerce, crime prevention committees.
Pj: I felt I owed the community a certain amount of my time away from the paper,
yes. With the exception of a couple of social appointments, I never took a job as
president, though I was offered one in each of the categories that you just
P: You were also the commodore of the Fort Lauderdale Yacht Club. That sounds
like a very good job.
Pj: It was a good job. It was not easy. You had 1,200 people who are telling you
what was wrong with everything every day, you know. I had that at the office. I
could do without that on my own time.
P: I was intrigued by your membership on Eisenhower's [Dwight D. Eisenhower, 34th
U. S. president, 1953-1961] committee on higher education?
Pj: He made the appointment directly to me at the recommendation of someone who
he would not disclose and thought that I would be a good addition to the
committee, which was heavily populated by professional educators. I made the
friendship of people who went on to be presidents of the University of Florida in
that committee and enjoyed it a great deal. I cannot say that we achieved much
that I could see. The educators could see more than I could see, which I would
take as normal. I was on the committee for four years. We met in Louisville,
Kentucky, not a bad place to meet. We did not meet Derby day, unfortunately,
but some people cannot think of everything.
P: And did you write a report on a yearly basis?
Pj: For my paper?
P: No, for the committee.
Pj: No. It was not suggested that I write anything.
P: Did the committee have a report they made to Eisenhower?
Pj: They made a report to Eisenhower, yes, and they circulated it to the
membership, I think, after they sent it to the president. That is the most
noteworthy thing I could think about it.
P: What were some of the suggestions, do you remember?
Pj: I cannot think of anything salient that comes to me.
P: Is there anything that you would like to, in closing, say about either your career or
some unusual incidents that occurred while you were in the newspaper or some
overview of the state of journalism in Florida today?
Pj: I am tempted to mention the most interesting story I was involved in. It involved
JFK. His father [Joseph P. Kennedy] was reportedly dying in Palm Beach. I went
to work on a Saturday morning. I was the executive editor, and I was in Saturday
morning just to see that things were going okay. We had a report from our
entertainment editor that Jacqueline Kennedy was doing the dance of that time at
a nightclub in Pompano Beach, while her father-in-law was lying on his death
bed. She was not accompanied by her husband, who had stayed with her father.
Our newsroom was excited by this.
P: This would have been when, 1961?
Pj: 1961 or 1962. The old man [Gore, Sr.] still owned the Fort Lauderdale paper. I
did not think the story made sense to me. Everybody else, including the
managing editor, thought, we have got one hell of a story going here. I said, I
think we have a lot of work to do on this, we have to get hold of the entertainment
editor, and we have to find out if he saw Jacqueline Kennedy on the dance floor
with this instructor; if he did, was it one dance? Was it more than one? Was she
seriously there? Who was she accompanied by? She did not walk in alone. We
have to talk to the instructor. I guess he was a national figure. He taught this
particular dance, whatever it was, and he changed with the seasons and with the
dance, and he taught it in metropolitan areas and was down here. It was a winter
month, so it was during the season. I said, I am bothered--I am not a Jacqueline
Kennedy fan, but I do not think she would do this, it does not make a lot of sense
to me. So I said, the first thing we are going to do is, we are not going to give
anything to AP at all, nothing, period. I said, if AP asks us about this, we are
working on it; we are not at a stage where we might print it, but we are looking
into it and if we get anything, certainly they will be the first to know. So, we
started out touching all the right bases and, suddenly, somebody said, hey, look
here, and he brought a tear of the AP wire over to me, and the AP wire said that
Pompano Beach says and the Sentinel and News says that Jacqueline Kennedy
was dancing at a nightclub with a young man doing the blah blah blah while her
father-in-law was lying at death's door in Palm Beach. Well, somebody who
thought that I was afraid of the situation had determined to flush me from cover
and had called the AP, apparently had left the office and called AP.
Pj: Somebody on your paper?
P: Oh yes. It had to be a staff member. Nobody else knew we were involved in it at
that time. Well, this pissed me off considerably. I talked to a couple of people
and asked them if they had made the telephone call. They were people who
ordinarily called AP with some frequency. Naturally, I got a lot of innocence.
None of our people would do that, not after the meeting we had this morning.
So, we finally found where the entertainer was staying at a motel, and we asked
a motel owner to get him to the phone and he said, oh, I cannot do that. He said,
I have strict orders that he is not to be awakened or interrupted or anything
before noon. We said, well, we have a situation that he is involved in, and it is
important to him and, in a lot of ways, it may be important to you, because we are
going to be here a long time and we could be a good friend or we could be an
awfully bad enemy; you can weigh that with how much harm this man is going to
do you if you wake him up, but wake him up and tell him that we are questioning
the authenticity of him dancing with Jackie Kennedy last night. So, the man got
on the phone and after a great deal of badgering, he said, no, it was not Jackie
Kennedy; it was a person who looked like her. Jacob [K.] Javits, the New York
senator, had a daughter who looked a great deal like Jacqueline and could make
herself up to look even more like Jacqueline. She and three or four man who
posed as Secret Service thought they would have a game to play, and it would
be fun. She walked in, accompanied by the Secret Servicemen, who went
around the restaurant and asked the owner, [are] most of these people familiar to
you? There is not apt to be anybody who is dangerous in here? Because we
have a celebrity with us. She went up and talked to the entertainer, and they did
dance, and blah blah blah. We could not find our own entertainment editor. He
had left the city after turning in his copy and had driven up somewhere in the
middle of the state, and we could not locate him. Well, we had a hard time with
the motel man, and we had a hard time with the entertainer. Time went on.
Suddenly, we got a call from Kennedy's press secretary. Pierre Salinger said,
the president of the United States would like to talk with you. This [brought me]
to full wake. I said, fine. [JFK] said, I understand you are publishing a story about
my wife, and I want you to know it is completely false. I said, first, let me say that
we are not publishing it, per se, we are still working on the story and at the
moment we are speaking, I do not think the story is legitimate either, but, there is
still a possibility that it is, and I am not going to be able to tell you no, we are not
going to publish it. But, I said, the odds are very strong against our publishing it.
So he said, he appreciated that and he hoped that we would continue working
the story until we found the right answer which was [that] his wife was home with
him, and she was near her father-in-law as she should be. He was neither
insulting nor threatening. He was logical and approached it. I thought, this man
handles these things pretty damn well. He should be president. The story fell
through. It was Jacob Javits' daughter. Javits himself got into it kind of late and
questioned our right to name his daughter. Because of the AP story, which had
been carried over some radio stations and which people west of the Mississippi
had and did not get an immediate kill, we put out an attention: immediate kill
ordered by the Pompano Beach blah blah blah and Fort Lauderdale News. We
went to press with a story about the falsehood of the story that had been
circulated in the community. A lot of people had been exposed to it.
P: Did the AP retract?
Pj: The AP killed the story and said that we were not using it and had determined
that it was not legitimate, which did not do any good for the people west of the
Mississippi. Their kill and their correction came in too late to do any good.
P: Did you ever find out who made the phone call?
Pj: Never did. Never got close. Six months later, I was still trying to play detective
on that. No, I never did, and the man is lucky that I did not.
P: Well, that is great. I certainly appreciate all of your time, and this concludes the
interview. Thank you very much.
[End of the interview.]