Interviewee: Herbert M. "Tippen" Davidson, Jr.
Interviewer: Julian Pleasants
Date: November 15, 2000
P: This is November 15, 2000, and I am speaking with Tippen Davidson at his office
in Daytona Beach, Florida. When and where were you born, Mr. Davidson?
D: I was born in Chicago on August 10, 1925.
P: Talk a little bit about your early background and your schooling.
D: My parents brought me here in 1928 when they came to manage the News
Journal. My grandfather and my father jointly acquired control of it and took
possession of it in December, 1928. I grew up here through the Depression. I am
a product of local schools and was underfoot at the newspaper all during my
formative years. I did not have anything actually active to do with the newspaper
until after high school. While I was in college, I worked in the newsroom in the
summer. I was not intending to be a newspaperman. I was intending to be a
professional musician, so I was really just making the most of a summer job.
Then when I left school, I wanted to get married, so I gave up the idea of being a
professional musician and hit my old man up for a full-time job and became a
P: What year was that?
D: That was 1947.
P: You did go to Juilliard [prestigious school of music], did you not?
D: Yes, I did.
P: I guess that explains your interest in bringing the London Symphony here.
D: Yes. I was a trained professional musician and existed quite happily in the New
York market -- which was competitive -- as a professional musician, until the
necessity of supporting a wife came along. Then I had to look at the music
profession in a much different light.
P: Explain why your grandfather bought this newspaper.
D: He bought it because my father wanted him to. My father was the
newspaperman. My father and my mother were both graduates of Columbia
School of Journalism, both great newspaper people. My grandfather was a
businessman. His training was in the import/export business. After an
apprenticeship in New York, he moved himself and his family to the Midwest,
where he became a bulk-material supplier for the soap industry, mainly bulk
chemicals. You have to remember that early in the century, there was not any
bulk chemical manufacturing, that such things as caustic soda and that sort of
thing had to be imported from Germany. He made a splendid living doing that. He
was very progressive. His was one of the first offices in Kansas City, Missouri, to
have a telephone. Certainly, I am sure he was the first person to carry on his
business to buy and sell materials on the long-distance telephone, at least the
first person in Kansas City, Missouri. He retired at age fifty, having made a nice
little bit of money, and came to live in Chicago where my father and mother were
and where I was in the process of being born. My father always wanted to have
his own newspaper, as many newspapermen have. They looked around. They
looked at papers in California and New Mexico and other places, and then this
one became available and they bought it.
P: Talk a little bit about the early years. During the Depression, I suspect, it was
difficult for everybody in Florida, since the Depression here started a little bit
ahead of the rest of the country.
D: Yes, actually, that little dip after the Florida boom. The bust of the Florida boom
was really responsible for the existence of the News Journal as it is today. The
boom shattered, leaving two small papers in Daytona Beach, the Journal in the
morning, the News in the afternoon, both in desperate straits. Somebody with
money arrived, Mr. Eugene C. Pullium, late of Indianapolis and other points, and
he and a partner bought the two little papers and combined them and proceeded
to try to build them back. The thing that really hit the papers was the fact that
they went crazy over credit, as everyone else did. During the boom, they ran
pages and pages and pages of full-page advertisements of the real-estate
speculators, and nobody ever thought of asking anyone to pay for anything. Their
credit was good. Then their credit suddenly was not good, and they were
missing, and I think that both of the papers were really up against it when Mr.
Pullium arrived. At any rate, he acquired the properties and put them together
and settled down here to see if the business could be put back on its feet. He did
succeed at putting it back on its feet. When my father and grandfather showed
up, it was a going concern, not a rich one, not a gold-mine, but a going concern.
It would have to have been that way because my grandfather would not have
bought into something soft. He was pretty sensible, a pretty good man of
business. Of course, they had an excellent [year in] 1928, made money. That
was the last profit they saw until after World War II. It was pretty desperate.
P: How did they keep the paper going all that time?
D: They kept it going on that money that my grandfather made in the bulk-materials
business in the Midwest. He had a few hundred thousand dollars put away, and
that sufficed to keep them going. They had a competitor starting in 1933. The
politicians here convinced Mr. Robert Gore, the proprietor of the Fort Lauderdale
Daily News, that this was a fertile field and that there would be no trouble running
us out of it. There was a great deal of trouble running us out of it. One of things
that was our asset was my grandfather's integrity. He was a patently honest man
and a good leader, and a lot of advertisers stuck with us, even being offered
advertising across the street for free, because of his personality.
P: Discuss your early years on the paper as a reporter and how you developed your
skills as a newspaperman.
D: You have to understand that this was a newspaper family. My father and mother both
worked on the paper. My father was the editor, wrote the editorials, and when that was
done, he sat at the desk and served as news editor and, in fact, did everything in the
newsroom that needed doing with a very small staff of help. My mother was everything
else. She was the Sunday editor, the women's editor. During the Depression, these things
were necessary. But newspaper was talked incessantly at home. It just became a
language. It became an atmosphere in which I was included. My work as a reporter, I
guess I learned. Along with everyone else who has ever learned to be a reporter, I had to
learn the rudiments. I was not given any special treatment by my mother, who did most
of the early training. She was tough, but fortunately I was brought up speaking and
writing pretty good English and I managed to survive. That is about all I have to say. I
enjoyed reporting. I have always liked reporting. It is a good job. My late wife took up
reporting. As a senior in high school, she was invited to be on the staff of the high school
paper. She had planned to be a dietician, but she was absolutely delighted to find out
there was a job in which the main thing you did was stick your nose into other people's
business. That was her idea of heaven. She became an absolutely marvelous reporter. I
mean, one of the great ones, one of the intuitive ones.
P: Let me follow the evolution of the newspaper. In 1947 and 1948, the paper bought or
established an FM station and an AM station.
D: Started with FM.
P: What was the thinking behind that?
D: The thinking was that we ought to diversify; we should be in another medium. Got the
FM first, and then the directional AM became available and we got that too.
P: But the FM station was sold in 1972?
D: That is right. Both of them together were sold.
P: Why were they sold at that point?
D: It had not been very profitable, and the market was becoming crowded with stations. We
were expanding and needed the capital elsewhere, so we got out of the radio business.
P: One of the things I have noticed about this newspaper is that you have reinvested money
over and over and over again into new technology.
D: That is right.
P: Maybe you could talk to me about going to offset-printing.
D: Yes, indeed. We were one of the first newspapers in the country to do that. We started up
this press. The press that we had at that time, we started here in off-set with a four-plate
wide Wood press. That was the first four-plate wide press in a daily newspaper in the
Southeast. We were just edged out for the first in the country by Dubuque, Iowa. They
had a press that started two weeks before ours, or something like that. We had a constant
interest in new technology. Even in the old plant, where we were publishing by letter-
press, we were interested in photo composition, and we were experimenting with
photographic-page makeup and different types of paste makeup. All of these things in
those days resulted in photo engravings for making mattes. Except that we were also
experimenting with direct plating, with some success. The problem was that we were
working with ordinary engraver's zinc to make the plates, and then they had to be bent to
the circumference of the press plate. That sometimes caused some problems, particularly
if they were big dropout areas. But we did some interesting things. We ran some
processed color direct from zinc with some success. We were sort of a way-station on the
experimental loop of the Eastman Kodak Company. We were one of the places where
they would look in to see what we were up to. Then when we moved out here, it was
determined that we would go offset, but we were still going to stay with hot metal. If you
examine the area that used to be the composing room at the News Journal, in this
building, you will see that there are plugs in the floor and plugs in the ceiling that were
intended for the wiring of hot-metal Linotype machines. They never got plugged in. They
never did move the machines. It went straight to cold metal. Things were moving so fast
that it was not necessary to move the hot-metal machines.
P: Was this the Rockwell Goss Metroliner press? When did you put those in? I have 1978.
D: 1978 is about right.
P: That would dramatically increase your production speed, I presume?
D: Oh yes. Remember, we had eight units of four-plate wide press then, and we also had a
two-plate wide press which we used some, for special things. So, it was not so much a
question of actual forward speed as it was flexibility [and] color position. The Metroliner
press was inherently faster. The Wood press that we had before was a 35,000 press. This
was a 55,000 press. In the long run, that makes a lot of difference. We have added and
added to this press. It is actually double what we put into it in 1978.
P: When did you go to color?
D: We went to color back in the letter-press days. As I told you, we were doing processed
color by curving the photo engravings and scotch-taping them to the blanks, printing
color that way. We had been doing color separations in this place since the early 1960s.
P: That is very early.
D: It was early.
P: Let me ask you about the expansion. You begin purchasing some weekly newspapers, the
Palm Coast News, the Ormond Beach Journal...
D: Let me put these in order for you. We had an offer of a shopper in west Volusia [County],
the DeLandPennysaver, a very well-run profitable shopper. The man came to see me and
said he would like to sell. He wanted to get out and write novels. My father and I talked
this over. My grandfather, by this time, was retired. I went out through the West to look
at shopper operations, to Phoenix, to look at the Cox shopper operation there, which is
huge, 400,000 something in circulation, nothing to do with what we were doing at all.
But I went a lot of other places, too, to look at shoppers and talk with people. So we met
this man's price and took over the DeLandPennysaver. It did well from the very first.
Then the Jacksonville Times-Union had come here and bought a little weekly paper in
Ormond Beach, which had a little bloodless shopper attached to it, eight-page shopper.
When the Morrises took it over, they wanted to get rid of these little things and were also
looking to reduce that enormous debt that they took over when they bought the Times-
Union. At that time, we bought the Flagler Tribune from them and these two little papers
in Ormond Beach.
P: That is the Ormond Beach Journal?
D: No, it was the Halifax Reporter and the Flagler Tribune. The Palm Coast News was ours.
We started the Palm Coast News, in competition with the Tribune. But we bought the
Tribune, and we bought the Halifax Reporter. The Reporter served no useful function at
all, since it was not a very good newspaper and did not carry that much advertising and
was losing money. So, we laid it to rest, but we took the little shopper. We were doing so
well in DeLand that we decided we would try that here. We took the little shopper and
put a little fertilizer and a little water, and it has done fantastically well, the Daytona
Pennysaver, and now that has branched out and we have a Flagler Pennysaver as well.
P: How does that make money?
D: It is fairly profitable. It makes money very nicely. The problem, of course, is when you
own both the shopper and the daily is to find some arena of agreement that will permit
them to coexist, and we just have sort of a gentleman's agreement. We do not knock each
other. Everybody is free to do as he pleases. We do not destroy the value of Pennysaver
advertising, and they do not have anything to say about daily newspaper advertising. We
have gotten along fine. Both sides have been able to sell. The only part of our operation
that has perhaps been affected is liner-classifieds. The Pennysaver does vacuum those up
somewhat. To finish up the Pennysaver story, we started the Pennysaver in New
Smyrna Beach. That did not do well at first, [although] it is doing fine now. We started a
Pennysaver in St. Johns County, and that had a long period of limping and it is doing fine
now. We bought a Pennysaver, we bought weekly shopper-it was not called a
Pennysaver, we changed the name-in Putnam County, Palatka. That is still in and out, in
and out. The market is just very marginal. I have not had an occasion to discuss the
[sales] with the publisher of the daily there, and the daily has the same problem. There is
not quite enough grass to keep the horse alive.
P: How many weekly papers do you now own?
D: That are not actually associated with The News-Journal itself, there are six little
weeklies. They are Daytona, Flagler, New Smyrna Beach, Deland, Palatka and the St.
P: Are all of those profitable?
D: Five of them are. The Putnam one is in and out, but we feel it is a worthwhile property to
P: Those are run separately, or do you ... ?
D: Those are [a] completely] separate corporation. No, they are only joined at the top. Only
Mrs. [Georgia M.] Kaney, the publisher, and I have an interest in those. Oh, well, that is
not really true, because they are printed here, their plates are made here and the technical
computer stuff is all supervised from here, so there is a good deal of interlock. But the
staffing, the sales, the management and so on is completely separate. The [Volusia]
Pennysaver [Inc.] owns a series of local telephone directories as well.
P: This is The Complete Phonebook?
D: Hm-mm [yes].
P: Is that in competition with the Yellow Pages?
D: Hm-mm [yes].
P: And how does that do?
D: It is highly satisfactory. The only place we ever have the least little bit of trouble is over
in southwest Volusia, where there are four competing home phonebooks plus the Bell
book. We are number five so we are having a little bit of trouble there, but the others are
all just like shooting fish in a barrel.
P: At one time, you owned a printing company. Is that still part of the corporation?
D: No. We had to close that. We were losing so much money at it that we closed it. The loss,
generally speaking, was because...we were doing all right in the printing business, no
great shakes, and I, the great businessman, employed a nationally-known consultant to
come in and advise us to what we should do, a company out of Cambridge,
Massachusetts. They came down and spent a week and charged us an arm and a leg and
wrote us a report and told us everything we should do. We did it, and it was all 100
percent wrong, equipment selection, market selection, staffing, everything wrong, wrong,
wrong. So, we got in difficulties, and we finally closed down. Put the thing on the market
as an empty plant with printing equipment in it. Of course, it went to R. R. Donnelly [and
Sons]. Donnelly has work for it, so they are doing fine.
P: But you do all the other printing here?
D: I keep a little letter shop. It is not little actually. I keep a little commercial printing
division going here, mostly for internal work. They do some outside work. We do
the Pennysavers here and any other commercial work that we have time for. We do not
have enough time to really put a sales force and really bang the door. The paper is
growing. Demand for full color is out of sight.
P: In 1985, you were named publisher and co-editor with your wife. Why co-editor? Is that
not rather unusual?
D: Yes. That is a good question. I guess it was just that we thought I should have some
standing in the editorial part of the paper. I mean, having come out of the editorial side of
the paper. When I came back from my wander yahrs [wandering years], I came back here
as city editor of the afternoon paper, and then I became managing editor, and then I
became executive editor of both papers. Then because my grandfather was getting along
in years and not able to ... we were facing a flood of new technology and new
developments, and he was just not capable of keeping up with it. I became general
manager at that point and veered out of the editorial track, but I have always been a thorn
in the side of the editorial department whenever they split an infinitive. My being co-
editor really meant that when she wanted somebody to help her say no, she could call on
me. That is essentially it. I have to tell you that my home was just like my parents' home.
A lot of newspaper got talked over the dining room table, and witness the fact that both
of my children are working here now. My daughter has a graduate [journalism] degree
from Columbia University, following in her grandparents' footsteps, and my son is
running the Internet part of it.
D: Marc, yes.
P: When you started as publisher in 1985, what were your goals, and do you feel like, in
retrospect, you have met most of those goals?
D: I think so. We have a five-year plan and a ten-year plan and that kind of thing, but
essentially, our goal-planning is like a Persian carpet unrolled in front of you. We
planned some territorial expansion. Well, we have done that. Also, when I became
publisher, we had some cutting to do. We had some areas which were not working out,
and those had to be closed down. We have done that. That was no problem. I had a
complete newsroom to build because we had gotten behind on pay scales and whatnot,
and we needed some frontrunners in the newsroom. We had a couple of years of intensive
search and hiring and building staff back. Then we needed to completely redesign the
product. It was just one thing after another. I cannot say I had any grand overall goals.
We always looked for the day when we averaged 100,000 in circulation. We have done
that. The next one is 200,000, and I will not be here for that.
P: I understand that you passed 100,000 just about the time you took over, and that is pretty
much where you are now?
D: We peaked at 100,000, but averaging at 100,000 is something else.
P: Talk a little bit about when you shifted from a dual paper to just the morning paper. You
did away with the afternoon paper. Why was that?
D: It was for purely economic reasons. Remember that the afternoon paper was quite a
serious paper. It had its own staff, it had its own editorial page, it had its own areas of
distribution. It was costing money, and circulation descended from the 55,000 area down
to the 25,000 area. Advertising, also; people were just not buying the combination
anymore. For a long golden time, from the end of World War II on, very seldom did
anybody buy any single-paper advertising. We made the combination rate very tempting,
and people would just buy the combination rate [meaning the advertising rate in both the
morning and afternoon paper]. It got to the point where people would say, well, I know it
is only 20 percent more, but I am going to save my money and spend it on inches. So, the
advertising in the Evening News went way, way, way down, and it was quite obvious we
were losing money on it, as well as readership. It just came to the point where we had to
make a decision. It was a tough decision. All hands cried a lot. A lot of the people around
had come up through the afternoon paper, me [too]. I started as city editor of the
afternoon paper. But we made a business study, and like every good business study, it
says what happens if you do and what happens if you do not. What happens if you do was
so much more promising that if you do not that we decided to go ahead.
P: Others, the Sun-Sentinel, for example, almost all of the major papers ended their
afternoon edition, so they came to the same conclusion you did.
D: They all had the same experience, which is that the circulation shrank.
P: Talk about how this newspaper has remained a family-owned newspaper, when
practically every other newspaper is owned by Knight Ridder or Gannett?
D: It has to do with a trick you do with your head. You move it gently from left to right and
back, like that [as in shaking his head to refuse a buy-out offer]. A week does not go by
that somebody flies by with an offer. There has never been any drop in people's interest
in acquiring this paper. We have a big chain minority here. The minority stock is owned
by Cox, and it is a large minority. We are very fortunate it has been Cox because they
have been good partners ever since they came aboard. When John Perry owned the
minority, he had buzzards flying around this place, trying to trick us into selling the stock
or get us in the position where we would be forced to sell the stock. It was a relief when
the Cox people took it because they became good working partners and have remained
good working partners.
P: This was when?
D: [Fall 1969]. The time [Cox Communications] bought the West Palm Beach Post Times.
Perry jammed it into the package. I am not sure they really wanted a minority stock in
another paper, but it certainly has not hurt their feelings. They get [stock] dividends and a
place to come once a year for a good steak. We have many friends among the Cox people
who have come to our board meetings.
P: Do they have much influence on your editorial decisions or running the paper?
D: No, no influence whatsoever, nor do they seek any. Such influences they may have has
been to help us. There was a special rate on the Cox wire. When they were negotiating
low prices of newsprint, they just included us in. You can say that it went to their
dividend, but even so, those were good things for them to do that they had no obligation
whatsoever to do.
P: How would this paper change if it were taken over by, let us say, Knight Ridder?
D: I have no idea. I am sure they would cut the expenses pretty drastically. This paper is
heavily involved in the community. It gives away a lot of money. It gives away a lot of
time and attention to community things. We not only countenance but encourage staff to
participate in community things. I am not sure that a chain publisher would...I feel sure
they would not do it as much as we do, anyway.
P: More interested in the bottom-line.
D: Yes. But it is not their habit to do this kind of thing even in cases where the bottom line is
not affected, as, for example, employee participation in community affairs. For example,
when we buy a hole in the charity golf, we try to find a staffer to go out and play. That is
good promotion. That is making the best of a charitable [effort]. I am not sure they would
fool with that. It is a lot of trouble. I keep a much larger promotion department than I feel
Knight Ridder would. [They] would probably [have fewer than our staff of six].
P: Discuss your days as a city editor. What is the most difficult job of a city editor?
D: City editor is my natural home. It is the best job on the paper, the most fun, the most
excitement, the most challenge. You have to know the city, geographically and
personally, like the back of your hand. You have to have a sense about what is going on.
You have to understand the movers and shakers and just who they move and where they
shake. You have to have your staff deployed in such a way that things do not escape you.
You have a constant problem, especially on an afternoon paper, which is what I was
doing, with the clock. I just enjoyed it. It was like a Persian carpet of excitement. Every
day was better than the last. That is my idea of a really great job. It was a great job. You
have to keep records. You have to know where the hell you are. I kept quite an elaborate
city book. That has gone out of fashion now.
P: Tremendous amount of pressure, though.
D: Yes. Thrived on it. I thought it was great. I am not sure at my age now if I could take the
P: Did you write editorials?
P: Have never?
P: So, that is not an area that interests you at all.
D: Well, it interests me. I have written some op-ed pieces and things like that and I like to
write, but pontificating is not one of my strong points.
P: I would like to talk to you about some of the issues that the paper has been involved with.
The paper has supported this annual music festival and has brought the London
Symphony Orchestra here. At one point, it sort of died out for lack of money, and then
you were able to get funds to continue with it.
D: Actually, the death and rebirth is a little more complicated than that. The festival, of
course, had a community board and was run by community directors. After four years of
festivals, they elected a man as chairman who refused to sign the contracts with the
London Symphony, because there was not enough money in the bank to pay them. He
completely overlooked the $500,000 in ticket sales that would be expected. He would not
sign the contract, so the festival went by the boards. That was a trauma for me because I
really worked hard on that baby. Having an orchestra like the LSO here every year was a
feather in the town's cap. I just assumed it was dead. It was gone a long time. Getting it
back, during the Christmas of 1980, I went to a party with some old friends and they said,
we have been thinking about the London Symphony Orchestra. Could you get them
back? I said, how do we get the money? They said, you get the orchestra, we will get the
money. That is the way it has been. The community has really rallied around this
magnificently. News-Journal has not been heavily involved. You know, we are just one
of the boys, one of the contributors, not out of line [spending]. The community raises this
enormous sum of money, $1,000,000, every other year to bring the orchestra.
P: You have been supporters of the Playhouse and the new auditorium.
D: Yes, we support all the arts. We also support the museums, the Museum of Photography
at the college, the Ormond Beach Museum. We have a full-page list that goes at the end
of every year of all of them. Fill up an entire page in eight point with the names of all the
charities to which we have given. Small gifts and large. We support Stetson University in
a meaningful way and also Bethune-Cookman College.
P: Discuss your relationship with Mary McLeod Bethune [African American education
D: I did not have any relationship with Mary McLeod Bethune except that she once stepped
on me when I was a little kid. I walked in front of her, and she bumped into me. She was
a personal friend of my mother's, turned to my mother for advice. My father and mother
were very strong .. my father was on the Bethune-Cookman board. He was a very
strong advocate of Bethune-Cookman College and the work she was doing. Helped them
tremendously when they had Mrs. [Eleanor] Roosevelt here. I remember that, and I was
just a child. Early 1930s. I was younger than ten years old. That is about all I know about
P: Did the paper take a position on Jackie Robinson's integration of baseball?
D: Oh yes. That is an interesting story. Bernard Kahn, our wonderful sports editor, was
practically Robinson's PR [public relations]. He wrote stories, and because he had many
friends in the sportswriting business, he tipped off a lot of people to come and talk to
Robinson. He was heavily supportive of Robinson. He was one of Robinson's pals when
Robinson was first here. You can say that we had a hand in Robinson's success, mostly
because of this one sportswriter.
P: Was there a strong negative public reaction to this?
D: No, there was not strong public reaction. I have to tell you this about the community. My
father always did interracial work, not only Bethune-Cookman but he was [also] the
director of the Southern Leadership Conference and was considered a leader in interracial
work. Hosted and chaired many interracial activities in the community, with the result
that, at times of crisis, for example, when the school integration became the rule of law--
the day came when the courts ruled that the school had to be integrated, and the schools
in Volusia County were integrated without a murmur. The busses ran and the new kids
showed up. They did not even have a playground fight in Volusia County because the
principals had been so thoroughly briefed and had briefed their staffs and had briefed the
student bodies as to what was going to happen and what they could expect. Everything
went smoothly. In St. Augustine, they had riots on the same thing. Again, the rule was
passed that hotels could no longer discriminate. That was a huge relief to Daytona Beach
because the hotels here had not discriminated for years. They quietly took black business,
and they lost, sometimes, a convention or something because somebody would go in a
motel and see a black guest. The motel community here, my father was responsible for
that. He kept editorializing and talking, and he was a big Rotarian. The difference
between us and the counties to the north and to the west is striking in terms of the
peaceful way in which these integration movements took place. I am very proud of that.
Of all the things that he did, I think maybe that is the greatest.
P: Was there any backlash in terms of advertising?
D: Our community had come to recognize us as hopeless radicals. There was not any
P: But this is still considered in political terms, I would guess, as a liberal newspaper, right?
D: Yes, unashamedly.
P: Another development was the increase in military in Daytona Beach in World War II.
There were a lot of WACs [Women's Army Corps] stationed here...
D: And a NAS [naval air station].
P: ... and a naval base. How did that change Daytona Beach?
D: Kept it from starving to death. Claude Pepper [Florida senator] was the fellow who
wangled the WACs for Daytona Beach because my father told him that the town was
going to dry up and blow into the ocean. It was a little winter tourist town, and what was
going to happen to tourism during the war was, it was not going to exist. So, we got the
WACs and the NAS, and when the WACs were finished, an Army convalescent hospital.
Those things kept the town from starving to death.
P: Did they occupy some of the hotels?
D: At first, they did. The WACs occupied a large hotel over on Seabreeze Boulevard, now
no longer there, and then quarters were built for them west of town. Of course, the naval
air station was at the airport, was built around the existing airport.
P: Let me ask you some of these generic questions that we ask everyone. What do you think
are the most important functions of a newspaper today, and why?
D: I am not sure how you mean that question, but let me just give an off-the-cuff answer,
and if that is not what you want, you can coach me. I do not think the newspaper's
function, which is to inform the public, has changed a bit. It is still the only function we
have. We do it a little differently in the light of our electronic competitors. We are more
thorough, and maybe we are a little less hooh-ha than we would be if we did not have this
competition. The only thing I know that has really changed in the newspaper business is,
we do not publish extras anymore, because the reason for them is really gone. But we
cover so much news that the broadcast people do not cover. You know, like twenty, thirty
stories to one, daily, every day. We do a really thorough job of informing our public, as
the very best we can. We are geographically dispersed, and we have edition splits and
internal sections and neighborhood sections and our own little capitalistic divisions. Each
one of these is served in a different way, and each one of these small city councils has to
be reported. Sometimes that creates very good news, too. Our job is to do the best we can
to note the sparrow's fall in our area. No one can be God, but we have to try to do the
best we can.
P: One criticism has been that newspapers have shifted more into the entertainment mode
than the informational mode.
D: I resisted somewhat. Of course, we carry a lot more entertainment now, but I try to make
it entertainment news. I try not to run a lot of entertainment features and useless
photographs and that kind of thing. I remember hearing a speech by the Associated
Press['s] Washington bureau chief, who related to an editors' luncheon that he had come
to Washington as a bureau chief and there were twenty-six people in the bureau, and he
really was one man short. He said, today there are 340 people in the bureau, and I am still
one man short. We are always, in terms of news, fifty inches, two columns short. There
are always more things to put in than we can put in, more things to tell than we can tell.
That is a challenge, you know, beat against the wall. That is one of the things that a chain
publisher would do, would be to trim down the newshole. The very first thing he would
do would be to cluck over the number of column inches that we allow the editorial
department every day.
P: What is your view of USA TODAY?
D: I am not sure I want to tell you for publication. I will tell you, I think it is a brilliant idea.
The idea has perhaps the most imitated thing in the last ten years, this USA TODAY.
Every newspaper has some USA TODAY ideas in it. From that standpoint, from the
design standpoint, from the mass-production standpoint, the way it is mass-produced all
over the country, admirable in every way. My objection to it is that in doing this, they
have made it a little vapid, a little uninteresting. You pick up the paper outside your hotel
room in New York City or Norfolk or New Mexico, and it is not really very interesting to
read. It has been pre-digested like these patent cereals that have no taste at all anymore.
They have been ground and re-ground so many times. USA TODAYis so good in so
many ways that it is a shame it cannot have a little flavor.
P: When you are talking about the new technology, you refer to the weather page, the color,
the design, all of that.
D: All that has been [good]. We just put in a color weather page stolen from them. Hundreds
of newspapers have pinched the idea of having a weather page. That is just one of a
number of things that they originated.
P: How has your audience changed over the years, your readers?
D: Are you talking about the makeup of the audience or the attitude of the audience?
P: Both. Makeup, what they read.
D: The town has become increasingly retired. The average age is getting older. For a
newspaper, that is probably a good thing, because even as they curse us for being so
liberal, they renew their subscriptions. They do need their newspapers, use their
newspapers, respond to their newspapers, which is very gratifying. We have the same
readership pattern as every paper in the country, the dip in the eighteen-to-twenty-fives
and the mysterious rise in the twenty-five-to-thirty-eights, as though people got to the age
of twenty-five and starting reading newspapers. It must be. What other explanation is
there? Because I have been watching these figures for twenty-five years or more. Well, I
have been at this paper for fifty years. Aaaghh. I have been watching this thing, and that
eighteen-to-twenty-five dip is there and the climb out in the thirty-five-to-forty-five and
then the fairly satisfactory readership figures when you get to forty-five-and-up. People
have gone all the way from eighteen-to-seventy-two in my tenure here, and that dip is
still in there. The newspaper evidently is a tool of maturing people.
P: Do you think the readers are less sophisticated? Do they read for television or ads or
sports? Is there a reader who concentrates on news and editorials?
D: Oh yes. There is a reader who concentrates on news. There is no question about that.
What is more, there are readers who concentrate on local news. Our paper is highly local.
It is our life-blood. We got the Orlando Sentinel as a competitor to the west, [with] more
pages, more sports, more color, more this, more that. People take our paper because we
run their socks off on local news. This is absolutely essential. I feel pretty sure that
people are reading newspaper advertising differently than they did when I started,
because newspaper advertising is so different. You do not see grocery store ads.
Department store advertising has not changed as much as the others, but you see different
kinds of advertising. The classified sections look nothing like they did when I started.
Look at how the automobile industry has risen and captured the classified section.
P: Is that your biggest money-maker?
D: It is hard to say what our biggest money-maker is. The auto industry is very generous.
They use the classified. They get results, so there is readership. They would not be there
for ten minutes if people were not reading it to buy their cars. We have huge volumes of
individuals who have cars for sale who come in and take liner ads that precede all of this
display-advertising that the dealers use. We not only have the legitimate dealers, but we
have the guys who put on the auto auctions and all those things. They are all there. It is
P: How have you dealt with the competition from television and instant news?
D: There have been some minor things. We have had to watch very closely to make sure that
we have the lottery results. We even hold the press for the lottery results because the
television has them. The television networks have arranged to have them just as late at
night as they can in order to dumbfoodle the newspapers, but so far we are getting them. I
think we may be the last influence in a community this size doing the kind of reporting
that we are doing that a major...See, we do not have television crews crawling all over
our reporters all the time the way big cities do. In a large city, there will be four or five
independent television stations, and they all will be knocking each other in the head for
every story, and the print reporter has to work in this atmosphere. Our people just do not
have this problem. I would say that the reader has been more affected by television than
the newspaper. Of course, then the readers affect the newspapers.
P: Do you see an end to printed newspapers? Will people get their news off the Internet?
D: No, I do not think so. I tell you what, I see an end to printed newspapers, a possible end
to printed newspapers. When the large advertisers lose confidence in us and stop using
us, we will fold. It cannot live without advertising.
P: But you do not see that anytime in the [near future]?
D: I have not noticed any trace of it so far. Certainly, some types of advertising has exited
the papers, groceries. I have a Thursday food section that has no food advertising, not a
line. It just has food editorials. Readers expect that. But when I put that food section
together and won all those J. C. Penney's prizes and all those things, my food editors
won all the statuettes and whatnot. We were loaded. We had four or five big groceries
chains on double trucks on color. They are all gone. They are all in inserts now. There is
not a line of run-of-paper food advertising anymore, not even nationally.
P: How would you rank this paper in comparison with other papers in the state?
D: I have to say it is the best. This paper, in doing its duty, which is reporting the news of its
area, it is the equal of anybody. I think it is very good. Otherwise, I would say the paper
is well in line with its size. It is ninth or tenth in circulation in the state. I would say that
it is excellent for its rank.
P: It is ninth.
D: Okay. There are papers about the same size that do not do nearly as good a job. Most of
the good jobs are done by bigger papers.
P: What makes an outstanding newspaper?
D: I guess good news coverage and some sort of sense of honesty. This package goes
together. You have to have a certain amount of moral standards to do this job. It is not
like selling peanuts in the park. You buy the peanuts from a wholesaler for $0.50, and
you sell them for $1.00. It does not require any morals to do that. It takes a certain
amount of moral energy to keep this engine going. One has to think it is worth doing.
One has to have a sense of accomplishment and a sense of duty in order to really make a
newspaper valuable to its community. It is just one of the things. It is part of the
P: One other criteria might be accuracy. Do you see that newspaper reporters and
newspapers today are less accurate in reporting the news than they used to be?
D: In some ways, but most of the inaccuracies are technological ones. They take place
because things are carried to the limits of the reporter's understanding of what is going
on. Most reporters, I hope, when they actually understand what is going on, are as
accurate as it is humanly possible to be. I know my people care a great deal about it.
There is an awful lot of conversation when you go to the lunchroom and sit down at the
table with the editors and the reporters. There is an awful lot of talk about how to keep
sources honest and that kind of thing.
P: What happens when you do make a significant error? How do you correct it, and where
in the paper is it corrected?
D: It depends on the nature of the error and to an extent whose ox is gored. We try to make
corrections at least as noticeable as the errors, and we always try to explain what
happened, and we always apologize.
P: In other words, you explain why the error occurred.
P: When you look at Florida in general, and I realize you concentrate on local news, but in
your fifty years, how would you evaluate the changes that the state has undergone?
D: In five words or less?
P: Yes, please. But also Daytona. I mean, obviously, it is bigger.
D: Yes, everybody has grown, grown, grown. Everybody. Go to places that were crossroads,
and they are metropolises. Fly over to Naples sometime. Fly over those acres of new
housing. Miles of it. Unbelievable. One of my innovations as the general manager was to
buy an airplane for the company and arrange to have a pilot, an Embry-Riddle instructor,
who became the chief pilot. We used it to fly people to and from football games, the
reporters and photographers, and used it for business trips and sales trips. It is very useful
to go to Tallahassee if you have to go and come back the same day and not have to spend
the night. But we also get a look at things from the air, which is very interesting. I flew
down to Naples for something, and it woke me up, flying over all that stuff all the way
down the coast.
P: You mentioned that Daytona Beach has changed. The population is older. How else has it
changed, in terms of the environment, in terms of crime, in terms of education?
D: I should say we are a little better than average here with respect to the environment.
There is a lot of environmental consciousness. Of course, there are always subdividers
and developers, and there is a constant conflict between the...but you are speaking to the
editor of a paper in a county which has just passed an $80,000,000 bond issue for buying
endangered lands and protecting the watershed, with our enthusiastic approval, of course,
enthusiastic endorsement. It passed by a 62 percent vote, of which we are very proud.
Now, what else did you ask me?
P: Crime and education.
D: Crime, we had a bad few years here when we were having early motorcycle troubles and
that sort of thing. But actually, the last two or three years, the violent crime statistics have
been going down. There is still too much violence here. A lot of it comes out of this so-
called event tourism that we have, where thousands of people come to the town for the
weekend [like] at this thing Biketoberfest, a weekend without an event. It is an invitation
to all the motorcycle people to come to Daytona Beach and raise hell. Four people were
killed in three days in motorcycle accidents. To that extent, violence is unchecked.
Violent crime is better. Now, education, we have been very, very fortunate in this county.
We have had a very determined and enlightened school board for a good long period of
time and three very good school superintendents in a row, all different, different in
outlook and different in method, but all determined to improve the quality of the schools.
I would say our school system is pretty good. It is not world-shaking. We did for some
reason have some schools that did not quite pass the recent tests, schools [in which] I
know very excellent work is being done. Schools are one of my enthusiasm, and I keep
an eye on this part of it. I should say that the schools here are always up against it, as far
as money is concerned, and they are often at a conflict with the state Department of
Education on policy. We have just opted to take this new concept, where the local school
board, the local schools, have autonomy from that regulation of the state Department of
Education, and we are going to see how that works out. It has already resulted in changes
in policy with respect to class size, and the school administrator has been able to carry
out some little mechanical changes which have improved a lot of children, changing bus
routes and allowing flexible school hours, which is one of the stupidest things they do out
of Tallahassee, make everybody go and come at the same time. I cannot understand it.
But we do not have to do that anymore. We can run a half an hour over if we want to. If
the kids want to have a band, we can hold a bus to take them home. We are getting the
benefits of that rule with a little freedom. So, I think the schools are pretty good here. The
newspaper, by the way, is a big booster of public schools. We give an award, called the
Medallion of Excellence, every year to those seniors in the public schools, the public
schools only, who show remarkable excellence. We invite them to apply. We put out a
poster and applications and whatnot, and they do apply, through their principals. Their
principals recommend them, and then we have a really bad day and a half when we have
to go over the several hundred really terrific applications and choose thirty or forty. The
number of Medallion winners may go from twenty to forty, approximately, and every
high school has at least one. It has always worked out that way. Then we give it a big
play in the paper, and that is a big boost to public education because it shows the quality,
fabulous quality, of youngsters who come out of the public school system.
P: Sometimes you do not hear that. You hear all the negative comments.
D: I made that idea up myself. That is one of my ideas, one of the few I have ever had, but it
P: How has Daytona Beach Community College affected the city?
D: It has been very positive. In the first place, it is very large. In the second place, it is very
diverse and it has lots of community activities and interfaces, and it is a highly civilized
place. It is a civilizing influence, a university campus, on a community. One of our
failings has been here that we do not have a four-year university. We do now, I guess,
Embry-Riddle, but it is rather specialized. So we have never had the leveling influence of
a university, but the community college has been very good for the community and is, I
daresay, very well-liked by the community.
P: Let me go back to something you said earlier that intrigued me. You were talking about,
in running the paper you have a moral obligation. At some point, you said that the
newspaper was the conscience of the community. Could you give me a specific example
D: I think the things I told you earlier about the way the community responded by its actions
on integration. The newspaper's insistence that it was the community's duty to obey the
law was the voice of conscience reminding the community what the law was. That was
why, when push came to shove, the people in this community obeyed the law. That is
what I mean by the conscience of the community. It is a lot more than just sticking your
nose into public accounting and catching shortages at the dog pound and that type of
thing. It means that the editorial board [and] the editorial board supervisor have to be
conscious of what is going on in the community and whether it is beneficial or not. We
have to comment, and we do comment. It is our stated policy to keep comment as heavily
positive as we can, to push rather than pull, to use the old phrase.
P: Do you do a lot of investigative journalism?
P: What would be some of your more successful forays?
D: Successful? We did a shocker a couple of years ago that resulted in a shakeup of the way
restaurant sanitation is handled in this community. Restaurant sanitation used to be
handled by the department of public [health], the county health officer and his people.
Now it is done by the state. The county health officer has no power to do it anymore, and
the state, we found, has not closed a restaurant in years and years and years. Some of the
ratings were awful. We went and visited the restaurants, and they were [makes fainting
sound], but they never got them closed. So we ran an expose on that and made every
restaurant in town sore at us. Lost a lot of restaurant advertising. I think it did some good
because I think people went to these restaurants and said, you better clean up because
until we see that A [superior health rating] on window, we are not coming back. I think
that is an example of the kind of thing that we can do. We are suddenly and explosively
interfering when it comes to violations of the Sunshine Law, so investigative reporting
has been carried out in the sunshine around here for a long time. We carried out a case
against our hospital, carried it all the way to the Supreme Court twice, in order to force
our public hospital to open its board meetings. They were having token meetings in the
sunshine and then doing everything else privately, so we called them on it, brought the
suit. They defended the suit, [and] they lost. They lost all the way up to the Supreme
Court. Now, we have a lot of hospital board meetings open. We cover them, but we lost
round two because a private hospital company took over the West Volusia Hospital. It is
still a hospital district, but we could not establish that the private company board
meetings should be open to the public because they owned a public hospital. The courts
would not go that far with it.
P: How often would you have subscribers cancel the paper or advertisers cancel because of
a stand you took, an editorial you wrote?
D: Not more than two or three times a day. Right in the center of election time, we got a lot
of stir. Canceled, a handful, six or eight. Letters and telephone calls, just incessant. Dear
Ann [Larson] gets most of the brunt out there. She picks up the phone carefully to see
what flames are steaming out of the receiver.
P: Well, if you did not get any, you figure you would not be doing your job, right?
D: That is right.
P: But advertisers would not cancel?
D: I have not had any problems of that kind in many, many years, and then it was a personal
thing, an officeholder whom we opposed for re-election pulled his advertising when we
opposed him. It was not a very large amount of money, and we thought to ourselves,
well, it is too bad because he needs the advertising to keep his business going. But those
breaches often are healed within a matter of weeks after they take place. Mrs. Kaney and
I both answer a lot of complaining mail, and we find that if we write a person back and
say, well, we disagree but this is how we arrived at our conclusion, and that we would
like to hear how you arrived at your conclusion, and please stay with us because thinking
readers are our most important possession ... I have turned away an awful lot of wrath
with letters of that kind, that thank you for your dissent, it keeps us on our toes. I have to
write pretty often to defend our editorial practices, which are strictly ethical. I have to
defend the work of the editorial board and our practice of endorsing political candidates.
I have to defend that fairly often. The standard defense is that we have the chance to put
these people on the griddle and talk to them, explore not only their campaign promises
and their appearance, but also the way their greedy little minds work. This is a chance
that a voter seldom has. When we endorse somebody, we have looked at him pretty
closely. Occasionally, that argument will turn away wrath from somebody who is
objecting to an endorsement. Not often. That is where the pie is thinnest and the skin is
sorest, when it comes to your political spaces.
P: Who determines what letters appear in the paper, and will you publish unsigned letters?
D: We never would publish unsigned letters. We always required identification of the writer.
In my father's day, we permitted people to use pseudonyms, provided they gave us their
real name and address. In my time about ten years ago, we quit doing that. We just said,
okay, if you have something to say, sign your name to it. We do not give out letter
writers' addresses except the city. That seems to please the readers. We have more
readers than we can say grace over, and readers' editorials, certainly no shortage. Did
you ask me who selects them? Essentially, the raw selection is done by [Kathleen Casey]
whom you might call the editorial page assembler. It is her main work, editing letters to
the editor. She was my wife's right-hand woman, so she knows what she is doing. She is
really very good at this. The completed selection is always talked over with the head of
the editorial page. He seldom changes anything, unless he has some inside knowledge she
P: You try to give a balanced view?
D: Very much so, yes. We try to give letters on both sides of a question, or all four sides of a
question. Also, we have the question of balancing the space allotment among subjects
and among areas, different parts of the circulation area. All of those things are taken into
P: How have letters to the editor changed over the years?
D: They are all signed now. Kathleen [Casey] might see something different, but it is my
impression that we do not get nearly as much hate mail as we used to. We used to get
stacks of it. As a matter of fact, we had a file, a box at the back of a file drawer, which
was called the nut hoard, we would drop these letters in. Every once in awhile, the FBI
guy would come by and ask to have a look, and once in awhile, he would find a familiar
face, a familiar typewriter or something in there. I think we still have the nut hoard, but I
do not know how full it is. I hope we are not becoming less exciting.
P: Do you think when you recommend candidates and issues that the readers respond
D: They obviously do. Our endorsement is worth a chunk at the polls.
P: Is that true for most newspapers?
D: I do not know about other newspapers. You are the one who is making the tour. You tell
P: Well, I think it is, based on my experience. Another area that you have been heavily
involved in as a newspaper is improving city government. I know when your grandfather
and father first came, there was quite a bit of corruption and gambling and...
D: Very much so.
P: ... that they fought, but also a change that apparently has been for the better was the
evolution into a city manager-type of government. Has that proved successful over the
D: Like any other form of human endeavor, it depends upon the qualities of humans that do
it. We have been lucky. We have had some good city managers. The idea that the county
should take the same format...the person who was chosen for the first county manager
was just fabulous. He stayed there twenty-[five] years, Tom Kelly, a character, a
wonderful man. So, our experience with city manager form of government has been
pretty good. We have been pretty enthusiastic about it. Sometimes it makes it very
difficult for little communities with contentious city boards who fire their city manager
every two weeks.
P: I also thought it was interesting in reading some of this material, I guess it was your
father who was in favor of the use of voting machines and the signature recognition law
that changed a lot of what we used to call graveyard voting. Comment a little bit on the
present-day circumstances. I saw the editorial in the paper today about the Florida
secretary of state, Katherine Harris. What is your general assessment of the vote counting
[for the November 2000 presidential election] in Volusia County?
D: In this particular election, it was excellent. The mechanism that we have now, which is a
fairly sophisticated electronic mechanism, worked very well, is understood and trusted by
the public. That did not prevent our elections office in DeLand from making a bunch of
stupid errors, losing ballots and you saw it all. I think this is just loose management.
Certainly, we are not in any of the desperate trouble that they are in West Palm Beach
with that strange ballot. In one, they have many tens of thousands of wasted ballots and
people who punch twice. If you punch twice on our system, the collector and the
tabulator in the precinct will spit the ballot out and say this is not a legal ballot. Then the
elections board points out the error to the voter before he can move, and he has the
privilege of having a fresh ballot if he wants it. That saves a lot of trouble. We could not
get into the kind of thing they had in West Palm Beach with that chad [the slip of paper
remaining when a ballot is only half-punched] and whatnot. We had that for two years, in
two elections, drove everybody insane. When this woman went into office, she threw it
out, put in this optical recognition system. You have a written ballot, and you take a felt
tip and fill in a little place nice and black, and they give you a practice thing to practice
on before you do it.
P: What should be the outcome of this election? What should be done to ensure fair
D: They have called for statewide uniformity, and I think that is probably good.
P: But in the immediate sense, how should this be resolved?
D: My opinion?
P: Yes, sir.
D: I think we ought to do everything we have to do to find out what the vote was, what the
truth is. I do not care about delay. I do not really care now who gets elected. The people
of Florida have a right to know how the state voted.
P: So would you recount?
D: I think it is ridiculous for us to have an election of this importance go down into history
as a mystery.
P: Would you re-vote in Palm Beach?
D: No, I would not re-vote. Obviously, you are going to have to re-vote the presidential
election because of that confusing ballot, or at least you have that option. We do not have
to re-vote. The thing is we have to sit down and look over what we have. The committee
setup that we had in Deland was excellent. Committees of three or four have to go over
stacks of ballots. It is slow and painstaking, but it has to be done, for the people of
Florida have the right to know what it is they did.
P: You have both parties represented so there is no ...
P: Is it possible to recount all the votes in Florida?
D: Sure. Somebody said the other day on how long it would take, about eleven days I think
it was. An objective that we seek in designing a better election system should be the
truth. We really want to know how people voted. This Democratic bias or Republican
bias, the motives of Mr. [Ralph] Nader [consumer advocate and Green Party presidential
candidate in 2000], all of those things are secondary. We have to have a system which
will create a truth, a dependable truth. I think that one of the penalties of this whole
presidential election nationally is going to be an erosion of public confidence in the
electing process. I hope that will help people swallow the cost of modernizing their vote-
collecting systems. I had this in the old days. When I was managing editor, executive
editor, we had our own election-collecting results, returns-collecting system. We were
accurate, and we were fast. I have had countywide elections cleared up with the totals in
my office in an hour and a half. I put somebody in each precinct. They stood around.
When the votes were read off from the back of the machine, they wrote them down,
added them up, went to a telephone, called us. We tabulated. We had no axe to grind. We
were not trying to elect anybody. Now we have all these fancy electronics. Our tabulation
is done at each precinct, and it can be arranged in such a way that the precinct will call up
on a special line, call the collections office, and broadcast the returns to the elections
office. If you have enough high-speed inputs, you can have the election results from the
county in ten minutes. That will come closer to being the truth than having sheriffs
deputies with three ballot boxes get lost on the way to the elections office.
P: Do you use a lot of syndicated columnists?
P: How do you choose them?
D: Well, we look for a variety of outlook and a variety of style. Syndicated columnists tend
to run around like scared ponies, all in the same direction. We try to find some who will
not shift that way, who will write about different things. Our mainstays are the best in the
business, people like David Broder, and Molly Ivins for laughs.
P: Do you use people like Ann Landers [advice columnist] as well?
D: We use Abby [Abigail Van Buren, advice columnist], but it is the same principle, yes.
P: So there is some interest in both hard news editorials and advice columns.
D: Yes, Abby goes on the page opposite the funny papers, along with the doctor who does
the constipation review.
P: What about comic strips? Who chooses those, and what part do they play in the paper?
D: I do not know what part they play. They amuse everybody and create a considerable
amount of contention. We have a managing editor who is in charge of what we call
operations. He is the guy who sets all the deadlines and makes the schedules and keeps
everybody else up to snuff. He will gather the material from the syndicates on what is
available and pass it around, and then we each comment.
P: Would you let the readers vote?
D: No. It takes too long, too complicated. I like to have a certain amount of sophistication. I
like to have to carry the popular things, and we do. I also like have a couple of
sophisticated ones to keep the people who like that sort of thing from being bored.
P: Do you mean like Doonesbury?
D: Well, yes. Doonesbury, of course. A lot of people read Doonesbury. It has got a lot of
P: I notice you have an in-house editorial cartoonist, and I looked at his editorial cartoon
today, which I thought was quite good. What is his basic purpose, and do you tell him
what to do or approve what he does?
D: He uses the old classic format. His purpose, of course, is to give us a chance at cartoons
on local area and Florida subjects which we cannot get from the syndicate. But he does
national subjects as well. He comes to the morning editorial meeting with three ideas,
which are passed around, and they sort of agree. He has a favorite. Almost always that is
the one they agree on. With supervision of the editorial page editor and the executive
editors at that meeting, too, and the news editor, they sort of agree on one. Then he goes
back and inks it. If we like two of them, we may give him a day off the next day and run
the second one.
P: So he brings sort of a sketch to let people know....
D: Yes. Three quarters of the cartoon is the gag line anyway.
P: What else is done in these editorial meetings? What else do you decide?
D: That is, of course, where the candidate endorsements come from, the editorial board. I
may sit in the editorial board. Any one of us may sit with the editorial board on these
meetings. I often do go to the candidate meetings. I very seldom stick my oar in, but I
P: Do you decide main stories, headlines?
D: That is different. There is a preliminary editorial conference at 11:00 in the morning and
another one at 4:00. That is when the paper is laid out and the space allocated and the bad
news about plugs and stuff like that, circulation department problems and whatnot is
passed out, and then each of the interest editors has a chance to speak up for his
requirements and what is coming up world, what is coming up nationally, what is coming
local, and so on. That is a newsroom conference. Then the editorial writers meet at 10:00
every morning to talk about what they want to write about. Matters of policy, generally.
That is under the supervision of the editorial page editor.
P: Are editorials signed?
D: No, we do not do that anymore.
P: Is it generally a consensus then about the topic, and then one person is assigned to write
D: It is a little looser than that. Writers come in with their own ideas. If you come in with an
idea and defend it with the others and they approve, then you write it. There is no
question about that. Every once in awhile, David Wiggins, who is the editorial page
editor, will say, we really ought to do something about so-and- so, some civic thing that
has just happened, or who would like to do it? But those things, they mostly point with
pride. It is just part of the work of the office. The editorial writers generally, in a vague
sort of way, develop areas of interest and expertise. One person finds himself doing more
of the foreign ones and national ones, and then another finds that he is concentrating on
DeLand, and another one finds that he is doing east coast things. Those rules do not
always happen, but they get oriented that way. We let those things happen naturally, let
the editorial writers sort of find their own sea legs. They do not seem to have a hard time
doing that. I did have one editorial writer resign from the editorial board because he was
not comfortable with what they were doing, so it restricted him there. He now is writing a
daily column, which is fine. He can say anything he wants, short of libel.
P: Do you have a lot of that, local columnists?
D: As many as I can. Every single person on the sports staff writes a column. I have at least
eight in the newsroom writing columns. Our political editor writes a column, a good one
P: On a daily basis?
D: No, no. Hers is once a week for sure, twice a week if needed. This lad that did not want
to be an editorial writer, he is three times a week, unless he cannot do it, in which case he
is two times a week. The others, generally speaking, are one a week. We get a lot of input
from different people on the staff. We have an old- timer. She is not so old, but she has
been with us a long time on the desk, who was brought up here. As a little girl, she was a
cracker kid running around barefoot and half-naked. She has an interesting local point of
view, and she does columns about what it was like in the old days. We had a most
marvelous, rest his soul, John Carter. Referred to himself as the jug-eared kid and wrote
an absolutely marvelous column about cracker Florida, with a lot of humor in it. He
discovered lawn flamingoes and suggested that it was really the state bird of Florida. The
joke has gone on and on and on. Anyway, poor old John fell ill and was driving home
from Jacksonville where he had gone to see his family. Felt ill on the interstate and went
off the exit, parked down at the bottom and then died right there. His heart quit. He was
just lucky he could get off.
P: And not hurt anybody else.
D: I am getting out a book of his columns, in time for the Christmas market. He was very
P: Explain how the role of women in newspapers has changed. Obviously in this case, there
was a female co-editor at a very early [time], but what about the role of other women in
D: We have always had oodles of women around.
P: Have their jobs changed? Initially, they wrote society pages and....
D: Since World War II, if you are talking about reporters and editors, they have expanded
from a limited range of things to an unlimited range of things. There is not anything that
women do not do around here. Nothing. I even have a lady sportswriter, and she is tops.
P: What about minorities? How have you encouraged minority participation?
D: All I could. They are hard to get. You find that you get a talented kid ... we haunt them.
We haunt the trade shows, the interracial things, looking for people, and we get some
people, but most of the really talented ones will find themselves on the Atlanta
Constitution, or someplace] like that, for twice what I can pay them.
P: How important for a newspaper person is a journalism degree?
D: Well, I do not have one, so naturally I do not think it is very important.
P: But your parents did have one.
D: I will say, in fairness, it depends on the school and it depends on the curriculum.
P: But your sense is a person without a degree can become a competent newspaperman?
D: I had a house full of them here.
P: On the job?
D: Yes. My wife, I told you, was a fabulous reporter. My father had journalism degree. He
was a fabulous reporter. My wife was a fabulous reporter and had a degree in political
science, went to a school that did not offer a journalism degree-amazingly, UCLA
[University of California at Los Angeles]. I have seen both. When I came back here as
city editor, as I told you, the very first people I had to pick from, for new hires, were from
the University of Florida Journalism School. One of them is still here, the guy that I hired
P: What is your approach on this paper in covering the Florida legislature?
D: We have a full-time man in Tallahassee, and two staffers go up there for the legislative
session, and a photographer travels back and forth with the company plane, as required.
P: Would you make a comment on some of the governors whom you had a significant
relationship with? I remember in particular from talking to Reubin Askew that the
Daytona paper was one the first papers to endorse him. I guess that was your father's
D: My father, yes. My father heard him speak at a dailies meetings. They had all the
gubernatorial candidates [speak there]. He ran back to the office and endorsed him before
the primary, which helped him get the nomination.
P: How would you evaluate Askew as a governor?
D: I thought he was okay, very good. He knew his own mind and was a very moral person.
Not highly sophisticated. In those days, he was not highly sophisticated; [he is] much
more so now. But it is nice to have somebody in the governor's mansion whom you feel
is really honest and really a good person.
P: What are your comments on Claude Kirk?
D: I did not like Claude Kirk very much. He was really not equal to the job. He knew it and
everybody else knew, so he ran himself around like a banty rooster to compensate. I was
not impressed. Fred Karl [state senator] took me in there to introduce me. Please do not
quote me on that. I was not heavily impressed with Governor Kirk. Came at a very
critical time with respect to government reorganization. Shame we could not have had a
stronger and more persuasive person in there at that time.
P: Your views of Bob Graham.
D: Bob Graham is a person I like very much, personally. I do not know. It is so hard to
judge. Certainly, his heart is in the right place. He did a good job as governor. It is hard
to judge a Florida governor on the basis of performance, because his performance is so
hedged in by the antique cabinet system. Graham was careful. I remember his working on
some executions. He was being very careful with evidence, and I thought that was the
way a governor should be, not throw them in and watch them bum, a la George W.
[Bush; governor of Texas and elected president of the United States, 2000]. I think
Graham has showed up well in Washington, too. I think he is an intelligent senator.
Lawton Chiles was an enthusiasm of mine from the first. He was a remarkable,
remarkable man. Not un-flawed, but a remarkable man.
P: This paper was one of the first to endorse Jimmy Carter.
P: What went into that decision?
D: I was not privy to any of that. That was my father.
P: When you look at the history of this paper, you in some ways already discussed it, but I
would like for you to focus once again on your greatest contribution to your community,
as a newspaper. You did talk about the integration, obviously, but I am sure there are
other areas where you feel you made a significant impact.
D: There are a number of things that we have interfered in. I think my father's major role in
bringing voting machines in to this county, and then fifteen years later, was it, we got the
signature recognition. In promoting that, that certainly had a profound influence on local
politics. The signature recognition, we finally got it where they cannot vote the
graveyard, they cannot steal the election. When my father came here, there was one
precinct down in New Smyrna Beach that always came up with enough votes to carry the
county for the County Ring candidates, the DeLand political ring, even if it was more
votes than there were registered there. The election machinery at least is keeping it
honest; pretty well stamped [voter fraud] out. I do not know, maybe there is a new
technique of diddling with ballots in Deland. But as far as the precincts are concerned, it
is fairly hard to do the kinds of things that were done in those days.
P: Apparently one of the areas they now concentrate on are absentee ballots, that they are
easier to manipulate.
D: So they seem.
P: One of the images of Daytona Beach in the past has been sex, sand and suds. Do you
want to change that?
D: Oh desperately. Terrible, terrible image. The event mentality which hinders the entire
working life of the tourist community on bike week and motorcycle races and spring
breaks and auto races and that kind of thing, huge crowds which come and go ..
P: Dog racing.
D: Well, dog racing is more entertainment now than anything else. I am talking about the big
events that bring in people in the six figures, leaving] a sea of trash and broken hearts
behind them. A segment of the motel industry thinks this is the way to live. They do not
care how badly their hotels are torn up. The insurance company pays for that. Our city
council is getting to be very irritated about this. The bill they got for cleaning up
Biketoberfest has come right home to several hundred thousand dollars worth of damages
and garbage collection and the biggest mess you ever saw. Some people are getting
disenchanted with this. That is one reason that we have worked so hard on cultural
things. They serve as a kind of counterbalance for that, and quality of life things serve to
persuade a different type of person to migrate here to live. It is a continual argument that
goes on between the event people and the non-event people.
P: It is a mass infusion of money into the community, but the cost of police overtime and all
that makes it much more problematic, does it not?
D: Yes, so the city says. They are now pointing out that these two-day events with the
disaster figures in the $200,000 or $300,000 level are hardly worth doing, as far as the
city is concerned. The city gets very little, cannot charge admission, and gets a bill for
$230,000 or whatever Biketoberfest cost them. One of my objections to them is that they
are immoral, a lot of them, and a fairly bad influence on the community.
P: Let us take what used to be called Freak Week, where there was conflict and fights.
There was a Canadian tourist who was killed in 1996, I think. Those sorts of activities
really do give a bad image to Daytona Beach.
D: Yes, they do.
P: How do you correct that?
D: Well, I have been working to correct, promoting cultural things, promoting family-
tourism things, trying to work on noise control, on better policing. It is hard to fight them.
P: Who would you say are the most important journalists of your era in the state of Florida?
D: My era: Red Newton in Tampa was earlier than me. Certainly Nelson Poynter [publisher
of St. Petersburg Times]. Jim Knight, a real newspaperman. Those are the best. There
were plenty bad ones, but I do not want to mention them.
P: Where would you rank Al Neuharth?
D: I do not know. I do not know enough of Al Neuharth's real journalistic work to rank him.
When I met Al, he was down in Cocoa during the spaceshot era. When I went down there
to cover the launching, he was present and we became acquainted. I do not know
whether he was actually working as a journalist or whether he was just out there
exercising an extra credential to have around the office. Certainly a man who rose in the
Gannett organization, but I really do not know anything about him. My impression of
him was that he was able and superficial, but I may be very unfair to him.
P: Other than your newspaper, what would be the best newspapers in Florida?
D: I think it has to be St. Pete [Times] haute concours. I do not see anybody else [as] is in
the picture. There are some other people doing pretty good work. Sarasota is doing some
good things. FLORIDA TODAY does some good work. I guess if I had to pick a second
paper after St. Pete, probably West Palm Beach. That is a pretty good newspaper. I do not
think the others are outstanding. I think the wonderful Miami Herald of twenty years ago
is now just a ghost of itself. All those marvelous people who worked for it, and fabulous
Latin American coverage. Too bad. See, that was the creation of Jim Knight and George
Beebe and so on.
P: Is the tendency of newspapers, then, toward Miami rather than the St. Pete Times?
D: You are only going to have a St. Pete Times when you have a management which is
really trying to do something. That happens in some papers that belong to chains, but
some of the Bee papers, the McClatsy paper, are pretty good because they have a lot of
independence and a lot of budget. It is hard when you have a chain which is handed over
to a CPA [Certified Public Accountant] to run. It is hard for him. The whole idea of
spending money on improving news coverage, spending raw money to add sports pages
and add local pages and that kind of thing, just waste, production waste. He is brought up
to make widgets square and no rounded covers, so a lot of things that have happened to a
lot of the [newspaper] chains are perfectly logical from the business standpoint. You
make them all as alike as peas. I do not know what is going on now, but to a certain
extent, the historical Cox papers were given a lot of latitude. Austin was good.
P: The Atlanta Constitution was one of those?
D: The Atlanta Constitution was a very difficult situation because Cox never got
comfortable with the Constitution. The ghost of Ralph McGill [former editor of the
Constitution] hung over everything for a long time. I do not read the Constitution. I did
for awhile, but I do not read it anymore so I am not really adequate to comment on that. I
know that Dayton, Ohio, they have done some very good things there. Their paper
existed in a severely depressed community, and they coped with that, put in chain
resources in order to sustain the paper and to keep up the excellence. To a certain extent,
it was a big help to that town in making its recovery. As I said, I went out to see their
[Cox Communications] weekly operation, their shopper operation, out in Phoenix, and I
admired the way they stuck under the fingernails of the Arizona Republic, just gave them
hell. It was a big operation, 468,000 when I was out there. That is a big operation by
anybody's standards. But they were still delivering. You can still walk into their office
and buy 1,000 inserts in one specific route area for $30, with 468,000. They did a big job
of meeting that big city competition. The paper was full of local news, too, despite the
fact it was a shopper. A bunch of unpaid editorials. But the management is all turned over
there now. Got ajob as dean of the library committee, and somebody else is now CEO. It
was just on the Internet last week.
P: What would you recall as the strangest or the most amusing incident that happened to you
while you have been at the paper?
D: Great scott, there have been so many. Hard to say. I really cannot answer that. Amusing?
I do not know.
P: Well, strangest.
D: Donna was an interesting experience we had. That was the only hurricane that came right
through town. It got calm right at the office That was very interesting. I was there
with the city editor who had elected on his own to take the overnight with me. I told him
he might as well go and sleep, so he went in the boss' office, got on the couch and went
to sleep. He woke up when I went in to get him about two hours later. Both of the
windows had blown in. He was covered with broken glass, sound asleep, fine. None of
this racket had woken him up at all. I guess I am a Gloomy Gus, but the things I
remember, I remember things like that.
P: Did you get the paper out?
D: Oh sure. Yes, we always get the paper out, sometimes a bit late. Now, I can run the press
off an emergency generator, for the first time in the history of the paper. I have enough
generator capacity to print.
P: Have you ever had any difficulty with unions?
D: I had unions for a considerable period of time. I have had some difficulties with unions.
No one has unions without some difficulty. But I would say that our union relations have
been peaceful and constructive, largely, even when we had the typographical union and
they were rambunctious. They were always susceptible to the argument that we were in it
together. My father, who dealt with them in the early stages, and I later, always took the
attitude that whatever they asked for that we could give them, we would give them
without argument, and that they were entitled to a share of what we made, what we were.
So that was a little bit disarming for some of these guys who came in with their fangs
bared. The only one I was never able to figure out was the Guild. They are so aggressive
and so abusive. We had an awful time with them. It only lasted thirteen months.
Employees voted them out.
P: Are any of your workers currently unionized?
D: The press room.
P: And that is amicable?
D: Oh yes.
P: How many employees do you have here?
D: It goes up and down, but it is 730-something, full-time, and thousands of contractors.
P: How do you work your delivery? Do you have your own trucks? Do you subcontract that
D: Oh yes. We go right to the carrier. We have a district man who runs this district, an
P: How many papers do you deliver, and how many are purchased out of vending
machines? Do you have any idea about that?
D: I have some statistics on that.
P: The general percentage.
D: This week's report: this week, we had home-delivered 84,000 daily, 94,000 Sunday.
Single-copy 10,000 daily, 23,500 Sunday. Total 95,000 daily, 117,000 Sunday.
P: That is a pretty consistent figure?
D: No, that goes up and down. The average is about 102,000 daily and about 122,000
Sunday. We are in the low part of the year now, and it goes down. It goes up from Labor
Day to Easter, almost in a straight curve, and then down from Easter to Labor Day. You
can absolutely set your watch by it. 20 percent streets on Sunday.
P: Do you get much competition, do you think, from the Orlando Sentinel?
D: Oh yes, you better believe it.
P: How many papers do you think they would sell here?
D: They sell 24,000, 25,000 in Volusia County.
P: Do you have any other competition?
D: Not really.
P: The Times-Union at one point used to be...
D: Yes, the Times-Union was in here very heavy. 11 percent at stands on the daily.
P: Thank you. Is there anything that we have not discussed or I have not asked that you
would like to comment on?
D: We covered a wide field. No, I do not think so. I think it is most interesting that we will
hear this kind of narrative from every paper in the state. That will be interesting. I will be
interested to know what some of my colleagues say, and I will be interested in other
cases to know what excuses they have for what it is they put out.
P: Well, on that note, I want to thank you very much for your time. This concludes the
D: My pleasure.
[End of the interview.]