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Full Text





DIANE MCFARLIN


Diane McFarlin is the publisher of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune. She has held that
position since November 1999. She began her journalism career during high school,
when she worked for her hometown paper, the Lake Wales Daily Highlander. She
graduated with high honors from the University of Florida with a degree in journalism.
McFarlin began working for the Sarasota Herald-Tribune and became managing editor
in 1985. She moved to The Gainesville Sun as executive editor in 1987, and three
years later returned to the Sarasota Herald-Tribune in the position of executive editor.
She was also named Director of Broadcast for the paper's 24 hour news channel, SNN-
6. In 1999 she became the publisher of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

McFarlin received the Journalism Education Association's national Media Citation for
outstanding service to scholastic journalism in 1993 and served two years on the
national Accrediting Council for colleges of journalism and communications. She has
taught at a number of institutions, including the American Press Institute and the
Poynter Institute. In 1997 she addressed the World Editor's Forum. She has also been
a judge for national and state journalism award programs, including the Pulitzer Prize.
She has been named an Alumna of Outstanding Achievement and received the
Distinguished Alumnus Award from the University of Florida. McFarlin served as
president of the Florida Society of Newspaper Editors and will serve as president of the
American Society of Newspaper Editors in the year 2002-2003.



Summary

Diane McFarlin begins by describing her first experiences in the field of journalism
during high school and college. She then talks about her subsequent jobs at the
Sarasota Herald-Tribune as city editor and managing editor. She discusses the role of
gender in the newspaper business and Katharine Graham. She tells why she moved
from Sarasota to Gainesville to work as the executive editor of The Gainesville Sun.
McFarlin then describes working under the New York Times Company and how that
company affects decisions at the Herald-Tribune. She describes how the different
editions of that paper are produced for the different surrounding communities. She talks
about Gainesville sports teams and growth management. McFarlin then compares her
job as executive editor of the Gainesville paper with her job as executive editor of the
Sarasota paper. She describes the formation of the Sarasota News Network (SNN),
the role of newspapers and competition from other newspapers and other multimedia
outlets of news. She discusses her job as publisher of the Sarasota paper and
community involvement. She talks about the changes seen in reporting and readership
during her tenure. She also briefly discusses European newspapers, Nelson Poynter
and USA Today. She ends the interview by telling of when she received the
Distinguished Alumnus Award from the University of Florida.









Page 2

Diane McFarlin was interviewed by Julian M. Pleasants in Sarasota, Florida on
August 15, 2001


P: You are, I believe, a third or fourth generation Floridian.

M: Fourth generation on both sides.

P: Both sides? Very unusual.

M: Makes me a very rare bird in Sarasota because everybody here is from

somewhere else.

P: When did your great grand-parents come?

M: ... Both sets settled in the general Central Florida area, my father's family in

Sumter County and my mother's family in Hardee County....

P: How did you first get interested in journalism?

M: I had been interested in newspapers and in writing for a long time. We didn't

have a newspaper in my high school, but I joined the yearbook staff when I was

fifteen.... I went down to a little local newspaper. It was called the Lake Wales Daily

Highlander. It was probably the smallest daily in the state of Florida. It was the first

newspaper to go to cold type, to use offset, as its publishing method. But anyway, I

went down to interview for a summer job. I had not yet turned sixteen. John Marsh was

the owner, publisher and editor, and I went to talk with him.... and he said come withme

and he took me back into the newsroom. He handed me a press release, and he said

rewrite this. So, I sat down at the typewriter because I knew how to type, and I rewrote

this press release and handed it back to him. He said, there is a youth commission

meeting Monday night at City Hall; do you want to cover it? I said sure, I do. So, I did,









Page 3

and then he hired me for that summer. I ended up working there every summer in high

school and college.

The summer after my junior year, the summer that I turned seventeen, I was

actually left in charge of the paper. I mean, you know, it was a very small newspaper

because he and a managing editor, one was on vacation and one had to go off on

business. At the time I was in charge, the sports editor got into some trouble. He was

charged with molesting Little Leaguers. It was a horrible story, but there I was faced

with this and having to deal with it. I got through it, everything went just fine, and that

was it for me. I knew what I wanted to do. So, I never looked back. It was always

journalism....So ... it was in my blood from the first day that I started working at that

paper. It was a great experience because I got to do everything.

P: That is the key, isn't it? At a small paper, you learn the business.

M: It is the key. You learn every bit of the business. I actually would set headlines. I

would go back after we had written our stories. I would go back and actually help set

the headlines. I got to take my own pictures and process and print the film.... I got to

learn to layout pages, just everything, not just reporting. It was wonderful....

P: You graduated form the University of Florida with a degree in journalism in 1976.

What is your view of the importance of a degree in journalism for newspaper work. I

have talked to several editors who say it is just as good to major in English and learn on

the job.

M: I think that it is just as good for a lot of people. For me, journalism education

really means a head start. It positions you to hit the ground running. Generally,

journalism graduates have had a lot more practical experience. So, when I was in the









Page 4

hiring mode... as I became the city editor and managing editor, I leaned toward J school

graduates if it was sort of a general assignment position or governmental beat position

and I wanted somebody who could plug right in who knew what to do. For positions that

are maybe more specialist positions, like a medical writer or a business reporter, I think

an education on that track in that realm is possibly better in fact, I am sure it is than

a journalism degree. To me, the perfect combination is an undergraduate degree in

English, political science, social sciences, [or] health services, and then a master's in

journalism, so they get that really great educational base and then go on and get more

of their career training.

P: When you finished journalism school, what was your first job?

M:... There was a job at the Sarasota Journal, which was the sister paper of the

Herald-Tribune. It was the afternoon paper.... They had a position for a reporter/copy

editor. Of course, I had done both jobs, so I was hired. After a year, I became assistant

news editor, and then the second year I became city editor. So, my head start at the

Daily Highlander really paid off handsomely because I moved into an editing position

fairly quickly. In hindsight, I wish that I had spent more time as a reporter because I

always wished that I had more experience as a reporter.

P: What makes a good reporter?

M: You know, a lot of qualities make a good reporter. I think curiosity is a real

important quality, the ability to think critically, to have an analytical mind. You have to

know what questions to ask. You cannot just take at face value what someone tells you.

You have to know what follow up questions to ask. Obviously, they have to be good

writers. You can teach somebody to write, but you can't teach them to be a great writer,









Page 5

so that innate ability is extremely valuable. But I have had a lot of average/mediocre

writers who are great reporters. In fact, some of the best stories that have ever been

done at this newspaper were done by people who weren't our best writers, but they

were persistent, they were courageous, meaning, you know, they could be in some

really difficult situations, but they didn't give up and they weren't afraid to ask the tough

questions. So, there is a force of personality that makes a journalistically great

reporter....

P: I have talked to several people who have had similar experiences, and almost

everybody I have talked to say that city editor was the most exciting job that they had.

M: It absolutely is the best job I ever had. I was city editor for five years. I was city

editor when the Skyway [bridge] fell. I mean, my gosh, there I was. You are the

maestro, you are in the middle of everything, you are at the center of the action. I think

maybe the most frustrating thing about being city editor is you aren't often able to go to

the front lines, but you are directing it all, the eye of the storm if you will. You are kind of

in the calm center, but you still have so much to say about what is going on in the

newsroom that day. You know, I think that the managing editor's job may be the best

job in a newsroom but is not nearly as much fun as the city editor's job....

P: Is that not a pressure-filled job?

M: Yes, it is very much a pressure-filled job. You have to work from your gut, and

that can be scary, but I think that is why the best city editors are people who were really

great reporters. They develop that instinct....

P: You are city editor for five years. Then you become managing editor?









Page 6

M: Not quite. I spent a year... as assistant to the editor, but it was really systems

editor. I installed the first computer system at this company for both the Herald-

Tribune and the Journal. During that year while I was doing that, the New York

Times bought the Herald-Tribune and the Journal was closed. So, once this

system was installed, then I moved into assistant managing editor, and then after

that deputy managing editor, then managing editor....

P: Talk about your time as deputy managing editor and managing editor. What

were your major responsibilities in those jobs?

M: As assistant managing editor, my major responsibilities were sort of the

advanced sections of the paper the feature section, the Sunday paper, things like the

TV book and so on. Then when I became deputy managing editor, I resumed being

responsible for news. I was very happy about that because I had really missed that

when I was over on the feature side. Essentially, you are really running the newsroom

day to day.... [T]he managing editor technically is running the newsroom, but the

managing editor has quite a lot of administrative responsibilities. So, as deputy

managing editor, you are running news meetings, coordinating special projects, working

with the city editor on... what is going to be in the paper tomorrow, and then looking a

little longer term to the weekend editions and any kind of investigative series....

P: One question that has come up periodically in the newspaper business is, how

has your gender influenced your career, either positively or negatively. There is this

image, particularly in the 1970s and 1980s, the newspaper business in Florida was an

old boy's network.









Page 7

M: Definitely. Well, I will tell you, I was blessed with great timing. I was born just at

the right time because, literally, it was a detriment to me, I believe, until I became city

editor. That is about the time that things really started to change. Then when the New

York Times Company bought this paper, things really changed here at the Herald-

Tribune. As city editor, you know, women have a tendency to be more nurturing, if you

will, a little more tuned in to the employees as individuals. I had a little bit different style

as city editor.... I had the hard news bent, but I was also very cognizant of whether the

employees were enjoying themselves and what they wanted in the way of personal

development.... So, I think that tendency... was something that I think propelled me in

my career. I really believe that if the New York Times Company had not come in and

bought this paper, I probably would not have risen above city editor, but because there

was a more progressive company and a more progressive owner coming in, I was

getting advanced pretty rapidly during that period of time....

P: This is sort of off the subject, but while we are on women in the newspaper

business, I would like to get your comments on the recently deceased Katharine

Graham.

M: Katherine Graham was somebody I admired very much... probably predominately

for her courage but also because she demonstrated to the world that a woman could

run a large media company and do it very successfully, that she could champion and

advance the journalistic mission while at the same time strengthening the financial

condition of that company. The Washington Post Company was floundering when she

was put in charge. It is a double whammy, if you will. The decisions she made regarding

the Pentagon Papers and Watergate really put that paper on the map journalistically,









Page 8

and then she was also building a great company that somebody like Warren Buffet

would consider to be a great investment.... I had the privilege of meeting her several

times, and on a personal level, she was so gracious and so interested in other people's

careers, not just women, men too, and real unassuming and self-effacing. Of course,

you can see that in her book....

P: Are there other women you can designate as important to journalism, mainly in

the state of Florida?

M: There are a lot of women, I think. I really could just tick off a lot of names of

women who are doing great things in this industry, really great things, and whom I

admire and enjoy, and I am happy to say some of them are my friends. They are at all

levels. You mentioned Lucy Morgan earlier. Lucy is one of the best investigative

reporters in the country and has done a lot for Florida's stature in terms of the

journalism. I have been on three Pulitzer juries, and I have been so struck by the

number of women whose bylines have been on the stories that have been finalists for

the Pulitzer....

P: I noticed that three of the four top positions in this newspaper are occupied by

females.

M: That is right. In fact, the American Journalism Reviewjust wrote about that. I

wasn't real thrilled that we were given that distinction, quite frankly, because it makes it

appear as if that is some sort of objective here, and it is truly not. It is about hiring the

best people, and if they happen to be women, great. But we are the largest paper in the

country to have a woman publisher as well as a woman editor and managing editor.









Page 9

P: You left Sarasota to go to Gainesville to be executive editor. Why did you decide

to take that job?

M: It was an opportunity to have my own newsroom,... to be the top editor in a

newsroom.... It was a newsroom ready to move to the next level and eager and hungry

to do that.... A lot of talent in that newsroom. It was small enough that I could really get

my arms around it, and I could still be out in the newsroom editing stories and not tied

to my desk....

P: What influence does the New York Times have on the newspapers it owns?

M: It is interesting. When I speak in Sarasota, that is one of the first questions I get.

It is very clear that the strong perception is that I have a red phone on my desk, and

Arthur {Ochs "Punch"] Sulzberger [Publisher of the New York Times]...is calling me

constantly to tell me what to put on page one and what our editorials should say, and in

fact there is absolutely none of that. All of the New York Times papers are autonomous,

but they have a deep and abiding interest in the business side. I have to draw up a

budget every year in coordination with my bosses at the New York Times Company,

and I am expected to meet that budget, or have a good reason for not doing it. But I

think indirectly, you know, the quality and the standards at the New York Times

Company are so high that it gives us a much loftier platform to operate from than we

would have otherwise with other companies, perhaps, and with some private owners....

I think that family ownership is not necessarily the best way to go because very often

there is a much tighter reign when you have an owner on the premises than when you

have a large corporation with very strong standards of rich tradition of journalistic









Page 10

integrity and they don't want anything to violate that, to undermine that. That is a very

reassuring posture to be in....

P: One of the issues that has come up over and over again is that corporate profits

are excessive. Carl Hiaasen told me that Knight-Ridder was requiring them to get to 25

percent, and to get to that figure he felt they had fired too many people, too many

necessary positions, and that the paper had gone down dramatically in quality. Have

you had that problem here?

M: Well, it is really a matter of year over year.... [T]his year, I think we will probably

make budget. Now, we have had to eliminate some positions here because of the

downturn in the economy, advertising is down, but I have not had to do anything

draconian here. The problem is once you become a publicly held company then you

have another constituency that you have to be responsive to, and it is a terrible

dilemma. It really is. Now, what are the options? The options are you do not play that

game. You say to heck with the bottom line, we are just going to continue to invest in

the product and so on, and then investors take their money and go somewhere else.

Before you know it, you are in dire financial straights.

Another option is to go private, and then you lose an awful lot of money for

investments in the product. One of the things that happened for us, was our press

was... old and decrepit when we were privately owned.... So, as soon as the New York

Times Company came in, we got a brand new production facility, all new presses, this

building was expanded and remodeled, we started opening bureaus so we could do a

better job of serving the communities in the outlying parts of our market. So, it works

both ways, and I think the real key is to maintain the business strength of your operation









Page 11

without undermining the editorial integrity. That is a difficult balancing act, but as a

publisher, I have to look both to the short term and the long term. While we have been

cutting costs this year, I have also had a strategic planning process underway to look

out ahead and say what do we want to be and what can we do to get there and how

can we serve this community better?...

P: Do you continue to do investigative journalism here?

M: We do. We have had several substantive investigative projects this year, but we

are not traveling as much as we did in years past. I had to take a page of news... out of

the paper that is an average of a page per day.... Our paper gets smaller in the

summertime anyway because of the seasonal flux. We lose about thirty percent of our

circulation. Of course, advertising follows that. So, the paper gets smaller in the

summer anyway, and then with the page taken out, that has made it even tighter, and

readers notice.... So, one of the first things I am going to do as soon as we get our

bearings and the economy starts to come back is that page is going back in. That is

really important....

P: How do your editions for Bradenton, Venice, Charlotte County differ from the

Sarasota paper?

M: Well, this is one of the most heavily zoned newspapers in the country. It was one

of the first papers to produced zoned editions. This goes back to the 1960s, long before

I came here. We now make over extensively, meaning we change stories and positions

of stories. Our sections are actually different sizes because we are customizing those

editions for those communities. So, for example, a reader in Charlotte County where we

have an edition, their 1A will look different from the rest of the newspaper; their editorial









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page will be different; their obituary page will be different; their whole B section, in fact,

will be quite a bit different from the rest of the paper....

Sports is made over, business occasionally. So, we make over up to 100 pages

every night to customize those editions so that they are actually produced as if they

were being published in that community....

P: That is a unique process is it not?

M: It is but one that more newspapers are adopting because every readership

survey tells you that local news is what the readers want from you first and foremost

and that has got to be your highest priority, and we think that the best way to deliver a

local news package is to actually edit that paper with that community's local news in the

forefront.

P: Do you have separate editors for each of these editions?

M: We do. We have editors on site. Our Charlotte bureau, for example, has a

bureau chief, a bureau city editor, and a separate staff down there. We have about

eighteen journalists in Charlotte County just for that one edition.

P: Talk a little bit more about your three years in Gainesville. What was your major

achievement as you look back at your time at that paper?

M: I think my major achievement was rebuilding the newsroom.... I was able to

rejuvenate and expand that newsroom. The Times was just wonderful, very supportive,

allowed me to add about a dozen positions and add pages to the paper.... In terms of

coverage, I think the achievement I am proudest of is the coverage we did of the

athletic department and what was happening with Coach [Norm} Sloan [UF basketball

coach from 1961-66 and 1981 until fired in1989] and Coach [Galen] Hall [football coach









Page 13

at UF from 1984 until fired in 1989] and some of the shenanigans there, and I was, I

think, proudest of our courage, the fact that we were willing to do something highly

unpopular with the knowledge that in the long term it was going to make that program

stronger and, of course, higher integrity....

P: Did you feel undue pressure about sports in Gainesville?

M: Yes, I did. I felt a lot of pressure about sports. I felt even more pressure, perhaps,

about growth that conflict between the staunchly no growth camp on one side, the

extreme pro growth camp on the other side, and what I thought was the responsible

middle ground, which was growth is inevitable but how can we do it well and what does

Gainesville want to be when it grows up. We are dealing with the very same issue here

in Sarasota....

I think newspapers role in that debate is so critical, and what we have to do is we

have to facilitate that debate and inform people to participate in that debate without

putting our thumb on the scale too heavily because... there would be a tendency either

way you look at it....[O]ur editorial board is a great microcosm because on the board we

have the folks who basically wanted to shut the gates don't let another person in -

and the folks who think that for this community to prosper it has got to encourage

growth. What is right for the community is ultimately up to the people who live here, not

to this newspaper. But I think the more that we can open the floor to debate and create

that forum and weigh-in to a responsible extent, then we are doing the greatest service

we can possibly do for this community....

P: Growth management is a topic that most people know very little about. So, it is

really up to the newspapers to inform the public.









Page 14

M: Well, the public, unfortunately, deals with it on a visceral level. You know, we

write a lot about growth and the mechanisms of growth, and most people don't want to

spend time with that. They only get involved and care when it means there is going to

be more traffic on their route to work or that there is going to be an apartment complex

going up on the next street. So, it is very, very hard to really educate a community when

they aren't dealing with it on an intellectual level. That is a real trick for newspapers, is

how you get the community engaged and how do you get them away from

emotionalism and get them to really think of it terms of quality of life and guiding

principles and what do we want this community to be like ten, twenty, thirty, fifty years

from now. It is a real challenge....

P: In 1990, you decided to return to Sarasota as executive editor. Why did you

make that decision?

M: It was difficult to make it but primarily because I already had a lot invested in this

community.... It was an opportunity to stay in the New York Times Company but go to a

paper twice the size of Gainesville as editor. So, it was a great career opportunity, and

personally it was attractive....

P: How was your job as executive editor at the Sarasota paper different from the

Gainesville paper?

M: I think the biggest difference was I had to step a little farther away from the hands

on journalism, so that was a tough adjustment. That was my first, sort of, executive

position, if you will, because in Gainesville I was able to manage the executive part of it

without quite as much time spent in meetings and with reports. This is just a much more

complex operation. We now have six editions. The competitive pressures are much









Page 15

greater here. The market is much more complex and diverse. I came back in 1990, and

we redesigned the newspaper very soon after I got back. Of course, I have a penchant

for redesigns, but we did that. Then we started SNN [Sarasota News Network], our

twenty-four-hour cable channel....

P: Apparently, the buzz word now in journalism is convergence. I noticed earlier you

obviously have been interested in technology because you set up the first computer

system. How did this interest lead to the development of SNN?

M: The first computer system, that was kind of interesting. That was not out of

interest. That was sort of out of challenge because I had never had any exposure to

computers and knew nothing about them. I got my pilot's license for the same reason. It

was something that I didn't know anything about.... Of course, it turned out giving me

immense power because I was the only one in the building who knew anything about

this system, and everybody, including the publisher, was coming to me to ask what do

you do here and how do you do this.[Laughter] So, really, in any organization now, the

people who have the power are the ones who know how to operate the computer

system.

But... SNN, what happened, ...Walter Matson [president of the New York times

Company]...suggested that we visit with one of the New York Times'affiliate stations in

Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. So, we flew up there in January and... we talked about TV

and newspapers and how they could get along and what they could do for each other. It

was another epiphany. It was an eye-opening experience to really see that... we serve

the news consumer in very different ways, and they are very complementary. So, we

were able to work ourselves through that prejudice and it was deep seeded and we









Page 16

approached Channel 40 [ ABC affiliate in Sarasota]. They had enlightened

management, if you will, and so we forged a partnership long before anybody else was

doing this. Again, it was Walter Matson's brainstorm, it was not ours, and we shared

news with them. We would give them stories, and they would read the first draft or two

of the story and then say, for more information on this story, see tomorrow's Herald-

Tribune. We got the exposure and the promotion and more readers were coming to the

Herald-Tribune, and they got more content, so it really was a win/win. Well, new

management came in at Channel 40...and ...that partnership dissolved, fell apart.

{1993].

We thought, but, you know, this TV thing makes a lot of sense because it really is

expanding our reach. We are extending into markets, we are reaching people,

predominately young people, poorer people, who are not reading newspapers to the

extent they did years ago. So, we wanted to do more. About that time, a new executive

for Comcast Cable [The country's third largest provider of cable, internet and digital

service] comes in.... We start up conversations with him, and before you know it, we are

talking about doing a twenty-four-hour cable news channel patterned after CNN

Headline News. This is... a situation of the planets being aligned because the president

of the New York Times Company at that time wanted to do some experimentation in the

electronic realm. There was money there to be had, and we put together a proposal,

and it was approved. We invested $2,500,000 into digital equipment, and six months

after we got the approval, we launched the first all-digital TV operation in the country,

the first twenty-four-hour cable news channel in Florida, and the first cable channel to

be produced out of a print newsroom, in other words a newspaper producing this









Page 17

channel out of their newsroom.... What we did here is we put SNN in our newsroom, I

was in charge, the advertising director was in charge of the advertising, and we did it as

an inherent part of our operation. That was truly a converged newsroom, although I

have a little bit of a problem with the word convergence because I think it is really about

multimedia. Convergence will come when the TV set and the PC converge. But our

newsroom was, in fact, a blended newsroom.... We determined very early on that

...what we wanted] to do is ask print reporters to share information with the broadcast

journalists, to write voice-overs for anchors and to sometimes even do reporting in front

of the camera, but generally when they do that, they are being interviewed, they are

being asked about the story....

P: This concept points out what Dan Rather [CBS news anchor] was talking about

the other night when he said that you can't find out enough information about stem cells

on television, you have to read the newspapers....

M: That was such a progressive statement because what he was saying was, you

know, we can work together, and only together can we fully serve you, the reader, the

viewer. You aren't going to get it all from me, and you may not be satisfied with just the

newspaper. You hear about it first from TV, more than likely. Your notification comes

from television. If you are busy, if you are trying to get the children off to school and you

are overwhelmed, you don't have time to sit down and read the newspaper thoroughly,

you can watch TV and you can hear what is going on. You can go, gosh, they are

talking about growth east of 1-75; that is a subject I really want more information about,

so I'm going to go to my newspaper and I'm going to read about that in more detail.

Then, of course, you got the website. When we launched our website, then we had a









Page 18

three-way convergence, and that introduced a lot of other possibilities. The

example that I love to use is the local police S. W. A. T. team broke into a man's house,

they thought he was suicidal. He had a gun, he raised the gun, they thought he was

going to kill them, they shot to the man to death, and a task force was sent in to

determine what happened. When that report was published, we had the story in the

paper that really told you everything you needed to know about that story. But on SNN,

the reporter walked the viewer's through the house, showed them the bullet holes, gave

them the sort of dramatic side of the story, and then we sent everybody to the website

to read the full task force report, with pictures and everything. It is a classic example of

why multimedia makes so much sense for news organizations and why multimedia

really is the key to our future because if we limit ourselves to one means of distributing

information, of telling the story, then we run the risk of some people saying, sorry, I can

get it just by going here.

P: My figures are that you reach 160,000 households with SNN. Is that about right?

M: A little low, now. I think it is more like 175,000.

P: Has that improved circulation numbers for the newspaper?

M: We think so because our research indicates that.... We just did a thorough...

readership survey [and] about 25 percent of the people surveyed said that they went to

SNN because of something they read in the newspaper, and a similar number said they

went to the newspaper because of something they heard on SNN. The figures for

newscoast.com, our website, were quite a bit lower, but there was still that crossover.

To me, that demonstrates that it has improved our readership....

P: Why is circulation always higher on Sunday?









Page 19

M: Time. I think people are so time-stressed now, and that has affected newspaper

readership more than any one factor, in my opinion, is that we are multitasking, all of

us, all the time, and something has to give. Increasingly, the newspaper during the

week is what is being sacrificed. But on Sunday, they have time to spend with the

newspaper and absorb it.

P: What is the future of the physical newspaper as we now know it? Is it going to

disappear?

M: It is not going to disappear as long as I am in the newspaper business.... But I do

believe that within the next five years that people will be able to get their newspaper by

another means, and that might be a CD, it might be electronic ink, it might be some sort

of download system with a special printer. I think what will happen... is that people will

be publishing their own newspaper. But I really believe that for a long time people are

going to want something that they can carry around, something that is packaged for

them.... It is hard to access information in an orderly way on the website. What you can

do is you can drill down so effectively, so if you have a deep interest in a particular

subject, then nothing beats the Internet, as long as you know the sources you are using

and how reliable they are.

P: In effect, you package the information for them.

M: Exactly, yes. We have made judgements for them. I love the serendipity of

newspapers. I love to just open a newspaper. I am presented with options, and I can

get through those options much more quickly than I can create them for myself on the

web.... The thing about a newspaper is you can just pick it up, and you can start leafing

through, and you can pick and choose what you want to read, and you can take it with









Page 20

you and read it wherever you want to read it.... [W]hen it comes to in-depth information

and the most comprehensive source of local news, newspapers are going to remain

preeminent for many years....

P: What is your greatest competition? Is it television, or is the Tampa Tribune or the

St. Pete Times?

M: Time. I really believe it is time, but when you talk about other media

organizations, at this point, it is other newspapers, and it depends on the geographic

area. We have no direct competitor in Sarasota, and for the three-county area, we are

the largest newspaper. But if you talk about Bradenton, it is the Bradenton Herald; in

Port Charlotte, it is the Charlotte Sun Herald. Tampa and St. Pete come in to a very

minimal extent.... TV SNN faces competition from the other TV stations but not

significant competition because our niche is different. We are all about convenience

and all about getting news when you want it, not having to make an appointment at 6:00

p. m. to get the news.

P: You were named publisher in 1999, I believe. How did you happen to get that

job? Who made the decision?

M: I went kicking and screaming.... I had been approached twice before about going

into a publisher training program, and I rejected it. This was just really a convergence of

several different things.... I thought, well, it is either me or somebody else, and I would

rather it be me to lead this newspaper because I love this community, I have a lot

invested in this newspaper, this has really been my family, and I want to stay with the

New York Times Company, ideally. So, I really lost a lot of sleep over the decision

because I didn't think there was life after a newsroom. I just didn't think that I would be









Page 21

as rewarded as I had been in the newsroom, but I finally came to the conclusion that I

would still be advancing great journalism. I would be doing it from a different vantage

point and at a different level, and that there would be an opportunity to interact with the

community in a way that I had not been able to do as a detached, impartial editor, and

that had a lot of appeal for me. I was ready to sort of spread my wings and learn more

about the business holistically....

P: Is publisher your most challenging job?

M: Yes, by all means it is the most challenging job.

P: Why?

M: More constituencies to be aware of and concerned about. Learning parts of the

business that I really had very little knowledge and understanding of before, business

side predominately but also the production side. I was sort of one of those arrogant

editors who said, here, here are the pages; now you worry about how it gets produced

into a newspaper. I am touched more by the politics in the issues. As an editor, you can

simply say, here are the facts; you deal with the truth, or you deal with the interpretation

of the truth and what you think is good or bad about this....

P: What overall goals did you have when you took over?

M: I had several goals. One was a personal goal. I wanted to prove that I had

business mettle as well as journalistic mettle. I wanted to prove that good journalism

makes good business. I wanted to demonstrate to the community that we were not a

monolithic detached organization but that we were a very caring, concerned

organization that had the best interests of the community at heart and that we wanted









Page 22

to be an integral part of the community, that we were open, that we wanted to hear from

the public.

Right before I became publisher, I started something in the newsroom called the

Reader Advocate Program, where we have somebody at a phone everyday to hear

from readers. We invite them to call us, tell us if we got something wrong, what we are

missing, and it has turned into just a wonderful exercise from both the standpoint of

being more open to our readers but also understanding them better and understanding

ourselves better. When people challenge you about everything, whether it is the wet

paper in their yard or your editorial or how you play the Israeli-Palestinian story that day,

you really start to understand yourself better. I wanted to extend that attitude throughout

the company and put a greater emphasis on [it]. It is called customer service, but it is

really good journalism, too, and it is good business....

One of the first things I did was for the Herald-Tribune to start a fund called

Season of Sharing. It is targeted toward homeless kids. We have a serious problem

here in all three counties [with] homeless families. It is an issue that, really, the root

causes are very deep. It is the fact that our income level for service workers is so low

here, and we don't have enough affordable housing. But the purpose of this fund is

while we deal with these deeper and broader issues, we need emergency money, and

we need money that the agencies don't have to justify spending, that they don't have to

go through all the bureaucracy and the paperwork. They just have this money, and a

family needs this month's rent, or they need an electrical deposit. Then Resurrection

House can give it to them....









Page 23

P: So, obviously, part of your responsibility as publisher is to work with a lot of

community groups.

M; ...I think that the publisher's responsibility to do that is...because there is a lot of

symbolism attached to the title. So often I am asked to do things, and they could care

less [about] Diane McFarlin but they want the publisher of the Herald-Tribune. I try not

to turn down meaningful requests, whether it is to sponsor a table or give a speech or if

you are on a panel or just show up. I try to do that.

P: What new practices have you put in since you have been in your current

position?

M: I think what I feel best about is that I have really tried to facilitate a culture change

here, one that is not autocratic, that is not so top down, but giving the folks on the front

lines a greater sense that they have some say, in terms of how we operate and how we

deal with readers, with viewers, with advertisers, with subscribers, business customers.

I would love to think that everybody who comes to work here looks forward to it, that

they feel like they are doing something important for the community and for the industry

and that they are appreciated, their efforts are appreciated, but if they are not

performing up to par, they should move on because this organization really won't

support that....

In fact, the Readership Institute at Northwestern, we are one of the 100 newspapers

they are studying for that readership initiative, and one of the projects revolved around

your culture. One of the conclusions that they have reached is that a reason for the

newspaper industry's decline, if you will, or the loss of readership, is that our

organizations operate very much like the military and hospitals, that we are not as









Page 24

responsive as we need to be to our communities, that we are very top down

organizations and we have rules, lots of rules, and most of them do not make sense

anymore, and that the most successful companies in this day and age are ones that

have constructive cultures. Out of those 100 newspapers, I believe it was thirteen that

had constructive cultures.... [W]e were one of the thirteen constructive cultures, and I

am really proud of that....

P: What are the most important functions of a newspaper?

M: The most important function of the newspaper is the journalistic function, and that

is to inform the community in a fair and balanced, to be as thorough and complete as

you possibly can, in other words ethical journalism with the highest standards. The

other is to support that mission through a profitable business operation, and the best

way to do that is to create an effective marketplace for local business, so that you kind

of complete that circle. You create the market by providing credible journalism because

credible journalism sells better than anything in the media world. So, you create that

marketplace, and then advertisers are willing to pay good money to reach those

readers, and that money supports that journalism, so you have got that wonderful circle

going.

I think a third role of a newspaper is to set the example for corporate citizenship. I

think that newspapers... are generally one of the oldest organizations in any community.

We are certainly one of the most visible organizations in any community, so we are so

well-positioned to set that example and to sort of set a standard, too, to say to a

community this is what local businesses and even nonprofit organizations ought to be

doing for this community.... I hate this term of setting the agenda. I don't think this is









Page 25

what we do. I think we support the agenda, and we help the community set the agenda

by giving them the information they need, by identifying critical issues....

P: Do you think readers trust newspapers and believe that they are accurate?

M: No. I think that in Sarasota we probably have a higher measure of trust, not

because we are so wonderful but because of our market. The folks who live in Sarasota

predominately are retirees. They grew up on newspapers and they grew up trusting

newspapers, so there is a higher measure of trust here than in most communities but

through nothing that we have done.... I chaired the ASNE Ethics Committee three years

ago when ASNE started the National Credibility Project, the first thing we did was hire

Chris Irben to do research. It was exhaustive research. It was a good sample of the

American public, and what we discovered is that there was not a high level of trust of

American newspapers. A shocking number of people, just to give you an example,

thought that advertisers influenced what we publish. If they only knew the extent to

which most credible newspapers go to, to prevent that from happening. What really was

painful to me was the very year that research came out was the year that we did two

series in this community that cost us hundreds of thousands of dollars, literally

$500,000, because it dealt with two very large local businesses, and the series exposed

unethical business practices. One CEO went to federal prison because of this series

that we did. Both large companies pulled all their advertising, and they were big clients.

I was editor at the time, Lynn Matthews was publisher, and he never once said anything

to me except, I know you are certain that this is right. I said, I am. The CEO threatened

to sue us... but never once did he [Matthews] say anything to me about the loss of









Page 26

advertising. I think most good newspapers function that way, and it is painful to think

that the American public doesn't buy it....

P: How has your readership changed since the time you first came to the Sarasota

paper?

M: It is a lot younger and a lot more diverse, and that has been a real challenge for

us because when I first came to Sarasota, the Herald-Tribune had the highest

penetration rate in the country on Sunday.... Amazing reach, and that was because it

was one of the oldest communities and also one of the most well-to-do communities.

So, we had older people, lots of time, lots of money, highly educated, widely traveled,

just generally very sophisticated people, and they were newspaper readers. Then as

time has gone by, in fact, the 1990 census said the fastest growing segment of our

population was the young adult segment.... I mean, in terms of community, it is a

wonderful thing because the more diversity the better. In terms of newspaper

readership, it has undermined our readership, and our penetration now is in the mid

fifties.

P: How have reporters changed during that time?

M: Interesting. Definitely more diverse culturally than before. When I came here, it

was a lot of white guys in the newsroom. In fact, I was part of the diversity movement,

you know, bringing in a woman and then promoting her to city editor was a bit of a

shock to the system. So, that is probably the biggest difference. I do not know that there

is much difference in terms of tenure or longevity, experience level....

P: How have the letters to the editor changed over the years?









Page 27

M: This is one of the most rewarding parts of this newspaper, this letters page....

The letters are so rich, and the people here are great writers. Unfortunately, even

though we devote more space to letters than any other newspaper our size, I would

guess, we still can only publish about a third of the letters that we get....

P: Who chooses your columnists? How do you determine which ones you are going

to run and on what days?

M: The editorial page staff does that, and they try to get a nice mix everyday of

conservative, liberal, middle of the road, men, women, black, Hispanic. We really have

a nice mix....

P: What influence do you have on editorial decisions?

M: Theoretically, I have the final say. In practice, I don't read every editorial before it

goes in the paper. There are certain subjects that the editorial page editor knows to

come in and discuss with me, and I participate in editorial board meetings.... So, it is

peripheral, but he and I meet on a weekly basis really to kind of talk about what is in the

news, what is going on out there and what are we likely to be commenting on in the

next week or so and what is our position....

P: What impact do you think your editorials have on these elections?

M: I think the impact is huge. I think it is diminishing because as this new generation

comes up in the world and takes positions of leadership, I do not think that newspapers

have quite as much sway as they used to, although it is said in this community that you

have to get the Herald-Tribune's endorsement to win an election. But there are

exceptions to that, most definitely. Now, naturally, we keep track, we keep score.... Our

rate, if you will, is generally in the 80s and 90s. Now, part of that is because we are









Page 28

listening to the community, and we have a good feel for the community's position

already.... But there have been times when we have sort of gone against the grain and

we have had good reasons, and that candidate has ended up prevailing. Those are the

ones we feel best about....

P: Is your opinion more important for local races? Obviously, most people will know

about [Albert w.] Gore [ Vice- President of the U.S. from 1993-2001 and Democratic

nominee for President, 2000] and [George W.] Bush [President of the U.S., 2001-], but

they may not know about a local judge or someone like that.

M: ... [T]he closer it gets to the local level and the more import the office, the more

time we will spend researching that candidate and actually interviewing them....

P: Where would you put yourself on the political spectrum?

M: Definitely more toward the liberal end. I have to confess that whenever I am

speaking because that is always the lament, you know, you are so liberal. The truth of

the matter is we are not nearly as liberal as people make us out to be. In fact, really, I

think we are more middle-of- the-road....

P: People assume that since you are a New York Times paper you would be more

liberal.

M: Exactly. Well, they are upset now because they think we are being overly critical

of Bush, but what they have forgotten is that we were critical of Clinton when he was in

office....

P: You mentioned that you had served three times on the Pulitzer committee. How

do you judge the ones best qualified for that award?









Page 29

M: That is a tough question, and it comes back to that instinct thing you know it

when you see it. I think the biggest dilemma that we have on these juries... is you tend

to be swayed by the amount of effort that went into something. That, of course, is

generally represented by the length, by the amount of travel that went into it, by the

difficulty of the assignment.... That, of course, is one consideration, but another is did

this take a unique ability of some sort, or did this demonstrate unusual persistence, was

this idea an amazing idea, or did this break ground that has never been broken before.

So, there are all sorts of consideration....

P: You always have been interested in young readers.

M: Yes. Young journalists, too.

P: How do you get young people to read instead of watching MTV?

M: I don't know. That answer seemed so much more obvious to me several years

ago, but increasingly I'm becoming convinced that this generation, it is inbred, if you

will. They're geared to electronics, they are used to an awful lot of stimulation, and I

think that the younger generation coming up now will read and write but it will be on

computers. What that portends for newspapers, I'm not sure. But I think that as with

anything connected to the media, it is all about relevance. It is all about what is relevant

to their lives and what they are interested in and what helps them accomplish whatever

it is they want to accomplish, whether it is to get better at a video game or to make

better grades or to get a good job or to make conversation. You have to really

understand what it is they are going for....

M: I wanted to get your sense of how different European papers are from American

papers.









Page 30

M: You have to kind of divide those into two classes. There are the European papers

of Western Europe and the democratized part of Europe which in many ways are more

advanced than American newspapers, not so much in the free press realm of things

because nobody is better at that than we are, but design, presentation. Newspaper

designers look to newspapers in Spain, for example, for ideas and examples, not to

American newspapers. So, they are more progressive in many ways.... When I went to

Prague and Bucharest, that was an incredible experience for me because they are

complete babes in the woods about a free press and in fact don't really have one....

But, you know, it is a semblance of one, and what they are trying to do is figure

out how they can press for more freedom and how they can convince their public that

freedom is a good thing. They will have to wait, I think, for a couple of generations to

pass because the older Eastern Europeans really want to be told what to do. They don't

know what freedom of choice is like, they didn't grow up with it, and they are actually

afraid of it, and they aren't willing to fight for it....



P: We are almost out of time, but I wanted to ask the impact that Nelson Poynter[

former publisher of the St. Petersburg Times] had on newspapers in Florida.

M: I don't know that there is anybody in Florida journalism who made as significant a

mark on the importance of high quality journalism as Nelson Poynter. I think Nelson

Poynter was the man who demonstrated to probably the most memorable extent that

great journalism makes a great business. Of course, out of that grew that Poynter

Institute and the means to create this wonderful training institution that is now in support

of journalism worldwide. I mean, they bring journalists in from Norway and Russia and









Page 31

South Africa. They send instructors to those places. So, Nelson Poynter's attitude about

quality journalism really started all that. His standards were immensely high, and he

structured his organization to support those high standards....

[The St. Petersburg Times]... was a training ground for a lot of people who went

on and led other organizations, the Washington Post and many others. Rick Bragg, of

course, spent time there. So, yes, they have historically paid people well, trained people

well, supported people in the highest level of news gathering and editing and

photography and design. They really set a standard that is world class.

P: What is your view of USA TODAY?

M: I don't think USA TODAYdeserves a lot of the condescension it has gotten over

the years. I think it was frightening in the beginning because it represented change, and

change is always frightening to human beings but especially human beings in the

newspaper business. We didn't want anything to change because we were having a

good ride there. But they certainly demonstrated that the public was ready for a little

assistance, if you will, through visuals and shorter stories and accessing information. It

is interesting to me that they have now sort of come full circle themselves, and they are

now going back to the long story form for many of their key stories on any given

day....They are doing longer pieces inside their A section. So, we have sort of met

somewhere in the middle. But it is also about niche, and those of us in the community

journalism business should have never scoffed at USA TODAYbecause USA TODAY

was going for a whole different audience. They were going for the traveler. We were

able to get some pointers from them in terms of use of color....









Page 32

They really did a great job at... making newspapers more compelling visually and

making them easier to navigate. USA TODAY laid a lot of groundwork, but we never

needed fear that we were going to have to follow their lead because we are doing

something very different...

P: What was your reaction in 1999 to receiving the University of Florida's

Distinguished Alumnus Award?

M: Surprise.

P: Quite an honor at a very young age.

M: I will tell you something. We all have certain events in our life that we would cite

as being among the most memorable, and that was one of mine. The thing that I think

touched me the most about that was when they introduced me and gave me the award,

and the College of Journalism, they were on their feet, and then Terry Hynes [dean,

College of Journalism, UF] said, would you like to shake their hands with me? So, then I

got to stand there and shake every one of those graduates' hands. I thought, this is

pretty cool because this makes me a role model, and that is kind of nice. Again, it is a

circular thing. I was thinking about when I was out in that audience and the aspirations I

had....


END OF INTERVIEW









DIANE MCFARLIN


BIOGRAPHY


Diane McFarlin is the publisher of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune and has held that

position since November 1999.

She began her journalism career during high school, when she worked for her

hometown paper, the Lake Wales Daily Highlander. After graduating with high honors

from the University of Florida with a degree in journalism. McFarlin began working for

the Sarasota Herald-Tribune and became managing editor in 1985. She moved to The

Gainesville Sun as executive editor in 1987, and three years later returned to the

Sarasota Herald-Tribune in the position of executive editor. She was also named

Director of Broadcast for the paper's 24 hour news channel, SNN-6.

McFarlin received the Journalism Education Association's national Media Citation

for outstanding service to scholastic journalism in 1993 and served two years on the

national Accrediting Council for colleges of journalism and communications. She has

taught at a number of institutions, including the American Press Institute and the

Poynter Institute. In 1997 she addressed the World Editor's Forum. She has also been

a judge for national and state journalism award programs, including the Pulitzer Prize.

She has been named an Alumna of Outstanding Achievement and received the

Distinguished Alumnus Award from the University of Florida. McFarlin served as

president of the Florida Society of Newspaper Editors and will serve as president of the

American Society of Newspaper Editors in the year 2002-2003.









SUMMARY


Diane McFarlin begins by describing her first experiences in the field of journalism

during high school and college. She then talks about her subsequent jobs at the

Sarasota Herald-Tribune as city editor and managing editor. She discusses the role of

gender in the newspaper business and her admiration for Katharine Graham. She

explains why she moved from Sarasota to Gainesville to work as the executive editor of

The Gainesville Sun. McFarlin then describes working under the ownership of the New

York Times Company and how that company affects decisions at the Herald-Tribune.

She describes how the different editions of that paper are produced for the different

surrounding communities. McFarlin talks about Gainesville sports teams and growth

management. She then compares her job as executive editor of the Gainesville paper

with her job as executive editor of the Sarasota paper. McFarlin describes the

formation of the Sarasota News Network (SNN), the role of newspapers and

competition from other newspapers and other multimedia outlets of news. She

discusses her job as publisher of the Sarasota paper and community involvement.

McFarlin talks about the changes seen in reporting and readership during her tenure.

She also briefly presents her views on European newspapers, Nelson Poynter and USA

Today.





Diane McFarlin was interviewed by Julian M. Pleasants in Sarasota, Florida on

August 15, 2001









Page 3


P: You are, I believe, a third or fourth generation Floridian.

M: Fourth generation on both sides.... [It] makes me a very rare bird in Sarasota

because everybody here is from somewhere else....

P: How did you first get interested in journalism?

M: I had been interested in newspapers and in writing for a long time. We didn't have a

newspaper in my high school, but I joined the yearbook staff when I was fifteen.... I went

down to a little local newspaper. It was called the Lake Wales Daily Highlander. It was

probably the smallest daily in the state of Florida. It was the first newspaper to go to cold

type, to use offset [printing], as its publishing method. But anyway, I went down to interview

for a summer job. I had not yet turned sixteen. John Marsh was the owner, publisher and

editor, and I went to talk with him.... and he said come with me and he took me back into

the newsroom. He handed me a press release, and he said rewrite this. So, I sat down at

the typewriter because I knew how to type, and I rewrote this press release and handed it

back to him. He said, there is a youth commission meeting Monday night at City Hall; do

you want to cover it? I said sure, I do. So, I did, and then he hired me for that summer. I

ended up working there every summer in high school and college.

The summer after my junior year, the summer that I turned seventeen, I was actually

left in charge of the paper.... [I]t was a very small newspaper because he had a managing

editor [and] one was on vacation and one had to go off on business. At the time I was in

charge, the sports editor got into some trouble. He was charged with molesting Little

Leaguers. It was a horrible story, but there I was faced with this and having to deal with it. I

got through it, everything went just fine, and that was it for me. I knew what I wanted to do.









Page 4

So, I never looked back. It was always journalism.... So... it was in my blood from the first

day that I started working at that paper. It was a great experience because I got to do

everything.

P: That is the key, isn't it? At a small paper, you learn the business from top to bottom.

M: It is the key. You learn every bit of the business. I actually would set headlines. I

would go back after we had written our stories. I would go back and actually help set the

headlines. I got to take my own pictures and process and print the film.... I got to learn to

layout pages, just everything, not just reporting. It was wonderful....

P: You graduated form the University of Florida with a degree in journalism in 1976.

What is your view of the importance of a journalism degree for newspaper work? I have

talked to several editors who say it is just as good to major in English and learn on the job.

M: I think that it is just as good for a lot of people. For me, journalism education really

means a head start. It positions you to hit the ground running. Generally, journalism

graduates have had a lot more practical experience. So, when I was in the hiring mode...

as I became the city editor and managing editor, I leaned toward J school graduates if it

was sort of a general assignment position or governmental beat position and I wanted

somebody who could plug right in who knew what to do. For positions that are maybe more

specialist positions, like a medical writer or a business reporter, I think an education on that

track in that realm is possibly better, in fact, I am sure it is, than a journalism degree. To

me, the perfect combination is an undergraduate degree in English, political science, social

sciences, [or] health services, and then a master's in journalism, so they get that really

great educational base and then go on and get more of their career training.

P: When you finished journalism school, what was your first job?









Page 5

M: ... There was a job at the Sarasota Journal, which was the sister paper of the Herald-

Tribune. It was the afternoon paper.... They had a position for a reporter/copy editor. Of

course, I had done both jobs, so I was hired. After a year, I became assistant news editor,

and then the second year I became city editor. So, my head start at the Daily Highlander

really paid off handsomely because I moved into an editing position fairly quickly. In

hindsight, I wish that I had spent more time as a reporter because I always wished that I

had more experience as a reporter.

P: What makes a good reporter?

M: You know, a lot of qualities make a good reporter. I think curiosity is a real important

quality, the ability to think critically, to have an analytical mind. You have to know what

questions to ask. You cannot just take at face value what someone tells you. You have to

know what follow-up questions to ask. Obviously, they have to be good writers. You can

teach somebody to write, but you can't teach them to be a great writer, so that innate ability

is extremely valuable. But I have had a lot of average/mediocre writers who are great

reporters. In fact, some of the best stories that have ever been done at this newspaper

were done by people who weren't our best writers, but they were persistent, they were

courageous, meaning... they could be in some really difficult situations, but they didn't give

up and they weren't afraid to ask the tough questions. So, there is a force of personality

that makes a journalistically great reporter....

P: I have talked to several people who have had similar experiences, and almost

everybody I have talked to says that city editor was the most exciting job that they had.

M: It absolutely is the best job I ever had. I was city editor for five years. I was city editor

when the Skyway [bridge] fell [1980]. I mean, my gosh, there I was. You are the maestro,









Page 6

you are in the middle of everything, you are at the center of the action. I think maybe the

most frustrating thing about being city editor is you aren't often able to go to the front lines,

but you are directing it all, the eye of the storm if you will. You are kind of in the calm

center, but you still have so much to say about what is going on in the newsroom that day.

You know, I think that the managing editor's job may be the best job in a newsroom but is

not nearly as much fun as the city editor's job....

P: Is that not a pressure-filled job?

M: Yes, it is very much a pressure-filled job. You have to work from your gut, and that can

be scary, but I think that is why the best city editors are people who were really great

reporters. They develop that instinct....

P: You were city editor for five years. Then you became managing editor?

M: Not quite. I spent a year... as assistant to the editor, but it was really systems editor. I

installed the first computer system at this company for both the Herald-Tribune and the

Journal. During that year while I was doing that, the New York Times bought the Herald-

Tribune and the Journalwas closed. So, once this system was installed, then I moved into

assistant managing editor, and then after that deputy managing editor, then managing

editor....

P: Talk about your time as deputy managing editor and managing editor. What were

your major responsibilities in those jobs?

M: As assistant managing editor, my major responsibilities were sort of the advanced

sections of the paper the feature section, the Sunday paper, things like the TV book and

so on. Then when I became deputy managing editor, I resumed being responsible for

news. I was very happy about that because I had really missed that when I was over on the









Page 7

feature side. Essentially, you are really running the newsroom day to day.... The managing

editor technically is running the newsroom, but the managing editor has quite a lot of

administrative responsibilities. So, as deputy managing editor, you are running news

meetings, coordinating special projects, working with the city editor on... what is going to be

in the paper tomorrow, and then looking a little longer term to the weekend editions and

any kind of investigative series....

P: One question that has come up periodically in the newspaper business is, how has

gender influenced your career, either positively or negatively? There is this image,

particularly in the 1970s and 1980s, that the newspaper business in Florida was an old

boy's network.

M: Definitely. Well, I will tell you, I was blessed with great timing. I was born just at the

right time because, literally, it was a detriment to me, I believe, until I became city editor.

That is about the time that things really started to change. Then when the New York Times

Company bought this paper, things really changed here at the Herald-Tribune. As city

editor, you know, women have a tendency to be more nurturing, if you will, a little more

tuned in to the employees as individuals. I had a little bit different style as city editor.... I

had the hard news bent, but I was also very cognizant of whether the employees were

enjoying themselves and what they wanted in the way of personal development.... So, I

think that tendency... was something that I think propelled me in my career. I really believe

that if the New York Times Company had not come in and bought this paper, I probably

would not have risen above city editor, but because there was a more progressive

company and a more progressive owner coming in, I was getting advanced pretty rapidly

during that period of time....









Page 8

P: This is off the subject, but while we are on women in the newspaper business, I would

like to get your comments on the recently deceased Katharine Graham.

M: Katharine Graham was somebody I admired very much... probably predominately for

her courage but also because she demonstrated to the world that a woman could run a

large media company and do it very successfully, that she could champion and advance

the journalistic mission while at the same time strengthening the financial condition of that

company. The Washington Post Company was floundering when she was put in charge. It

is a double whammy, if you will. The decisions she made regarding the Pentagon Papers

and Watergate really put that paper on the map journalistically, and then she was also

building a great company that somebody like Warren Buffet would consider to be a great

investment.... I had the privilege of meeting her several times, and on a personal level, she

was so gracious and so interested in other people's careers, not just women, men too, and

real unassuming and self-effacing. Of course, you can see that in her book....

P: What other women have been important to journalism, mainly in the state of Florida?

M: There are a lot of women, I think. I really could just tick off a lot of names of women

who are doing great things in this industry, really great things, and whom I admire and

enjoy, and I am happy to say some of them are my friends. They are at all levels. You

mentioned Lucy Morgan earlier. Lucy is one of the best investigative reporters in the

country and has done a lot for Florida's stature in terms of journalism. I have been on three

Pulitzer juries, and I have been so struck by the number of women whose bylines have

been on the stories that have been finalists for the Pulitzer....

P: I noticed that three of the four top positions in this newspaper are occupied by

women.









Page 9

M: That is right. In fact, the American Journalism Review just wrote about that. I wasn't

real thrilled that we were given that distinction, quite frankly, because it makes it appear as

if that is some sort of objective here, and it is truly not. It is about hiring the best people,

and if they happen to be women, great. But we are the largest paper in the country to have

a woman publisher as well as a woman editor and managing editor.

P: You left Sarasota to go to Gainesville to be executive editor. Why did you decide to

take that job?

M: It was an opportunity to have my own newsroom,... to be the top editor in a

newsroom.... It was a newsroom ready to move to the next level and eager and hungry to

do that.... [There was] a lot of talent in that newsroom. It was small enough that I could

really get my arms around it, and I could still be out in the newsroom editing stories and not

tied to my desk....

P: What influence does the New York Times have on the newspapers it owns?

M: It is interesting. When I speak in Sarasota, that is one of the first questions I get. It is

very clear that the strong perception is that I have a red phone on my desk, and Arthur

[Ochs "Punch"] Sulzberger [Publisher of the New York Times]... is calling me constantly to

tell me what to put on page one and what our editorials should say, and in fact there is

absolutely none of that. All of the New York Times papers are autonomous, but they have

a deep and abiding interest in the business side. I have to draw up a budget every year in

coordination with my bosses at the New York Times Company, and I am expected to meet

that budget, or have a good reason for not doing it. But I think indirectly, you know, the

quality and the standards at the New York Times Company are so high that it gives us a









Page 10

much loftier platform to operate from than we would have otherwise with other companies,

perhaps, and with some private owners.... I think that family ownership is not necessarily

the best way to go because very often there is a much tighter reign when you have an

owner on the premises than when you have a large corporation with very strong standards

of rich tradition of journalistic integrity and they don't want anything to violate that, to

undermine that. That is a very reassuring posture to be in....

P: One of the issues that has come up over and over again is that corporate profits are

excessive. Carl Hiaasen told me that Knight-Ridder was requiring them to get to 25 percent

profits, and to get to that figure, he felt they had fired too many people, too many

necessary positions, and that the paper had gone down dramatically in quality. Have you

had that problem here?

M: Well, it is really a matter of year over year.... [T]his year, I think we will probably make

budget. Now, we have had to eliminate some positions here because of the downturn in

the economy, advertising is down, but I have not had to do anything draconian here. The

problem is once you become a publicly held company then you have another constituency

that you have to be responsive to, and it is a terrible dilemma. It really is. Now, what are the

options? The options are you do not play that game. You say to heck with the bottom line,

we are just going to continue to invest in the product and so on, and then investors take

their money and go somewhere else. Before you know it, you are in dire financial straights.

Another option is to go private, and then you lose an awful lot of money for

investments in the product.... [O]ur press was... old and decrepit when we were privately

owned.... So, as soon as the New York Times Company came in, we got a brand new

production facility, all new presses, this building was expanded and remodeled, we









Page 11

started opening bureaus so we could do a better job of serving the communities in the

outlying parts of our market. So, it works both ways, and I think the real key is to maintain

the business strength of your operation without undermining the editorial integrity. That is a

difficult balancing act, but as a publisher, I have to look both to the short term and the long

term. While we have been cutting costs this year, I have also had a strategic planning

process underway to look out ahead and say what do we want to be and what can we do to

get there and how can we serve this community better?...

P: Do you continue to do investigative journalism here?

M: We do. We have had several substantive investigative projects this year, but we are

not traveling as much as we did in years past. I had to take a page of news... out of the

paper that is an average of a page per day.... Our paper gets smaller in the summertime

anyway because of the seasonal flux. We lose about thirty percent of our circulation. Of

course, advertising follows that. So, the paper gets smaller in the summer anyway, and

then with the page taken out, that has made it even tighter, and readers notice.... So, one

of the first things I am going to do as soon as we get our bearings and the economy starts

to come back, is that page is going back in. That is really important....

P: How do your editions for Bradenton, Venice, and Charlotte County differ from the

Sarasota paper?

M: Well, this is one of the most heavily zoned newspapers [editions specifically

designed for each community] for in the country. It was one of the first papers to produced

zoned editions. This goes back to the 1960s, long before I came here. We now make over

extensively, meaning we change stories and positions of stories. Our sections are actually

different sizes because we are customizing those editions for those communities. So, for









Page 12

example, a reader in Charlotte County where we have an edition, their 1 A will look different

from the rest of the newspaper; their editorial page will be different; their obituary page will

be different; their whole B section, in fact, will be quite a bit different from the rest of the

paper....

Sports is made over, business occasionally. So, we make over up to 100 pages every

night to customize those editions so that they are actually produced as if they were being

published in that community....

P: Is this an unusual process?

M: It is but one that more newspapers are adopting because every readership survey

tells you that local news is what the readers want from you first and foremost and that has

got to be your highest priority, and we think that the best way to deliver a local news

package is to actually edit that paper with that community's local news in the forefront.

P: Do you have separate editors for each of these editions?

M: We do. We have editors on-site. Our Charlotte bureau, for example, has a bureau

chief, a bureau city editor, and a separate staff down there. We have about eighteen

journalists in Charlotte County just for that one edition.

P: Talk a little bit more about your three years in Gainesville. What was your major

achievement as you look back at your time at that paper?

M: I think my major achievement was rebuilding the newsroom.... I was able to rejuvenate

and expand that newsroom. The Times was just wonderful, very supportive, allowed me to

add about a dozen positions and add pages to the paper.... In terms of coverage, I think

the achievement I am proudest of is the coverage we did of the athletic department and

what was happening with Coach [Norm] Sloan [UF basketball coach from 1961-66 and









Page 13

1981 until fired in1989] and Coach [Galen] Hall [football coach at UF from 1984 until fired

in 1989] and some of the shenanigans there. And I was, I think, proudest of our courage,

the fact that we were willing to do something highly unpopular with the knowledge that in

the long term it was going to make that program stronger and, of course, higher integrity....

P: Did you feel undue pressure about sports in Gainesville?

M: Yes, I did. I felt a lot of pressure about sports. I felt even more pressure, perhaps,

about growth, that conflict between the staunchly no-growth camp on one side, the

extreme pro-growth camp on the other side, and what I thought was the responsible middle

ground, which was growth is inevitable but how can we do it well and what does Gainesville

want to be when it grows up. We are dealing with the very same issue here in Sarasota....

I think newspapers' role in that debate is so critical, and what we have to do is we

have to facilitate that debate and inform people to participate in that debate without putting

our thumb on the scale too heavily.... [O]ur editorial board is a great microcosm because

on the board we have the folks who basically wanted to shut the gates, don't let another

person in, and the folks who think that for this community to prosper it has got to

encourage growth. What is right for the community is ultimately up to the people who live

here, not to this newspaper. But I think the more that we can open the floor to debate and

create that forum and weigh-in to a responsible extent, then we are doing the greatest

service we can possibly do for this community....

P: Growth management is a topic that most people know very little about. So, it is really

up to the newspapers to inform the public.

M: Well, the public, unfortunately, deals with it on a visceral level. You know, we write a

lot about growth and the mechanisms of growth, and most people don't want to spend time









Page 14

with that. They only get involved and care when it means there is going to be more traffic

on their route to work or that there is going to be an apartment complex going up on the

next street. So, it is very, very hard to really educate a community when they aren't dealing

with it on an intellectual level. That is a real trick for newspapers, is how you get the

community engaged and how do you get them away from emotionalism and get them to

really think of it terms of quality of life and guiding principles and what do we want this

community to be like ten, twenty, thirty, fifty years from now. It is a real challenge....

P: In 1990, you decided to return to Sarasota as executive editor. Why did you make

that decision?

M: It was difficult to make it but primarily because I already had a lot invested in this

community.... It was an opportunity to stay in the New York Times Company but go to a

paper twice the size of Gainesville as editor. So, it was a great career opportunity, and

personally it was attractive....

P: How was your job as executive editor at the Sarasota paper different from the

Gainesville paper?

M: I think the biggest difference was I had to step a little farther away from the hands on

journalism, so that was a tough adjustment. That was my first, sort of, executive position, if

you will, because in Gainesville I was able to manage the executive part of it without quite

as much time spent in meetings and with reports. This is just a much more complex

operation. We now have six editions. The competitive pressures are much greater here.

The market is much more complex and diverse. I came back in 1990, and we redesigned

the newspaper very soon after I got back. Of course, I have a penchant for redesigns, but









Page 15

we did that. Then we started SNN [Sarasota News Network], our twenty-four-hour cable

channel....

P: Apparently, the buzz word now in journalism is convergence. I noticed earlier you

have been interested in technology because you set up the first computer system. How did

this interest lead to the development of SNN?

M: The first computer system, that was kind of interesting. That was not out of interest.

That was sort of out of challenge because I had never had any exposure to computers and

knew nothing about them. I got my pilot's license for the same reason. It was something

that I didn't know anything about.... Of course, it turned out giving me immense power

because I was the only one in the building who knew anything about this system, and

everybody, including the publisher, was coming to me to ask what do you do here and how

do you do this.[Laughter] So, really, in any organization now, the people who have the

power are the ones who know how to operate the computer system.

But... [with] SNN, what happened [was] ... Walter Matson [president of the New York

Times Company]...suggested that we visit with one of the New York Times'affiliate stations

in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. So, we flew up there in January and... we talked about TV

and newspapers and how they could get along and what they could do for each other. It

was another epiphany. It was an eye-opening experience to really see that... we serve the

news consumer in very different ways, and they are very complementary. So, we were able

to work ourselves through that prejudice, and it was deep seeded, and we approached

Channel 40 [ ABC affiliate in Sarasota]. They had enlightened management, if you will, and

so we forged a partnership long before anybody else was doing this. Again, it was Walter

Matson's brainstorm, it was not ours, and we shared news with them. We would give them









Page 16

stories, and they would read the first draft or two of the story and then say, for more

information on this story, see tomorrow's Herald-Tribune. We got the exposure and the

promotion and more readers were coming to the Herald-Tribune, and they got more

content, so it really was a win/win. Well, new management came in at Channel 40... and ...

that partnership dissolved, fell apart. [1993].

We thought... this TV thing makes a lot of sense because it really is expanding our

reach. We are extending into markets, we are reaching people, predominately young

people, poorer people, who are not reading newspapers to the extent they did years ago.

So, we wanted to do more. About that time, a new executive for Comcast Cable [The

country's third largest provider of cable, internet and digital service] comes in.... We start

up conversations with him, and before you know it, we are talking about doing a twenty-

four-hour cable news channel patterned after CNN Headline News. This is... a situation of

the planets being aligned because the president of the New York Times Company at that

time wanted to do some experimentation in the electronic realm. There was money there to

be had, and we put together a proposal, and it was approved. We invested $2,500,000 into

digital equipment, and six months after we got the approval, we launched the first all-digital

TV operation in the country, the first twenty-four-hour cable news channel in Florida, and

the first cable channel to be produced out of a print newsroom, in other words a newspaper

producing this channel out of their newsroom.... What we did here is, we put SNN in our

newsroom, I was in charge, the advertising director was in charge of the advertising, and

we did it as an inherent part of our operation. That was truly a converged newsroom,

although I have a little bit of a problem with the word convergence because I think it is

really about multimedia. Convergence will come when the TV set and the PC converge.









Page 17

But our newsroom was, in fact, a blended newsroom.... We determined very early on that

... what we wanted] to do is ask print reporters to share information with the broadcast

journalists, to write voice-overs for anchors and to sometimes even do reporting in front of

the camera, but generally when they do that, they are being interviewed, they are being

asked about the story....

P: This concept points out what Dan Rather [CBS news anchor] was talking about the

other night when he said that you can't find out enough information about stem cells on

television, you have to read the newspapers....

M: That was such a progressive statement because what he was saying was, you know,

we can work together, and only together can we fully serve you, the reader, the viewer.

You aren't going to get it all from me, and you may not be satisfied with just the newspaper.

You hear about it first from TV, more than likely. Your notification comes from television. If

you are busy, if you are trying to get the children off to school and you are overwhelmed,

you don't have time to sit down and read the newspaper thoroughly, you can watch TV and

you can hear what is going on. You can go, gosh, they are talking about growth east of I-

75; that is a subject I really want more information about, so I'm going to go to my

newspaper and I'm going to read about that in more detail. Then, of course, you got the

website. When we launched our website, then we had a three-way convergence, and that

introduced a lot of other possibilities.

The example that I love to use is the local police S.W.A.T. team broke into a man's

house, they thought he was suicidal. He had a gun, he raised the gun, they thought he was

going to kill them, they shot to the man to death, and a task force was sent in to determine

what happened. When that report was published, we had the story in the paper that really









Page 18

told you everything you needed to know about that story. But on SNN, the reporter walked

the viewers through the house, showed them the bullet holes, gave them the sort of

dramatic side of the story, and then we sent everybody to the website to read the full task

force report, with pictures and everything. It is a classic example of why multimedia makes

so much sense for news organizations and why multimedia really is the key to our future

because if we limit ourselves to one means of distributing information, of telling the story,

then we run the risk of some people saying, sorry, I can get it just by going here.

P: My figures are that you reach 160,000 households with SNN. Is that about right?

M: A little low, now. I think it is more like 175,000.

P: Has that improved circulation numbers for the newspaper?

M: We think so because our research indicates that.... We just did a thorough...

readership survey [and] about 25 percent of the people surveyed said that they went to

SNN because of something they read in the newspaper, and a similar number said they

went to the newspaper because of something they heard on SNN. The figures for

newscoast.com, our website, were quite a bit lower, but there was still that crossover. To

me, that demonstrates that it has improved our readership....

P: Why is circulation always higher on Sunday?

M: Time. I think people are so time-stressed now, and that has affected newspaper

readership more than any one factor, in my opinion, is that we are multitasking, all of us, all

the time, and something has to give. Increasingly, the newspaper during the week is what

is being sacrificed. But on Sunday, they have time to spend with the newspaper and

absorb it.









Page 19

P: What is the future of the physical newspaper as we now know it? Is it going to

disappear?

M: It is not going to disappear as long as I am in the newspaper business.... But I do

believe that within the next five years that people will be able to get their newspaper by

another means, and that might be a CD, it might be electronic ink, it might be some sort of

download system with a special printer. I think what will happen... is that people will be

publishing their own newspaper. But I really believe that for a long time people are going to

want something that they can carry around, something that is packaged for them.... It is

hard to access information in an orderly way on the website. What you can do is you can

drill down so effectively, so if you have a deep interest in a particular subject, then nothing

beats the Internet, as long as you know the sources you are using and how reliable they

are.

P: In effect, you package the information for them.

M: Exactly, yes. We have made judgements for them. I love the serendipity of

newspapers. I love to just open a newspaper. I am presented with options, and I can get

through those options much more quickly than I can create them for myself on the web....

The thing about a newspaper is you can just pick it up, and you can start leafing through,

and you can pick and choose what you want to read, and you can take it with you and read

it wherever you want to read it.... [W]hen it comes to in-depth information and the most

comprehensive source of local news, newspapers are going to remain preeminent for

many years....

P: What is your greatest competition? Is it television, or is it the Tampa Tribune or the St.

Pete Times?









Page 20

M: Time. I really believe it is time, but when you talk about other media organizations, at

this point, it is other newspapers, and it depends on the geographic area. We have no

direct competitor in Sarasota, and for the three-county area, we are the largest newspaper.

But if you talk about Bradenton, it is the Bradenton Herald; in Port Charlotte, it is the

Charlotte Sun Herald. Tampa and St. Pete come in to a very minimal extent.... TV SNN

faces competition from the other TV stations but not significant competition because our

niche is different. We are all about convenience and all about getting news when you want

it, not having to make an appointment at 6:00 p. m. to get the news.

P: You were named publisher in 1999, I believe. How did you happen to get that job and

who made the decision?

M: I went kicking and screaming.... I had been approached twice before about going into

a publisher training program, and I rejected it. This was just really a convergence of several

different things.... I thought, well, it is either me or somebody else, and I would rather it be

me to lead this newspaper because I love this community, I have a lot invested in this

newspaper, this has really been my family, and I want to stay with the New York Times

Company, ideally. So, I really lost a lot of sleep over the decision because I didn't think

there was life after a newsroom. I just didn't think that I would be as rewarded as I had

been in the newsroom, but I finally came to the conclusion that I would still be advancing

great journalism. I would be doing it from a different vantage point and at a different level,

and that there would be an opportunity to interact with the community in a way that I had

not been able to do as a detached, impartial editor, and that had a lot of appeal for me. I

was ready to sort of spread my wings and learn more about the business holistically....

P: Is publisher your most challenging job?









Page 21

M: Yes, by all means it is the most challenging job.

P: Why?

M: More constituencies to be aware of and concerned about. Learning parts of the

business that I really had very little knowledge and understanding of before, [the] business

side predominately but also the production side. I was sort of one of those arrogant editors

who said, here, here are the pages; now you worry about how it gets produced into a

newspaper. I am touched more by the politics in the issues. As an editor, you can simply

say, here are the facts; you deal with the truth, or you deal with the interpretation of the

truth and what you think is good or bad about this....

P: What overall goals did you have when you took over?

M: I had several goals. One was a personal goal. I wanted to prove that I had business

mettle as well as journalistic mettle. I wanted to prove that good journalism makes good

business. I wanted to demonstrate to the community that we were not a monolithic

detached organization but that we were a very caring, concerned organization that had the

best interests of the community at heart and that we wanted to be an integral part of the

community, that we were open, that we wanted to hear from the public.

Right before I became publisher, I started something in the newsroom called the

Reader Advocate Program, where we have somebody at a phone everyday to hear from

readers. We invite them to call us, tell us if we got something wrong, what we are missing,

and it has turned into just a wonderful exercise from both the standpoint of being more

open to our readers but also understanding them better and understanding ourselves

better. When people challenge you about everything, whether it is the wet paper in their

yard or your editorial or how you play the Israeli-Palestinian story that day, you really start









Page 22

to understand yourself better. I wanted to extend that attitude throughout the company and

put a greater emphasis on [it]. It is called customer service, but it is really good journalism,

too, and it is good business....

One of the first things I did was for the Herald-Tribune to start a fund called Season of

Sharing. It is targeted toward homeless kids. We have a serious problem here in all three

counties [with] homeless families. It is an issue that, really, the root causes are very deep.

It is the fact that our income level for service workers is so low here, and we don't have

enough affordable housing. But the purpose of this fund is while we deal with these deeper

and broader issues, we need emergency money, and we need money that the agencies

don't have to justify spending, that they don't have to go through all the bureaucracy and

the paperwork. They just have this money, and a family needs this month's rent, or they

need an electrical deposit. Then Resurrection House can give it to them....

P: So, obviously, part of your responsibility as publisher is to work with a lot of

community groups.

M; ...I think that the publisher's responsibility to do that is... because there is a lot of

symbolism attached to the title. So often I am asked to do things, and they could care less

[about] Diane McFarlin but they want the publisher of the Herald-Tribune. I try not to turn

down meaningful requests, whether it is to sponsor a table or give a speech or if you are on

a panel or just show up. I try to do that.

P: What new practices have you put in since you have been in your current position?

M: I think what I feel best about is that I have really tried to facilitate a culture change

here, one that is not autocratic, that is not so top-down, but giving the folks on the front

lines a greater sense that they have some say, in terms of how we operate and how we









Page 23

deal with readers, with viewers, with advertisers, with subscribers, business customers. I

would love to think that everybody who comes to work here looks forward to it, that they

feel like they are doing something important for the community and for the industry and that

they are appreciated, their efforts are appreciated, but if they are not performing up to par,

they should move on because this organization really won't support that....

In fact, [at] the Readership Institute at Northwestern, we are one of the 100

newspapers they are studying for that readership initiative, and one of the projects revolved

around...[workplace] culture. One of the conclusions that they have reached is that a

reason for the newspaper industry's decline, if you will, or the loss of readership, is that our

organizations operate very much like the military and hospitals, that we are not as

responsive as we need to be to our communities, that we are very top down organizations

and we have rules, lots of rules, and most of them do not make sense anymore, and that

the most successful companies in this day and age are ones that have constructive

cultures. Out of those 100 newspapers, I believe it was thirteen that had constructive

cultures.... [W]e were one of the thirteen constructive cultures, and I am really proud of

that....

P: What are the most important functions of a newspaper?

M: The most important function of the newspaper is the journalistic function, and that is to

inform the community in a fair and balanced way, to be as thorough and complete as you

possibly can, in other words, [practice] ethical journalism with the highest standards. The

other is to support that mission through a profitable business operation, and the best way

to do that is to create an effective marketplace for local business, so that you kind of

complete that circle. You create the market by providing credible journalism because









Page 24

credible journalism sells better than anything in the media world. So, you create that

marketplace, and then advertisers are willing to pay good money to reach those readers,

and that money supports that journalism, so you have got that wonderful circle going.

I think a third role of a newspaper is to set the example for corporate citizenship. I

think that newspapers... are generally one of the oldest organizations in any community.

We are certainly one of the most visible organizations in any community, so we are... well-

positioned to set that example and to sort of set a standard, too, to say to a community,

this is what local businesses and even nonprofit organizations ought to be doing for this

community.... I hate this term of setting the agenda. I don't think this is what we do. I think

we support the agenda, and we help the community set the agenda by giving them the

information they need, by identifying critical issues....

P: Do you think readers trust newspapers and believe that they are accurate?

M: No. I think that in Sarasota we probably have a higher measure of trust, not because

we are so wonderful but because of our market. The folks who live in Sarasota

predominately are retirees. They grew up on newspapers and they grew up trusting

newspapers, so there is a higher measure of trust here than in most communities but

through nothing that we have done.... I chaired the ASNE [ American Society of Newspaper

Editors] Ethics Committee three years ago when ASNE started the National Credibility

Project, [and] the first thing we did was hire Chris Irben to do research. It was exhaustive

research. It was a good sample of the American public, and what we discovered is that

there was not a high level of trust of American newspapers. A shocking number of people,

just to give you an example, thought that advertisers influenced what we publish. If they

only knew the extent to which most credible newspapers go to, to prevent that from









Page 25

happening. What really was painful to me was the very year that research came out was

the year that we did two series in this community that cost us hundreds of thousands of

dollars, literally $500,000, because it dealt with two very large local businesses, and the

series exposed unethical business practices. One CEO went to federal prison because of

this series that we did. Both large companies pulled all their advertising, and they were big

clients. I was editor at the time, Lynn Matthews was publisher, and he never once said

anything to me except, I know you are certain that this is right. I said, I am. The CEO

threatened to sue us... but never once did he [Matthews] say anything to me about the loss

of advertising. I think most good newspapers function that way, and it is painful to think that

the American public doesn't buy it....

P: How has your readership changed since the time you first came to the Sarasota

paper?

M: It is a lot younger and a lot more diverse, and that has been a real challenge for us

because when I first came to Sarasota, the Herald-Tribune had the highest penetration rate

in the country on Sunday.... Amazing reach, and that was because it was one of the oldest

communities and also one of the most well-to-do communities. So, we had older people,

lots of time, lots of money, highly educated, widely traveled, just generally very

sophisticated people, and they were newspaper readers. Then as time has gone by, in fact,

the 1990 census said the fastest growing segment of our population was the young adult

segment.... I mean, in terms of community, it is a wonderful thing because the more

diversity the better. In terms of newspaper readership, it has undermined our readership,

and our penetration now is in the mid fifties.

P: How have reporters changed during that time?









Page 26

M: Interesting. Definitely more diverse culturally than before. When I came here, it was a

lot of white guys in the newsroom. In fact, I was part of the diversity movement, you know,

bringing in a woman and then promoting her to city editor was a bit of a shock to the

system. So, that is probably the biggest difference. I do not know that there is much

difference in terms of tenure or longevity, experience level....

P: How have the letters to the editor changed over the years?

M: This is one of the most rewarding parts of this newspaper, this letters page.... The

letters are so rich, and the people here are great writers. Unfortunately, even though we

devote more space to letters than any other newspaper our size, I would guess, we still can

only publish about a third of the letters that we get....

P: Who chooses your columnists? How do you determine which ones you are going to

run and on what days?

M: The editorial page staff does that, and they try to get a nice mix everyday of

conservative, liberal, middle of the road, men, women, black, Hispanic. We really have a

nice mix....

P: What influence do you have on editorial decisions?

M: Theoretically, I have the final say. In practice, I don't read every editorial before it goes

in the paper. There are certain subjects that the editorial page editor knows to come in and

discuss with me, and I participate in editorial board meetings.... So, it is peripheral, but he

and I meet on a weekly basis... to kind of talk about what is in the news, what is going on

out there and what are we likely to be commenting on in the next week or so and what is

our position....

P: What impact do you think your editorials have on elections?









Page 27

M: I think the impact is huge. I think it is diminishing because as this new generation

comes up in the world and takes positions of leadership, I do not think that newspapers

have quite as much sway as they used to, although it is said in this community that you

have to get the Herald-Tribune's endorsement to win an election. But there are exceptions

to that, most definitely. Now, naturally, we keep track, we keep score.... Our [success] rate,

if you will, is generally in the 80s and 90s. Now, part of that is because we are listening to

the community, and we have a good feel for the community's position already.... But there

have been times when we have sort of gone against the grain and we have had good

reasons, and that candidate has ended up prevailing. Those are the ones we feel best

about....

P: Is your opinion more important for local races? Obviously, most people will know

about [Albert W.] Gore [ Vice- President of the U.S. from 1993-2001 and Democratic

nominee for President, 2000] and [George W.] Bush [President of the U.S., 2001-], but

they may not know much about a local candidate for judge.

M: ... [T]he closer it gets to the local level and the more import the office, the more time

we will spend researching that candidate and actually interviewing them....

P: Where would you put yourself on the political spectrum?

M: Definitely more toward the liberal end. I have to confess that whenever I am speaking

because that is always the lament, you know, you are so liberal. The truth of the matter is

we are not nearly as liberal as people make us out to be. In fact, really, I think we are more

middle-of- the-road....

P: People assume that since you are a New York Times paper you would be more

liberal.









Page 28

M: Exactly. Well, they are upset now because they think we are being overly critical of

Bush, but what they have forgotten is that we were critical of Clinton when he was in

office....

P: You mentioned that you had served three times on the Pulitzer committee. How do

you judge the entries best qualified for that award?

M: That is a tough question, and it comes back to that instinct thing, you know it when

you see it. I think the biggest dilemma that we have on these juries... is you tend to be

swayed by the amount of effort that went into something. That, of course, is generally

represented by the length, by the amount of travel that went into it, by the difficulty of the

assignment.... That, of course, is one consideration, but another is did this take a unique

ability of some sort, or did this demonstrate unusual persistence, was this idea an amazing

idea, or did this break ground that has never been broken before. So, there are all sorts of

consideration....

P: How do you get young people to read instead of watching MTV [Music television] ?

M: I don't know. That answer seemed so much more obvious to me several years ago,

but increasingly I'm becoming convinced that this generation, it is inbred, if you will. They're

geared to electronics, they are used to an awful lot of stimulation, and I think that the

younger generation coming up now will read and write but it will be on computers. What

that portends for newspapers, I'm not sure. But I think that as with anything connected to

the media, it is all about relevance. It is all about what is relevant to their lives and what

they are interested in and what helps them accomplish whatever it is they want to

accomplish, whether it is to get better at a video game or to make better grades or to get a









Page 29

good job or to make conversation. You have to really understand what it is they are going

for....

M: I wanted to get your sense of how different European papers are from American

papers.

M: You have to kind of divide those into two classes. There are the European papers of

Western Europe and the democratized part of Europe which in many ways are more

advanced than American newspapers, not so much in the free press realm of things

because nobody is better at that than we are, but design, presentation. Newspaper

designers look to newspapers in Spain, for example, for ideas and examples, not to

American newspapers. So, they are more progressive in many ways.... When I went to

Prague and Bucharest, that was an incredible experience for me because they are

complete babes in the woods about a free press and in fact don't really have one....

But, you know, it is a semblance of one, and what they are trying to do is figure out

how they can press for more freedom and how they can convince their public that freedom

is a good thing. They will have to wait, I think, for a couple of generations to pass because

the older Eastern Europeans really want to be told what to do. They don't know what

freedom of choice is like, they didn't grow up with it, and they are actually afraid of it, and

they aren't willing to fight for it....

P: We are almost out of time, but I wanted to ask you about the impact that Nelson

Poynter [former publisher of the St. Petersburg Times] had on newspapers in Florida.

M: I don't know that there is anybody in Florida journalism who made as significant a

mark on the importance of high quality journalism as Nelson Poynter. I think Nelson

Poynter was the man who demonstrated to probably the most memorable extent that great









Page 30

journalism makes a great business. Of course, out of that grew the Poynter Institute and

the means to create this wonderful training institution that is now in support of journalism

worldwide. ...They bring journalists in from Norway and Russia and South Africa. They

send instructors to those places. So, Nelson Poynter's attitude about quality journalism

really started all that. His standards were immensely high, and he structured his

organization to support those high standards....

[The St. Petersburg Times]... was a training ground for a lot of people who went on

and led other organizations, the Washington Postand many others. Rick Bragg, of course,

spent time there. So, yes, they have historically paid people well, trained people well,

supported people in the highest level of news gathering and editing and photography and

design. They really set a standard that is world class.

P: What is your view of USA TODAY?

M: I don't think USA TODAYdeserves a lot of the condescension it has gotten over the

years. I think it was frightening in the beginning because it represented change, and

change is always frightening to human beings, but especially human beings in the

newspaper business. We didn't want anything to change because we were having a good

ride there. But they certainly demonstrated that the public was ready for a little assistance,

if you will, through visuals and shorter stories and accessing information. It is interesting to

me that they have now sort of come full circle themselves, and they are now going back to

the long story form for many of their key stories on any given day....They are doing longer

pieces inside their A section. So, we have sort of met somewhere in the middle. But it is

also about niche, and those of us in the community journalism business should have never

scoffed at USA TODAYbecause USA TODAYwas going for a whole different audience.









Page 31

They were going for the traveler. We were able to get some pointers from them in terms of

use of color....

They really did a great job at... making newspapers more compelling visually and

making them easier to navigate. USA TODAY laid a lot of groundwork, but we never

needed fear that we were going to have to follow their lead because we are doing

something very different...

P: What was your reaction in 1999 to receiving the University of Florida's Distinguished

Alumnus Award?

M: Surprise.

P: Quite an honor at a very young age.

M: I will tell you something. We all have certain events in our life that we would cite as

being among the most memorable, and that was one of mine. The thing that I think

touched me the most about that was when they introduced me and gave me the award,

and the College of Journalism, they were on their feet, and then Terry Hynes [dean,

College of Journalism, UF] said, would you like to shake their hands with me? So, then I

got to stand there and shake every one of those graduates' hands. I thought, this is pretty

cool because this makes me a role model, and that is kind of nice. Again, it is a circular

thing. I was thinking about when I was out in that audience and the aspirations I had....

END OF INTERVIEW









FNP-56
DIANE MCFARLIN

On page 1-4, Ms. McFarlin provides information about her childhood and her early involvement in
journalism before, during, and after attending UF. On page 5-7, she defines the qualities of a good
reporter, details the transition of jobs in the newspaper business with reference to her own career, and
explains each position's responsibilities. On page 7-10, she talks about how being a woman
influenced her career, citing Katharine Graham's role-modeling, as well as other important women in
journalism.

On page 10-13, Ms. McFarlin explains the impact of New York Times on the papers it owns and how
corporate-profits affect the quality and size of the newspaper. She also states that the Sarasota paper
produces zoned editions. On page 13-16, she cites some of the greatest achievements that the
Gainesville Sun has accomplished, and tries to define the paper's responsibility to get the community
engaged in public issues like growth management. She also mentions how she returned to Sarasota
in 1990 to be the new executive editor and compares the responsibilities between the Sarasota and
Gainesville jobs.

On page 16-19, Ms. McFarlin talks about the first computer system instituted at the Sarasota Herald-
Tribune, and the paper's use of new technology to carry out its' journalistic mission, including TV
broadcast media, newspapers, and websites. She also discusses launching the first twenty-four hour
cable news channel in Florida (SNN Sarasota News Network) and how it serves the Sarasota
population on a local level. On page 20-22, she discusses how websites provide additional
information and expanded coverage. She also cites the circulation and readership numbers, how
technology could affect the future of newspapers, and the Herald-Tribune and SNN's greatest
competitors.

On page 23-26, Ms. McFarlin recalls being named publisher in 1999, and provides information on
some of the responsibilities, problems, and goals with her new job. She briefly notes her involvement
in local groups like the Community Foundation, new practices she implemented to improve
community responsiveness, and summarizes the most important functions of the paper. On page 27-
30, she compares the trust readers have in the newspaper to their distrust in politicians. She details
how readership, reporters, and letters to the editor have changed since she first started at the Sarasota
paper. She also talks about her influence on editorial decisions, and the paper's editorial impact on
elections.

On page 31-32, Ms. McFarlin mentions being on the liberal end of politics, defines liberal media
and how it affects politics, and recalls the Bush-Gore election of 2000, particularly the criticisms of
the media resultant from that election's coverage. On page 32-35, she recalls serving on the Pulitzer
Committee and the National Accrediting Council for Colleges Committee and provides information
on them and their judging criteria. On page 36-38, she talks about the impact Nelson Poynter and
the Poynter Institute had on Florida newspapers, reveals the difference between European and
American newspapers, and shares her opinion of USA TODAY. She concludes on page 39 by
reflecting on receiving the University of Florida's Distinguished Alumnus Award.




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