The captivating, inside story of the woman who helmed the Washington Post during one of the most turbulent periods in the history of American media. Winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Biography In this bestselling and widely acclaimed memoir, Katharine Graham, the woman who piloted the Washington Post through the scandals of the Pentagon Papers and Watergate, tells her story--one that is extraordinary both for the events it encompasses and for the courage, candor, and dignity of its telling. Here is the awkward child who grew up amid material wealth and emotional isolation; the young bride who watched her brilliant, charismatic husband--a confidant to John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson--plunge into the mental illness that would culminate in his suicide. And here is the widow who shook off her grief and insecurity to take on a president and a pressman's union as she entered the profane boys' club of the newspaper business. As timely now as ever, Personal History is an exemplary record of our history and of the woman who played such a shaping role within them, discovering her own strength and sense of self as she confronted--and mastered--the personal and professional crises of her fascinating life.
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“Knock-down, drag-out fight” is not hyperbole. They were negotiating with the press operators up to the day the contract was set to expire at midnight. Negotiators gave each other assurances that so long as the parties continued to negotiate in good faith, they’d continue working and paying status quo. Management was nervous, so they stayed in their offices until after midnight and just keep an eye on things for a while. Everything with the print run for the next morning’s paper was proceeding normally, so at about 2:00 a.m. management went home. At about 4:00 a.m., the pressmen destroyed three presses, set fires, flooded the building, beat the shop foreman nearly to death, and went on strike.
Fourteen of the saboteurs were criminally convicted. The union’s precondition for negotiation was that all fourteen be re-hired with the rest. Graham refused and broke them. She reached deals with all of the other craft unions, but to this day the paper’s presses are run by non-union pressmen. The pressmen’s union was uniformly white, and most of the replacement workers hired were black.
Personal History is the autobiography of Washington Post publisher Katharine Graham. It was published in 1997 and
The book gets substantially worse in the last third. After the Pentagon Papers and Watergate, we are treated to a blow-by-blow of a printers' strike (which is actually more interesting than it sounds), but then the story just turns into a weirdly impersonal business story. She doesn't seem to want to talk more about herself or her relationships, except that with Warren Buffett.
Her privileged perspective sticks out from the beginning, when she has a tête-à-tête with her best friend with only three servants in attendance, to the end, when she is flying around the world on her private jet and hosting parties for hundreds of her closest friends, while she puts down a printer who commits suicide after she breaks the strike.
> I can't say I think Mother genuinely loved us. Toward the end of her life, I was a success in her eyes, and perhaps that is what she loved. Yet, with all her complexity, I felt closer throughout my early childhood to my mother than to the very distant and rather difficult figure of my father.
> In those days, the people in Washington often found out what was happening at the ballpark by watching the big scoreboard in front of the Post's E Street building, where the scores were posted in chalk. Occasionally my father himself carried the scores from the telegraph man to the man at the scoreboard. Once, when Goose Goslin hit a home run to win a big game, he asked that the scores not be posted until he could get there and see the pleasure of the large crowds that always gathered to watch.
In spite of her privileged life (her parents were incredibly wealthy), her life was not easy. While early on, she came to appreciate her father, her relationship
In her memoir, she was honest about herself and others. She proved herself to be a scrappy woman who cared about doing the right thing above all else. When she made mistakes, she admitted them. Honestly, I started reading the book to get the inside scoop on the famous and powerful people she rubbed shoulders with. I wanted to know more about Watergate. The book didn't disappoint in those areas, but I came away with something more. Graham proved herself worthy of respect. While I'm not young, she also taught me some life lessons I'd do well to remember.
Eugene laid the foundation of the Post. Throughout his leadership as publisher, the paper was competing with four other newspapers in Washington DC. His venture was losing money, but as publisher he held on to it, and set its editorial standards. Eventually, he transferred its reigns to Phil – a Harvard graduate who had just wrapped up his service in the military. He became the publisher, and with Kay they controlled most of the shares.
During this period Phil made acquisitions that included Newsweek, WTOP-TV in Washington DC, and WJXT-TV in Jacksonville, Florida. He became active politically, and was responsible for Lyndon B. Johnson becoming vice president to John F. Kennedy. Phil was also a member of numerous boards, and was nominated chairman of COMSAT. His work load was phenomenal, and he broke down under pressure suffering from manic depression. As Phil was recuperating from this illness, he committed suicide at their country home Glen Welby.
The Post therefore fell into the hands of Kay who later became its president and publisher. In her memoir she expressed self-doubt in her ability about running the Washington Post Company. But as the years passed, she grew in confidence. The Post chief competitor was the Star, but there were other major problems she had to grapple with. She made an outstanding pick in Ben Bradley as editor. She confronted the difficulties incurred with the Pentagon Papers, steered the Post through the Water Gate years, witnessed the resignation of president Richard M. Nixon, and dealt with the debilitating pressmen strike - all the time wondering if the company would fold.
In the 1970’s her son Don was at the reigns of the Post. By then it had become public. The Post was making money and its rival the Star was no longer publishing. However, Don’s tenure was marred by the Janet Cooke’s incident who had won the Pulitzer Prize. The only problem was that her story about drugs and a child was false. The Post had to return this prize and Cooke was fired.