Tuesday, May 31
I spent the day learning about yet another public service aspect of the Cleveland Press, an aspect which regularly appears in print. I passed the morning hours at a vacant desk in the “Action Line” office under the supervision and instruction of Bob McKnight, Sr., and Wanda Mitchell. The Action Line room is a small 3-desk room on the corridor between the city room and the composing room. It provides the only access to the room used by the Press’s secretive investigative reporters. The walls are covered with prints of horses, evidently Mr. McKnight’s passion.
The morning involved menial office work, dating the letters that had come in to Action Line over the weekend. Several kinds of letters were quickly apparent. There were requests for help in cases of consumer complaints (undelivered merchandise, non-refunded payments, etc.), requests for information as varied as the date of the three-masted tall ship Christian Radich’s first visit to Cleveland and whether only the female rattlesnake is poisonous. Several letters asked for sports trivia facts. Quite often there were letters of thanks from those whom the Action Line had been able to help, and there was the occasional memo from a corporation or organization acknowledging action taken that had been prompted by Action Line requests.
Wanda gathered together a couple of request letters and took me across the corridor to the Press library to show me how she researched the answers. The Press maintains an extensive and confidential clipping file arranged by subject which lets one check old news copy for information. In addition, there is a vast assortment of reference books, encyclopedias, etc. Shelves containing more specialized reference materials are arranged by subject. I checked several works to discover whether only the female rattler is poisonous. The library has more books than I would have expected capable of providing an answer to even this obscure question. In addition, the Action Line room itself has a complete permanent file of all Action Line columns that have been printed. There are already more than thirty volumes of these clipped columns.
For those letters that request the address of a particular business or seek the location of some Cleveland firm for whatever reason, the Action Line uses the same “criss-cross” system I learned about with Jerry Kvet. The Haines Directory lists by street address all Cleveland citizens and firms. Another directory organized by phone exchanges is often helpful in finding the information that a letter requests.
Two answering service machines stacked one atop the other take care of the questions that are called in daily. Action Line will not answer questions over the phone, but will accept them for consideration. The answering service asks that long questions pertaining to consumer problems be submitted in writing, while it records the short fact-finding requests that are more common. The recorded questions are considered along with letters for publication in the column. Wanda mentioned the number of prank recordings which they get. She attributed many such calls to “bored kids.” They often get recorded songs, long-winded invectives, and so on.
The actual columns that appear in the Press are prepared two weeks in advance. Mr. McKnight seeks to print varied and unusual requests to insure reader interest in the column, and apparently his criteria are as subjective as those of any other department I have encountered. Certain layout limitations affect his choice of printed letters. The copy editors allocate a certain number of column inches for Action Line, and Mr. McKnight brings together those items that fit in the space set aside. Some particular requests compose a large percentage of the Action Line’s mail. Recently, many people have reported problems and inequities concerning the “Miracle Painter” sold by television advertisement. Occasionally, one of these common requests is printed to inform consumers that problems still exist with this merchandise.
In spite of the volume of incoming mail and the small number of items that can actually be printed, personal responses are written to all requests. This explains why Action Line is so hopelessly behind in its mail, but Mr. McKnight feels he owes this service to the citizens. He has been told to throw out a percentage of his mail arbitrarily, but this would be “unfair to the public.” Processing the requests sent in to Action Line is a big job and a big service. It’s unfortunate that the department is understaffed. It certainly adds substance to the motto of the Press: “The Newspaper That Serves Its Readers.”
One notable request: A lady wrote in to Action Line about problems she was experiencing with her Plain Dealer paperboy. Action Line took the appropriate steps and rectified the problem, thereby aiding the circulation of its major competitor. The people come first.
Thursday, June 2
Editorial writers Chuck Stella and Don Silver had charge of me this morning, and I joined them in their office at the west end of the city room at 7:30 a.m. Don explained a few things about the policy and schedule of the editorial page. Most of the Press editorials are written the night before they are printed, as might be expected. The syndicated wire editorials are also chosen the night before, so the busiest time for the editorial writers comes when other writers are finishing up for the day. One more thing makes the job of the editorial writers unique — they prepare a full page on which no ads are displayed. The are able to make fuller use of their layout space to emphasize their copy than any other department of the paper is able to do.
At 7:30 a.m., Don took me to the composing room where he instructed layout man Lou Peters on the arrangement of the day’s editorial page. The op/ed page is one of the first daily pages completed in the layout schedule, since most of the copy is prepared completely the previous night. There is generally little change on the page from one edition to the next, but Don told me that a major breaking story may prompt an editorial response the same morning that the event occurs.
Other functions of the two editorial writers include the choice of letters to the editor and syndicated artists and columnists to be printed in the day’s paper. Stella choses the cartoonists and columnists, while Silver discriminates among the many letters submitted, corrects and edits them to some extent, and writes short heads that introduce them on the page. The syndicated cartoons are generally sent to the paper in bunches, and Stella has good time flexibility for printing any particular cartoon. Cartoons and editorials printed are sometimes complementary, and may even be on the same subject if the paper wishes to take a strong stand on some issue. Generally, the columns and cartoons are independent of one another and totally unrelated. Sometimes this policy obscures the meaning of a particularly complex cartoon, or the reason the paper decided to print it.
The editorial page is edited by Herb Kamm, the paper’s executive editor, who meets with the writers at 7:00 a.m. each day to discuss the copy they have prepared for the day. Editor Tom Boardman does not attend these meetings, but he does read all the editorial copy before it is printed, and he has the opportunity to comment or amend. Before Boardman became editor-in-chief, he edited the editorial page.
Later in the morning, Chuck began to prepare editorials for the next day, so I joined Don as he sorted through the day’s batch of letters to the editor. He explained some of the criteria for his choices. The letters chosen must first of all be coherent — and a good percentage do not even begin to make sense. Letters are not printed on a purely topical basis, so they, too, may not have anything to do with the day’s editorials, or, for that matter, even recent editorials. In making the decision about which letters to print on any particular day, Don seeks a balance on issues brought up in the letters. A strong position taken in one submission should be offset by a contrary stand taken in another.
Don asked me if I’d like to help prepare some letters for publication, and he gave me a handful of five to proofread, edit, and write heads for. Don showed me the codes that indicate to the printer what typeface and intensity should be used in printing the copy and headlines, number-letter codes like uf634 uf414 255rt, the series that indicates how the body of the letter is to be printed. He then set me loose on the set of letters, which I proofread, separated into paragraphs, and edited using my best news ability. I wrote two-line heads for most of the letters, sticking to the dictum of twenty-two spaces to each line and trying to make each line a phrase that stood fairly well by itself. This meant not ending a line on a preposition, and other such rules.
The letters I worked on ranged from a complaint of customer abuse by the vendors at the West Side Market to a letter praising the RTA’s special senior citizen service. I realized that printing such a diverse group of letters would lend no consistency, in style or content, to the editorial page. When the letters were printed in Friday’s paper, three of the letters I had worked on were included, and only one of my heads remained intact, though two others had been slightly paraphrased. The group was most certainly not consistent, as I expected.
One ironic aspect of the editorial page is that while it is one of the most topical and protean of the paper’s departments, it is the one page for which some of the old-style printing methods have been retained. Copy is not typed by the editorial writers so that it can be scanned and printed in its entirety by the computer; instead it is punched out by hand directly onto computer tape by several of the printers. The union contract, when the transition to computerized typesetting was made two years ago, specified that eight columns of print each day must be prepared by hand. Thus copy from the editorial writers is covered with the old proofreader’s symbols rather than coded directions for the computer. This is one more indication of how profoundly the printing transition was felt by the printers. Many were unable to adapt to the new computerized business and dropped out of their jobs. A link to the past remains in the now-modernized Press.
At about 11:00 a.m. I left the editorial writers’ office with Mr. Yonkers and headed for Sports. There I met Seymour Raiz who told me that he intended me to spend the afternoon with Bob Roberts at Thistledown, for which he provided me a press pass. Employing the RTA as a conscientious citizen might, I took the Loop bus to the Terminal Tower, obtained a transfer, and got on the first Van Aken Rapid that came along. At the end of the line, I gave Bob Roberts a call in the press box at Thistledown, from whence he drove and picked me up in his Press-maintained car.
Bob is an assertive and almost raucous guy who, though he’s not very big and he’s balding already, is animated in an aggressive sort of way. He explained to me some aspects of horse racing as we headed back to the track. The types of races being run at Thistledown are handicap races and claims races. Handicap races involve adding weights to horses based on a number of factors so that a field of horses is supposedly consistent in ability. Factors include the experience and the sex of the jockey, the age and record of the horse, and so on. Claims racing involves assigning each horse a monetary value for which it can be claimed during the race. This is essentially a change in ownership based on immediate performance. Bob explained that all the races we would see would be claims races with handicapped horses. His job in the morning is to help assign the handicaps for individual horses based mostly on their past performance and information released that day, such as the position the horse would be running and the jockey riding him.
We got to the track at just about noon, an hour and a half before the first of the day’s nine races would be run. As we walked through the deep-girdered recesses of Thistledown, heading from a back entrance to the sixth-floor press room, past innumerable security people (“this place is crawling with cops”), Bob said he believed you would find a better cross-section of life at the race track than almost anywhere else. This observation held a lot of fascination for him.
The press room at Thistledown is one of several rooms off a chilly, suspended corridor on the sixth level of the stadium. It sits high above the spectators seated in the stands. Opening off the corridor is a large room containing a buffet, several tables, and a videotape TV sitting high in one corner. A small set of steps before the window overlooking the track leads down to a narrow corridor running in both directions to the two peripheral sides of the big room. To the left is the press room, having just enough space for three men, three tables, and three typewriters. All overlook the track.
Bob introduced me to his two fellow race writers in the press room, one from the Plain Dealer and another from the Painesville Telegraph. The man from the Telegraph was a sportswriter who had originated a computerized system for compiling and analyzing high school football statistics now used by the OHSAA. All the writers and others in the press room, including several people apparently concerned with track promotion, seemed to share a smugly cynical, savvy attitude which took in the racetrack in all its facets, from the knowing, whispering smirk of the gambler with its criminal implications, to the pure and naive excitement of the race itself. There was the pervasive feeling that these people shared a secret or attitude that arose from the track and imbued itself in all who worked there. I really felt like an outsider.
In the interim before the first race began, Bob showed me the day’s program and the Daily Racing Form. He explained the complex abbreviated system that describes each horse and its past, and presents the prospects for its future to the eye that can interpret that information. He also showed me the charts in the Daily Racing Form that break down each of the horses’ past performance even to interval times.
The numerical systems used to describe the variables of horse racing are as complex as those used on the stock exchange. The racing sportswriter must have all the statistics at his fingertips and must know how to use them and understand the information they convey. Bob showed me the day-to-day records he keeps and the many statistical reference books he uses. He keeps track, it seems, of every change of a horse’s performance and ownership. Each sportswriter has his own system for keeping tabs on the latest available information. Statistics and odds play such an important role in horse racing that each sportswriter must be able to juggle and weigh figures like the best of the bookmakers. In covering an area such as horse racing, it helps to have a sense of humor, too. One develops an eye and a taste for the unexpected when so often making predictions about the unpredictable.
I sat and watched five of the afternoon’s races from the press box, witnessed some of the racetrack routine, saw bets and odds change on the scoreboard at the center of the track as the post time approached, saw favorites develop and fade, and sensed how it all came down to the eight or ten skinny and skittish horses. I learned about the Daily Double, Perfecta, and Trifecta betting, and made a novice attempt at interpreting the Racing Form and predicting winners. I bet no cash, but I did pick the horses to win and place in the fourth race, Father’s Role and Military Prince. That, at least, was kind of a thrill and some consolation for all that I felt was going over my head. I saw maidens win their first races (most of the day’s races were run with inexperienced or poor horses that Bob branded as “pigs”) and I watched female jockeys parade through the Winner’s Circle. It was a foreign experience for me, and interesting.
I left the track at about 2:30 p.m. to catch a bus on Warrensville Center Road, and had the experience of having the dregs of the afternoon, hanging outside the Thistledown gates and waiting for free admission, ask me in mumbled tones for my Racing Form. I kept it. At the bus stop, an old man threw a sheaf of losing tickets to the wind.
Friday, June 3
Mr. Yonkers informed me, on this my last day at the Press, that he had nothing special planned for me. He thought I should plan to talk to the editor of the Community Weekly insert and get a chance to observe the operation and available resources of the Press library. These two things were set up with loosely specified times, so I was really on my own. I attended the morning staff meeting, highlights being the story of two Addison 9th graders who were repeating the freshman level for the fourth time, the return to the U.S. of twenty bodies by the North Vietnamese, and the prospects for Dennis Eckersley’s second consecutive no-hitter.
The meeting over, I decided to talk to Peter Almond if he was free. Peter covers the education beat, and he had written the lead story about the Addison youths for the morning’s edition. He was also a specialist on the subject of school desegregation, perhaps one of the most knowledgeable men in the country on the subject since he has exclusively covered all aspects of the problem for several years now. I had met Peter at lunch at Barrister’s with Jerry Kvet, so he recognized me when I came over to his desk. He said he had little to do for the first hour or so of the morning, and would willingly answer or try to answer all my questions.
He explained first that he and Bud Weidenthal shared the duties of the education beat, and that at first he had covered schools while Bud covered only higher education, but now they share the duties and stories to be covered on any level. The schools writer in particular is responsible for coverage of all aspects of city and suburban school systems. It became so difficult for him to cover all this, even with Bud’s assistance, that they asked for a third writer to be assigned to the education beat. A third writer has been added, and often composes stories from information gathered by the other two.
Peter has been covering the desegregation problem since the first Cleveland case was filed in December 1973. The trial finally began on Nov. 24, 1975, and since then, Peter has written daily coverage of the facts brought out by the trial. Bud has also done trial coverage. Given the numerous breaks in the proceedings, Peter has had time to prepare in-depth analyses on nearly all aspects of the trial in addition to factual coverage.
The initial case, Peter told me, was filed by the NAACP defending Robert Anthony Read III who had attended John Adams High School and complained that he had received an education unequal to that given at certain other area schools. Peter identified Cleveland as the second most-segregated school district in the nation, having become that way by the city’s pattern of development. He emphasized that the desegregation trial was not concerned with the quality of education, although that subject is often discussed, but with termination of the conditions that caused school segregation in the first place. “Quality of education was never the reason for desegregation,” Peter told me.
Trial coverage in the Press could only be printed in late editions since the trial began too late in the day to be reported in the morning paper. Only the Plain Dealer and one edition of the Press could have factual and in-depth trial reporting. Peter would write stories in the late afternoon for the next day’s early editions, usually predicting what was expected to happen in court that day. Thus the trial reporting in the Press had an almost editorial style since direct quotation was difficult. Competition with the Plain Dealer for early reporting of facts was insurmountable. Trial reporting was as up-to-the-minute as possible during the day, which meant continual updating of copy and constant change between the editions. This kind of reporting was very hectic.
Peter gave me a brief summary of the events of the case. Judge Frank J. Battisti ruled on the initial litigation on August 31, 1976 — a 203-page decision. A stay of execution was effected on his ruling until mid-November. At that time, the Cleveland School Board met to consider the issue with a public hearing at John Hay High School. The people at this meeting came out strongly against busing. In spite of this, Judge Battisti announced on December 7 that all schools had to be desegregated by the following September. This led to a series of crisis meetings of the Cleveland School Board in January 1977.
As a result of the crisis meetings, the School Board proposed its initial plan, which entailed no massive busing. It was a coordinated plan under which about 52,000 students would be bused in a series of two-school linkups of proposed magnet schools. When friction occurred as a result of this plan between Judge Battisti and the School Board in February, political activist Arnold Pinkney accused Judge Battisti of promoting busing at any cost. The Judge ended up openly berating the School Board for its limited plan intended to get around his ruling as painlessly as possible.
The School Board responded with the creation of a second plan that lists specific school pairings to be instituted by busing. The Cleveland plan has a very high cost, and the pairings are to be arranged by districts. The first phase will entail busing between paired elementary schools, and following phases will institute pairings of successively higher educational levels. Action on this plan will be taken by September, and the plan will be implemented by a man named Dan McCarthy. One of his duties will be to set up a timetable for releasing information on the success of the plan. A future order will require desegregation of school teaching staffs. That will not be acted on until the first phase has been implemented.
The Press’s reporting of the busing situation has attempted to appeal to community interest rather than to present the simply legal and factual aspects of the case. Community response unique to the city of Cleveland has been important in Peter’s coverage of the issue. The Press has supported the position that Cleveland’s busing plan must be unique to the conditions of the city. Not much time should be spent studying the proposals of other cities. Both Boston and Detroit have instituted plans similar to Cleveland’s, the conditions are also comparable, so discussion of these two cities is relevant.
Throughout the discussions on desegregation, Peter has labored to present the issues in the simplest terms, and to analyze them so that all readers will understand the questions involved in the problem. He characterizes the inner city as “a different world,” and he must convey this difference to all the readers of the paper. Peter is in a unique position in his coverage of the desegregation question, for he is naturally able to remain detached from the problem he covers. Peter comes from England, and his upbringing left him unbiased about (U.S.) racial questions. He simply had no prior personal experience with racial tension, thus his approach to reporting on the subject is as unbiased as possible, and he is open to considerations seen by all sides. This made him perfectly qualified for his reporting position, in which any slight prejudice would tend to influence the objective tone the articles are meant to take.
Peter feels that race is undoubtedly the biggest issue on the education beat, and the way the issue affects schools prefigures the way it influences other areas of life in the city. He once wrote a series of articles on John F. Kennedy High School, exposing corruption at the school and focusing particularly on the availability of guns in school. He was invited by the school to come and address the students, who were furious at what he had written about their school and who immediately branded him a racist (his was the only white face in the auditorium). They asked why he wrote only about the bad aspects of their school and seemingly ignored the good things accomplished there. Peter commented, “what makes news is when things break down.”
In addition to his coverage of the desegregation issue, Peter is responsible for in-depth coverage of other aspects of education in Cleveland. Recently, he has been investigating irregularities in the contracts awarded to area food services and the like by the school board. The agenda of monthly school board meetings is often the starting place for investigations by education reporters. Peter presents Superintendent Paul W. Briggs as a demagogue and dictator of the school board. This is why he hopes that articles printed in the papers will stir public interest in the school board’s affairs and encourage participation in education policy by Cleveland citizens.
Peter sees school as a reflection of the larger society. The reaction to an issue such as desegregation can gauge the temperament of society as a whole to a range of other similar subjects. Consideration of education in a community can even evoke different life philosophies. Peter is not out of touch with such abstract musings, and I sensed that behind the articles he wrote on factual matters in Cleveland education stood distinct educational ideals. He left me with a question: Can the function of a school interfere with its objective? A simple distillation of all the things he had discussed with me.
After I talked with Peter, I also got the chance to talk with Bud, who shares the duties of the education beat and who has recently expanded his responsibility beyond the limits of higher education in the Ohio area. He described some of the issues with which he has recently been concern3ed in covering the college education area. Admissions standards and preferential admissions compose a controversial area today which offers a curious counterpoint to the desegregation issue at lower educational levels. At the elementary level, the discussions concern bringing selected individuals into a new educational setting to enhance and objectify the environment for all students. At the college level, the policy of admitting certain minorities over sometimes more academically qualified (but better culturally represented) students to fill racial quotas is coming to the test. College policies, particularly academic policies, are always good subject matter when students graduating without specialized salable skills can’t find work in areas they have been trained in. The role of career training is a big issue. The question of the value of elitist schools whose tuition puts them out of the price range of a vast majority of American students is also an open question, and one that Bud keeps in mind as an education writer.
Talking to these two reporters, I was struck by their vision and awareness. Every story one of them approached was met with a background of knowledge and of methods for getting by new problems. Each was concerned not with the story at hand as an end in itself, but with what the story indicated about the field of education as a whole, and even what the story could tell about American life as reflected in its educational institutions. A reporter can be an educator if he has this vision, if he realizes that the whole can be understood when each of its parts is made clear. This awareness of relating the part to the whole is vital to a good reporter, vital to the newspaper itself, and the absence of this awareness of the whole is often obvious.
At 10:00 a.m., I joined Ken Rosenbaum, editor of the Community Weekly, in his office at the head of the corridor to the composing room, sandwiched between the wire services room and the financial section office. Before I talked with Ken, he mixed a packet of a powdery substance into a glass of water and drank it, explaining that he was on the Mt. Sinai diet and hadn’t eaten a real meal for five and a half months. He casually noted that he had lost 155 pounds in the course of his diet, and at times he had been on it for as long as nine months. He was about 20 pounds away from his goal. Mr. Yonkers later told me that Ken had lost two wives by divorce in addition to waistline inches while dieting, and had tripled his smoking. At least he will die thin.
Ken edits the Community Weekly, distributed with the Press each Wednesday. He has been the editor since the Weekly idea was initiated by the Press several years ago, and before that he worked on the City Desk and the copy desk. The Weekly is a unique publication duplicated by no other newspaper, and the community motif expands the news capacity of the paper and increases its appeal to suburban readers.
There are actually seven editions of the Weekly distributed each Wednesday to seven areas around Cleveland. In effect, each edition is its own community newspaper, for the several editions have little news in common. Each edition has its own “local identity.” The seven areas, comprising certainly more than fifty or sixty area communities, were delineated by the paper’s marketing and research department, which came up with geographical divisions representing the most common interests.
This morning, Ken was making up the front pages of the next week’s seven editions. The layout of each Page One was quite different from all the others, an indication of the magnitude of news covered in the Weekly. Part of the appeal of the paper is its capacity for local advertising. An individual can advertise in the Weekly for a very small price, knowing that all his advertising is local in scope, close to his own home and community. The advertising is a fraction of the cost of classified ads in the usual Press, and cheaper also than in any regional newspaper. The advertising, like Page One, is laid out well in advance of publication; in fact, the first seven pages of each edition are completed the Friday prior to publication. The remaining inside pages, including area sports, are laid out on Monday to cover the weekend’s events.
Coverage of community news in the Weekly is actually different from that of other community papers. The staff has a good amount of time to complete in-depth reporting and features on a scale of which smaller papers are incapable. With a city newspaper backing it up, the Weekly (which is actually semi-independent) can cover stories that community papers might not want to report. Quite a bit of community news gets unique coverage in the Weekly, and that explains its appeal.
Original stories and leads often come to the Weekly from the suburban reporters of the Press, and the paper expands on the reporting done on the suburban page during the week. The Weekly publishes in-depth community articles reaching a wide and varied public in the northeastern part of the state. Ken describes the paper as “different” — it adds another individual flavor to the Press.
At 10:30 a.m., I talked with managing editor Bob Sullivan about some upcoming organizational changes at the Press. He told me, guardedly, that the paper was going to be reorganized sometime this month. Four sections would be guaranteed for each edition of the paper, each independent of the others. Three sections would have the same format from day to day, while the fourth would change each day of the week, a different emphasis for each day.
The three set sections are to be news, and news only, in the first section, opinion/editorial and news analysis (subjective interpretation of the straight news) in the second section, and a sports section also containing financial and suburban news. The fourth section would change from day to day among six departments, one of which would appear one day each week. On Mondays, the fourth section would be a fashion section, extending to one week the deadline on women’s article and columns now printed daily. Tuesday’s section would be a travel section. Wednesday the subject would be food. On Thursday, Showtime magazine would appear, moved one day forward in the week. Friday a section called “Connoisseur” would cover all the fine arts events in the Cleveland area. On Saturday, Saturday Magazine would appear as always. Naturally these changes would entail personnel shifts and changes in responsibilities at the paper. Some day-to-day features would be eliminated by the new layout; many department writers would have to diversify and become more flexible in the subjects they report.
Mr. Sullivan cited as one of the reasons for the change the general tendency in the profession to departmentalize the product. He said that the Press was quite a bit behind some papers in making the change, though ahead of many others. He hoped the change would expand the appeal of the paper and increase its daily circulation. The paper would be “sold” by the daily specials in the changing fourth section. People who were induced to buy the paper one day because of a special feature would be more likely to begin to pick it up every day. The public would become conscious of the depth and diversity to be found in the paper as they realized that the day-to-day specials were distillations of coverage that had always been appearing in the paper. The character of the Press should be more clearly defined by the change, and the paper should become more colorful.
The trend in the journalism trade is away from day-to-day hard news. The competition with radio, TV, and other electronic media is too stiff; the composition of a daily newspaper cannot keep up with these others. A newspaper can provide in-depth analysis and a look behind the news. Definitive stories can be printed, definitive stands taken. Such will be the future of the Press, already on the road.
After lunching on a tuna sandwich and fries with Mr. Yonkers in the Press cafeteria, I entered the Press library, more labyrinthine than I had suspected. Formerly, I had been refused entry to the library on grounds that it was for employees only; now I was to get the grand tour. Bob Noyes showed me just what resources a reporter has to find background on or to add color to a story. Bob is a hawk-faced old guy who has been working in the library for several decades. He showed me the shelves of reference works, arranged by subject, back-issue files of major papers, and encyclopedias by the row. He next took me into the room with extensive photo files, now in a stage of reorganization from a numerical to an alphabetical filing system. Photos are divided into personal shots and subject shots. There is a special sports section, and a shelf of photos from movie scenes. Bob said the reorganization may take as many as ten years — there is a huge number of photos in the file area.
Perhaps the second major resource of the Press library along with the photo file is the extensive clipping file. Articles in the paper are clipped and indexed by either subject or individual. June Wrobleski was cutting up several copies of the same article for different filing when I talked with her about the system. Items are clipped, given a subject heading taken from a specified and limited list, and temporarily arranged alphabetically until they can be filed. They are filed in an electronic monster called the Remington Rand Lektriver, which consists of a vertical series of drawers in a cabinet much like the Ferris wheel displays used in jewelry stores. A keyboard allows any particular drawer to be selected, and the drawer opens out onto a reference desk so that the appropriate file can be withdrawn and used. The Lektriver cabinets extend from the floor to above the ceiling. The enormous number of clippings are arranged in two sections. One section is biographical information arranged alphabetically by individuals, and the second section is arranged by subject. A list of all the subjects filed is used by the woman who does the clipping, so that the proper heading can be put on each article clipped. Dean Stamatis showed me all this.
Obviously, all the information contained in the library is not useful nor even likely to be used, thus sections of both photos and clippings must occasionally be weeded out. This job goes partly to Sandy Hosek. She was going through old photographs, trying to decide whether they would ever again be consulted. Those which are totally archaic are thrown out. Given the magnitude of the information system in the Press library, from photo and clipping files to maps and microfilm records of the Press dating to its first published editions in the late 1800s, the job of sorting, organizing, and weeding will never be done. The information handled changes every day, every minute.
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