Peter Goldman should be famous. As the voice of Newsweek from 1962 to 1988—the ace writer at a magazine read by as many as 20 million people each week—Goldman authored more than a hundred cover stories: assassination, race, politics, war. Friday after Friday he would pace the halls at 444 Madison Avenue, head lowered and bow tie undone, scouring thick files of reporting for nuggets of news and color to enliven the exquisite narratives that would spring from his Underwood Standard, fully formed, just in time for each Saturday close. Goldman may have done more to explain America to itself, week in and week out, than any other journalist of his generation.
And yet there’s a good chance you’ve never heard of him.
The reason is simple. Come Sunday, Goldman wouldn’t sprint to the set of Meet the Press. He didn’t tweet or Tumblr or Instagram. For the first eight years of his reign, he didn’t even have a byline. He wasn’t his own brand, as every young journalist is required to be these days. And that’s exactly how he liked it.
So did Newsweek. At its best, Newsweek has always been about “the team game”: a bygone form of group journalism that’s less concerned with big-name bylines than with big, cooperative storytelling; a collective endeavor that aspires to serve the readers, not the egos of the journalists they’re paying to read.
Whenever news broke—JFK, civil rights, Vietnam, Watergate, Diana, Monica, 9/11, bin Laden—the vast Newsweek apparatus would thrum to life. Reporting would flow into Manhattan from dozens of bureaus around the world; writers would hammer it into shape. Editors would revise, art and photo would design and illustrate, researchers would check, makeup would arrange, copy would polish, and production would usher it all out the door, usually at warp speed.
Goldman was not the exception; he was the rule. Culture editor Jack Kroll; graphics designer Karl Gude; production chief Ignacio Kleva; photo editor Guy Cooper; copy maven Tita Gillespie—each played the Team Game, as did thousands of others. Few got famous doing it.
For that reason alone, group journalism is unlikely to come roaring back anytime soon. It’s far too cumbersome, and not nearly profitable enough, for most 21st-century media companies to countenance. But its serious, unselfish spirit is worth celebrating, and the pages of Newsweek’s final print issue seem like the right place to do it.
What follows, then, is the first behind-the-scenes oral history of the magazine, which has been compiled from dozens of original interviews and a handful of published memoirs (including Lynn Povich’s The Good Girls Revolt, Oz Elliott’s The World of Oz, and Ed Kosner’s It’s News to Me).
The sex. The money. The booze. And all the fine work that a bunch of team players somehow managed to turn out together, in their spare time.
Henry Hubbard, congressional correspondent (1959–85): I started at Newsweek as a science writer in 1959, before the Grahams bought it. It was the land of the living dead.
Osborn “Oz” Elliott, editor (1961–76): Newsweek was a shambles. The whole staff was shot through with drunks, incompetents, and hacks. The basic offering was a bland and unexciting rehash of the week’s events. And while Newsweek was started as an alternative to Time, its managers never really considered it a competitor.
Hubbard: But once the Grahams came in, in 1961, it was night and day.
Elliott: Phil Graham loosened the purse strings on every front, enabling me, editorially, to hire competitively. The money that Graham made available prompted us all to think big. [As Graham put it in a 1963 speech to Newsweek’s foreign correspondents,] “I revel in the recitation of the daily and weekly grist of journalism. Much of it, of course, is pure chaff. But no one yet has been able to produce wheat without chaff ... And not even such garrulous romantics are Fidel Castro or such transcendent spirits as Abraham Lincoln can produce a history which does not rest on a foundation of tedium and detail—and even sheer drudgery. So let us drudge on about our inescapably impossible task of providing every week a first rough draft of a history that will never be completed about a world we can never understand.”
One of Elliott’s most important early hires was Goldman, then “a 29-year-old reporter/rewriteman for the old St. Louis Globe-Democrat” who was “hungry to move up from Double-A ball to the big league.” In the summer of 1962, Goldman flew from Missouri to Manhattan and finagled an audition. He was tasked with writing a “200-line takeout on some obscure D.C. policy debate.”
Peter Goldman, writer (1962–88): I was due back in St. Louis on Friday, so Thursday was my last day, and I'd only written a couple of paragraphs when Bill Roeder, the Newsmaker writer, invited me out for lunch.
We had a bite and a couple of drinks, so I had a light buzz going when I got back to my desk and my Underwood Standard. I’d hacked out another paragraph or two when Joe Carter, then the Nation editor, loomed in my doorway and said, “Let’s go across the street for a drink.”
“Across the street,” as it turned out, meant the bar at the old (and now long departed) New Weston Hotel, a favored Newsweek watering hole on the far side of Madison Avenue. We ordered drinks, a martini for him, a Jack and water for me. Carter never quite said he wanted to hire me; instead, he asked, “What would you do if I came to you at the end of three months and said you hadn’t worked out?”
“I’m young,” I said. “I’d find a job somewhere.” You could still realistically say that in olden times.
Joe waved for a second round, and by the time we got back to the office, I was well beyond buzzed; I was still trying to get my fingers on the right keys when Gordo appeared in my cubicle and said, “Let’s go across the street for a drink.”
By this time, Gus, the bartender at the New Weston, would’ve been within his rights to 86 me, but a drink appeared, and after a swallow or two, I got seriously brave about negotiating a price. Gordon wanted to hire me for the Guild minimum, then $10,400 a year. That was nearly $4,000 more than I was making in St. Louis, but I said it wasn’t enough. Gordon upped the ante to $11,500. I took another swallow or two and said I wanted moving expenses, too. He said OK. We had another drink to seal the deal and headed back to 444 [Madison Ave, Newsweek’s offices].
When we got upstairs, I looked in on Carter and said, “Sir, I’ve got a start on that takeout, but I’m not sure I’m in shape to write it.”
“Forget it,” he said. “We don’t need it. Welcome aboard.”
Ed Kosner, writer/editor (1963–78): While Newsweek couldn’t match Time’s staff in depth and intellectual resources, Oz’s magazine was sharper, faster, and more inventive. The differences would be dramatically on display on big, breaking stories, where Newsweek excelled.
Goldman: The most terrifying story was in the third week of November 1963. It was a Friday. The magazine was almost done. So a bunch of the boys, as usual, were at the New Weston Hotel bar, drinking. Having a liquid lunch.
Kosner: I was standing with Peter Goldman, working on my second I.W. Harper, when Gus learned forward behind the bar and beckoned to us.
Goldman: He said, “You guys are with Newsweek, you should probably know this: the president was shot. They hit him in the hand.” Someone had a radio and they had misheard. My first reaction was annoyance because I was doing a Kennedy story and I had it all framed in my mind. Kennedy was on a political trip to the South. “Now he’s been shot in the hand? That’s going to complicate my goddam life.”
Kosner: My piece was supposed to lead the Nation section, and Lester [Bernstein, the Nation editor] had already edited it.
Goldman: Anyway, we just threw some bills on the bar—didn’t even ask for the check—and headed back to the office, half a block away. But then on the way to the office we bumped into Jim Cannon, who later became chief of correspondents. And he corrected us: Kennedy had actually been shot in the head. That’s when we went into total mobilization mode.
Kosner: Back at the office, writers, editors, and researchers were clustered around the black-and-white TV set. Finally, at 2:38 p.m., a choked-up Cronkite looked at the camera and said simply: “From Dallas, Texas, the flash—apparently official—President Kennedy died at 1:00 PM Central Standard Time, 2:00 PM Eastern Standard Time ...”
Goldman: I was a scared kid. I’d written a couple of covers, but they weren’t like this. First I chilled. Or tried to. I had to cool myself down. I just sat in my office.
Elliott: As the full scope and horror of the events in Dallas sank in, we threw out Newsweek’s regular sections, right and left. By dinnertime Friday, the stories were assigned, the reporters at their posts, the photo coverage planned. Chuck Roberts was one of only two reporters to witness LBJ’s swearing-in on Air Force One and to accompany the new president, and the murdered president, back to Washington. Bob Young was able to get an interview with the first physician to attend the president. Bill Brink got the Dallas police chief and the chief of detectives to sit down and lay out what they knew about the events. Over that weekend, Newsweek’s correspondents filed more than 70,000 words on the assassination—from Dallas and Washington and from news bureaus around the country and overseas.
Goldman: I probably had files from 15 people. They just kept streaming in. The reporting was incredible. But when I went home on Friday night, I had only written three paragraphs.
Goldman: Most of it was written on Saturday. That was way over the line for us. You didn’t write stories on Saturday in those days.
Elliott: Finally, by 3 o’clock Sunday morning, the last line of copy had been transmitted, and our work was done. We staggered home. On Monday, when we Newsweek people had a chance to look at the “product” of our arch-competitor, Time, we found some professional consolation. Time had devoted a mere 13 pages to the assassination story versus Newsweek’s 25. “You did it right,” said my friend Dick Clurman, then chief of correspondents for Time. “We did it wrong.” Newsweek, we believed, had arrived. Cockily, we began to refer to Time as Brand X.
Jerry Adler, writer (1979–2010): What you have to remember about Newsweek in those days, in that era, was that the presumption every week going in was that we were going to tell the reader about everything important that had had happened in the previous seven days. Now, obviously, if a lot happened, some things would drop off. But our self-imposed brief was to be a comprehensive account of what an educated American needed to know. When I started we had two or three medical writers and a couple of medical researchers. We had a science writer. We had a writer for media. We had a writer for television. We had a writer for ideas. We had a writer for religion.
Goldman: A couple of sportswriters.
Lynn Povich, editor (1965–91): We had a writer about justice, a writer about cities. Urban affairs.
Adler: We had, in the arts department, a rock music critic, a classical music critic, a dance critic, an architecture critic, three book reviewers. This was an institution that really believed in its mission to explain America to itself. To explain the world to America. We had 15 or 20 people in Washington.
Goldman: More than that, actually.
Adler: We had bureaus in Boston, Atlanta, Detroit ...
Adler: Los Angeles, San Francisco. Capitals all over the world.
Goldman: We had seven Nation writers and seven foreign writers, and probably as many business writers.
Hubbard: The real difference between Time and Newsweek was that Time was an editor’s magazine and Newsweek was a reporter’s magazine. Time’s editors in New York would decide what the truth was. I can remember Neil MacNeil, who was my counterpart covering Congress, he would write his files and he basically wouldn’t give a shit, because he knew it wouldn’t get used. If they saw it some other way, they would write it their way. At Newsweek, we worked much harder because the chances of our reporting getting into the magazine was far higher than it was for the guys at Time. Neil MacNeil would say, “Fuck it. I’ll just take the money and run.”
Arnaud de Borchgrave, foreign correspondent (1950–80): Reporting always came first. For example, Newsweek had me on the lecture tour after each major scoop. They would bring me back to talk to the advertisers. But I remember once having a deal with Juan Carlos of Spain. I said, “Newsweek is about to put me on a big lecture tour of the states. What if something happens to Franco and you become king?” So we organized a little code. The message that he would send me was, “Charlie is on his way to Rome and wants to see you.” That meant Franco is sick and dying. I was in Seattle when I got it. I canceled the rest of the tour. The Newsweek business team was furious. They’d invested a lot of money. But I said, “I’m sorry, I’m going to get the biggest scoop—the first interview with the new king of Spain.” Which I did.
Hubbard: I was a science writer on the space beat. When they had the space walks, Oz Elliott—no fool, a smart man—had me downstairs. I had written a story describing how Ed White, the astronaut, had stepped out of the capsule. And Oz says, “Why, when he steps out, doesn’t he fall down to earth?” I’m like, 26 years old, you know? And I say, “Oz, there’s no difference between the inside and the outside of the spaceship. There’s no air, no gravity.” And he says, “Well, I think you’re full of shit.” But he put the copy through. He went with the reporter.
David Alpern, writer (1966–2009): The other thing was the institutional devotion to what was thought of at that time as accuracy. The presumption was that once something got into print, it had gone through reporters, writers, researchers, editors, and represented not only one person’s take, but Newsweek’s. It was “Newsweek says…” There was a real commitment to accuracy.
Hubbard: Mel Elfin, who went on to become the Washington bureau chief, once did a cover on psychiatry. He had this great detail in his lead. He was sitting at a therapist’s office, in the waiting room, and he noticed there was a rubber-tree plant from which all the leaves had been picked—you know, by nervous anxious people. So Mel gets the draft back, and on it his editor wrote, “How tall the rubber-tree plant?” And that became a line, a part of the Newsweek culture: how tall the rubber-tree plant? I mean, who the heck knows? But it taught you how to be a reporter.
Milan Kubic, foreign correspondent (1958–89): It was a very different time. For one thing, every word you sent out had to go on a Telex. And some of those bloody places where I worked it cost a dollar a word. This is in the 1960s, when the U.S. dollar was sky-high. So they made sure they sent out people who could write and be good reporters and wouldn’t be wasting words—money—on bullshit. That’s how I knew I had such a backing in New York. They had so much faith in you.
Bruce Van Vorst, foreign correspondent (1963–75): Nobody worried about money in those days. You wanted to do this, you wanted to do that? New York said yes.
Kubic: I could fly wherever I wanted. When I was in South America, I would rent a Cessna if I needed to fly someplace. In those days it was $30 an hour to fly a Cessna. The pilot would wait for you until you were done. Your personal pilot.
Jim Doyle, chief political reporter and deputy Washington bureau chief (1977–83): Dwight Martin was a senior writer, editor and national reporter in New York in the 1960s and early 1970s. I never met him, but stories about him abounded. He affected the reserved and haughty pose of an aristocrat, was given to irony, kept everyone at arm’s length with his wit, and got away with murder on his swindle sheets.
George Hackett, writer/editor (1980–2008): Didn’t he have a Steinway piano in his office?
Povich: When he was back of the book editor. He would invite the staff in for sherry on Friday nights.
Alpern: He would play German marches to infuriate Hubert Saal, the music critic.
Doyle: Martin was assigned to cover the annual naval maneuvers of the Atlantic Fleet at the height of the Cold War around 1964 or 1965 and flew to Norfolk, Va., where he boarded a destroyer. He later submitted a taxi bill for $157.50. This was too much even for Newsweek’s accounting department. They called him on it.
“How can you spend $157.50 for taxis,” he was asked, “when your other accounts show that you were on the destroyer that day?”
“Big destroyer,” Martin said.
Kubic: Arnaud de Borchgrave was famous for this kind of thing, too. His expense accounts were legendary. The amount of his luggage that airlines “lost.” With $40 shirts and $100 shoes and what have you. In the 1960s!
Doyle: I was once at a dinner party with Arnaud, and I watched him in his double-breasted bespoke suit peel a grape without touching it. Peel a grape using, like, I think a knife and a fork. Peeled the skin, put it in his mouth. I’ve never seen it before or since.
De Borchgrave: I lived extremely well. I traveled a lot. In those days we always traveled first-class. Was never questioned. We stayed in five-star hotels. Never questioned. If we had to stay in one place for several days or weeks, we could get a suite. Never questioned. I never had an expense account questioned in the whole 30 years I worked at Newsweek.
Kubic: I remember specifically. Arnaud was doing something during the Indo-Pakistan War, and he hired 110 guys to push his Jeep across some incredibly difficult road. And he said he paid each of them a dollar.
De Borchgrave: I was with Dean Brelis of NBC on the Indian border. When we got near Sikkim, there was a landslide, so we had to hire sherpas—300 of them—to get our vehicle across the landslide. They carried it. Locals, in the village. We gave them good money. Two or three dollars apiece. Put in this big expense account. Never questioned. What did I write on the expense account? “Sherpas for manhandling our Jeep across a landslide.”
Doyle: Arnaud also used my office when he was in town—well, he didn’t use the office so much as the balcony. He always carried a reflector. Never seen him when he wasn’t beautifully tanned.
Goldman: Arnaud, when he was stationed in Paris, there was a black French-African guy who worked in the bureau as a sort of factotum, and Arnaud used to send him out to get his sun-tanning product—the equivalent of whatever John Boehner uses now. And the legend is that Arnaud was lying out on the terrace in Aman, Jordan with his upper body exposed to the sun, and there was some disturbance in the street and a stray bullet, a magic bullet, came through his window, pierced his closet, and penetrated five Savile Row suits. Arnaud de Borchgrave could not possible call on kings and heads of state with invisible weaving! So he expensed all five of them.
De Borchgrave: I was dressed in London. I had my suits made in London. I didn’t believe in wandering around like a slob. I saw this in Morocco once. I’ll never forget it. I had a Chesterfield coat with a black velvet collar. Looked like a diplomat. Nasser was coming in his yacht to Casablanca and getting together with all these Arab heads of state, and the media was dressed, as you know, how the media dresses. I was dressed like an ambassador. And I managed to get in with the ambassadors. I did that over and over again. I refused to look like a slob.
Kubic: The Grahams were incredible. In 1961, Tom Streithorst had been very recently hired by the magazine for the Beirut bureau and, to celebrate, bought himself a new Jaguar in London. While driving back to Lebanon, he had a head-on collision with a Volkswagen bus in Turkey in which Streithorst's Lebanese wife was killed. Under the Turkish laws, the sentence for a fatal car accident was nine years in one of the country's abysmally primitive jails. According to Newsweek’s lawyers, it was almost certain that Streithorst would have to pay the penalty.
“Now,” Ben Bradlee told Phil Graham, “there seems to be only one thing we can do for Streithorst, and that’s to hire a couple of former CIA spooks in Istanbul. They say they can get him out of jail and put him across the border to Greece.”
Ben paused, crunched a potato chip and resumed eye contact with Graham.
“How much?” Graham laconically asked.
By the time the back-and-forth ended, Graham had as good as promised to spend $50,000 in valuable 1961 currency to help a brand-new staffer he had never met and who had barely started working for a magazine that Graham just bought. This was a pretty good guy to work for.
Adler: The Grahams cared very deeply about their employees and really ran the place in a way we will never see again. I had a handicapped son who must have gone through $4 million or $5 million in medical expenses in the first 12 or 15 years of his life. And they picked that all up. I never heard anything about it.
De Borchgrave: Now, of course, everything is questioned. It was a totally different time. We were so lucky to be part of it.
Kosner: Newsweek had a full cast of characters whose escapades were invariably more entertaining than the copy they wrote or edited. One back-of-the-book senior editor had a phobia about having his shirts laundered. So he simply bought new ones when he ran short and kept the dirty ones in smelly bags piled high in his office. Another insisted on keeping his office pitch black, with only a single lamp creating a small circle of light on his desk, at which writers had to sit waiting for him to eviscerate their pieces. The sports editor walked out of his office one morning and was never seen again. A back-of-the-book writer quit without telling anyone, leaving a sheet of paper in his typewriter with the lament, “I can’t write this story.” The science editor couldn’t put out his section one week because he’d fallen out of a tree and broken his right arm. Another time, in a drunken fit, he tried to take a swing at his boss, missed, and fell to the floor, unconscious. Early arrivals often found one of the magazine’s most brilliant writers curled up in a clothing closet, blissfully sleeping off last night’s toot.
Alpern: Do the editors today at Newsweek still have whiskey bottles in their lower left-hand desk drawers?
Lucy Howard, writer (1963–2002): In New York, everyone’s bottom drawer was a stash.
Goldman: When I was a young Nation writer, we had an extremely hard-drinking group. There were probably five men. Three of them were functioning alcoholics. On Tuesdays and Wednesdays, before we had to get serious, one writer was like the momma duck leading the baby ducks to a restaurant called 3Gs—an Italian restaurant where they served martinis that would make this water glass look like a shot glass. I’ve never liked martinis, so I’d have a couple Jack Daniel’s. But the rest of the guys would do three huge martinis. We called them “silver bullets.”
Alpern: When I first got to Nation, I went to lunch with you guys at the bar and I tried to have three martinis like everybody else. Then I went back to my office and my head just—ploosh.
Doyle: No work got done in the afternoons early in the week because of those lunches. It was great camaraderie. My wife always said, “Jesus, you guys. This weekly journalism. You don’t work.” The truth is, you goof off Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. Thursday you start sweating. Thursday night, maybe you’re there late, filing or reading files. Friday you’re there all night, because that’s when the stories really get written and edited. Needless to say, we got to know each other really well.
Howard: I remember Peter Goldman and Ed Kosner had to stay in one night to write some big story, so they sent two Nation researchers out to fetch their martinis. The two researchers went out with cups from Harman’s—the coffee shop, you know, coffee cups, in their purses—and they sat up at the bar and each asked for a martini. The bartender was kind of looking at them, these two miniskirted chicks sitting up there, one black, one white. Sipping martinis. They’d take a sip of the martini, and then when the bartender turned his back, they’d just pour the liquor into their coffee cups and put the top on. And then they’d order another one. Because the writers both wanted two martinis. That was just kind of routine.
Alpern: It became a tradition for Saturday afternoon, after Nation was locked up, to have a punchbowl.
Goldman: It wasn’t a punchbowl.
Alpern: It was a punchbowl!
Goldman: At the very least we always had an end of the week drink, particularly during the Watergate era. Nixon’s favorite drink, for example, was a mai tai. We wanted to do a party around that theme, but we didn’t know how to make mai tais. This was the precomputer age; you couldn’t just Google it. So we actually had the chief librarian research it. He finally found a book in the library with the recipe. Whatever it took.
Hackett: In the 444 Madison days, everyone went out to dinner and drinks on Friday night. And certain editors came back ... There was one who often passed out on his Atex keyboard, and you’d see all these Z’s running across the screen.
Povich: Appropriately enough.
Hackett: And you’d have to go physically push him off the keyboard. Almost every week.
Povich: There were certain people you didn’t want to edit you after dinner.
Kosner: The top editors were called the Wallendas, after the circus troupe whose members operated without a net despite their propensity to plunge to earth from the high wire.
Alpern: The Wallendas would go out and do heavy drinking right when things mattered—right when the magazine was supposed to be closing—and then they’d come up and start ripping things up. There’d be these great brain storms, and by 11 o’clock Friday night we’d be saying “what?” I mean, ideas would happen and machinery would be put in motion. While everyone was drunk.
Evan Thomas, writer/editor (1986–2010): It was highly ritualized. The editors would have three glasses of wine and totally screw up the close. Rick Smith liked some steakhouse that was kind of greasy, so you’d drink a lot of cheap red wine and eat greasy steak and dine out on everybody.
Alpern: One night, Oz Elliott came back and called me in on a story. He said, “Wow, David, this thing really seems to start in the middle.” He was so drunk he was reading the second page before the first.
Goldman: Way, way back in the day, Newsweek commissioned the Maysles Brothers, who were famous documentary filmmakers, to do a promotional film for the magazine. They hung out with cameras around the offices, followed the whole editorial process. Toward the end of the film there was a scene of the Wallenda dinner, and the Wallies were just hammered. And they still used the film to promote the magazine. I was astonished.
Thomas: Eventually they moved the dinners indoors, up to Top of the Week [the Newsweek dining room], as a way of keeping everybody from getting drunk and disappearing into the night.
Hackett: It was also much cheaper.
Goldman: Russ Chapell was a Nation writer when I arrived in ‘62, not long pre-Graham. He was the best newsmagazine writer I think I’ve ever known. He told me something early in my career. “This is a great job,” he said. “You can do it drunk.” And a lot of Newsweek people did.
Alpern: There was this swashbuckling Mad Men attitude, and it survived until well into the ’70s or the ’80s. A sense that you were this elite whose efforts, and whose brilliance, justified whatever.
Povich: We bright boys who just saved the world again.
Howard: When I was hired in 1963, I was interviewed by a very nice older gentleman. He said, “This is our training program. We need more girls like you.” Training for what? So I show up on Monday in my business outfit: my best dress and my best pumps. And it turned out to be delivering mail. Which was fine with me. What do I know? I didn’t even know my way around New York at that point. So what you did was sort the mail. Pouches came in, in a box. And you carried the newspapers around. Big bundles. And the people who were there! Ellen Goodman, Nora Ephron ... Everyone who was there was either from a Seven Sisters school or Berkeley.
Nora Ephron, researcher (1962–63): For every man there was an inferior woman.
Howard: We had the weirdest things to do. Somebody needed their reading glasses delivered. Go get Sam’s reading glasses. You get a key to Sam’s apartment. You had to go and find them on the his desk and bring them back. Or go get somebody’s dry cleaning. If you were a good girl, and did a good job, put the mail in the right slots, then you got promoted, after a few months, to clipping the newspapers. And that was… you were on your way to becoming a researcher. If you could handle that: rolling the papers out properly, cutting the rows straight, and putting the clippings in the right boxes. Then you got to be a researcher, and then the fun began. Then you got to check facts, and be the boys’ backstop. That was the training program. But you could never be a writer.
Ephron: They were the artists, and we were the drones.
Melinda Liu, foreign correspondent (1979–present): Even much later ... I didn’t get hired until 1979. By that time it was already sort of, you know ... They treated me just like every other reporter. Sent me to Somalia, Gulf War I and II, Afghanistan. Everything. But when [Newsweek editor] Maynard Parker would come to the Hong Kong bureau, he would bring with him half a dozen of his shirts. Amazing shirts, custom made. And he would say, “Could you have someone send these to my tailors and have them change the collar?” And suddenly there I was: the Hong Kong correspondent, carrying seven shirts to the tailor. It was insane.
Ephron: But what is interesting is how institutionally sexist it was without necessarily being personally sexist. They were just going to try to sleep with you—and if you wanted to, you could.
Povich: By the mid-’60s when the sexual revolution was in full swing, the magazine was a cauldron of hormonal activity. Women felt as sexually entitled as men, and our short skirts and sometimes braless tops only added to the boil.
Howard: Flirting was part of the game.
Kevin Buckley, foreign correspondent (1963–72): The hubba-hubba climate was tolerated. I was told the editors would ask girls to do handstands on their desk.
Howard: There were times when there was definitely harassment, but you learned to deal with it. You took it for granted. Somebody comes up to the water cooler and puts his arm on the ... a very tall and drop-dead attractive correspondent from Los Angeles who’s movie-star handsome, and stands right by your desk and says, “I had a great fuck last night. Wanna join me tonight?” That’s what it was like.
Povich: Many guys looked at us as people they wanted to cheat on their wives with—and many women were happy to accommodate them. The infirmary, two tiny rooms with single beds, was the assignation of choice. Often a writer would there to “take a nap” for an hour or two, albeit with a female staffer.
Goldman: I think there was a difference between the back of the book and the front of the book.
Povich: Oh, the back of the book was like, action central.
Goldman: When [Nation reporter] Tony Fuller moved to the back of the book as a senior editor, he called me one day and said, “Peter, you wouldn’t believe this. It’s a sexual rodeo up here.”
Thomas: Even when I got there in 1986, the 10th floor was known as the Tunnel of Love.
Betsy Carter, researcher (1970–79): You would open the door sometimes, and there were these two heavy bodies against the door. And they would both be on the floor drinking Jack Daniel’s or having sex under the desk.
Adler: In the era in which I came, which started in 1979, Lynn and her colleagues had achieved what they had achieved. So, there was no longer this rigid distinction between writers and editors who are all men and researchers and reporters who are all women, and the only way a researcher could get ahead was to steal a senior editor away from his wife. I mean, that was over. But people had romances and affairs. There was a brief period during which Skyline, which was the car service, had radios, and the calls would go out over the radio, and they would say: “Pick up Jones at 444 going to” and then they’d say an address in the East 70s that…
Hackett: …did not correspond to the guy’s actual residence.
Adler: You’d be going home in your car, and you would hear this come over the radio.
Povich: There were also a lot of suburban guys who spent Friday nights in New York, in hotels.
Goldman: Those offices were greenhouses. Things flowered.
Alpern: I have to say when I first graduated from college I got a recruiting thing from Time magazine that said, “You could be one of 20 people working on a story!” I thought, “Who needs that?” But at Newsweek I came to love it. Working in that system, you would get, on a big story, files from four Washington correspondents, Detroit, Chicago, everywhere. It was, for you as a writer, like driving a 16-cylinder Cadillac. These guys would be covering Congress for 10 years, who had this, who had that. It was all coming into you. It was all there. It was a thrill to have all this tremendous stuff. A challenge to make the best of it. But a thrill.
Goldman: Newsweek was anonymous. No bylines at all. It was the opposite of every journalist being his own “brand.” But in the late 1960s, we started the process that would lead to top bylines and to the whole idea of a star system, and I subsequently came down with a case of regret. I thought the anonymous system, as it turned out, was better. It stopped being as much of a team game.
Adler: But even with bylines, there was still something kind of glorious about putting together this enterprise in which everyone played a part and everyone had a role.
Hackett: The same thing that happened with Kennedy happened with Princess Diana—and that was 34 years later. I mean, it was even more insane. That was Labor Day weekend, a holiday. And she died on a Saturday, not a Friday.
Sharon Begley, science writer (1977–2011): I was the Back of the Book weekend writer on call, and the magazine was already on the presses.
Alexis Gelber, editor (1980–2008): Ken Auchicloss called Mark [Whitaker, Gelber’s husband, who was then Newsweek’s managing editor], up at our house Woodstock. We were on vacation. [The editor] Maynard Parker, was on vacation, too, in Oregon. Ken told Mark to turn on the TV. Mark had once been in a very bad car accident, and when saw Diana’s car, he said, “Either she’ll never be the same again ... or she’s dead.” We only had one telephone up there. No cellphones. No call waiting. We started directing traffic.
Barbara Kantrowitz, writer/editor (1985–2010): I had scheduled a family reunion at my house to start after the presses closed [Saturday] because I was the senior editor on duty. Then Mark Whitaker called to tell me to come in, and I called Sharon Begley. My family was long gone when I returned home the next day.
Begley: Barbara called me to say Princess Diana had been in an accident and to stand by. My first move: take a shower (I can’t write with dirty hair!). I decided to go in, so I ran for the train, got to the office around midnight, just as Jon [Meacham, then the Nation editor] was walking in. For some weird reason, I remember he’d forgotten his ID, so I told the security guard he was with me.
Gelber: On the way back to the city, we heard [Paris bureau chief] Chris Dickey announcing on the radio, via CNN, that Diana had died.
Begley: That’s when Rick Smith issued the order he said he always wanted to: stop the presses.
Gelber: By the time we got to the office, it was 1 in the morning. And we couldn’t believe it: there were 50 people there already. Word just ... got out. And people rushed in.
Begley: Mark called everyone into a story meeting, looked up at me perched on the windowsill and asked me to write the running. I wrote through the night, with the incomparable Chris Dickey feeding me updates from Paris (in between his CNN appearances!) by phone and the wonderful Tom Hayden (who came in on his own without being asked) feeding me coffee and facts (“Tom, where the hell in Paris is this tunnel?”).
Gelber: We got our legendary cover image from Patrick Demarchelier. A photo editor actually had to go to his apartment at 3:30 in the morning and ring his doorbell.
Karl Gude, information-graphics designer (1996–2006): I remember being blown away with what Sharon Begley was able to write with so little time and no sleep. I still remember Sharon standing in the news meeting at 1 a.m. wearing red shorts and looking completely casual as it was announced that she’d be writing the main story.
Gelber: And then, within 12 hours, the issue was done. Overnight. There was this real sense of teamwork—a real sense that this was what Newsweek was there to do.
Thomas Hayden, associate editor (1997–2000): I'd never seen a group of people handle pressure, uncertainty, and lack of sleep (and in a couple of cases at least, blossoming hangovers) with such grace, calm, and professionalism. That was the end of my first summer at Newsweek—and probably more than anything what convinced to stay in journalism. I remember sitting on the steps after it was all over, enjoying those sandwiches and coffee, and just thinking, hot damn. That was something!
Sam Register, research librarian (1996–present): My main memory, I’m almost ashamed to say, was Ken Auchincloss personally passing out overtime checks to nearly every employee. That certainly never happened again.