THE WASHINGTON POST: The First 100 Years by Chalmers Roberts

THE WASHINGTON POST: The First 100 Years

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When tackling institutional history the obvious approach is to dive in at the beginnings and follow the chronological route. With the Post's Watergate triumph in mind, one might have expected a less traditional treatment, but Roberts' chronicle, marking the paper's centennial, sensibly stays within the usual confines, proceeding at a steady clip from the founding by Stilson Hutchins in 1877 to the glory days of Bradlee and Woodstein. Assigned this task by publisher Katharine Graham, former Post White House correspondent Roberts makes good use of his full access to produce a graceful, warm account that is tolerant of its subject but in no way dutifully blind to its shortcomings. Roberts is particularly adept at meshing the Post's own story with parallel figures and events--publisher Ned McLean's gambols with the Harding crowd, for example, or subsequent owner Eugene Meyer's bouts with FDR. Praise is objectively bestowed where deserved-- the Post's anti-McCarthy stance, its treatment of the Pentagon Papers, and, of course, Watergate--and blame just as objectively placed: the paper's longtime indifference to racial problems, waffling on the Vietnam War, erratic editing, and tight purse strings that hampered coverage. If not bright with anecdotes, the book does bring its people to life: the McLeans, Meyer, the brilliant and doomed Philip Graham, whose struggle with manic depression ended in suicide in 1963, his wife and successor Kate, and the powerhouse Bradlee. Finally, Roberts shows commendable restraint on the Woodstein Watergate accomplishments, which are treated calmly and in balance with everything else. A nice job.

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1977
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin