THE PILLARS OF THE POST: The Making of a News Empire by Howard Bray

THE PILLARS OF THE POST: The Making of a News Empire

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The Post in question is the Washington Post, but this is not another smear. Neither, however, is it the personalized, powers-that-be history that the title and the subtitle together suggest. (Halberstam remains unchallenged in that area, supplemented by Chalmers Roberts' semi-official The Washington Post: The First 100 Years.) One comes to wonder, in fact, just what the book's purpose might be. There is no evident ordering principle, no consistent tone or point of view, no conclusion or observation that is anything but commonplace. The first chapter, ""Up From Bankruptcy,"" whips the reader from the 1933 purchase of the Post by Eugene Meyer to the suicide of his son-in-law (and successor) Philip Graham, in 1963; the second recaps the paper's long support of the Vietnam War (""Until the establishment shifted on Vietnam, Mrs. Graham held firm, too""); the next brings together novice-publisher Katharine Graham and hotshot editor Ben Bradlee (who ""fulfilled each other""), and ends with her now-assured intercession on behalf of the boat people and other good causes. Succeeding chapters, going back to earlier dates, review the Post and Sixties upheaval (""For all the criticism that the news spin of the Post favored the dissenters in the streets, the longstanding bias of the paper and others in the press was toward established authority""); the Post and Watergate (""Katharine Graham made a speech in which she both praised investigative reporting and cautioned against its inherent tendency to become extreme""); the Post and civil rights. The concluding chapters take up the burgeoning ""empire"" and the blemish of labor troubles. Throughout, the only material that is fresh is relatively insignificant--like the Post's efforts to make a go of the Trenton Times or the internal frictions of the Los Angeles Times-Washington Post News Service. (The two longish chapters on the labor disputes that culminated in the acrimonious 1975-76 pressmen's strike arrive at exactly the same conclusions--the Post was out to break the union, the pressmens' destructiveness made it easy for them--that Halberstam reaches, more incisively, in a few pages.) Sometimes smarmy, occasionally snide, but more often hedging (and frequently incoherent), this at best underlines the obvious.

Pub Date: March 24th, 1980
Publisher: Norton