Ben. I heard him reminisce about those momentous days
and realized what a tenacious journalist he was.
For those reading this who were born later than the early
1960s the Pentagon Papers scandal may not be part of your memory.
But many of us remember the leaked secret document in 1971 that
exposed Americas po-litical leaders in a cover-up about
the hopelessness of winning the war in Vietnam.
Last week I saw the movie, The Post, about
the Washington Post and how it obtained and printed the Classified
Secret report and it had a per-sonal recollection for me.
The Post staffer who got the documents from an anonymous source
later discovered to be Daniel Ellsberg was Ben
Bagdikian. He later became dean of the UC Berkeley Graduate School
At the time I was a member of the same Society of Professional
Journal-ists chapter in San Francisco as
When the presses rolled, the newspaper came out all
folded and ready to tie into bundles, then load onto a truck
for delivery to carriers and news racks. (Provided photo)
His revealing books, The Media Monopoly, and
later, The Information Machines, exposed what was
occurring on the national media scene. Big companies were buying
up the profitable newspapers and consolidating smaller independent
papers, creating a monopoly in major markets around the country.
This discouraged the competitive nature of reporting and sometimes
money influenced the newspapers editorial stands. Since
his books have come out, this trend has continued, and today
we can hardly find big cities with two major dailies Chicago
and New York being the ex-ceptions.
Getting back to The Post movie some scenes were
familiar to me. While at the San Bernardino (California) Sun,
I was fortunate to work in a large metropolitan newsroom. On
weekends I was in charge of remaking pages to localize editions
for each of the major areas in which the Sun cir-culated. That
meant I could go downstairs into the composing room and di-rect
the page makeup, but not dare to ever step over the red line
painted on the floor marking where nonunion news people were
allowed, or the un-ion backshop would be shut down. So I couldnt
grab a column of lead type or headline and put it into the page
forms myself, as I had done at weeklies in DeKalb County in earlier
years. It was a thrill to see the backshop and hear the clatter
of the Linotype machines, then the roar of the giant letter-press
after the button was pushed to run the days first edition.
While editor of the Chronicle from 1969 through 1972, I
enjoyed going to the production area at our building on Locust
Street since the backstop was non-union. It was an afternoon
paper back then, so I was still at work when the presses began
to roll and the rumbling could be felt in the newsroom. It was
always exciting to go back and pick up a freshly printed paper.
One could smell the ink and even smudge the print while it was
Then the paper moved out to Barber Greene Road and was
converted to offset printing. Although a more state-of-art, high-tech
operation, I could still go to the pressroom and scan the front
page for any major errors. It was hell to stop the presses, once
started, to correct an error, so it seldom happened. It meant
the paper would be late going out to the carriers and rural route
drivers who wanted to deliver it before supper. Parents did not
want their kids out late after dark, especially in winter, so
we had better be on time. It was a different story when we became
a morning paper and the presses ran overnight.
The only remaining Chronicle people from my era who I believe
are still around are Jay Elliott, Rodney Jacobson, Waymon Espy,
Ray McDermott, Bill Engstrom, Don Pinnick, Pat Duffy and David
Did I miss anyone?