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Part:         Session:         Page of 512

Part II, Session #3
Interviewee: John B. Oakes
Interviewer: Scott Bruns
Location: New York City
Date: April 30, 1964

Oakes:

The comments are probably disorganized because I haven't really sorted this out exactly in my own mind, but it might be-and you tell me if it will be-of interest to discuss the problem of the editor-publisher relationship as I have experienced it in my capacity as editor of the editorial page of the paper. This I think really is the most delicate relationship in the newspaper profession; when a publisher, who represents the ownership and management, as he does on our paper, takes an active interest in the editorial presentation of the paper.

To give you a little historical background, the relationship between Mr. Sulzberger Sr. and Mr. Merz, my predecessor as editor-and when I use the term “editor,” I am referring to the post of editor of the editorial page because that is the only function of the editor of the Times; that is, the man designated as editor. As a matter of fact, when I succeeded Mr. Merz, whose title was informally “editor,” although he only had control of the editorial page, my title was actually changed to editor of the editorial page. There was no change in function at all. Now, in the Times, Mr. Sulzberger and Mr. Merz had an extremely close personal relationship. For about twenty-five years, they operated in such close personal relations that there wasn't any real disagreement or there wasn't any real possibility of disagreement to any serious extent at all. So when people would ask, “What happens when the publisher and editor disagree on a matter of public policy?” the answer could quite honestly be given that, at least so far as I know, they never really disagreed. They saw



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