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John B. OakesJohn B. Oakes
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editorial page. Which, as I state -- this is important, of course, to this story -- would in the normal course of events have been in April of '78, which was almost exactly two years away.

I was a little startled -- in fact, more than a little startled, by Punch's statement that he had made this decision, because we had occasionally talked about my successor as something way off in the future. I had really had in mind and had hoped that my successor would be one of two or three members of the editorial board of the Times. When Punch gave me this name of Max Frankel, I must say that I was very startled at the definitiveness of his decision, because we certainly hadn't talked about Frankel in anything like positive terms, if at all -- I'm not even sure we had ever -- I think that the name of Frankel must have come up in previous conversations on this subject, but certainly nothing at all definitively.

I had to say, when I realized that this was it -- and I'm quite sure that I said to Punch at that time that I really felt that if he was not going to even consider any members of my own staff as successors -- and there were two or three specifically that I had in mind and had even, I'm sure, praised in earlier casual conversations with him on this subject -- because there was so much time ahead. There wasn't any -- as I understood it -- there wasn't any hurry about this.

But I said to him that I really felt that if he was going to pick somebody from the Times staff who wasn't on my editorial staff -- which I regretted that he had apparently decided to do -- Max Frankel was actually, I felt, the best possible person in the whole New York Times organization to succeed me.


What was he doing at that time?

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