For the 12th episode of the Journalism History podcast, host Nick Hirshon spoke with Marilyn Greenwald about her biographies on the first woman to serve as a network news correspondent, the newspaper reporter who created The Hardy Boys, and a former society editor at The New York Times.
A professor in the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism at Ohio University, Greenwald’s teaching and interest areas are arts criticism, biographical writing, investigative reporting, and women in journalism.
This episode is sponsored by Northwest University.
Nick Hirshon: [00:00:10] Welcome to Journalism History, a podcast that rips out the pages of your history books to re-examine the stories you thought you knew, and the ones you were never told. I’m your host, Nick Hirshon, guiding you through our own drafts of history.
[00:00:28] This episode is sponsored by Northwest U, a faith-based U.S. News and World Report best value university located near Seattle, Washington. Founded in 1934, it offers more than 70 majors and academic programs as a university of possibility.
[00:00:47] She interviewed Fidel Castro, covered the Nuremberg trials, and moderated a presidential debate. Pauline Frederick soared through the glass ceiling of the television news industry, enjoying a nearly 50-year career at ABC and NBC that saw her become the first woman to serve as a network news correspondent. In this episode, we discuss Frederick’s career with Marilyn Greenwald of Ohio University, the author of the book Pauline Frederick Reporting. We also discuss the art of biography writing more broadly, including how to find a suitable subject, how to research using archives and oral history interviews, and how to choose the right design for a book jacket.
[00:01:31] All right. Dr. Greenwald, welcome to the Journalism History podcast.
Marilyn Greenwald: [00:01:35] Thank you. Happy to be here.
Nick Hirshon: [00:01:36] So, we’re here today to talk about your most recent book, Pauline Frederick Reporting: A Pioneering Broadcaster Covers the Cold War. And it was published in 2014 by Potomac Books, an imprint of the University of Nebraska Press. And you’ve written several biographies now: Charlotte Curtis, a former society editor at The New York Times, and Leslie McFarlane, the newspaper reporter who created the characters of Joe and Frank Hardy, better known as the Hardy boys, two of the most famous amateur detectives in children’s literature, and you also teach a biography writing course at Ohio University, which I was fortunate enough to take a few years ago. So, before we get into Pauline Frederick specifically, I want to just start out by asking you, what do you think makes a good subject for a biography?
Marilyn Greenwald: [00:02:17] Boy, you see, in my mind, somebody who’s overlooked but really interesting makes a good subject, and we know we talk in our class, as you might remember, about people who are interesting but who have been written about a lot. You know, there’s nothing wrong with that, but I get really excited when I find somebody who maybe isn’t famous per se but what they’ve done is so fascinating and they’re just such an interesting person. So, you know, that’s really what has drawn me to the subjects that I’ve written about, this idea of, I can’t believe that most people don’t know about this person or what she did.
Nick Hirshon: [00:03:00] Are you thinking at all about marketability, whether this sort of book will sell, or is it more just you’re interested enough and you hope that passion will somehow translate into sales?
Marilyn Greenwald: [00:03:09] Well, you know, it’s funny because I’m not interested per se in a lot of sales, but to get it published of course, you’ve got to make the case that it will sell. And I’m not saying I don’t want anyone to read it, but I’m not thinking, “If this doesn’t sell a million, I’m gonna be upset.” I’m not like that. I want people to read it, but just from a practical point of view, you have to make the case to any publisher that the book’s gonna sell. I mean obviously nonprofit publishers are not looking for books to sell a million per se, but they still don’t want to lose money. So, it’s a little bit of both. I’m not in it per se to be a best-selling author, but I do want people to read the book, so for my own personal reasons and so I could get a publisher.
Nick Hirshon: [00:03:59] So, we’re going to start by talking about Pauline Frederick, and can you please tell us who Pauline Frederick was and then how you came to research her life?
Marilyn Greenwald: [00:04:08] Yeah. In a nutshell, she was the first full-time female network correspondent. So, she was around and kind of in her heyday, I would say, where she was essentially a household name, was in the ‘60s, maybe early ‘70s, and she really was a household name. She worked for NBC. She was not exactly a regular on Meet the Press, but she was on Meet the Press a lot. Her segments were on the Today show, just as a network correspondent would be today. She covered the United Nations and a lot of international news although she was based in this country, in New York. And how I got interested in her, a colleague of mine, Joe Bernt, at OU, we did research together and we’re friends and he happened to find a Saturday Evening Post story about her, I believe it was in the early ‘60s, I don’t remember the date, and it was a huge story. And if you remember the Saturday Evening Post, they did these wonderful big stories with all kinds of pictures and it was by Gay Talese.
[00:05:18] So, they put one of their solid reporters on it, or a freelancer who everybody knew. And you could tell from reading it that she was virtually a household name. I mean everybody knew who she was, you could just tell by the tone of the article. And Joe being Joe, he didn’t just say, “Oh, this is interesting. She might make a book.”
[00:05:41] He actually did a little bit of research and said, “She’s got papers. She’s got papers over at Smith College and it looks like it’s a pretty extensive collection.” So, that’s when I started looking into her because unfortunately, as you probably know, there’s a lot of really interesting people out there, people you want to write about, but they either don’t have papers or you can’t have access to them or the only way you’ll get information really is maybe from interviews, maybe. And what might seem exciting at the beginning, you kind of lose your enthusiasm when you think there’s just not that much about this person, other than to turn it into a big personality profile. So, that’s kind of it in a nutshell.
Nick Hirshon: [00:06:24] How much does that affect your process? If you find out that maybe you’re very interested in a certain subject, but if Pauline had not had an archive, or if it was maybe spread out across multiple archives. You could have certainly, I guess, cobbled something together just from clips of her that are out there and newspaper articles, but you really wanted access to her own papers?
Marilyn Greenwald: [00:06:46] Yeah, I mean, it depends. You know, somebody doesn’t have to have the volume of papers that she did. If you look at her era, she was, you can do the math, she was born in 1908. So, there were people around who knew her, but they were getting up there, and her main living relative was a niece, who I would say was in her 70s at the time. It just depends. Now, she worked at NBC for decades, so you know you also have, as you kind of implied, there’s footage because she’s a broadcaster, television person. And you also have the archives of the network, which, you know, anybody can imagine, are huge.
[00:07:32] So, it would make it a little harder. You’d have to determine, is there enough here outside of just having a great archive? That’s a decision you’d have to make. I will tell you, of the other people that I’ve written about, I don’t want to say easiest, but her archive was not only the biggest, it was organized incredibly well, you know, so, in that way it was the most accessible of anybody that I wrote about. And some of the other people, at least Leslie McFarlane who wrote The Hardy Boys books, he didn’t have an archive per se, but I managed to get information from his family and from other sources, I think that worked out. But this was, I have to tell you, this was a gold mine. I mean, it just was. I was very lucky and I could not believe that somebody hadn’t done a full-length book on her.
Nick Hirshon: [00:08:32] I was just going to ask about that because it seems like all the materials were there for a biographer to find, and she obviously had a high profile. She was a notable journalist, working for nearly 50 years for major news outlets like ABC and NBC, and she is somewhat forgotten. And as I was researching before our interview today, I noticed the Wikipedia page for Pauline Frederick actually directs not to the journalist but to an American stage and film actress in the early 20th century.
Marilyn Greenwald: [00:08:58] Yeah.
Nick Hirshon: [00:08:59] And then says, “If you want, you can go to the Pauline Frederick journalist page.” So, why do you think that even though she has this archive, even though she had such a high stature at the time, she was sort of lost to history?
Marilyn Greenwald: [00:09:10] You know, that’s a good question. One reason, and I don’t know if this explains it, she was pretty low key and self-effacing. She was not a self-promoter; that wasn’t her personality. And you know, Barbara Walters came on the scene a little bit after she did. And so I was reading a little about Barbara, you know, and Barbara was, and I don’t mean this in a negative way, she was a huge self-promoter. I’m not saying we wouldn’t have heard of Barbara Walters, but I mean they were total opposites. Barbara, right from the start, she knew how to promote herself, how to get attention, and with Pauline, I think it was mostly about the work and getting it right and being respected. And so, I think if she had been a little bit more of a promoter of her own work, that might have helped, but with her stature, particularly with the network, and then there were only three networks of course, back then. It is pretty amazing that nobody had done more on her.
Nick Hirshon: [00:10:16] So, then getting more into your processes, I know this is something you discuss with your students in the biography class at Ohio University. How do you start out? Once you find that there is an archive, what is your initial step if you’ve decided this is the person you want to write a biography about?
Marilyn Greenwald: [00:10:36] Well, of course, as we discuss in the class, you really spend a lot of time in the archive to see what’s there. I think you have to find out what else is available. I mean, this to me was all in one place, but I really looked at the history of NBC archives and saw what was there. And see what that does, looking outside of the person, is get you an idea of the era, you know. So, I kid because I’m a print person and just about everybody I’ve written about has been a print person and she was a broadcaster, although started out in print. But you look at the era and I was learning some really fascinating things about network television back when she was starting out, and I found it really interesting, even little things like the 6:30 newscasts used to be 15 minutes, it was a big deal when it went to a half hour, and this was during her era, things like that.
[00:11:34] So, I guess I found that interesting. And I’m not saying, “That era was pretty boring.” You’re not going to think that. But this was a real key era in media. It really was. This was the time when television was, people were turning to television and everybody was saying radio was gonna go under. It’s kind of like what’s happening now, you know, or happened with online and print. So, there were a lot of parallels to what’s going on today. The era was really fascinating. And of course the NBC archive at the Library of Congress, part of it’s at the Library of Congress and part of it’s in Wisconsin, but the part I used was the Library of Congress, if you know what you are doing, it’s relatively easy to use. So, it’s what’s going on around the person, too, you have to find that interesting, you have to know a little bit about it. I didn’t know about broadcasting, but I knew of course about media. I kid in my class, somebody once said to me, “Well, you should do a book on people well-known,” and he was serious, “well, like the Wright Brothers, for instance.” And I was looking at him. I know absolutely nothing about aviation. And I guess you want to know something about the person. You don’t have to be an expert. But that to me, it was a bridge too far, I really know nothing about the history of aviation. So, know a little bit about the topic in general outside of the person and have an interest in it.
Nick Hirshon: [00:13:12] Right. Obviously, you’re trying to fit it into your mass communication research agenda, your own knowledge base, and just the community of scholars that you work with. At what point in that process then, you talk about going to the archives, do you decide you’re going to reach out to people maybe who Pauline knew in life or people who were influenced by her, because I know that you also make use of interviews sometimes or maybe materials that aren’t in an archive but somebody has kept in a basement or an attic for years. At what point do you start reaching out to the Pauline Fredrick family, for example?
Marilyn Greenwald: [00:13:41] Yeah. Well, you want to do it as soon as possible, but there is disclaimer to that, you want to do it as soon as possible because you know the people I’ve done, they’re getting up there, they’re older, particularly that niece that I mentioned. So, you want to be practical and do it quickly but as you’re implying, you’re not just going to spend 20 minutes looking at her history and then call them up, right? ’Cause you’re not going to know anything about her. So, you’ve got to have a happy medium where you really become acquainted with her. And I definitely went to the archive before I called the niece, before I contacted the niece. In fact, I tried to know her as well as I could before I called the niece because obviously they know you’re serious once you start talking about them and you know their life, so that that gets you ahead.
[00:14:34] And also, you don’t want to be you know calling the person back a million times: ‘Oh, I just found this out about her, I am calling you back,’ and ‘oh, I just found this out.’ There’s nothing wrong with contacting a person again, but ideally most of your questions you want to have in mind and ask them. So, you have to decide, when am I happy with what I know about her? I know enough about her to contact the people that I’m calling. I talked to a couple of people, and they were older too, former NBC correspondents. And that was another thing, I wanted to know about the network and the history the network and what was going on before I call former network correspondents, so I know nothing, I don’t want to indicate that. So, you do as much as you can, but if you wait too long, you know, who knows? The person is not going to be around.
Nick Hirshon: [00:15:30] Right. And you’re pretty prolific with your writing, so do you have strict deadlines for yourself like, ‘I’m gonna do the archival stage for two months, three months, and then I’m going to move on definitively to oral history interviews, and then that’s only a two or three-month stage before I move on to the actual writing,’ or are these all kind of taking place at once?
Marilyn Greenwald: [00:15:55] I have very loose deadlines. I very rarely write when I’m in the middle of the research, I just don’t, because I got to get a momentum going. There are very loose deadlines, and as you know, in our lives when we teach, when we’re not teaching in the summer, in December, when we have a lot of time. I take that into consideration, so I know, why I have all of December, and obviously there’s a summer, so they’re very loose deadlines but they’re deadlines nonetheless. One thing you have to do, and I think it’s a trap you can fall into, you’ve got to keep moving. I mean, you have to keep moving. When I was writing the Pauline book, I went to China for three weeks and that was the longest I’ve been gone from writing the book. I had most of the research done, 90 percent of it, 95, and I was doing the writing and I thought, ‘No big deal, it’s three weeks.’ It set me back. I have to say, it set me back. So, don’t think, ‘Well, I’m going to take two weeks off of it,’ unless you absolutely have to. At least with me, I need that momentum, I really do. When I lose that momentum, I’m dead. It’s hard for me. I backtrack is what happens, and then I get mad at myself cause I’m backtracking and that’s not good. So, the momentum is the thing with me, I’ve got to keep doing it. And then with some degree of the research, obviously, you can’t continue research seven days a week but you’ve got to generally keep doing it. ‘Oh, I’m putting this project down for six months and then I’m coming back to it.’ I think that would be really hard. Sometimes you have to do it, but I wouldn’t do it unless you absolutely have to.
Nick Hirshon: [00:17:36] Sure. Well, then another thing that’s part of that process is, what stage do you decide, I’m going to start looking for publishers, or do I maybe pull out a section of this potential book to be a conference paper or a journal article? So, at what point in your process are you starting to think about outlets?
Marilyn Greenwald: [00:17:54] Well, you can think about – conference papers I’ve done, you can do those early on because they’re so short. The publishing aspect, I try to get a publisher as soon as I can because, for a number of reasons, mentally you want to think, ‘Well, I’m not doing this for my health or just for a conference paper.’ You want to think, ‘I’m putting this time in for a book.’ Plus, sometimes depending on who you interview, they’ll ask, ‘Well, who’s your publisher?’ And even if you don’t have one, it’s not the end of the world, but you get that. So, if I have a really good subject I generally can fashion a pretty good book proposal. I think I’ve gotten that down. So, I try to get the publisher pretty early. I find it discouraging, you know, to be writing two, three, four, five, six chapters and you don’t have a publisher. Publishers do want sample chapters and that is fine. I have no problem with that, but I don’t like doing a lot without a publisher. And the first book, I think, you have to, I have the luxury of most of the publishers I’ve gotten, they’ve only required a sample chapter or two because I’ve had other books. I think if it’s your first book you do have to get to a point where I may be writing most of this book without a publisher, because it would be your first one.
Nick Hirshon: [00:19:19] And when you’re talking about selling to a publisher, one of the themes I remember coming up in our biography class was how much do you maybe exaggerate or overhype, the tendency to try to want to sell to a publisher, this person. And so you want to be accurate of course as a biographer, but then we know that the biographies that sometimes sell are more about scandal and sex and bizarre things that are happening in people’s lives. So, how did you do that with someone like Pauline Frederick, because it seems like she didn’t necessarily have crazy events happening to her, although she was a very well-known person in her day and was certainly worthy of scholarship?
Marilyn Greenwald: [00:19:58] Yeah. There is a difference between, you know, making something salacious when it’s not, something like that. I remember when I was trying to sell the Charlotte Curtis book, The New York Times editor, somebody asked, ‘Well, did she have affairs with anybody famous?’ I’ll never forget that. So, you’re not going to go, ‘Oh, she happened to talk to somebody once and I’m going to have her having an affair with him,’ I’m not going to do that. So, there’s a difference between that, but I think you can, I don’t want to say hype or exaggerate, but a lot of times you know what a publisher will like. You hope that it’ll lead to that, so you can kind of exaggerate it a little bit, and publishers, editors know that things don’t always turn out the way they planned.
[00:20:47] I mean, I think most editors are sophisticated enough to know if you know you say something and it sounds really super exciting and it doesn’t pan out, that’s fine. But in the bigger picture, you have to have an interesting person. I don’t know how you can hype someone who’s not, at their core, compelling. ‘Well, I hyped her so much and she’s really pretty boring and now I have this book publisher.’ I mean, I don’t think it could work unless you just want to lie. But, you know and not to get off the subject, but Kitty Kelley, who is a pretty famous biographer, sometimes she does very famous people, Nancy Reagan, but she, at one point, had a reputation for hyping things. So that’s a whole different realm. I have no problem with that. I might exaggerate this a little bit and it might be the truth. I don’t know. I have no problem with that. But the core of it, you have to have an interesting person, a compelling person and ideally in a compelling era. And don’t underestimate, and I’m not saying you are, but don’t underestimate that editors know that what’s in your proposal is gonna be 100 percent of what you have in the book. You know that that’s not going to happen, and they know that.
Nick Hirshon: [00:22:12] Sure. Well, to that point then, while you were researching the life of Pauline Frederick, did you find anything that was surprising, not necessarily salacious, but just anything that had not been in the scholarship before and you were able to make that new contribution?
Marilyn Greenwald: [00:22:26] I found a ton. I mean, this is what’s so exciting. Sometimes if somebody is unknown, you kind of go into it thinking, ‘Am I gonna have enough here? Is this going to be interesting enough because she’s unknown?’ And the books I’ve written, I’ve worried a tiny bit about that and it’s always been quite the opposite. Or, ‘Oh my God. Oh, this happened, and this happened, oh my God, that’s not even in the proposal. I didn’t even know that.’ So, yeah it’s actually been, and again, nothing per se racy, but I mean just from a historical point of view. A lot of things in Pauline, and I remember Lyndon Johnson was complaining about a story that she had done and he was furious and he called the president of NBC and then the LBJ Library happened to have that call. They had a transcript of it and they also had the tape. I mean, that’s exciting because you find out about it, like ‘Wow, that would be nice to hear LBJ yell at the president of NBC.’ Well, there it is, there he is yelling at the president of NBC. So, things like that, you know, get you excited and there’s just a lot of stuff like that that I found in her story.
Nick Hirshon: [00:23:59] Any tips for people who are doing biographical research? Obviously, you teach this course, and maybe in a nutshell are there any – some of your secrets of how to find information or convey it that maybe you didn’t know when you first set out writing these books?
Marilyn Greenwald: [00:24:14] Well, depending on what you’re doing, of course, but the presidential libraries are a gold mine. And they’re not just for people who do books, articles on presidents. I mean, look at this, I used it for Pauline in fact, Nixon Library too. So, I guess that’s a gold mine. And depending on what you’re doing, and we talked about this in class, oral histories, the United Nations has this enormous oral history, hours and hours of tapes of Pauline. And a lot of times people, I don’t want to say they’ll reveal secrets, but they’ll say stuff in oral histories particularly like an oral history that they know isn’t gonna be broadcast to the world, they’ll say things, and you’re like ‘wow,’ or they’ll admit things. Because I don’t know, maybe subconsciously they think, ‘Well, this is a United Nations oral history, who on Earth is ever going to listen to this?’ As opposed to being interviewed by Lester Holt on NBC, then you’re going to be a little more guarded. So, these oral histories that are on these sites like the United Nations that, you know, NBC, the networks and the presidential libraries. I feel bad about the presidential libraries because I don’t know how many people use those in a year. I mean, I’m sure it’s a lot, but comparatively when you think of what they have there and the money put into those, because they’re absolutely fascinating. And if you dig deep into the website, like I said, I found this, this tape of LBJ, I mean, it didn’t even take me that long. It was so well organized and I never went over there. I got that from my home on my computer. So, and then I guess my other tip, quick tip, and we talk about this in class, there’s so much online now. I mean, when I did the Charlotte Curtis book back in the mid-90s, when I think now what’s online and there, I mean, the Internet was around but nothing like it is now and these archives, you couldn’t get much from your computer. You had to go places. Smith College did its own little online display of Pauline Frederick. So they had excerpts from letters and they had pictures on a certain theme. I mean, they didn’t just throw them up on the website, you know, there was a theme, there were themes. So, never underestimate what’s available online and in these government-funded repositories.
Nick Hirshon: [00:26:53] I’d like to move on to some sort of tips you might have after the book is finished and you’re starting to actually start with promotion and dealing with the publisher. Pulling back the curtain on some of these parts of the book process that we don’t discuss much, one aspect of that is working with the publisher to create an eye-catching cover. And it’s a conversation that we’ve had a lot lately because I have my own book coming out that I was talking about. So, the cover for your book on Pauline shows her sitting at a desk with some papers in her hands as she’s broadcasting for ABC radio in the late 1940s, and it has this wonderful old-style microphone there, so it very quickly conveys that she is a reporter of some sort, a broadcaster. It puts her in the age, it’s a black and white image, and you got this from the digital archives at Smith College, which you mentioned you used for your research. So, more generally, what do you think makes a good cover? And then if you can tell us at all about the Pauline cover, specifically, how did you find it? How did you come to that decision?
Marilyn Greenwald: [00:27:54] OK. What makes a good cover? I’m bad at that, alright. If you show me something and I think it will make a good cover, I know a good cover when I see it, that kind of thing. But I’m bad about thinking, ‘Well, so maybe the cover should have this, or look like this, or do this.’ If you show me something, and it’s like if you buy clothes, you put on something, like, ‘Yes, that’s good, that fits just right,’ or ‘this doesn’t look good.’ So, I’m OK at if I see something, I can say, ‘that will make a good cover’ or ‘it won’t.’ And that’s what happened with Pauline. There were a million, and that’s not much of an exaggeration, or probably a couple hundred, photos of her in the archive at Smith. This one was online, you’re right, but there were also other photos. So, rule number one, go into it thinking about the cover. I got a book contract, in fact, in February for a book that’s due in a couple months and as soon as I signed the contract, the letter from the publishers said, ‘Start thinking about photos,’ so there you go. So, I’m already thinking about the cover, so do that. And even if you’re not using a website heavily about that person, access it anyway because there could be photos about the era or maybe not with that person in it but about that era. I guess tip number one, be thinking about photos/cover from the start, from the absolute start, and have it in your brain.
[00:29:35] Sometimes when I have an extra 20 minutes and I’m sitting around and I don’t want to write, you know, I can’t start writing or doing much in 20 minutes, I’ll peruse websites and say, ‘Hey, maybe I can find a photo here,’ or ‘let me think of possible photos,’ because we all love photos, right? A lot of people, ‘Oh, I’m in the bookstore, first thing I do is I pick up the book and I go to the photos,’ and then we’ve had the conversation, as you noted, that covers are so important and they draw people and how do you get them and they’re difficult and etc., etc. So, just think, think, think about the cover right from the start because if you do it when you’re done or halfway done it’s not going to work. Or maybe it will. I was lucky with Pauline because this was one of the photos available. It was perfect. And that was actually a publicity shot of hers, but it’s not always that easy.
Nick Hirshon: [00:30:40] Right. I might add to that too, the price of the photos that you are using because I’ve found, and I’m sure this was with your research, if you were to go to ABC or NBC or any news agency that might have had photographs, even going to the New York Times for Charlotte Curtis, for example, they might be charging a lot more than a traditional archive at Smith College or a library that tend to have much more reasonable fees and are more used to dealing with academic authors. So, I don’t know if you had tried to use ABC, NBC before you went to Smith but that probably would save you some money too.
Marilyn Greenwald: [00:31:16] Yeah, Smith, they charge me what they call a scanning fee and I don’t remember what it was, I think it was something like twenty=five dollars a picture, which isn’t super cheap if you have like 10 pictures or 12, but sometimes the publisher will pay for it or part of it. The horror story that I have is, and I told the class this, when I wrote the book on the person who wrote The Hardy Boys books, they’re written in the ’20s and ‘30s, let’s put the first three Hardy Boys book covers in the book because they’ve got the Hardy Boys looking like people from the ’30s. So, that was that was pretty interesting and funny. So Simon and Schuster now owns, or they did when I wrote the book, they didn’t back in the ’30s, but they now own the Hardy Boys books, so we go, ‘Oh, can we have permission to run the first three covers?’ And I don’t remember exactly the amount, but it was something like, ‘Sure, for five hundred dollars apiece you can run the first, we’ll give you permission.’ I’m like, ‘woah!’ And I don’t know if was five hundred or four hundred or what. And then my publisher said, ‘Well, tell them we’re a non-profit.’ Yeah, well that got like fifty dollars off a book, I mean, it didn’t do a whole lot. So, they ended up running the first Hardy Boys book. And so that’s unfortunate. But you’re right, it’s an example of what you just said, Simon and Schuster apparently is not gonna say, ‘All right, you know, here for twenty bucks apiece we’ll give you the permission,’ that’s not going to happen.
Nick Hirshon: [00:32:44] Sure. Another part of selling the book, the marketability, is finding someone to write the foreword. And I want to ask you about that because you want to have someone who has some cachet, someone who’s obviously going be easy to work with, who’s not going to maybe charge you because they’re lending their name to this book, and for your book on Pauline Frederick, you were able to get Marlene Sanders, a television news correspondent who would work for ABC in the ’60s and the ’70s and moved to CBS in 1978. She is known as a pioneer in the field, the first woman to anchor an evening news broadcast for a major network, she did so for ABC in 1964, and the first woman to report on the Vietnam War from the field. So, how do you go about identifying a good foreword writer, first of all, and then how do you try to contact them?
Marilyn Greenwald: [00:33:30] Yeah. Oh by the way, just interesting fact, Marlene Sanders is Jeffrey Toobin’s mother, the person who is on CNN.
Nick Hirshon: [00:33:36] Right, yes.
Marilyn Greenwald: [00:33:37] Anyway, I got her because she came after Pauline but Pauline was still around, in other words, when Pauline was a seasoned correspondent, Marlene was one of the one of a few young up-and-comers who were just starting in network news, so she knew her a little bit. And I’m thinking, ‘OK, I have her contact. I’m going to interview her.’ And I interviewed her. It was a phone interview and it was pretty interesting and I was telling, actually it was Joe Bernt, the same person as you know sent me the article on Pauline, and I said, ‘Oh, she was pretty interesting, and she said this and that,’ and he said, ‘Oh, you should get her to write the foreword,’ and it was like, ‘woah, eureka! What a good idea, for some reason I hadn’t thought of that.’ This was in the middle of it and I didn’t have to do it yet, but I kind of put that in the back of my mind. In her case, she knew her, she worked in the same environment that she did.
[00:34:41] She knew what it was like to work back then. She was easy to talk to, she was a nice person and she felt that more people should know about the plight of these women pioneers in broadcasting. So, she felt in a way, ‘Hey, I want people to know about Pauline.’ You want somebody who’s an authority. Ideally, I don’t know, it just depends on your subject. I like it when the person who writes the forward either knows the person’s work or knows the person. Liz Smith, the gossip columnist, wrote the foreword to my Charlotte Curtis book. And again she knew Charlotte and it was a similar situation. Charlotte was a seasoned reporter when Liz was, I don’t want to say just starting out, but Charlotte knew the ropes, I guess, when Liz first came to New York. She was from Texas, and Charlotte helped her.
[00:35:34] And so she really liked her. She really helped her out. And I called her, it was easier to get people’s phone numbers back then before the internet and privacy, but I ended up calling her and she said she’d do it and she was a lovely, lovely person. My publisher said, ‘You can tell her we’ll give her a small honorarium,’ whatever that means, a hundred dollars, two hundred dollars. And Liz was active in literacy, very much literacy movements. And so she said, ‘Oh yeah. I’ll take it and I’ll give it to this literacy charity that I like.’ And that was very nice. People like that don’t write the forewords for the money, and she took it for the charity. But I was very lucky in both those cases because they knew the person, they knew the era, and they were willing to do it. Writing about writers, writers know other writers, and so it makes it a lot easier because those people are pretty articulate. So, yeah, I know, we have discussed forewords and how important they are and sometimes it’s difficult to get someone.
Nick Hirshon: [00:36:55] In addition to getting people to write the forward, you have to find somebody to write blurbs that would be in the back of the book or in a press release. And sometimes you’re cannibalizing people who write a blurb because you pick them for the foreword. But the same sort of idea there, one strategy might be, well, have other people who have written books for the same publisher and proven that they’re successful, they know what good research is. Sometimes you want people who are just going to sell to the common person and your books are such that although they may have an academic audience, and they certainly have the academic rigor to the method and everything, they’re intended for anybody who might just be interested in the history of TV news or a good story, so you might want someone like a Liz Smith or a Marlene Sanders who is just well known to the common person. So when you’re trying to get the blurbs, any specific strategy you do to get that?
Marilyn Greenwald: [00:37:45] Blurbs can be a pain in the neck for the reasons you mentioned. The blurbs, I kind of start worrying about near the end of the process. You think about ’em like you do the cover. I’m at a point now where I start thinking about them early on because I’m seasoned to do that, but those I try to worry about more at the end. Sometimes the publisher will help you get a blurb or they’ll come up with a blurb, that kind of thing. At the Ohio University Press, they were pretty good about that, they had ideas, and in fact, they even contacted some people, which I think is unusual. But you have to make sure that you’re the one responsible for the blurb. If your publisher does it you’re pretty lucky, or if they help you you’re pretty lucky. But be thinking about it kind of right from the start. Sometimes somebody, as you were saying, somebody who is interested in the topic, somebody who is a known name in the field, obviously any name recognition is wonderful, and publishers love that.
Nick Hirshon: [00:38:52] Well, and then just to start wrapping up and to think about Pauline Frederick and her impact, bringing this to the modern day. I’m wondering if you see any parallels between some of the struggles that Pauline may have gone through being a woman in a male-dominated industry, being a pioneer, to what we see going on today with a lot of the female news correspondents, especially those covering President Trump in the White House. He’s obviously tangled with many reporters, male and female, but there have been particular instances where he seems to interact with women in a different way. For example, in October, he was criticized for telling one female reporter from Pauline’s alma mater, ABC News, Cecilia Vega, that ‘I know you’re not thinking, you never do.’ And in November he told another female reporter, Abby Phillip from CNN, ‘What a stupid question that is, what a stupid question. I watch you a lot. You ask a lot of stupid questions.’ So, you’re seeing this kind of bullying, adversarial relationship between the president and female correspondents. Do you see any links to what Pauline went through? And you said you had looked at just what female correspondents of that era, Marlene Sanders, Barbara Walters, whoever else might have dealt with male subjects, including politicians. So, any parallels there to what happened with Pauline and what’s happening now?
Marilyn Greenwald: [00:40:11] Well, I’ll tell you one big parallel is not necessarily what you mentioned, but the business about women correspondents having to look good and having their hair to be perfect, and they have to be camera ready even if it’s 5:00 in the morning. Way back when, when Pauline first went into broadcasting and that was in the late ’40s, because she’d been a print person and a radio person and then TV. She wrote about in interviews back in the ’50s, in magazine interviews, she said, ‘The men, all they have to do is, put on a suit and tie and their hair has to be neat, and they’re good to go. My hair has to be perfect,’ and then they wanted her to lighten her hair which I think she did. She said, ‘my hair is really much darker than this, if it were up to me, it would be darker.’
[00:41:06] They had her wear contact lenses I think for a while, which she wasn’t crazy about. And as she got older and was giving talks to women broadcasters, she even said, ‘This focus on looks, you know, you have to be beautiful. You have to beautiful. If someone is presentable, what’s wrong with that?’ And she really did feel that women face that more than men, that they weren’t going to get very far in broadcasting, a woman wasn’t, unless she was attractive. I mean, I’m not saying she has to be stunning, but she felt she had to be attractive. As she got older, she felt that same way, so that’s a parallel. Now, one thing she always said in speeches too was you really have to know what you’re doing, you have to be up on the subject. I don’t think that would help in this era of Donald Trump and female broadcasters because these women are very smart and they know the topic they cover. But one anecdote, as far as Pauline, she was really the dean of the United Nations reporters. She knew everything there was to know about the United Nations.
[00:42:23] And one of the pictures I found out in the archive was, it was a picture of Pauline interviewing George Bush the first, the first President George Bush. He wasn’t president. He had just been named, I think, to the ambassador the United Nations, which was a prestigious post. And he signed the picture and on the front, it said, and I’ll never forget this, it was a great picture, ‘To Pauline, I hope one day I know as much about the United Nations as you do.’ And I thought, ‘Wow, that is a real gracious thing to write,’ a, it’s gracious and b, it speaks to her reputation. You’ve got this guy who’s gonna be the ambassador and he’s saying, ‘Boy, you know so much more than anybody else.’ So, again I don’t think it would help in this era of Trump because he doesn’t really care how much you know. But this is what makes the job so difficult. You’re not only in front of the camera. You have to know so much and you do so of your much homework when you’re not in front of the camera. So, it’s a tough job. It’s a tough job now. I don’t know if it’s any tougher than it was when there were only three networks, who knows. But I’ll tell you, Pauline did not work eight hour days, they were much, much longer than that. And it’s just, is probably worse today.
Nick Hirshon: [00:43:52] Well, it’s been great to talk about Pauline, all these biographies that you’ve written. I wonder if we can just end with the question that we ask a lot of our guests here, very simply, you could take it in any direction you want: Why does journalism history matter? You’ve devoted your life to doing this sort of research. Why do you think it matters to tell these sorts of stories?
Marilyn Greenwald: [00:44:12] Oh, I mean, it really does shape the way you think about the present and the future. If this Trump era is teaching us anything, and maybe this is something good to come of it, it really shows you, ‘Hey, if you do this now, this is what can happen later.’ Or just one small step, it seems like it’s nothing now, but if you look at history, three steps from now it could lead to something good or bad. And I’m not just saying that in a negative way. You have to put the present in context. You can’t just live the present – ‘I know what happened now and I know what happened six months ago’ – because I think it really does shape the future, shape the way you think, shape the way you act. So, I think it’s absolutely vital, it really is. I mean, it’s not just a luxury.
Nick Hirshon: [00:45:10] Alright. Well, thank you so much for joining us Dr. Greenwald. I really appreciate your time.
Marilyn Greenwald: [00:45:09] Thank you and congratulations on your book.
Nick Hirshon: [00:45:17] Thank you very much. Just for the listeners, Dr. Greenwald was my dissertation director at Ohio University and in 2016 I defended my dissertation that was called We Want Fish Sticks: The Bizarre and Infamous Rebranding of the New York Islanders. It was about the hockey team that I grew up rooting for on Long Island and in 1995 they changed their logo from this traditional depiction of the letters ‘NY’ and a map of Long Island to be this fisherman who looked a lot like the Gorton’s fisherman from the fish stick box. And I ended up getting a book contract from the University of Nebraska Press, which is the same publisher that published your Pauline Frederick book. So, that was a nice connection and that’s coming out right now. So, I appreciate all of your guidance on that project. I certainly learned a lot about how to do biography and this sort of writing in your course, so thank you.
Marilyn Greenwald: [00:46:05] Oh, thank you. Thanks. I appreciate it. I enjoyed talking about what I do.
Nick Hirshon: [00:46:09] Thanks for tuning into this episode of the Journalism History podcast. Until next time, I’m your host, Nick Hirshon, signing off with the words of Edward R. Murrow: Good night, and good luck.