The Pulitzers could have sold off the company's smaller newspapers to Lee — they would have been a better fit with Lee, which had never run a major metro paper. But I don't think it was in the financial interests of the outside advisers — led by Goldman Sachs — nor of the top execs and stockholders to do anything other than just sell the company. Mrs. Pulitzer certainly made another fortune on the sale. Her art collection probably was already worth more than the newspaper.

She got $400 million out of the deal. Terry Egger got something for his troubles as well; his Pulitzer holdings were worth more than $9 million when Lee bought the company for $64 a share.

Of course, that's assuming he sold his shares. Lee was trading at about $45 per share when the sale went through. Now it's more like $1.20. Just think: Emily Pulitzer could buy back her empire for less than $60 million! She could probably scrape up that much from between her sofa cushions — and she'd get all Lee's Podunk papers too. How much, if any, Pulitzer stock did you own?

Check the P-D's news reports of the time, especially those by Christopher Carey. Mrs. Pulitzer's gain was considerable larger than what you state. She owned more than half the company, as I recall.

I didn't own much Pulitzer stock. I wasn't an officer of Pulitzer Inc. — only of the Post-Dispatch. I owned a lot of Tribune Co. stock, because I had worked there for 28 years, and they had replaced their pension plans with stock ownership. Just by luck, the move to the P-D got me to sell when TribCo [which filed for bankruptcy protection in 2008 and has yet to re-emerge] was still a profitable hulk.

News reports at the time indicated that you were optimistic about the Post's future under Lee, despite the fact that the company was anything but the second coming of the Poynter Institute. Why the sunny outlook? And at what point did the clouds roll in?

I was optimistic at first. Many of us were glad we hadn't been acquired by [USA Today parent company] Gannett, although in retrospect that might have been better. Gannett has tough rules, but you know what they are. Also, Lee made a lot of promises earlier on, but these quickly began to look shaky. It became clear that my ideas were not compatible with Lee's.

Having grown up on the East Side, you were familiar with the St. Louis area — did you jump into the new job with both feet?

Well, I wouldn't have left my tropical home in Fort Lauderdale — and Tribune Co., where I'd worked since college — if 1) this weren't my hometown newspaper and 2) I didn't think I could bring about meaningful change, accomplish some things that would matter.

Of course I jumped in with both feet. Anyone who has ever worked with me will tell you I don't do anything slowly. Patience does not come naturally to me.

You mention my being an East Side native. A funny thing happened early on: My husband and I arrived at Lambert, and he was getting a car at Hertz. He was using an AmEx card I still had from Tribune Co. The counterman asked what "Tribune" is, and when told it is a newspaper company, this delightful man said: "Well, we have a new editor of the Post-Dispatch! And she's from East St. Louis!"

I was astonished. I learned quickly that I would be recognized as I moved around the St. Louis area, which doesn't happen to editors in most cities. I preferred not to be. My husband bought me better sweat clothes for my morning walks.

On the other hand, I enjoyed getting out into our communities. I did that a lot. Many people thought the P-D was arrogant, remote, too liberal. I loved engaging readers, parrying with them, and trying to change our outside image to something more human.

What were your impressions of the newsroom on your first day at work, in January 2001?

I grew up reading the Post-Dispatch, and it inspired me to become a journalist. But the newspaper had deteriorated significantly. It was out of touch with the national media environment and with much of the St. Louis region.

Change was often difficult at the P-D. Actually, it became easier to achieve in our newsrooms than in the rest of the organization, which was amazingly antiquated. For example, basic personnel records, such as payroll, were still done with paper and pencil. (Of course, Terry Egger and the VPs who reported to him were mostly new, too, and trying to bring about change in their own areas.)

The fact that I followed Cole Campbell, who was despised by most of the newsroom, made some of the changes there easier. (I liked Cole, who was quite gracious to me. He was a brilliant mind who never saw a new journalism theory he didn't want to try.) I was seen as the non-Cole. And people wanted to get the news operation out of Cole's experiments, fast. Unfortunately, some folks thought that meant going back to operating just as things had been before.

« Previous Page
Next Page »