The man who interviewed me was a small dapper man. He scanned through my résumé, then looked up at my hair.
He was the metropolitan editor.
“Our journalists wear suits. Their hair stays above the collar”, he said, looking me straight in the eye, looking across the divide that the sixties had created between the young and the old.
Then he said they had me in mind for one of the overseas bureaux, which were expanding fast. I would need to be trained at home first – they would need to be sure I was right for it.
I was to learn Spanish. I needed to pass a proficiency test within a year – the paper would pay.
He named the salary: $12000. I would need a car.
As a cub reporter in a newsroom, you are either sent out on breaking stories – accidents, crimes, minor press conferences — or you are told to pull together stories from agency reports.
The flurry of new activity, learning the ropes, placating the old news hands, takes so much concentration and energy that you hardly give a thought, at first, to the place you work in or the people outside your own team.
But I gradually started to learn about the inner world of the organisation, listening to the gossip in the cafeterias or in the bars after work.
The editor was retiring soon. Who was to succeed him? The chosen successor had been brought in from the Washington bureau and was a famous national journalist.
But some said it wasn’t working out.
If so it could only be because he had not won over our greatest subject of interest — scion, publisher, the man with the widest shoulders I had ever seen, the man who drove to work down the old Pasadena freeway in his vintage Duesenberg with its massive headlights and grille.
Then, to our surprise, the dapper man who had interviewed me was named editor. That was in 1971.
In 1972 the Watergate story began to break. Late in the year two of our Washington reporters got onto the biggest story yet — the eyewitness account of the Watergate break-in by ex-FBI agent Alfred Baldwin, who had observed the break-in from the Howard Johnson motel opposite.
Beating the Post on that one made us all very proud.
And again in the spring of 1973 one of our star reporters got Jim McCord to confirm that Dean and Magruder were aware of Watergate planning.
But by then I was away and had covered my first big story.