Tuesday, July 17
Kay Graham Changed My LifeToday the former publisher of the Washington Post, Katharine Graham, died. It suddenly dawned on me that I could divide my life in a pre- and post-Katharine Graham eras. I met her in 1985 when I was freelancing for the Post and Newsweek in Lima. She came through Lima on one of her infamous overseas tours. I was in charge of putting together her seven-day itinerary in the country. She was accompanied by Meg Greenfield, the editorial page editor and her close friend. Graham was nothing what you might expect. She was shrewd, inquisitive and tough. She took her journalism role seriously. She caught all our guests and interviewees by surprise because they were expecting a figurehead publisher from an elite power family.
We survived the experience (Graham was 70 years old at the time), and Post and Newsweek editors then paid more attention to my story ideas -- though having Alan Garcia and Sendero as running stories didn't hurt. Meg Greenfield was one of my reference for a MacArthur Foundation Writing Grant. For the next five years, I was living off the professional and creative energy that the encounter generated.
I am working on a longer piece about this episode for Confessions of a Stringer . There may also be a separate piece about how Alan Garcia, then the leading presidential candidate, intentionally stood up Graham.