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Katharine Graham

We remember the former publisher of The Washington Post, Katharine Graham. She died July 17th at the age of 84. Graham's father owned The Post in 1933 and later her husband, Phil Graham, took over. Following her husband's suicide in 1963, Graham became publisher, knowing little about the managerial or journalistic aspects of the job. But, learning while she worked, she transformed the paper into one of the country's most respected newspapers. The Post broke the Watergate scandal and published the Pentagon Papers against a federal judge's ruling. Graham also became chairman and CEO of the Washington Post Media company. She wrote about her childhood and experiences as publisher in her autobiography Personal History.


Other segments from the episode on July 18, 2001

Fresh Air with Terry Gross, July 18, 2001: Obituary for Katharine Graham; Review of the anthology “Woody Herman- Blowin’ Up a Storm: The Columbia Years 1945-47;” Commentary on the term "solutions."


TIME 12:00 Noon-1:00 PM AUDIENCE N/A

Profile: Remembering the former publisher of The Washington
Post, Katharine Graham

This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross.

Today we remember Katharine Graham, the former president and publisher of The
Washington Post. She died yesterday at the age of 84, after sustaining a
severe head injury from a fall on a sidewalk. She took over The Post in 1963,
a time when newspaperwomen were pretty much confined to the women's pages.
She led The Post through its transformation from a mediocre paper into a major
force in the political life of Washington and the nation. She gave the
go-ahead on the publication of the Pentagon Papers and kept reporters on the
Watergate story in spite of White House pressure. Before she retired in 1993,
she was sometimes called `the Iron Lady.' But her Pulitzer Prize-winning
memoir, "Personal History," revealed the insecurities beneath the surface.

The Post was a family owned paper. Graham unexpectedly inherited the position
of publisher when her husband, Philip Graham, committed suicide in 1963. He
had taken over the paper from Katharine Graham's father when he retired. Her
father made his fortune on Wall Street. He purchased The Post in 1933 when
she was in high school. In 1997, after the publication of Katharine Graham's
memoir, I asked what her reaction was when her father bought The Post.

(Soundbite of 1997 interview)

Ms. KATHARINE GRAHAM (Former Publisher of The Washington Post): I was very
excited. I'd had a previous interest in journalism. I had even gone on the
school paper before he bought The Post. And it whetted my interest,
obviously. And I was excited. Of course, it wasn't like it is today. It was
one of five newspapers. It was fifth in a field of five and it had a
circulation of 50,000. And it was in a really rundown old building on
Pennsylvania Avenue. And so although it was thrilling, it wasn't like it
would be today.

GROSS: In 1940, you got married to Philip Graham, who you describe in your
memoirs as having a beautiful mix of intellectual, physical and social charm,
and that he was warm and funny on top of that. When your husband was 30, your
father made him the associate publisher of The Post. And your husband
virtually became your father's deputy. How did you feel about your husband
going into journalism and going into the family business?

Ms. GRAHAM: I was thrilled, and loved it. I loved Washington. I loved the
paper. We had discussed when he went in the Army, my father said, `Are you
interested because I'--he was having a terrible struggle making the paper pay,
making it viable. And he said, `I don't want to go through this unless
there's some future for the paper. Are you interested?' And my brother was a
psychiatrist and nobody thought of women ever managing anything, and I said,
`It's up to you. I don't want to try to influence you because it's you who is
going to have to do it. And it's your life.' He had planned to go into law
and politics in Florida where he came from, and so he thought about it a long
time and we talked about it a long time, and finally he agreed that after the
war was over, he would come write on the paper, and that's what he did. I
loved it.

GROSS: Now in 1948, when you were 31, your father decided to pass the paper
onto you and your husband. But he gave your husband, I think, nearly three
times more shares than he gave you. How did you feel about that inequity?
After all, you are the direct descendant of The Washington Post family.

Ms. GRAHAM: I had no reservations about it. My father said, `I'm doing this
because I think no man should work for his wife.' Obviously, a sexist view of
things, but not unusual in those days. And I had no problem with it. I
thought it was OK.

GROSS: Now you describe your husband as using The Washington Post to right
wrongs that you now think is inappropriate for journalism. Give us an example
of how he used the paper to change things as opposed to just reporting on what

Ms. GRAHAM: The first thing he tried to change was the city itself. He was
very instrumental in the redevelopment of southwest Washington. And he
certainly had it covered by reporters more than normally it would have been.
And more importantly, and more negatively, for the paper, he got involved with
future President, then majority leader, Lyndon Johnson. And he was enamored
with Johnson. And he really used the paper to support Johnson.

Most importantly, for instance, during the civil rights battle, we were for
home rule and civil rights and all that sort of thing, he influenced the
coverage of a riot that occurred about opening a swimming pool. And Ben
Bradlee had covered it. And he was indignant. And my husband said, `Buster,
come on up and let me--come to my office. I want you to see what's going on.'
And in his office he had Oscar Chapman, then secretary of the Interior, and he
had Clark Clifford, who was then in the White House, and he had a lot of
people and he made a deal with them. If The Post downplayed that story, they
would open the swimming pool next year. Now that was a positive act, but it
was involving the paper in an active way that really shouldn't be done. I
mean, you should report what is going on instead of using it to deal with the

GROSS: What was at issue here, I think, was that the swimming pool was
segregated and your husband wanted it to be integrated.

Ms. GRAHAM: Of course. Right.

GROSS: And...

Ms. GRAHAM: Which was a worthwhile goal. But which he really committed the
error of downplaying the news in order to make the deal about their opening
the swimming pool next--for the following summer.

GROSS: You write that as your husband got more power in Washington, he also
developed a drinking problem and the symptoms of manic depression. As for
yourself, you write, `Despite my pleasure in the life I was leading during
those years, I can see now that I was having problems I didn't acknowledge to
myself. I was growing shyer and less confident as I got older. I still
didn't know how to look my best or how to handle myself in social situations.
I was afraid of being boring and went on believing that people related to us
entirely because of my husband. As for him, at the same time that he was
building me up, he was tearing me down. As he emerged on the journalistic and
political scenes, I increasingly saw my role as the tail to his kite, and the
more I felt overshadowed, the more it became a reality.'

When did you realize this, the sense that you were becoming more insecure and
more overshadowed by your husband?

Ms. GRAHAM: I only realized that in retrospect. Two or three close friends,
when I went to them at the time that he left the house and went off with a
young woman from Newsweek, said to me, `Good.' And I said, `Good? How can
you say that? It's just devastating. It's awful.' And they said, `Don't you
realize what he's doing to you--that you're the butt of the family jokes?'
And I said, `No, I don't think that's right, and I really am distraught.' So
it shook me up that they viewed it that way. But I realized, really, many
years afterwards, that probably that was right.

GROSS: What was happening in your life that made you feel increasingly
insecure and insubordinate?

Ms. GRAHAM: I was intimidated by him to the point where I didn't talk when
we went out, I just let him talk. And sometimes, if I did talk, he would look
at me as if I were going on too long. And it was that kind of thing that
really made me think, `Gee, I must be boring,' and, I guess, led to my

GROSS: You write, that as your husband's behavior grew more erratic with his
manic depression and he had an affair, he left you and then decided to buy
back your stock within The Washington Post and take over the paper with his
new lover. And, in spite of your lack of confidence, you decided you were
gonna fight to hold on to the paper. How did you decide, given your
insecurity at that time, to fight to hold on to it?

Ms. GRAHAM: Because I first didn't--you know, I knew he was ill and when he
left I thought, `Oh, well, he's ill,' and finally I realized that this was
real and he was going to lawyers and he wanted a divorce and that he was going
to take the paper with him. And I thought, `Well, I can't help what he's
doing, but I can fight to keep the paper and I'm going to.' I mean, if he
wanted a divorce, I was going to go into court. And the reason I think I
thought I could do this, was I didn't--I knew that the paper had been built up
with my father. I knew my father had supported Phil. I knew that I had, in
my own way, supported Phil. And I thought he was right and that he had added
greatly to the paper. But I had participated in the build up through my
father's earliest years and struggles, and year after year discouragement
because they kept losing money. And all that made me emotional about the
paper; I loved the paper. And I just wasn't going to give up. I didn't think
particularly how I would do it, I just was going to dig in.

GROSS: What did your family think? Did they think that that you should hold
on to the paper because, after all, you were the blood member of the family,
or did they feel that well, you were the woman and, even if you were
divorcing, it would be better off in a man's hands?

Ms. GRAHAM: No. No. Nobody thought that. My father had already died when
this happened, but my mother was alive and supported me absolutely, and said,
`You know, we've got to hold on to the paper,' and so did all my friends and

GROSS: Then your husband came back to you, but one day after saying he was
going to lie down, he went to the bedroom and shot himself. You heard the gun
go off and found him dead. Did you ever think he would go that far--that his
manic depression had gotten that severe?

Ms. GRAHAM: No. And he was very deceptive. He told us all that he was
feeling better and he seemed to be feeling better. He'd been in a mental
hospital and had gotten the day off. And I was deceived in the hospital--I
was deceived into thinking he was better than he was. And, as I hear is
mostly the case, he talked a lot about suicide when he was ill, but never done
it. And he wasn't talking about suicide at the time that he clearly had it on
his mind. I think that happens.

GROSS: Did he talk about suicide with you, or just with other people?

Ms. GRAHAM: He did with me, earlier in the years when he was depressed.

GROSS: We're listening back to an interview with the late Katharine Graham,
former publisher of The Washington Post. We'll hear more after a break. This

(Soundbite of music)

GROSS: We're listening to a 1997 interview with Katharine Graham, the former
publisher of The Washington Post. She died yesterday at the age of 84.

(Soundbite of 1997 interview)

GROSS: After your husband's suicide, you were, as you write, pushed into a
new and unknown life. What did you initially think you were going to do?

Ms. GRAHAM: I thought I was going to work because I now owned the
controlling shares of the company--in the paper and I thought I, therefore,
had the responsibility to learn what made it happen and what made it tick,
and that I would go to work solely to learn. That's the way I viewed it.

GROSS: As opposed to actually take control.

Ms. GRAHAM: Yes, I thought that there was a man who was chairman of the
board, Fritz Beebe(ph), and my husband had brought him on just about a year or
two before he died. And he was wonderful. And he wanted me to go to work.
And there were a lot of men running the divisions and the editors, and I
thought `Fine. This will just go on the way it is and I can learn.'

GROSS: One of your colleagues--a man--said to you, `You're not going to work
are you? You mustn't. You're young and attractive and you'll get remarried.'
Did you think, `Well, maybe that's what I should be doing? I should just, you
know, just get remarried, start a new family life at home'?

Ms. GRAHAM: No. That was said by a friend, not a colleague--Chip Bohlen,
who was in the foreign service and was a distinguished diplomat. And I saw
him abroad, just before I came home and went to work, and that's what he said.
And I thought--I said, `Of course I'm going to work.' And it didn't occur to
me, in fact, that there was any conflict with getting married if I wanted to.
I didn't really think. But, in fact, it was so totally demanding that I
probably couldn't have gotten remarried, but I didn't think about it.

GROSS: You're right that early on, after taking over The Post, you were
encumbered by a deep feeling of uncertainty and inferiority, and a need to
please and to be liked. You say, `I was unable to make a decision that might
displease those around me.' How did that affect your decision making early
on, and your interactions with the staff?

Ms. GRAHAM: Oh, it got in my way a lot. But it's a very lot of--it tends to
be female baggage, and it still is to some extent. But it was much worse
then. The way it affected my performance is that I couldn't say, `I've
listened to everybody, and now I think we ought to do this.' I had to get
everybody to agree to whatever it was, and if everybody didn't agree I'd go
around begging them to see my point of view. And it just was a very poor way
to be a leader.

GROSS: Suddenly you were--your social circle expanded, but that circle was
really pretty similar to the one you had before with your husband. But now
instead of being the wife, you were the publisher in that circle. How did
that change your behavior in that circle? And was there an uncomfortable

Ms. GRAHAM: I think it was very gradual because I was use to the people I
was relating to. But my profile obviously grew with experience and with time
in the job. And I suppose it rose considerably for a bizarre reason--which is
that Truman Capote, in 1966, gave the Black and White Ball in my honor. And
so suddenly this was written about, and it was a big event, and it was
covered, and it was really the beginning of my knowing those people who were
at the ball. I didn't know them before that, and they certainly didn't know

GROSS: What was the difference between how you acted within this larger
social circle when you were seeing yourself as like, the wife of the publisher
of The Post, compared to how you handled yourself when you became the
publisher yourself?

Ms. GRAHAM: It's hard to really think back to that. I just gradually grew
use to it, and I realized that I was going to be conspicuous because I had the
job I had. At one point I was at my friend Joe Alsop's for dinner, and I had
been use to the women and the men parting company after Washington dinners,
while the men talked about issues and the women went and powdered their nose
and discussed their households. And, at one point, I suddenly realized that I
had been working all day, that I had been involved in an editorial lunch with
somebody who was in the news, and that I had been working and that now I was
being asked to go in the other room with the wives.

And I said to Joe, who was a good friend, `I hope you won't mind if I slip out
of here because the paper comes and I really can use the time better than
going in that room with the wives.' And he said, `Oh darling, you can't do
that.' And I said, `Sure I can. I mean, it's just I don't want to use my
time like that, Joe.' And so he was so upset that he made me stay and he
broke up the segregation and then it broke up all over Washington. So that
was an instance where, I guess, suddenly I realized that I was in the working
world and that I didn't have to do those things.

GROSS: When you took over The Post, there were few women in journalism, and
far fewer women in the kind of upper position that you held. You say that
early on you didn't realize that part of what you were experiencing was
emblematic of the larger issues in the women's movement. What made you
realize that your life really connected to the issues of the women's movement?

Ms. GRAHAM: Two things. One is simply experience in the workplace and being
talked to by women and issues coming up, such as really little issues, but
they were symbolic. There was a big newspaper dinner and no women had ever
been invited, called the Gridiron in Washington, and I was invited as a
guest. And the women rose up in the paper and wrote me and said, `Please
don't go until there's a woman member.' And at first I was startled and
said--you know, I was rather thrilled to go and after all it was a gesture
toward opening up and they said, `No, you know, until as a member, don't
please go. And we feel very strongly about this.' And so I didn't. And of
course it made me aware of those issues.

But the other thing that was as important, if not more so, was the rise of the
women's movement. In particular, I became a friend of Gloria Steinem, and she
argued with me about women's positions and how I should understand them. And
at first I said, `Oh Gloria, you know that's not for me,' and she said, `Yes
it is. If you understand what this is about it will make your life better and
it will make other people's lives better around you.' And she was right. So,
those two things, experience and Gloria.

GROSS: OK, so when you realized that Steinem was right and you--more
personally and intellectually, connected to the women's movement, how did that
change you personally and change the way you managed The Post?

Ms. GRAHAM: I think it made you certainly more aware of women's problems in
the workplace, and of the need to get more women in the workplace. It made me
more aware of bias in the news, such as somebody being described as a
58-year-old gray-haired grandmother. And I realized that I had to do
something and try to make things better in the company. I didn't always
succeed because I didn't always quite know how to go about it in some cases.
I didn't know how to lean on people who were doing a wonderful job but who
were blatant male chauvinists, and make them understand the issues. But
little by little we made progress, and some of it was due to being sued.

GROSS: The Post was sued.

Ms. GRAHAM: Newsweek was sued, the stations were sued, and The Post.

GROSS: Katharine Graham, recorded in 1997 after the publication of her
Pulitzer Prize-winning memoir. She died yesterday at the age of 84. We'll
hear more of the interview in the second half of the show. I'm Terry gross,
and this is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of music)

GROSS: Coming up, more with the late Katharine Graham, former publisher of
The Washington Post. Jazz critic Kevin Whitehead reviews a new collection of
Woody Herman's recordings from the mid-'40s. And language commentator Geoff
Nunberg considers one of the latest developments in the language of corporate

(Soundbite of music)

GROSS: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross, back with Katharine Graham. She
was the publisher of The Washington Post from 1963 to '93. Her father bought
the paper when she was in high school. When he retired, her husband became
the publisher. After living in her husband's shadow, she felt unprepared to
take over the paper after his suicide in 1963. On top of that, she had to
assert her authority at a time when few women were in positions of authority.

Our interview was recorded in 1997. Katharine Graham died yesterday at the
age of 84.

She told me it took awhile for to connect to the larger issues of the women's
movement, and to realize that women at her own paper, The Post, weren't
getting a fair shake.

(Soundbite of 1997 interview)

GROSS: Did you ever confront a man about his chauvinism on the job?

Ms. GRAHAM: Yes. I wrote a note once that I found in the files, in which
the personnel director had circulated a memo, and he had referred to the men
as Brown, Smith and Jones, and it was--the women were Mary, Sue and Margaret.
And I said, `Wait a minute here. Why are we referred to by our first name and
the other guys are last names?'

Another instance in which the issue arose was that I recommended a woman to be
back-of-the book editor(ph) at Newsweek and the editors just said, `That's
impossible. We can't do that.' And I must say--I mean, we worked long hours,
we worked weekends, we're here at night, and I stupidly accepted this. And
then finally we were sued by the women at Newsweek, and the editor and
Frederick Beebe called me up--and I was on vacation--and said `The women are
suing us, and this is very serious.' And I said, `Whose side am I supposed to
be on?' And Fritz Beebe, my colleague, whom I really loved and respected,
said, `This is isn't funny.' And I said, `I know it isn't funny, and I'm
serious.' And on the other hand, as a manager, it bothered me, and I got
offended by these suits, but they were right.

GROSS: The suits were right.

Ms. GRAHAM: The suits were right, and we did make a lot of progress
everywhere as a result, and also as a result of people understanding.

GROSS: You made Ben Bradlee, the managing editor of The Washington Post, a
move probably no one would dispute was a smart move. He became a very close
working partner of yours, and you had a long, and I think very gratifying,
working relationship with him. How did you decide to make him managing

Ms. GRAHAM: Little by little, I realized, from things that happened, like
people applying to be editor, or my friend, Scotty Reston of The New York
Times, said, `Don't you want to hand on a better paper to your children than
you inherited?' And on the job, I realized that there was discontent in the
city room, and that things were not going as well as they should have been,
and all this dawned on me gradually. And so I began thinking about it, and by
accident, Ben Bradlee had been--he was then bureau chief of Newsweek in
Washington--and he had been offered two or three jobs to go to New York and
get on the ladder and be one of the principal editors at Newsweek, and he
turned them down, I think first of all, because between him and his wife, they
had six children, and he liked Washington and he didn't move.

And I thought, `Well, I better go talk to Ben,' because I didn't really know
him very well, but I had heard great things about how he was running the
bureau and how he was attracting talent and how the bureau was good. And so I
asked him to lunch, and I took him to a club, because I'd never asked a man to
lunch, and I didn't want to pay the bill. It's really funny. And so we went
to a club I belonged to, and I said, `What is it that you do want to do? I
noticed you've turned these jobs down in New York.' And of course, Ben being
Ben, said, `Well, now that you ask me, I'd give my left one to be managing
editor of The Post.' I know that's a little bit vulgar, but Ben talks like

And I was really brought up short, because I didn't expect that, and the
managing editor of The Post was an old-timer, had been very loyal and was a
personal friend. And so I said, `That's not possible right in the near
future. Maybe some day.' And then Ben began pushing, and I'd run into him
and he'd say, `Now when are we going to talk?' And I'd say, `Ben, let's cool
it,' and `It's too quick.' And Ben kept pushing, and finally--first of all, I
sort of resented it and wondered why, since he didn't have the job he had the
nerve to be so pushy, and thinking it over, I thought, `Well, maybe that kind
of energy and that kind of drive is what we need.' And so I checked up on him
with people like Walter Lippmann and the people at Newsweek, and asked
everybody what they thought, and they all thought that was a great idea, and
so eventually, I persuaded the editors to bring him over as an assistant

They at first said, `Oh, fine. He can come on as a reporter, like everybody
else.' And I said, `No, no, I think this is needed in management.' And
finally he came over, and that began the process of his succeeding the editor.

GROSS: One of the defining moments in your career in journalism and in the
life of The Washington Post is when you and Ben Bradlee decided to publish the
Pentagon Papers, the secret history of the war in Vietnam. And Ben Bradlee
was saying, `Publish it and publish it quickly.' But your lawyers were
saying, `Wait, don't publish it so quickly. In fact, maybe you shouldn't
publish it at all. So either take your time or don't do it, but don't rush
into it.' How did you make up your mind, being in between your lawyers and
Bradlee and knowing that this was going to be a really important decision?

Ms. GRAHAM: I was--I had to do it very quickly, in about a minute, because
the editors and the head of the company, Fritz Beebe, were at Ben's house, and
they were writing, trying to keep it secret. And the lawyers were there, and
they were saying it was very dangerous, and indeed, we shouldn't publish,
because The Times had been enjoined already from publishing by the government,
who had taken them to court, and we were in the process of going public. We
had announced our plans and not sold the stock, so we were particularly liable
to any kind of criminal prosecution from the government.

So finally, they called me up, because it got so late and the argument got so
tense, and said, `You're going to have to decide this.' And I said, `Well,
why do we have to do it right away? The Times took three months.' And the
editors all got on the phone, the business people were on the other phone,
saying, `Wait a day'--the editors were saying `We mustn't wait a day.
Everybody knows we have these papers, and we have to maintain the momentum
that was stopped when The Times was enjoined. It's very important. People
have their eyes on us, and we have to publish.'

And so I listened to them, and finally after talking to both sides, I asked my
colleague, Fritz Beebe, what he would do, and he was a lawyer, and he said, `I
guess I would not.' And that made it hard, but not impossible. He said it in
such a way that I thought, `He's leaving it up to me, and I can do this.' And
so I said, `Let's go. Let's publish,' and I hung up because I was so freaked
out by having had to make that decision so fast.

GROSS: You built up a lot of animosity from the White House toward The
Washington Post through publishing the Pentagon Papers, and then breaking the
Watergate story. And you say in the book, `Bearing the full brunt of
presidential wrath is always disturbing.' Now you have told us about how
insecure you were, kind of low self-esteem you had as a professional when you
took over The Post, and here you are now, being criticized by the White House.
Did you feel personally able to deal with that kind of criticism?

Ms. GRAHAM: It was pretty scary, and you had to deal with it. Some people
have referred to that as courageous, and I didn't view it as courageous. I
viewed it as we had no choice. I think courage is when you have a choice, and
you choose to be courageous. I thought we had no choice, once we got in the
Watergate reporting. In the Pentagon Papers, that's true. We did have a
choice, for about a minute. In Watergate, it was like wading into a river.
By the time you realized how serious it was, which was several months into the
story, we were into it up to our waists and there was no way you could go
back. You had to go forward, and so I simply had to live with it. I was very
anxious. I lay about a foot above the bed, worrying at night. But I also
didn't think we had any choice except to proceed and to back the editors and
reporters in whom I believed.

GROSS: Were you worried that one day you'd find out that you were being
misled--that you were set up--you were the victim of some kind of scam?

Ms. GRAHAM: Indeed, I was. I use to go down and talk to Ben and Howard
Simons, the managing editor, all the time, and ask, `Are we being fair? Are
we being accurate and are we being set up or misled so that our heads can be
chopped off?' And they had good answers to these and they were really
reassuring. I don't think that they were assured themselves inwardly as they
seemed to be to me. But they said that some of our sources were Republican
and that because we had the story to ourselves that Woodward and Bernstein had
time to check and that they often withdrew a story by themselves, unless they
were--and they had two sources for everything. And thirdly, that Woodward had
a source, particular source, to whom he went when he was really bothered and
puzzled, and that this source had never misled him. And, of course, this
source was later christened by the managing editor, Howard Simons, Deep
Throat. I still don't know who Deep Throat was, I didn't know then, and I
don't know now.

GROSS: Are you glad you don't know so other people can't try to get it out of

Ms. GRAHAM: Well, I said to Woodward--at one point we met over lunch, and I
said--I turned to him and said, `Who is Deep Throat?' And he looked pale and
flinched, and I said, `Oh, it's all right. I don't want the responsibility.
You don't have to tell me.' He says that he would've told me if I'd have
asked for it, but I didn't ask for it and I still don't.

GROSS: We're listening back to an interview with the late Katharine Graham,
former publisher of The Washington Post. We'll hear more after a break. This

(Soundbite of music)

GROSS: Katharine Graham, the former publisher of The Washington Post, died
yesterday at the age of 84. We're listening to a 1997 interview recorded
after the publication of her memoir.

(Soundbite of 1997 interview)

GROSS: You're turning 80 this year.

Ms. GRAHAM: Yes.

GROSS: And in your memoir, you write that turning 70 was actually very

Ms. GRAHAM: It's true. I think certain birthdays bother you more than
others. Fifty didn't bother me much, 60 did, 70 did, 80 doesn't.

GROSS: Why doesn't 80? Seventy did but 80 doesn't?

Ms. GRAHAM: I think that at 70 I thought, `Oh, gee, I guess I'm an old
woman.' And I'd come to terms with that. You know, when we're young you
never think you're going to be old and in my day you saw people with white
hair and buns on their head, and little old ladies. And I thought, `I'm never
going to be like that.' I mean, I didn't even think about it; I just thought
you were young forever. And so to realize that I had turned 70, I really
wanted not to broadcast it, and I went on a trip with some friends out to the
West Coast to avoid any observation of it, but my daughter and my children
said, `Well, we want to give a party,' and I said, `Oh, all right, if it's a
little party. And, you know, I don't want a lot of people. I don't want
people to know I'm 70.' And they got the bit in their teeth and they gave a
small party for 600 people, which is why they covered. So this was not a
secret from the world.

GROSS: And your thoughts on turning 80 now?

Ms. GRAHAM: It's hard because you worry about getting not to be your best.
I've been very lucky. I've been able to keep up tennis, and keep up movement,
and I've been very healthy. And I worry that you might decline, or that you
might not be able to keep up the life you've lived. But I'm very determined
to try to keep going, keep interested, and keep involved, and keep learning.
I think all that's very important.

GROSS: You've just completed your memoirs. And I'd like to know what
surprises you most about your life and who you became.

Ms. GRAHAM: Well, looking back on it, it was really interesting and I liked
it. I think this thing that surprised me the most was the role my father
played in my growing up--and not very articulate. So, I didn't realize until
I reread his letters and mine to him, how loving and supportive and important
he was to my life. I think that's the biggest discovery I made. And I
really, really was moved by this.

GROSS: Katharine Graham, recorded in 1997. She died yesterday at the age of

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Review: Woody Herman's new anthology

Before World War II, clarinetist Woody Herman led a big band known for playing
the blues. After the war, Herman revamped his sound using younger soloists
like saxophonists Flip Phillips and Stan Getz, and modern arrangers like Ralph
Burnes, Neal Hefti, and Shorty Rogers. Jazz critic Kevin Whitehead says
Herman couldn't quite shake off his swing era roots, not that there's anything
wrong with that. Kevin reviews a new anthology of Woody Herman, recorded in
1945 through '47.

(Soundbite of Herman's music)


Clarinetist Woody Herman with his first herd in 1945. Unlike some leaders,
Herman was no control freak. He often let his players work out their own
background riffs, like Count Basie, for example. That worked for Basie
because his group pulled together. By comparison, Herman's band was a tug of

The younger guys edged toward the new music of bebop, Herman wanted the band
to sound more like Duke Ellington's; not a bad idea, but not exactly the
latest trend, as the swing-era waned. Herman even drafted drummer Dave Tough,
who'd come up playing Chicago-style Dixieland in the 1920s. In theory, it
shouldn't of worked, but Tough and modern bassist Chubby Jackson hooked up
right away to kick along good soloists like trumpeter Sonny Berman and
trombonist Bill Harris.

(Soundbite of Herman's music)

WHITEHEAD: Woody Herman's ambition paid off. His fans included Igor
Stravinsky, who at Herman's invitation, wrote the band the eight and a half
minute "Ebony Concerto" in 1946. Stravinsky apparently assumed Herman's men
were all good readers, and Herman apparently assumed Stravinsky would write
something close to their own rhythmic idiom--two false assumptions. Herman
liked the concerto, though he later said, `We had no more right to play it
than the man in the moon had.'

(Soundbite of Herman's music)

WHITEHEAD: If "Ebony Concerto" was stuck somewhere between jazz and classical
music, Herman's 1947 band--his second herd--wobbled more agreeably between
swing and bebop. By then Dave Tough was gone and new drummer Don Lamond was
trying to get the hang of bebop's unpredictable accents. He could try too
hard sometimes, but his heavy bombs had their own awkward charm.

(Soundbite of Herman's music)

WHITEHEAD: This music comes from Woody Herman's "Blowin' Up A Storm: the
Columbia Years, 1945 to 1947." Much as Herman's herds could zigzag
stylistically, the music they made holds up. In this two disc set, 10
alternate versions of Herman classics are included, along with the master
takes; seven of those alternates are out for the first time--a way to tempt
Herman fanatics who already have everything else. Of special interest is a
second take of Ralph Burns’ "Summer Sequence, Part 4." It's an elaborate
frame for a too short tenor saxophone solo by Stan Getz.

(Soundbite of Herman's music)

WHITEHEAD: An exhaustive survey of Woody Herman's Columbia years is long
overdue--this new set isn't quite it. I missed some tunes that didn't make
the cut, like John LaPorta's rave up "Non-Alcoholic," "P.S. I Love You,"
featuring singer Mary Ann McCall, and a manic take on Khachaturian's "Sabre
Dance." They'd already been re-mastered for previous CDs and would've fit
easily here. That said "Blowin' Up A Storm" is a flattering portrait of a
band that did a lot of good while trying to do too much.

GROSS: Kevin Whitehead is currently based in Chicago. He reviewed the new
anthology "Woody Herman: Blowin' Up A Storm."

(Soundbite of music)

GROSS: Coming up, language commentator Geoff Nunberg on how the corporate
market world is overusing the word `solutions.' This is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of music)

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Commentary: Use of the word `solution' in the corporate world

From software to soft ice cream, nobody's selling products anymore, now it's
all solutions. Our linguist Geoff Nunberg tells us what this word says about
the new economy.


I got a mail-order catalog the other day from a company that specializes in
home and health-care products--at least they use to call them products, but
now that word's been entirely eliminated from their catalog in favor of the
word `solutions.' You can find seat cushions in the section on stress relief
solutions, bathrobes in spa care solutions, and support bras in intimate
apparel solutions.

The solutions game began in the early 1980s when companies like IBM started
using the word to describe the packages of hardware, software and services
they were selling to corporate customers. In a sense, it's just a new way of
pitching your offerings as answers to customers' needs and anxieties, in the
time honored tradition of ring around the collar and the heartbreak of
cirrhosis, except that the word `solutions' makes its point in a proactive
way. In the old days, when people said, `I've got a solution for you,' you
assumed that somebody had mentioned a problem somewhere along the line. Now
the two have come unhitched.

Solutions aren't solutions for anything anymore. When you do a search on
`solutions' at the Web site of Compaq or Apple Computer you find that it's
anywhere from two to three times as frequent as the word `problems.' Business
people don't like to hear talk about problems; it seems to betray a negative
mind-set. If there are difficulties you absolutely have to mention, you try to
find another name for them, as in, `We had a number of challenges this
quarter,' or, `There are several known issues installing the beta release of
the printer driver.'

By now there are hundreds of firms that have incorporated that word
`solutions' into their company names, and by no means all of them are
high-tech. There's the beachwear-maker Sun Solutions, which is not to be
confused with Solar Solutions, which sells propane ranges and composting
toilets. And then there's Bright Horizons Family Solutions, an outfit that
manages corporate daycare centers, whose portfolio presumably includes story
hour solutions and snack solutions, not to mention nap solutions for clients
with crankiness issues.

It's hard to think of a company that couldn't say it was in the solutions
business now. Smuckers, your toast coating solutions provider. And in fact,
one reason why so many companies are sticking the word into their names is
that they don't have to let on as to what they're actually selling,
particularly if they're still in the embarrassing position of making things.
Things have low margins and high capital costs; they're expensive to ship;
they lead to liability lawsuits. They get you in trouble with the EPA. If
you make them domestically, you have to deal unions. If you make them
overseas, people get on your back for running sweatshops.

It's no wonder the manufacturing sector is a diminishing part of the American
economy. In 1950, material goods made up more than half the GDP. Now they
account for less than a quarter of it. And companies that aren't in the
position to stop making things altogether, can at least relabel them as
solutions. It suggests that their products are just an ancillary sideline of
their real business, like the terry cloth slippers they throw in when you go
for a massage. That's the beauty of solutions, nobody has to tip their hands.

It's a perfect compliment for those empty corporate names that marketing
consultants paste together out of strings of chopped up syllables. Take the
Ohio outfit called Amnova Solutions. What line of work would you say they're
in? Client-server applications, health-care benefits administration, fabric
transfers and decorative wall coverings? As it happens it's the last of
those, but the others are just as plausible. These aren't like those
old-fashioned corporate names that were designed to conjure up an image of a
particular product made by a real company. You feel sorry for the members of
a softball team who have to take the field with Amnova Solutions written on
their uniforms.

Names like these are attempts to create pure brands; free signifiers that
float in the ether, ready to light on anything that somebody's willing to pay
for. That's what the new economy comes down to in the end: Just one big
intersection with people at every corner holding signs that say, `We'll solve
for cash.'

GROSS: Geoff Nunberg is a linguist at Stanford University, and at Xerox Palo
Alto Research Center.

(Soundbite of music)

(Closing credits)

GROSS: I'm Terry Gross.


GROSS: On the next FRESH AIR, how George Bush won the overseas vote. We'll
talk with New York Times reporters David Barstow and Don Van Natta about their
six-month investigation into the overseas absentee vote count. I'm Terry
Gross. Join us for the next FRESH AIR.
Transcripts are created on a rush deadline, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of Fresh Air interviews and reviews are the audio recordings of each segment.

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