BOB GARFIELD: Some newspapers seem to be defined by their editors -- Ben Bradlee and the Washington Post of the 1970s comes to mind. At other papers the editor's personality tends to be subordinated to the institution itself. Such has been the case historically with the New York Times. In recent years, however, first Max Frankel then Joe Lelyveld very much put their imprimaturs on the Great Gray Lady and now comes another succession. In September editorial page Howell Raines will succeed Lelyveld in the executive editorship. What effect with the new regime have on the world's most influential news organization? Joining us now to discuss the transition is Lorne Manly, media editor for Inside.com.
LORNE MANLY: Thank you.
BOB GARFIELD: Before we discuss what changes the Raines regime might bring, let's talk a little bit about the Lelyveld regime. What do you suppose will be regarded as his legacy at the New York Times?
LORNE MANLY: The move to six sections and color came under his watch, so he'll be remembered for really pushing those through. The writing is better, I think, than in any time of its history. The Times has been known for its Machiavellian struggles, particularly in the A.M. Rosenthal and less so in the Max Frankel regimes, and I think Joe Lelyveld particularly set out to change that. I mean you're never going to make it a completely non-political place, but it's much less Machiavellian than it was just a decade ago.
BOB GARFIELD: Just a more pleasant place to work.
LORNE MANLY: Mm-hm.
BOB GARFIELD:It's also a more pleasant newspaper to read. You referred to the writing. It's more stylishly crafted than it was as recently as ten years ago. The reputation at least as recently as the Abe Rosenthal executive editorship was that there was a tyranny of the copy desk and reporters were just hamstrung in terms of trying to write the way they wanted to. How much of that change is attributable to Joe Lelyveld?
LORNE MANLY: I think a lot of it. Prior to Joe, under Max Frankel, you started seeing writers like Maureen Dowd being given much more free rein. That's when she was covering Bush I, but it was for very few writers. That has been expanded under Joe's regime.
BOB GARFIELD: So what can we expect from Howell Raines?
LORNE MANLY:He, he's just steeped in the place. He, he's been on the reporting side; he's been on the editing side; he's been on the editorial page side; he understands sort of all the different facets of, of the paper; believes in investigative reporting, in stylish writing and you know, having writers who have points of view. That's one thing he brought to the editorial page I think. The opinions became much sharper under his watch on that page than they had been in quite a while.
BOB GARFIELD:Well let's talk about that cause historically the Times editorial page has been known for a sort of compulsive evenhandedness, and under Howell Raines the opinions got very opinionated. Is that a kind of baggage that he must take with him over to the news operation? Will people now, every time they see something they don't like in the Times, wave it as some sort of smoking gun and say ah-ha! - this is editorializing and using the news pages to flog a certain point of view?
LORNE MANLY: I think unfortunately he's going to have to deal with it, but I don't think that's necessarily a bad thing. I mean it used to frustrate me no end going to the editorial pages of the Times and not understanding what the opinion was, and I don't think you can easily label Howell. I mean he could be very vociferous in his attacks on the Clinton administration so he's not your knee-jerk liberal that some people want to, to paint him as. And I think Howell is a smart enough journalist that he knows what the place for the editorial page is and what the place for the news pages are.
BOB GARFIELD:Well come the autumn when these, these changes actually take effect, do you think readers will be able to discern any difference in the New York Times as they pick it up every day?
LORNE MANLY: No. I, I think the - the institution is so strong Howell's not going to come in and say boom - you know - here's major changes. I think things move very deliberately and very slowly at, at the New York Times. So I think changes are going to be gradual and maybe in a year you'll pick it up and you'll start noticing things.
BOB GARFIELD: No headless body in topless bar?
LORNE MANLY: I don't think so.
BOB GARFIELD: Horoscope?
LORNE MANLY: Possibly. But a very upscale one.
BOB GARFIELD: [LAUGHS] All right. Thanks very much.
LORNE MANLY: No problem.
BOB GARFIELD: Lorne Manly is the media editor of Inside.com. [MUSIC]