A-S Editor Sam Wood Dick Frank OBSERVER A Journal of Free Voices A Window to the South Feb. 28, 1975 500 Forward! to the rear at the American-Statesman Austin By a unamimous vote, The Austin American-Statesman is not a great newspaper. By an almost unanimous vote, it’s not even an adequate one. So assessing the only daily newspaper in the capital of Texas is largely a matter of trying to figure out just how bad it is. The interesting thing about the American-Statesman these days is that it is getting better. And it has gotten into more trouble in the process of trying to improve itself than The Washington Post ever got into by breaking the Watergate story. It has got lawsuits up the kazoo, the staff morale is shot to Hades, and the paper couldn’t even win the biggest prize in Texas journalism without involving itself in an episode of almost sublime ludicrousness. Getting blasted by Spiro Agnew and Ronald Ziegler would be a welcome relief compared to what the American-Statesman has been going through lately. Really, it shouldn’t happen to a dog: and it was all because the American-Statesman’s management set out to make it the best newspaper in Texas. It’s a good thing they stuck to Texas. The Washington Monthly, in what we assume was a temporary aberration, recently saw fit to compare the American-Statesman to The Washington Post, a process not unlike comparing an orange to a piano. The Monthly article, which was clearly designed to prevent the Post from getting uppity, did admit that the American-Statesman is at least semi-grim. In fact, when a national journalism review, left the A-S off its list of the 10 worst newspapers in the country, several Austinites wrote hot letters of protest. The A-S got beat out for the Ten Worst list by that estimable organ, The Fort Worth Star Telegram. Any fair observer would have to conclude that it is at least a close contest. But compared to the newspapers in, say, Amarillo, Abilene, Beaumont, Brownsville, Longview, Lubbock, Midland, Waco, El Paso, Odessa, and so on, and so forth, the A-S begins to look positively stellar. It is probably among the 10 best papers in Texas. There are no good newspapers in Texas and only a handful of fair ones. BUT LEAVE us flit back to the American-Statesman of yesteryear about three, to be precise. For one thing it was ugly, for another thing it was dull, and for a third thing, it was slightly sleazy. It’s still dull. The chief reason it used to be so ugly is because orders about make-up and layout kept coming down from Waco. Waco, is among other things, the headquarters of the Fentress newspaper chain, A.K.A., Newspapers, Inc., that owns the papers in Waco, Austin, Port Arthur, and Lufkin. Someone in Waco \(no one in certain antiquated ideas about how a newspaper should look. The A-S can be set in nine narrow columns of type. If you can call to mind how The New York Times looks \(“the good, gray lady,” she is called instant headache produced by looking at a
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