server, The Progressive, Iconoclast, Southwest Magazine, and US magazine, for which he was Denver correspondent. With his consent, I quote a bit more from subsequent letters he has written to me: “I have a strong feeling,” he told me, “that the time is right for a renaissance of the humanism and sense of social interaction that marked the 60s and that the Observer is exactly the journal to lead the way. Only this time, we must fight harder, be tougher, last longer. “Last week I had to spend some time at Ross Perot’s EDS enclave, in connection with an audio/visual orientation program EDS wanted for employees, and the sense of the vast strength of corcould not have been greater. That’s not what this country or the spirit of man are about but I was less depressed or offended than totally convinced that the lines have already been drawn. I can’t say much about working in Dallas, but it’s good tutelage for the soul.” I like Rod Davis’ work and I like him, a lot. He is, as you will see if you have not already, a good writer. He has respect for his fellow reporters and writers. He is diplomatic and considerate, but strong underneath. As a journalist he is a pro and a good one. His values and political philosophy, he will be telling and showing you himself; they are fully worthy of this journal’s traditions. In the 25-year past of the Observer we have had Bill Brammer, Willie Morris, Larry King, Larry McMurtry; Elroy Bode continues to honor us with his prose. I have no leave from Rod to tell you about his novel, which I have read, but I will say that in my opinion, when it is published it will be celebrated for the writing and will be a sensation politically, as well. It makes me think again about the way Turgenev’s attitudes evolved toward his own creation Bazarov in Fathers and Sons. Each time it becomes my part to choose the new Observer editor I have been appalled by the number and the quality of the applicants appalled because there can only be one editor, and here are so many excellent journalists looking for a freer place to work. They came, this time, from all over Texas, of course, and also from Alaska, Idaho, Illinois, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Tennessee, Kentucky, Louisiana, Alabama, Florida . . . crack reporters, free-lancers with sparkling portfolios, an internationallyexperienced wire .service reporter, editors of crusading local weeklies, a high-grade union paper, the journal of a distinguished law school, gifted critics, even a brilliant professor eager to aban 14 MARCH 14, 1980 don academia and assail the demons and delusions loose in the real world. On such occasions in the past I have been cast down by having to turn down “all but one,” and this time, too, I was put off for a couple of weeks by the task; but this time there was a difference. I continue to be excited by thoughts concerning “a new Observer,” and I have received many good suggestions and observations concerning how and whether to expand our present journal. The most unqualified enthusiasm has greeted my proposal for a Cooperative of Independent Journalists; the most surprising and exciting new idea sent to me by a journalist who is trying to organize an Observer-like weekly in Virginia is that the Observer become the foundation for a national federation of statewide Observers. I shall reserve for a few months down the road my next report to you on this subject, but I had a sense, dealing with the applications for editor this time, of storing up possibilities for the future venture, if it is to be. If you have ideas and concern about free progressive journalism in America and have not yet read my piece, “Shall We Have a New Observer?” in the 25th anniversary issue and sent me your ideas, let me ask you again please to do so. The Observer is much indebted to Linda Rocawich and Eric Hartman for carrying on through in this transitional . phase. They have borne difficulties and uncertainties with the best of grace and throughout have shown unqualified dedication and loyalty to the Observer. The issues they have produced since Hightower and Walsh departed have lived up in all respects to the high standards, and have carried through on the themes, of the Hightower-Walsh period here. Both Linda and Eric are fine and high-minded people with good careers stretching out before them in several directions, and we are sorry to lose them. And I’d also say that Jim, Lawrence, Linda, Eric, and the many good people who worked with them these last few years have substantially completed the task they set out to do: they have given us honest and when necessary harsh close-ups of the corporate powers that govern us through penetration of the political process. The watch continues, of course, but as a result of the Observer of the Hightower period, the politically savvy community in Texas is better informed about the economic realities that underlie our politics, and the progressive movement in Texas is better prepared to join with the movements for economic democracy that are growing in Califor-, nia, the North, and elsewhere. It is, then, time for a change again in the Observer’s direction. I will leave this to Rod to tell you about, other than to say that he, his gifted new associate editor Matthew Lyon of Austin and Amherst, and I have discussed this at great length, and I am excited by our plans and convinced that Rod and Matthew can carry them out with dash, style, and authority. Coincident with the changing of the guard, I decided to return the Observer’s production system to the way it was before Hightower and Walsh decided to install a typesetting terminal in the Observer’s offices and have the typesetting and page paste-up done there. Herein lies a tale. Ever since union printer Mark Adams stopped doing it for us, the Observer has been printed by Futura Press, the union shop in South Austin. Our long and friendly relationship with Bill McAfee and the good people at Futura has never been interrupted. Late last fall we noticed that, without anything being said to us, the “bug,” the union printers’ label, was being left off the Observer. After inquiry and a goodly time, it was explained to us that the union regarded the typographical work that was being done by non-printers in the Observer offices as an infringement on the union’s proper territory. We had not seen it that way, but once the question was raised, I concluded for my part, that the union was right. The question in my mind became whether we should seek union status for the Observer staffers doing the typographical work, or else go back to “turnkey” at Futura. In printers’ lingo, when a paper is printed “turnkey,” the journalists give the printers the copy and the makeup and turn the key: the printers do all the rest, except of course final proofing and checking. This is the way Futura had printed the Observer until the terminal was installed in our offices. I asked the union for some time to decide so that the adjustment could coincide with the appointment of the new editor, and they were very obliging about this. Now, I will not tell you that there were no strong emotions. Obviously there were among some of the printers; there were on our side, too. Considering that the Observer is the best friend in independent journalism that the union movement has had in Texas for the last 25 years, a couple of remarks were made to us that would have been better not said. Also, I had some doubts concerning a proposal made to me that the editor and associate editor, too, be organized into the printers’ union; but this suggestion did not reach the negotiation stage. On the main question I was always in agreement that we should either unionize
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