Journalism Memoir: Katharine Graham

A 644-page indexed hardcover book is not the most convenient metro reading, but I have nevertheless immensely enjoyed Katharine Graham’s Personal History.

The story starts in New York City and Paris, following her parents’ romance and family history and ends up in Washington D.C. with newspaper strikes, presidential balls and the Watergate Scandal.

This was actually the perfect book for me to be reading before starting work this fall. Moving from my sleepy English teacher job to a fast-paced television news room, I really enjoyed getting a glimpse into Katharine Graham’s career as head of the Washington Post.

The narrative is frank and kind, full of optimism, honesty and thankfulness. Katharine stepped into leadership of the Washington Post after her husband’s suicide, and managed to make a huge success of the company.  The story is full of honest struggle – from feeling in over her head at work, and totally bewildered and distraught by tragedy in her family to beautiful friendships with coworkers, and exciting professional triumphs. It made me excited to get working in journalism!

A favorite quote:

“I was learning but having fun at the same time – learning and laughing, my favorite combination.” -Katherine Graham

In any case, the story was a good one – very inspiring. It reminded me of my grandparents’ generation – a great, optimistic, hard working, honest woman with a good sense of humor.

Another quote, with some practical advice on good daily habits to form for work:

“My advice would be to devote an hour or less to the newspapers before you go to the office…then, instead of trying to study all the strange subjects that are reported, make a note of the stories that interest you particularly and that you want to know more about. Make a point of calling in the reporter who covers it and have him explain it to you. In this way…you’ll get better informed on the news in a fairly painless way and you will get to know better…the people who actually write the paper.” -Walter Lippmann to Kay Graham


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