To the End of Time: The Seduction and Conquest of a Media Empire
Time was a glorious place to work in the years that I was there, from 1959 to 1964. I was twenty-seven when I was hired, and an ignoramus, vintage Princeton ‘54, with a degree in history (I had written my senior thesis on Lord Lothian, the Cliveden Set’s house Christian Scientist, an appeaser, and later British ambassador to Washington at the time of the destroyer for bases deal, and never cottoned to the fact that he was also, as Time in those days would have it, Nancy Astor’s great and good friend). I got my job because a woman I was seeing on the sly, Vassar ‘57, was also seeing George J.W. Goodman, Harvard ‘52, a writer in Time‘s business section who was later to become the author and PBS economics guru “Adam Smith.” Goodman, I was informed by Vassar ‘57, was leaving Time for Fortune, which meant that if I moved fast there was probably a job open. I applied to Time‘s personnel man, a friend, Yale ‘49, and was in due course interviewed by Otto Fuerbringer, Harvard ‘32, and Time‘s managing editor. The cut of my orange and black jib seemed to satisfy him, and the $7,700 a year I was offered more than satisfied me, and so a few weeks later I went to work as a writer in the business section, although I was not altogether certain of the difference between a stock and a bond, and had no idea what “over the counter” meant.
The Time (and the Life and the Fortune) of those years was pervaded by a kind of Protestant entitlement and arrogance (no matter that I was an Irish Catholic; I felt spiritually brevetted a Protestant), an arrogance often spectacularly unearned (as in my case), or earned largely in the city rooms of the Harvard Crimson or the Yale Daily News or the Daily Princetonian. A corporate hubris prevailed, a confidence in ourselves, and in our place in the world. However misplaced this confidence, there was a verbal esprit de corps, a sense of purpose founded on the conviction that every Tuesday Time would give the educated man (the educated woman was considered so minor a factor that the magazine would not hire women writers; women on the staff could only aspire to be researchers, the Time equivalent of domestics) a review of the previous week’s events presented with some political rigor and intellectual brio.
There was no pretense to objectivity; Time had a partisan Republican point of view, and if it was one not shared by many of its gentrified Ivy Leaguers, few felt the compulsion to quit. The excessive compression led to what became known as Time style, often ludicrous, easily parodied, but rich with possibilities for veiled and not so veiled innuendo; one wonders how many great and good friends were so identified over the years. Perhaps Time‘s most prophetic contribution to journalism, however, was the importance it attached to …