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Years Ago
*Where it all began #RAWTRI.16184 Exp 12-22

Wabash Gladiolus Festival

    Wabash Plain Dealer
        2 W Canal St, Wabash IN 46992
            Contact:  Don Nixon, Chief Cheerleader, Editor & Publisher, Proofreader   Email:  dmn.ez.nni@gmail.com  
ACACIA #RAWTRI.16183 Exp 12-22
Venerable Dean
Little 500 - visiting house, black out windows
Name change
Birthday list offer
US Open Pickleball Championships - project, no follow up - House photos shambles
Dan Roby funeral
Current project : Grand National
                          and national coverage of all high schools and colleges

Fraternity father: REF

    Creative Thinking, Inc. 317/844-8189
        160 W Carmel Dr, Carmel IN 46032
            Contact:  Don Nixon   Email:  dmn.ez.nni@gmail.com  
Wabash (IN) Plain Dealer: Chapter 23 #RAWTRI.16263 Exp 12-12
Chapter 23: Jane, Merv and Stuffy

“Tell me about Dewey,” I asked the pretty young woman sitting at her desk.

If she was surprised by that opening, she didn’t show it.

Dewey -- a combination schnauzer and poodle – was fine, she reported.

The woman was Jane Pauley, who had recently become the co-host of NBC’s “Today” show, America’s top-rated morning news-information program.

Harold Chatlosh and I had come to New York for three days, the first step in carrying out Nixon Newspapers’ latest publishing idea: whether books printed on newspaper presses could be viable products.

The idea had germinated with Bob Schwartz, a business professor who taught a course in creativity at Purdue University –Westville, some ten miles south of Michigan City.  Schwartz knew the Nixons through his friendship with Bob (the father) and George (the son) Averitt, who, combined, were the publishers for the News-Dispatch for more than fifty years.

Not long after I wrote the “Hoosiers in Washington” series, Don Nixon and I were brainstorming ideas one spring afternoon.  The series had received lots of positive feedback in communities served by NNI papers and those that bought the articles.

Don and I discussed Indiana and Indiana-connected people who might be worth a project. George Steinbrenner, owner of the New York Yankees (who would later win the World Series under his proprietorship), and Jean Young, wife of UN Ambassador Andrew Young, intrigued us.  Steinbrenner had gone to Culver Military Academy (Don’s alma mater) and was an active alum.  Mrs. Young had attended Manchester College in northern Wabash County.

But then, Don asked, “How about Jane Pauley?”


“Can you write 15,000 to 20,000 words,” he asked with a smile.

Yes, I said, if I can get Pauley on tape for a few hours. But how would we market it?

We can decide that later, Don replied.

Pauley had graduated from Indiana University (Don’s alma mater, too) just six years earlier and, after dabbling in political work, been hired by Indianapolis television station WISH, Channel 8, as a reporter. She was the epitome of a fresh face. As one television executive told me, “She can take a close up.”

Pauley’s popularity soared quickly, prompting the NBC affiliate in Chicago to hire her as an anchor. But her reception by Chicago Tribune television critic Gary Deeb was as cold as the wind coming off Lake Michigan. He wrote that she had the IQ of a cantaloupe.

Deeb’s dig didn’t matter. Pauley connected with Chicago viewers the same way she had with Indianapolis folk. NBC honchos in New York took note.

Now, in the summer of 1977, she was co-anchor of Today with a guy named Tom Brokaw.

Don and I decided we could successfully produce a “paperback book” priced much less than the current $1.95 to $2.25. All we had to do was get Pauley and NBC to cooperate.

Pauley agreed to the project, because, she told us later, we were Indiana people.

After scheduling interview time with Pauley through NBC’s publicity department, I called her parents in Indianapolis to request a visit before going to New York. They agreed, which was important, because I needed preliminary information about her to form a long list of questions.

The Pauleys were gracious hosts in their neat, modest home on Indianapolis’ east side.  We spent two hours chatting over coffee and cookies.

When I asked about Gary Trudeau, the popular creator and cartoonist of perhaps the No. 1 comic strip in the country, Doonesbury, they politely demurred. Trudeau and Pauley were reportedly dating. They confirmed, however, that Trudeau had visited their home and cooked breakfast one morning.

But I couldn’t use that. Pauley made it clear before our first interview that she would not talk about her most private matters, such as her salary and relationships – which I fully understood and accepted.

As we had done on our Washington project, Chatlosh and I drove to New York, where we got a room at the Americana Hotel, not far from NBC studios.

Before sunrise the next morning, July 11, a security guard greeted us at NBC’s studios located at 30 Rockefeller Center. He checked his clipboard and found “Ray Moscowitz and friend” on it. Minutes later, we were being offered donuts and coffee in the “Green Room” as another Today Show was about to begin.

The show’s weatherman – a fellow who preceded Willard Scott whose name I can’t recall – made us comfortable, explaining things.  As we were watching the opening segments, Tug McGraw, the noted left-handed relief pitcher for the Philadelphia Phillies, appeared.  McGraw, who had become famous as a New York Met when he coined the expression, “You gotta believe,” was scheduled for the show. He was a down-to-earth guy who extended his hand for a shake.  Like most athletes, McGraw faded from public view after his career, but his fame was rekindled later, when it was revealed that noted country singer Tim McGraw was his long-lost son.

After the show, we joined Pauley in her small office. She was open and animated as Chatlosh took dozens of candid photos. Merv Hendricks, who later designed a sixteen-page tabloid, chose several head shots to form what he called “A Jane Pauley salad” of twelve close-ups that connoted her mannerisms and personality.

During our three days in New York, I interviewed not only Pauley, but others associated with Today.  We chatted with Paul Friedman, the show’s 32-year-old executive producer, in the control room before the first day’s show. An interview with Floyd Kalber, the veteran news reader who worked briefly with Pauley in Chicago before joining the Today crew, produced some telling quotes.

In a column Hendricks wrote after the project was completed, he noted that Don Nixon and I still weren’t sure how to market what we had after Harold and I returned to Wabash.  We would soon find out.

Barbara volunteered to translate several hours of taped interviews, the first step toward getting Pauley’s brief, but attention-grabbing, life on paper. One evening I heard her chuckling.  “Good quote?” I asked, stepping into our home office.

“No,” she responded. “Listen to this.”

She replayed a few seconds of me snoring. In the wee small hours of the first night, Chatlosh was still awake, listening to me saw off Z’s.  He turned on the tape recorder and announced what the listener was about to hear. He has told that story on me several times over the years.

It took Barbara a few days to completed her task, which required dozens of 8 ½ by 11 sheets of paper.

I worked at home. My goal was to write a first draft in three days – even though I had never dealt with so much material.  I began organizing the transcript, dividing it into sections dealing with various aspects of her life. Once that was finished, I laid the piles on the floor of our office. The piles covered the entire carpet, save for a path to the door.

I crawled around on my hands and knees, reading through the piles and taking notes. Finally, I was ready to organize the material into a narrative, which was not difficult.

Now I was ready to sit down at my old, black Royal typewriter and start writing, now knowing what my defining paragraph would say.

As I finished using segments of notes, I removed them from the floor.  Barbara peeked in periodically to see if I needed anything. On the afternoon of the first day, she remarked, “I’m beginning to see the carpet again.” Her light remark gave me a boost.

As Hendricks reported in his column, while I was writing one day, Harry McDaniel of Kroger’s Indianapolis advertising and marketing office stopped in to see Don, who mentioned our Pauley project. We’re calling it “Portrait,” Don said, because that’s what it was – a portrait of someone, not a full-blown biography.

McDaniel knew Pauley’s dad, who at that point had worked eighteen years for Dean’s Foods, a dairy products company.  McDaniel said he was interested, and Don said he would make the first passages available to him.

A few days later, McDaniel read the first 3,000 words of the nearly-17,000-word manuscript. He liked what he saw, which would lead to a test product that consisted of sixteen tabloid-size pages of text, photos and Kroger institutional advertising.

Kroger decided to distribute XXXXX? copies in stores located in Wabash, Peru, Marion, Frankfort, Lebanon and Brazil.  Some copies were marketed free with a coupon, while others sold for ten cents or twenty five cents with a coupon.

Kroger promoted the Jane Pauley Portrait in its ads, and Hendricks wrote a promo for the local newspapers involved. The product rolled off the Plain Dealer presses in late September 1977.

The response from readers was solid, but Kroger chose not to buy additional copies after the test was completed. Don and I were disappointed, naturally, but he had gotten wind that the IGA grocery stores in Michigan might be interested.  Don arranged to make a presentation, which resulted in IGA buying XXXXX? copies. The stores reported good success and feedback, prompting IGA officials to ask if we were planning another Portrait.

We were. But we couldn’t tell them who it would be, because we didn’t know who would agree to participate. That, in fact, proved to be our biggest problem.  Two prominent athletes, through their agents, declined our offer when they learned they would not be paid a fee.  The publicity didn’t matter to them. Money, indeed, talks.

But a second “Portrait” would eventually materialize.

    Creative Thinking, Inc 317/844-8189 (O) 777-4389 (C)
        160 W Carmel Dr, Carmel IN 46032
            Contact:  Don Nixon, Chief Cheerleader, Editor & Publisher, Proofreader   Email:  dmn.ez.nni@gmail.com