The Tardy Times
WHERE IS . . .

  . . . Reg, er, Murphy?  Ineptitude led
  him to a place among the idle rich

(Moral: Life's not fair)
CARL IRVING reports that a friend lunched not so long ago in Baltimore with Freddie Wright, the friendly woman who was the old Examiner's promotion director in the early 1970s. Those were the newspaper's darkest days, but a  new editor was coming aboard.
    At the M&M corner bar, reporters allowed themselves in 1975 to hope. Reg Murphy! A star!
    Murphy replaced Tom Eastham, executive editor of the old News Call-Bulletin before its 1965 merger with the Ex. He couldn’t wait to step in when publisher Randy Hearst foolishly fired the Examiner’s last great editor, the late Ed Dooley. 
   For Tom, it was bad karma. The Patty Hearst nightmare broke on his watch. Afterward, Patty's father shipped him to the Washington bureau, where his prose was suddenly revealed as, in a word, hopeless. Randy then recruited Reg Murphy as the new editor and publisher.
 The staff was delighted, and not because Reg had been kidnapped himself, spending a night trussed up heroically in the trunk of a car. He was 40 and smooth. A Nieman Fellow! Impressive credentials: “Political editor” and later “editor” of the much-admired Atlanta Constitution.
LOOK OUT for misleading titles.  
    Most “political editors” are political writers, not editors; they don't correct misspellings, lay out pages, write headlines or go to meetings. At the Constitution, the “editor” is only the editor of the editorial pages, not the rest of the newspaper. In short, editor-publisher Murphy had little editing experience and no experience whatsoever as a publisher.
  No problem. In the Examiner's joint operating agreement with the Chronicle, the printing agency handled advertising, circulation, production and the rest of the usual jobs of the publisher.
  J. Reginald Murphy, with no background in editing or administration, seemed to delegate everything....He played golf and sounded as if he were just passing through.
    After Dan White assassinated George Moscone and Harvey Milk in 1978, the editor-publisher from Georgia said, “This is every misfit's favorite city.”
    For some, the epiphany came when he spiked an exposé of questionable sales policies at a double-truck advertiser, the Good Guys. This was followed by a direct order to abolish Mireya Navarro's consumer affairs beat. Things went downhill from there, and business boomed at the M&M.
TO Freddie Wright, however, he was Mr. Right. After their marriage, Reg took his impressive résumé in 1981 to the Baltimore to become, despite his almost-total lack of real experience, the new publisher of the Sun.
  His most noteworthy success came when he helped arrange for its sale to the owners of the Los Angeles Times. He collected a payday reputed to be about $14 million. His next post was presidency of the USGA, which probably relieved him of paying green fees. Named CEO of the National Geographic, he left after 18 months (but said instead that he was planning to go).
  In 1999, he wrote a biography of President Jimmy Carter's attorney general, Griffin Bell, who happened to be a fellow alumnus of Mercer University in Macon, Ga. The Geezer Gazoot now rushes into print a couple of reviews which, although eight years old, are of tardy interest to still-embittered Examiner alumni.
    From Kirkus Reviews, normally a reliable source of book flattery: “Although marketed as a balanced biography, this effort reads more like an extended piece of promotional material paid for by either the Atlanta Chamber of Commerce or Griffin Bell’s law firm for distribution to potential clients.”
   From Library Journal: “Unsuccessful as a narrative writer, Murphy overuses saccharine and overwrought phrases to paint an uncritical portrait of Bell and a lopsided view of Southern civil rights history . . .”
REG, 74, now lives with another wife in Sea Island, a ritzy enclave on the Georgia coast. He writes a weekly column for the local daily, the Brunswick News, and plays a lot of golf.
  Back in Misfit City, Freddie Wright left many friends when she departed for Baltimore.
 And then she left Mr. Wrong. According to Carl Irving's spy, she is happily remarried. 

                                                           Lynn Ludlow  

The Geezer Gazoot

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