OF NEWSPAPERS AND JOURNALISTS IN POST-WAR AUSTRIA
The photo on top shows the offices of the publishing house (right) where the daily newspaper "Linzer Volksblatt" is published. This picture is from the time I worked there in 1963.
My second journalistic home in Linz: The editorial offices of the "Oberoesterreichische Nachrichten", (Upper Austrian News) My office was two windows up from the main door.
A PERSONAL NOTE:
It is 7:30 P.M. on July 29. I just completed my second week of daily radiation treatment and my third chemo therapy and I am miserable. I hurt all over, can barely swallow water and am currently watching my feeding tube ever so slowly dripping nutrients into me. So, since I do not think many people will ever get to read this even if I get to finish it, I shall take the evening off and see what there is on British Comedy.
Back to writing:
I finished school in April 1964, college did not start until the fall term, so I got my first real job at the Linzer Volksblatt, one of two daily newspapers in town. This was not by choice as this 160 year old paper was owned and operated by he Catholic Publishing Group of Austria which owned papers and book companies, dozens of stores and magazines. But - they had allowed me to apprentice since I was 16 years old and so it was accepted that I continue there.
Thankfully, I had been involved in writing, the arts and my beloved music, so, under the tutelage of Dr. Foremann, boss of the culture section, I was doing book reviews, became the resident film critic and almost every evening sat through musical performances, theater events, art festivals and the occasional interviews with visual artists, operatic stars, conductors or poets.Despite the religious leaning of the publishing house, I never once was asked to slant my work or influenced in any way by my editors, in stark contrast to my later work for American publications which were often driven by political or advertising concerns.
In whatever spare time I had I flew for a local air operator as a co-pilot to earn my twin engine and commercial licenses. I was paid nothing for this, it was considered my "tuition", got paid very little from the newspaper but starting my college in journalism with more than 400 stories attributed to me by byline was a great boost and thus "priceless".
To this very day many events that happened in my country when I was a teenager are still part and parcel of my thinking, my being and who I became. There was the Hungarian uprising of 1956 when my family housed more than 60 refugees, there was the ever present Iron Curtain, an hour's drive from my home, festooned with a death strip of land and watch towers every way you looked. There was our new Republic, a new flag and anthem, a delicate political landscape split between the Catholic Peoples Party and the Socialist Party of Austria. People were militantly partisan - you belonged to either one side or the other. Jobs were allocated along party lines, both in government positions or the private sector. This affected me as well as eventually I had to choose between two unions - the Catholic Journalism Union or the Union of Independent Journalists. Once in one group, your doors were closed to the other even though we writers were mostly friends and could not have cared less but the rigid structure, now long forgotten, formed and sometimes destroyed promising careers.
So, in 1966 I reluctantly bid farewell to my friends at the Volksblatt and was hired in a similar position by the Upper Austrian News as a new member of the Independent Journalists Union. My father and grandfather were Socialists, dad was a prominent local politician, the majority of our workforce was Socialists and I simply could not cut myself off this much needed support structure. In the end it did not matter one whit: We writers of both stripes were friends, sometimes for life. At night, after the papers were "put to bed" we would meet at the local gathering place and await pages to deliver still moist fresh editions of the papers after which we would compare each other's work, laud or criticize each other until the next day's editorial conference.
As a job, journalism for those of us who loved it, was a dream profession. We would meet at 10 A.M. for the day's editor's meeting where assignments were doled out for the day. Absent were writers who had been issued orders to meet and interview people or attended press conferences. The rest of us were walked through our next day's pages. My department (Kultur) had pages eight and nine and it was for my boss to offer suggestions of what to open the pages with, how many photo spaces we needed, how much for film or literature, music, or any other random event such as an art gallery opening. Then we would take a break until 3 P.M. if one did not have to finish yesterday's story or had a mid-day assignment. I would normally check out a new movie, roam art galleries or interview a promising new artist or singer at the local opera house. All copy had to be typed and at my editor's desk by 6:30 P.M. Then, if approved, it went to type setting and we were required to read and correct all galley proofs which most of us did by reading upside down lead bars from right to left.
Other departments were more hectic: In local news my friends toiled all day long, ditto for the political pages, the editorials, sports etc. As much as I longed for that excitement, my apprenticeship had to be done in the department my editor-in-chief thought was most suitable to my fledgling talents and for once in my early life I did as I was told, admiring my more experienced betters from across the conference table, longing to be one of them...
NOW A PLEA TO THOSE OF YOU WHO STAYED WITH ME THUS FAR:
Everything I wrote until now is a preamble, I have to lay a foundation until I can get to the good parts. If you follow me through the years you will participate in the moon shot and Salt talks, my reporting about the Prague spring uprising (I was there), eventually you shall meet friends from my car racing days like Paul Newman or my boating buddy Billy Joel. I am anxious to tell you about spending a weekend with Pablo Picasso in 1968 or of some of the other luminaries I met, interviewed, loved or loathed. So please stay with me for a while longer. I promise it is going to be an interesting ride!
long party lines