Marianne Means watches history unfold
By Melissa Dunne
Although on may glimpse her byline in he Lincoln Journal-Star or Omaha World-Herald, the woman behind the words won’t be found in the Midwest.
To find Marianne Means, one must ravel to the nation’s capital. There, as a Washington columnist for Hearst newspapers, means watches history unfold and captures it for the world to read.
Syndicated by King Features since 1966 and also distributed by the New York Times news services, means’ column reaches 500 newspapers through out the nation.
Although Means said she thinks her thoughts are not always “clearly, brilliantly fine-honed,” writing a column three times a week isn’t too difficult.
“The Lord always provides,” she said. “Some politician always screws up.”
Her columns cover a mixture or presidents, politics, national and international affairs.
But more than anything, they cover what she loves.
“I like politics, writing, being able to put my thoughts into print. Being able to use my experience,” she said. “This combines all of it.”
Means said she has always had a love of writing and politics.
“I was one of those lucky people who has always known what I wanted to do,” she said.
As a student at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, she was managing editor of the Daily Nebraskan. She was also an active member of the Young Democrats. Now, years later, she’s still doing what she always thought she’d do. Almost.
Means said when she graduated from UNL in 1955, she thought she would be a copy editor.
Although she did work on the Lincoln Journal-Star’s copy desk for two years, she said she was not prepared for the discrimination she found against women in journalism when she moved to Washington.
“It’s a compliment to the university that UNL never taught me that I couldn’t do something because I was a woman,” she said.
Outside Lincoln, she said, women weren’t allowed to work on the copy desk. Editors were men. So she became a reporter – first at the Northern Virginia Sun, the for Hearst.
When she became a White House correspondent in 1961, Means said she was “pretty much the only female.”
However, she added, the climate was improving.
“All social and cultural barriers crumble under the weight of evidence,” she said.
Her advice to graduating female journalism students is to “Act like a lady; work like a dog.”
For Means, that hard work has paid off.
As a Washington correspondent and columnist, Means said she has a “seat on history.” She has covered administrations from Eisenhower to Clinton, meeting the challenges of each.
“Presidents come and go, but journalists are forever,” she said.
Her most memorable experience was being present at John F. Kennedy’s assassination.
Means said she was in the first press car but behind the official vehicles when she hears the gunshot. By the time the press reached the scene, she said, the moribund President had already been rushed into Parkland Hospital.
At the hospital she say the open convertible, stained inside with the president’s blood.
“Every detail of the day will be imprinted on my mind forever,” she said.
Means said it is “trite” to say that her job is interesting, but that’s what it is. This is particularly true, she said, now that the news happens so rapidly.
“In the sixties politicians had time to react,” she said. “Now, they’re supposed to have an answer before they even know what happened.”
Such a fast pace has provided a steady stream of column material. However, choosing a favorite column isn’t possible Means said.
“I love them all. This is like asking someone to choose among her children, Means has several – four step-daughters and seven step-grandchildren. Her husband is Warren Weaver, a retired New York Times correspondent Means met while covering politics.
Once again she has combined the things she loves.