IF MARJORIE SCARDINO isn’t quite as familar a name as Michael Dell or Tom Hicks, maybe that’s because you’re not reading The Times of London. Or, for that matter, the Financial Times, which happens to be one of the marquee properties (along with Penguin Publishing, a half-share of The Economist, and the TV production company responsible for Baywatch) of Pearson PLC, the media conglomerate that tapped her as its chief executive officer in early 1997.
The story of the making of the Johnson family fortune has often been cast as an example of LBJ’s ability to manipulate others for his own advancement in business as well as politics. Yet Lady Bird’s role was equally important: He had the influence, but she had the cash. From 1937 to 1942 she used $41,000 inherited from her mother’s estate to lay the foundation for their fledgling media company, which she ran as president and later as chairman of the board.
IF JOURNALISM IS A “CONTACT” SPORT—who you know counts as much as what you know—one of the best places to get in the game is the Daily Texan, the University of Texas at Austin’s student-run newspaper. In 1954, for example, Liz Carpenter (class of ‘42), a veteran reporter who would go on to become Lady Bird Johnson’s press secretary, called President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s press office on behalf of U.S. Senate intern Bill Moyers (‘56) and accompanied him to his first Washington, D.C., press conference.
In 1979 I started a local program at the NBC affiliate in Dallas–Fort Worth. I was the host, I was the researcher, and I was the editor. I loved it. By that time I had already been the executive producer of Bill Moyers’ Journal, so I had experience. What I didn’t have was on-air experience, and I wanted the chance to do my own show. [Texas Monthly senior editor] Gary Cartwright was my first guest, and he helped make my career.
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ONE MORNING IN 1972, four years after leaving Texas for what he had told himself would be a short stint in New York, Joe Armstrong woke up in his tiny ground-floor Manhattan apartment and got dressed. He put on his three-piece suit, and then he put on a pair of black lizard Justin boots—and decided that he would wear cowboy boots every single day for the rest of his life. That day was also when he realized he was staying in New York for good.
Q. WHEN DOES A LOCAL story become a national story?
A. When the New York Times says it does.
SHE WAS BEYOND MAD. SHE WAS RIGHTEOUS. “IN RESPONSE TO the Years of Brutal Abusive Reviews in your Publication,” she wrote in salutation. Then the letter began: “There has always been a certain amount of pathos within artists who leave their sacred bountiful homes of birth for the benefit of preserving their own belief in their art—especially in cases such as my own where my native soil that I have so championed around this globe has done its best to choke whatever dignity I carried within me.”
Luann Williams, the editor and publisher of Pop Culture Press, isn’t the type who waits for opportunity to knock. “In the mid-eighties I was working at a Memphis record store and loved music magazines,” says the thirtysomething Tennessee native. “I was looking at a couple, and I thought, ‘You know, there’s nothing like this published here. Let’s do one.’” Since relocating to indie-music mecca Austin in 1987, Williams has grown PCP’s circulation to three thousand, with many readers coming from outside the U.S.