Reminisces of a 1950’s “media junkie”
One of the advantages of self-publishing is that there are no deadlines and no editors (although, I could use an editor to set me on the straight and narrow when my ideas start to meander).
Having said that, among the many (too many, perhaps) writing projects I work on is a column for my community’s monthly magazine, The Breezes, for which I have both an editor and a deadline. The deadline for the fall issue was July 5 and the editor’s remit was to try to write something based on the theme: “…fall teaches us that change can be beautiful…”
Here’s what I wrote:
Since it’s the beginning of July, I’m having some trouble writing this column. Frankly, the only sign of fall is the impending arrival of Hurricane Elsa, currently a Category 1 storm. Hopefully, by the time you read this you won’t even remember Elsa, as she’s currently tracking to only graze Palm Beach County. That is, of course, unless someone finds Trump’s magic hurricane-tracking Sharpie and changed her course.
Writing about autumn when it’s 90°+ outside is no easy task. So instead, I decided to write about the autumn issue; specifically, the rather quaint nature of printed publishing in our now, fast-paced, instantly gratifying, communications environment. And “deadlines;” the fact that the lead time for getting copy to a magazine could be a month or more before publication.
Now, don’t get me wrong – I love print; I still get many printed magazines, including The Breezes. I spent over 45 years in the advertising business working with, and placing advertising in, magazines, newspapers, radio and TV. My association with the magazine business in particular was so deep that I was even featured in a Weight Watchers trade ad promoting their eponymous magazine. Ah, if only I could still look like the image in that ad now!
Thinking about deadlines led me to an HBO documentary, “Breslin and Hamill: Deadline Artists,” which looks back at the careers of two of the most storied, most legendary, New York newspapermen, Jimmy Breslin and Pete Hamill.
Describing these two giants of the business as legendary doesn’t do them justice. Different in style, demeanor and looks, these two outer-borough, hard-drinking Irishmen (until Hamill went on the wagon) were poets of newsprint. Remember newsprint? Soiling your fingers with it was, back in the day, an unpleasant artifact of reading the dailies. But if that newsprint came from a Breslin or Hamill story, you didn’t want to wash it off. They were that good.
The film reminded me of what it was like for a media junkie like me growing up in New York in the ‘50’s. (By the way, I don’t think “media” was even a word in the 1950’s – TV was TV; radio, radio; magazines were magazines; and newspapers were the “press.”)
And what a world the New York press was; a world where there were seven dailies – four in the morning (The Times, the Herald Tribune, the Daily News and Daily Mirror) and three in the evening (the Post, the World-Telegram & Sun, and the Journal American). If you count the two major Long Island papers, Newsday and the L.I. Press (sorry, Jersey), for which in their peripatetic careers, both Breslin and/or Hamill wrote, there were nine!
In those days, when New York was a melting-pot city, the press reflected that melting pot. The Times and the Post were the Jewish papers (Yes friends, in its pre-Murdoch incarnation the Post was owned and published by Dorothy Schiff and edited by James Wechsler); the WASPS read the Herald Tribune and the Telegram; and the Irish and Italians read the Journal American, the Daily News and the Mirror.
I grew up in a non-reading family; I don’t think I even saw The Times until I was in high school (although our junior high school social studies teacher did get us complimentary subscriptions to the waspy Trib; make no mistake, her name wasn’t Rabinowitz). So how did I become a news junkie? Although I never saw him read them (or anything else for that matter), my father stopped at the same news stand on West 31st street near Penn Station every day. And every day he brought home copies of the Post, the Telegram and the Journal American, each snapped folded by the news stand man as my father approached. The only sense of a transaction was that my father slowed down just enough to reach into his pocket to take out the 30¢ that the three papers cost in total.
And guess what? I read all three. Every night. (Truth be told, mostly the sports pages and the gossip columnists and, of course, Hamill in the Post and Breslin in the Journal American …but read I did.) And when we moved to Long Island, Newsday, for which both Hamill and Breslin contributed, was added to that reading list.
When we still lived in Brooklyn, on Sundays, or more precisely Saturday nights, my father drove to a candy store on Nostrand Avenue and doubled-parked while I ran out to get the first editions of the Sunday News and the Sunday Mirror (bought only, I recall, for the funnies). And, of course, a hand-packed pint of my dad’s favorite ice cream, Breyer’s Cherry Vanilla. Borrowing from the great Bunkers, Archie and Edith, “those were the days.”
These days are no longer like those days. There has been change. Has the change been “beautiful?” Probably not. But one thing is certain. Reminiscing about it is.