On the Luncheon Agenda: Tuesday October 14th

Pulitzer Prize winner Lucinda Franks, Tuesday Oct. 14

Lucinda Franks copyright Jayne Wexler

Lucinda Franks copyright Jayne Wexler

Dear Silurians:

Lucinda Franks’ latest work is an autobiographical foray into her formidable career as a journalist and her fabled love life and marriage to the legendary New York District Attorney Robert Morgenthau.  “Timeless, Love, Morgenthau and Me” is the book and Lucinda will be talking about it – and much more – with The Society of the Silurians.

Franks, after graduating from Vassar College, went to work for United Press International in London, before returning to the United States to report on the aftermath of the explosion of a Greenwich Village townhouse in 1970. For UPI, Franks and her colleague Thomas Powers won the Pulitzer Prize for National Reporting in 1971 for their stories about Diana Oughton, the Bryn Mawr student who became a radical Weatherman and died in the explosion while making pipe bombs.

After working as a staff writer for the New York Times, Franks became a contributor to The New Yorker, The New York Times Magazine and The Atlantic. In recent years, much of her work has appeared electronically, on The Daily Beast and other websites.  She also has written three other books, including “My Father’s Secret War,” a memoir about how she learned late in life of her seemingly impassive father’s secret career as an intelligence agent in Europe during World War II.

Join us at The Players at noon Tuesday Oct. 14. $45 for members, $50 for non-members. Cash, check or now – for a small service fee – we accept credit cards. Please e-mail first vice president Betsy Ashton at   or call the Silurians Reservations line at 212 532-0887. Please remember to leave your guests names as well as your own. And if you have not yet paid your dues for the year, there is still time!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014 from 12:00 PM to 2:00 PM

The Players Club
16 Gramercy Park South
New York, NY 10003

Pete Hamill Wins George Polk
Lifetime Achievement Award

Brother Denis Pinch Hits Acceptance Speech
Produces Column on Pete’s View From The Hospital

By Denis Hamill

Pete Hamill reclined in a hospital bed in a 17th floor room on the East Side of Manhattan yesterday at noon gazing out the window at a cityscape of glass and steel and the sparkling East River rushing past Queens. A nurse poked his fingertip for a blood sugar sample and a food services lady delivered a tray of chicken, broccoli and carrots and a diet ginger ale.

Hamill, now 78, was asked what receiving the Polk Award for Lifetime Achievement meant to him.

“Start with the man it’s named after,” Hamill said. “George Polk was a great reporter who was murdered while covering the Greek Civil War in 1948. He had more personal courage than any of the guys who start the wars that reporters risk their lives to cover. But he died trying to bring the world the story. To be given a lifetime achievement award named for a great reporter who gave his life to this noble craft is humbling. It’s why I will cherish it. It’s why I’m so pissed off to be in this goddamned hospital instead of at the award ceremony.”

Hamill paused, chewing his carrots and gazing out at the city that has given him a never ending supply of stories across a half-century career in journalism.

“When I was informed that I was getting the Polk I was in Europe researching a novel and it made me think of all the great foreign war correspondents that gave and continue to give or risk their lives trying to get the reader the story. I can’t think of braver people.”

Hamill was reminded that he covered a few wars himself.

“Yeah, Vietnam, Middle East, Northern Ireland, Nicaragua,” Hamill said. “I covered a few. But New York was my beat. I got into newspapers, as you know, by accident when I wrote a letter to the editor of the New York Post and they gave me a tryout and hired me in June, 1960. I loved newspapers from day one. I was receiving an education from great editors and getting paid for it, like the GI Bill.”

Who were the newspaper writers he admired most as a young reporter?

“I loved Jimmy Cannon,” Hamill said. “AJ Leibling, Menken. Dorothy Parker was my favorite woman journalist until Nora Ephron showed up. We all went to the same school just by reading the old masters. I read them like a predator. Stephen Crane was magnificent. John McNulty’s fabulous saloon columns for the New Yorker. O’Henry. Ben Hecht was great reporter in Chicago. Everyone I knew read Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Steinbeck. And, of course, Murray Kempton was a maestro.  I also liked John Crosby and Art Buchwald who was a truly funny bastard. The best ones taught you the most in the briefest amount of space.”

When the New York Post gave you a column what did you want to do with it? “I wanted it to be about common people,” Hamill said. “Good, decent, hard working, forgotten people in New York City. I wasn’t so much looking to continue the tradition of the Irish columnist as I was looking to continue a tradition of ‘kiss my Irish ass.’ To be irreverent. I wasn’t going to write a column to get a boiled collar on a dress shirt. The whole point, when I was a kid talking to Kempton, was to understand that a column has opinion. It can also have reporting. The reporting is often an education that helps form your opinion. So I learned as much from the people I wrote about and the readers as I did from great editors and the best writers. A press card allows you to meet an amazing cast of characters who all do different things for a living. You learn something new from every one of them just by interviewing them. So the first skill you had to learn was how to listen.  And then have your say.”

Hamill pushed away his half-eaten lunch and narrowed his eyes. “That’s why this Polk Award means so much to me,” he said. “Because it’s for all those common people I ever wrote about, too. It’s also for the readers. This is still a vital, indispensible, noble craft. No politician — very few, anyway — could ever amount to a pimple on a good reporter’s ass. That’s why the demise of print newspapers doesn’t worry me too much. Readers will always need professionalized news. News gathered by skilled reporters who sometimes risk their lives the way George Polk did to get the story. I started out by delivering the Brooklyn Eagle as a kid. The internet is just a new delivery system.  It doesn’t change how news is reported. You aren’t going to send some unskilled blogger who doesn’t have an editor to go cover a war. Or a riot or a triple homicide in the middle of the night. You will have to send a good reporter. Trained to get the facts and quotes and details and then write them as fast as possible and have them edited by tough editors so that the reader can trust the latest news he is reading. That part of the business will not change. You are going to always rely on a brave, young George Polk to go risk his or her life to get you the story from the latest war.”

So he would still recommend the profession to young people like the kid he was 54 years ago?

“Absolutely,” Hamill said, as another nurse came in to check his vitals which were all fine. “If you want to learn something new every day. If you love ‘Hey-I-didn’t -know-that’ moments while covering a story then this is still a great life. If you have the passion to join a guild of talented people who want to add something fresh and new and important to what we know about the world, then go do it, baby.”

Does receiving the Polk Award for Lifetime Achievement feel like a coda to your career? “Nah,” he said, smiling. “It’s just an honor. It annoys me that I can’t be there to accept it. But I’m on the mend and I’m also in the middle of another novel. Being a newspaperman gave me a life. It’s hasn’t been a bad way to wander this amazing world.”

Anything Hamill would like to tell the people at the Polk Awards ceremony?

“Yes,” Hamill said. “I want to thank them for giving me this Lifetime Achievement Award. But I’m not done yet. There are still stories I want to tell. And I’m so sorry I can’t be there to thank you all in person but I will be seeing you soon somewhere around the parish.”

Photos from Walt Bogdanich Luncheon – February 18, 2014

All photos courtesy of Mort Sheinman

Investigative reporter Walt Bogdanich of The New York Times

Investigative reporter Walt Bogdanich
of The New York Times

President Allan Dodds Frank,  guest speaker Walt Bogdanich

President Allan Dodds Frank,
guest speaker Walt Bogdanich



Photos from Preet Bharara Luncheon – January 14, 2014

All Photos courtesy of Mort Sheinman

Preet Bharara and Allan Dodds Frank

Preet Bharara and Allan Dodds Frank

Preet Bharara speaking at Luncheon

Preet Bharara speaking at Luncheon

Preet Bharara and Ralph Blumenthal

Preet Bharara and Ralph Blumenthal

Photos from Buzzfeed’s Ben Smith Luncheon – Dec. 17, 2013

All photos courtesy of Mort Sheinman

Steve Shepard, Bill Diehl, Ben Smith

Steve Shepard, Bill Diehl, Ben Smith

Allan Dodds Frank, Ben Smith

Allan Dodds Frank, Ben Smith

Allan Dodds Frank, Ben Smith

Allan Dodds Frank, Ben Smith

Ben Smith speaking at  The Silurians Luncheon

Ben Smith speaking at
The Silurians Luncheon

Seymour Topping Receives Society’s Lifetime Achievement Award

Seymour Topping receiving Lifetime Achievement Award (photo Mort Sheinman)

Seymour Topping receiving Lifetime Achievement Award (photo Mort Sheinman)


Audrey Topping, Seymour Topping and Allan Dodds Frank (photo Mort Sheinman)

Audrey Topping, Seymour Topping and Allan Dodds Frank (photo Mort Sheinman)

Seymour Topping was presented  this year’s  Lifetime Achievement Award by our president, Allan David Frank,  on Thursday, Nov. 14. The annual award was given before an enthusiastic audience, which included a goodly number of Topping’s large family, at a dinner held for that purpose at The Players.

Topping (aka Top), who is approaching his 92nd birthday, has spent some 67 years in journalism. From the age of 16, when he was the editor of his high school newspaper he knew he wanted to be a journalist, specifically, a foreign correspondent in China. (He was inspired by Edgar Snow’s Red Star over China, a seminal book on the beginning of China’s communist party).

After serving as an infantry officer in World War II, he realized his dream in 1946. International News Service hired him as a stringer with the title of  Chief Correspondent for North China and Manchuria. He was based in Peking, where he covered the Chinese civil war. In 1947, INS put him on staff in Nanking. Six months later he joined the Associated Press and covered the fall of Nanking to the communists. A year later he established AP’s Saigon bureau, becoming the first American correspondent in French Indochina after World War II and the only one there when hostilities broke out.  After two years, AP sent him to London, where he covered the diplomatic beat and then, in 1956, was assigned to a divided Berlin as bureau chief.

In 1959, Topping  joined the staff of The New York Times. He was assigned to Moscow as chief correspondent. He covered the first space shots, de-Stalinization and the Cuban Missile Crisis. In 1963, he became the paper’s chief correspondent for Southeast Asia, covering the wars in Indochina.  Other parts of the globe where he was based include the Middle East, Africa, Latin America, Australia and New Zealand.  After 20 years abroad, Topping returned to New York to become the paper’s foreign editor and then was promoted to managing editor.  He ended his 33-year career at The Times as the Director of Editorial Development.

Upon leaving The Times he became the Administrator of the Pulitzer Prizes at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, a position he held for nine years. He also was a professor at the J School   (now emeritus) and, after his retirement in 2002, he conducted a seminar at Columbia’s School of Arts and Sciences on The Evolution of Media and the Public Interest – History and Issues.

Top has continued to write and lecture at other venues in the United States and China.  He is president of the international advisory board at Tsinghua University in Bejing.

In March 2010, Topping published his latest memoir: “On the Front Lines of the Cold War: An American Correspondent’s Journal from the Chinese Civil War to the Cuban Missile Crisis and Vietnam,” a book about his experiences on the ground in covering the major events of that era.  His other books include “Journey Between Two Chinas” and two novels. Professional affiliations include the presidency of the American Society of Newspaper Editors and chairman of their committee on international relations.

He is married to Audrey Ronning Topping, the photojournalist, documentary film maker, and author. They have five daughters.

Linda Amster

The Peter Kihss Award 2013



Wednesday, May 22, 2013
6 PM

Honoring the year’s outstanding achievements
and presentation of the Peter Kihss Award to:

JoAnne Wasserman  

President Myron Kandel with Joanne Wasserman after giving her the Peter Kihss Award. - photo by Allan Dodds Frank

President Myron Kandel with Joanne Wasserman after giving her the Peter Kihss Award. – photo by Allan Dodds Frank

JoAnne Wasserman, Brooklyn bureau chief of the New York Daily News, is the 2013 recipient of our Peter Kihss award. The honor was created by the Society of the Silurians in memory of Peter Kihss of The New York Times, a legendary reporter and an inspiring mentor to younger journalists. She is the 23rd recipient of the award and the first woman to be so honored.

The award will be presented at the Silurians’ Annual Awards Dinner, to be held Wednesday, May 22, at The Players, with a reception starting at 6 PM and dinner at 7:15. In addition, Excellence in Journalism Awards will be presented to staffers at more than a dozen newspapers, wire and online services, magazines and radio and TV stations.

In her 30-year career in journalism, Ms. Wasserman has also been a reporter covering the City Hall and education beats at the New York Post; an assistant city editor at the News, and, for nearly a decade, the paper’s Brooklyn bureau chief while also launching the Upper Manhattan section for the News. She is admired for her dedication to helping young journalists in the tradition of Peter Kihss.

Dennis Duggan Award to Irina Ivanova

This year’s Dennis Duggan Award winner is Irina Ivanova, a student at the CUNY Journalism School. Ms Ivanova finished near the top of the class during her first semester and has been selected by her fellow students to serve on the search committee looking for the next dean of the school.

She graduated cum laude from Amherst College. While there she worked on publications dealing with politics, culture, and the arts.  Two summers she interned at the Indypendent, a multimedia Web site dealing with community and cultural issues in New York.  Upon graduation she was hired by the Indypendent  where she worked as a reporter, writer, editor, and photographer. She later did community relations work for the Fashion Institute of Technology and had a fellowship with investigative reporter Wayne Barrett at The Nation Institute.

According to the CUNY faculty, some of her work brings Dennis Duggan to mind. One of her professors recently said: “She did a classic Dugganesque story last semester when she followed a long-time postman on his last delivery before he retired after 20-plus years on the same route.”

The award, which comes with a $1,000 stipend, will be presented to Ms Ivanova at the dinner on May 22.

Myron Kandel presenting the Dennis Duggan Award to Irina Ivanova - photo by Allan Dodds Frank

Myron Kandel presenting the Dennis Duggan Award to Irina Ivanova – photo by Allan Dodds Frank

April 18 Luncheon Featured Steven Brill

S_Brill_luncheonSteven Brill lawyer, publisher, producer, editor, and reporter, discussing his historic Time Magazine article “Bitter “Pill: Why Medical Bills Are Killing Us.” It was the first time in its history the magazine devoted the entire feature section to a “special report.” Brill answered many questions about what is happening to medical care during the well attended meeting. (Photo by Mort Sheinman)

March 21 Remembering Mayor Koch Luncheon Photos

The panel assembled for our March 21 lunch either covered or worked for Mayor Koch had many stories to telll about the man who constantly wanted to know how he was doing.