The Society of the Silurians
Excellence in Journalism Award Winners for 2014

The Society of the Silurians will present its 2014 Excellence in Journalism Awards at a dinner on Tuesday, May 19, at The Players, 16 Gramercy Park South, with a reception at 6 p.m. and dinner at 7:15.

Reporters, editors, producers, columnists, editorial writers, photographers and bloggers from 24 news organizations in the tri-state area will be honored with Silurians medallions or Merit Awards.

Veteran newsman David Gonzalez of The New York Times will receive the Peter Kihss Award, given annually to the reporter whose work best reflects the integrity and meticulousness of the late Mr. Kihss, in addition to emulating his qualities as a mentor to younger colleagues.

The Dennis Duggan Memorial Scholarship Award goes annually to a promising student at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. This year, the winner is Cole Rosengren of the Class of 2015.

  1. PRINT: BREAKING NEWS

Medallion Winner:
The New York Times
“Two Officers Ambushed”
by The New York Times team: Ben Mueller, Al Baker, J. David Goodman, Matt Flegenheimer, Kim Barker, Ashley Southall, Jeffrey E. Singer, Nina Bernstein, Alan Blinder, Richard Fausset, Sandra E. Garcia, Edna Ishayik, Thomas Kaplan, Sarah Maslin Nir, William K. Rashbaum, Kenneth Rosen, Marc Santora, Nate Schweber, Mosi Secret, Melody Simmons, Vivian Yee, Jack Begg
Despite minimal metro staffing and the looming early Sunday deadline, The New York Times reporters scrambled to reconstruct the cold-blooded executions of police officers Wenjin Liu and Rafael Ramos in their patrol car in Brooklyn. The Times team also compiled a comprehensive portrait of the killer and illuminated the complex tensions of an NYPD then at war with the Mayor.

Merit Award:
Newsday for “Deadly Blast”
When an East Harlem gas explosion flattened two buildings, killed four people and injured dozens more, Newsday’s team of 10 reporters produced an excellent comprehensive look at the tragedy and its causes.

  1. PRINT: FEATURE NEWS

Medallion Winner:
The New York Times
“Baptism By Fire” by N.R. (Sonny) Kleinfield
Kleinfield crafts the story of a probationary fireman’s first fire and his rescue of a baby boy in a burning apartment into a beautifully written and researched epic narrative. Not only does he tell the story of probationary fireman Jordan Sullivan and his unlikely path to the Fire Department, but gives us an intimate picture of the men of Ladder 105, the fire they fought and the life and culture of the firehouse.

Merit Award:
The New York Times
“Palm Sunday” by Joe Goldstein
Thirty years after 10 people, including eight children, were massacred on Palm Sunday, Goldstein revisited the sole survivor, now a 31-year-old woman, and the policewoman who rescued her and later adopted her.

  1. PRINT: INVESTIGATIVE REPORTING

Medallion Winner:
The Associated Press
“Death on Rikers Island” by Jake Pearson
In a devastating and chilling 10-part exposé that ran from March to December, backed up with exhaustive documentation from internal reports, The Associated Press revealed a sickening pattern of physical abuse and criminal neglect at New York City’s largest jail complex, leading to official investigations and reforms.

Merit Award:
The New York Times
“Meddling Governor” by Suzanne Craig, Thomas Kaplan and William K. Rashbaum
This expose of the collapse of the Moreland Commission and Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s promise to clean up corruption in Albany revealed that the governor is a master of the back room whose orders mandating government transparency might as well have been written in invisible ink.

  1. PRINT: SPORTS REPORTING

Medallion Winner:
The Daily News for “Cooking The Books” by Teri Thompson, Mary Papenfuss, Christian Red, Nathaniel Vinton
A classically investigated and reported look at corruption inside the secret, lucrative world of international soccer at the highest levels and how a group of tenacious insiders made millions–often by illegal means.

Merit Award:
Newsday
“Five teams passed on Derek Jeter; here’s what they think about that now” by Steven Marcus
A fascinating story about how Derek Jeter ended up in pinstripes and the teams that passed on him in the 1992 baseball draft ended up in the dumps.

  1. PRINT: BUSINESS & FINANCIAL REPORTING

Medallion Winner:
The Record
“The For-Profit Prescription” by Lindy Washburn
This three-part series revealed how the business of health care has changed dramatically in New Jersey, enabling some for-profit hospital operators to make fortunes by acquiring faltering non-profit institutions in a shadowy health-care/business/political environment.

Two Merit Awards:
Bloomberg News for “Wall Street Finds New Subprime With Brokers Pitching 125% Loans” by Zeke Faux
When there is a new way to exploit the vulnerable with predatory lending, the financial vultures will find it. This story illuminates the latest dark blot on the record of the financial industry as its usurious practices target small businesses.

Vanity Fair
“War of the Words” by Keith Gessen
A map of the battle between Amazon on the West Coast and Hachette publishing in France over money that has the financial fate of publishing capital of the world and writers everywhere in its grip.

  1. PRINT: SCIENCE AND HEALTH REPORTING

Medallion Winner: 
The New York Times
“A Father’s Wish, a Daughter’s Anguish” by Nina Bernstein
An exhaustively researched, beautifully framed and eloquently crafted narrative of a daughter’s frustrating and ultimately heartbreakingly fruitless quest for end-of-life home care for her dying father. By personalizing the story and writing it as poignantly as she did, Bernstein brought into stark relief the manner in which the nation’s health system, driven by financial incentives and based on finding the maximum government reimbursement, works in favor of hospitals, nursing homes and other health-care providers over the needs and wishes of the patients they serve.

Merit Award:
Bloomberg News
“Emergency by Appointment at Mount Sinai” by David Armstrong, Peter Waldman and Gary Putka
This expose of how Mount Sinai -one of New York’s leading hospitals – games the Medicaid system to extract maximum profits while degrading emergency room care should be required reading for regulators and legislators. And patients.

  1. PRINT: ARTS/CULTURAL REPORTING

Medallion Winner:
Bloomberg News
“Art Flippers Chase Fresh Stars as Murillo’s Doodles Soar” by Katya Kazakina
This story exposed the mania of the art market and the bad behavior of moneymen who are chasing little-known young artists, buying and stockpiling their works and then hyping them to make quick financial killings.

Merit Award: Vanity Fair 
“Too Rich, Too Thin, Too Tall?” by Paul Goldberger.
A disturbing portrait of the shadows cast by new construction projects for the ultra-rich and how Central Park and the psyche of New York City will suffer.

  1. PRINT JOURNALISM: EDITORIAL WRITING AND COMMENTARY

Medallion Winner:
The Record
Charles Stile
Stile, in a yearlong series of riveting columns, chronicled in keen-eyed detail the political evolution of the embattled governor of New Jersey, Chris Christie. Stile even took a look at Christie’s run for student body president in a combative college campaign that hinted at many career adventures and incidents to come.  Prompted by a quote from Mahatma Gandhi that Christie oddly invoked in his keynote speech at the Republican National Convention in 2012, Stile matched the governor’s deeds to other words by India’s legendary exponent of non-violence, resulting in a wry and remarkably informative study in contrasts.

  1. PRINT: NEWS ANALYSIS 

Two Medallion Winners:
The Record
“Christie’s Report Language Tells a Story”
by Herb Jackson, John Reitmeyer and Michael Linhorst
The Record’s expertly parsed the 344-page report prepared by Governor Chris Christie’s legal team that exonerated him. The Record’s analysis delineated many instances in which the Christie report failed to meet accepted standards for writing government investigative reports.

Newsday
Columns by Joye Brown
In several insightful columns about life on Long Island, Joye Brown called on Hempstead Town officials to bear responsibility for shortcomings in education. She also looked critically at deficiencies of the bureaucracy to illuminate the likely causes of poor performance and government decision-making. Another column by Brown investigated a spate of unsolved killings in Suffolk County and prompted a public outcry for action.

  1. PRINT: COMMUNITY SERVICE

Medallion Winner:
The Daily News, in conjunction with the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism’s NYCity News Service, for “Stop The Mold: Tracking the Scourge in Public Housing”
by Greg B. Smith , New York Daily News. Allegra Abramo, Natalie Abruzzo, Julia Alsop Frank Green, Gwynne Hogan, Ross Keith, Roxanne Scott, Melisa Stumpf, María Villaseñor, NYCity News Service.
This investigative series on problems with the New York City Housing Authority produced an incisive look at a major problem—mold, almost endemic in public housing — and depicted the heartbreaking, ongoing frustration many tenants suffer. These stories triggered a city investigation into the epic failures at the housing authority.

Merit Award:
The Poughkeepsie Journal
“Killers & Pain” by Mary Beth Pfeiffer
Utilizing Freedom of Information requests and robust data bases, this series revealed the deadly links between heroin and prescription drug overuse.

  1. PRINT: BREAKING NEWS PHOTOGRAPHY:

Medallion Winner:
The Record
“Hostage Situation” by Tariq Zehawi
Zehawi’s dramatic photo of a SWAT team subduing a mother who had been threatening to harm her children also captures the precise moment when other officers were whisking the youngsters to safety.

Merit Award:
The Daily News.
“EDP Businessman” by Marcus Santos
An unconventional portrait of an emotionally disturbed man hurling ice and epithets at New York City’s finest near the World Trade Center.

12: PRINT: FEATURE PHOTOGRAPHY

Medallion Winner:
The Daily News
“Eric Garner Protest at Barclay’s Center” by Stephanie Keith
A close-up and personal depiction of two vastly different faces in a confrontation between police and protesters,in Brooklyn following the death of Eric Garner.

Merit Award:
The Daily News
“Ramos-Liu Memorial” by James Keivom
For his powerfully emotional photo of a former police officer and his daughter at a memorial for the two NYPD officers who were murdered in Brooklyn

  1. PRINT: SPORTS NEWS OR FEATURE PHOTOGRAPHY

Medallion Winner:
The Daily News
Robert Sabo
Sabo’s you-have-to-see-it-to-believe-it photograph of New York Giants receiver Odell Beckham making a stunning touchdown catch against the Dallas Cowboys.

Merit Award:
Newsday
“California Chrome” by J. Conrad Williams
A glimpse of the Preakness Winner and the possum working out at Belmont Park.

  1. MAGAZINES: INVESTIGATIVE REPORTING

Medallion Winner:
Bloomberg News
“Anything But Secure” by David Evans
Evans uncovered a $1 billion internet-based scam that preyed on investors around the globe with promises of big returns trading currencies. The investors got robbed and the U.S. Attorney in the Eastern District of New York opened a criminal investigation.

  1. MAGAZINES: FEATURE WRITING

Medallion Winner:
Vanity Fair
“To Live and Die in America” by Nancy Jo Sales
This exploration of the murders of four young Iranians who had migrated to Williamsburg, Brooklyn to develop an indie rock band called the Yellow Dogs poignantly captures the decline of one former band member and how his despair shattered the dreams of the others.

Merit Award:
Bloomberg Markets
“Andy Hall Goes All In” by Bradley Olson
A penetrating profile of a legendary Wall Street commodities trader whose golden touch trading oil may have turned to lead.

  1. MAGAZINES: PUBLIC SERVICE

Medallion Winner:
Financial Planning magazine
“Could Financial Planning Help Stem the Rate of Military Suicides?” by Ann Marsh.
This thoroughly researched, in-depth examination of how financial stress has become a major factor in military suicide led to Congressional legislation mandating the military to provide financial advice and counseling to active-duty personnel and veterans.

Merit Award:
Bloomberg Markets
“Overworked and Underwhelmed” by Dawn Kopecki
This article helped prompt Wall Street investment banks to rethink the path to riches they set out for young associates. It illustrated the stress, sleep deprivation and lack of a normal 20-something life that are devastating to physical and mental health

  1. TELEVISION INVESTIGATIVE REPORTING

Medallion Winner:
News 12 New Jersey
“Kane In Your Corner: Students Restrained”
A troubling investigation examining the abuse — or is it discipline — of special needs children in New Jersey. In the absence of laws governing the conduct of teachers and counselors, children are at risk and their parents are in the dark.

Merit Award:
NY1 News
“Sex Trafficking” by Dean Meminger
A good look at the exploitation of teenage girls in New York and the difficulty of stopping it

  1. TELEVISION BREAKING NEWS

Medallion Winner:
NY1 News
“No Indictment in the Death of Eric Garner”
It was high drama as NY1 broke the news to viewers that there would be no indictment by a grand jury in the chokehold death of Eric Garner on Staten Island.

  1. TELEVISION FEATURE NEWS

Medallion Winner:
ESPN
“Outside the Lines: Tragic State”
John Barr, Correspondent.  William Weinbaum, producer Bryan Brousseau, Joe LoMonaco, Marc Lustig, directors of photography. Rob Berman, Scott O’Leary, editors. Chris Buckle, deputy editor. Joshua Vorensky, production assistant, Carolyn Hong, coordinating producer. Rayna Banks, asssociate producer,  PJ DeCordova, Eric Lynch, assignment editors. Dwayne Bray, senior coordinating producer. Vince Doria, vice president of news.
This examination of the tragic aftermath of the injuries suffered by heavyweight title contender Magomed Abdusalamov in a Madison Square Garden fight offers deep insight into how the fight establishment works and how imperfectly it functions when it comes to protecting fighters.

Merit Award:
NY1 for “How NYC Works: Food Rescue”
Roger Clark, Reporter. Davide Cannaviccio Producer & Photographer. Jessica Steiner, Producer; Dan Komarinetz, Editor Leisha Majtan, camera operator.
A delightful jaunt around New York with a delicious behind-the-scenes look at how City Harvest feeds the needy.

  1. TELEVISION PUBLIC SERVICE

Medallion Winner:
WPIX 11
“Pregnant and Addicted”
by Narmeen Choudhury, correspondent. Victor Lopez, photographer/editor.
Compelling personal stories of three women drug users who confront their addictions and the births of their methadone-affected babies while receiving treatment in a Lower East Side clinic and working toward becoming responsible parents.

Merit Award
WLIW
“MetroFocus Special Report: The Eric Garner Decision”
Rafael Pi Roman and Jack Ford, anchors; Michael Hill, reporter. Sally Garner, executive producer/writer; Erica Zolberg, editorial producer; Andrea Vasquez, Marisa Wong, producers; Matthew Chao, associate producer; Ann Benjamin, director. Kirsti Itameri, multimedia producer; Sean McGinn, producer/editor; Kerry Soloway, editor; Christofer Nicoletti, production assistant; Diane Masciale, general manager, WLIW21; John Servidio, vice president of subsidiary stations
A thorough and thoughtful round-up of a big breaking story. 

  1. RADIO BREAKING NEWS

Medallion Winner:
1010 WINS
“NYPD Officers Fatally Shot”
1010 WINS reporters delivered riveting coverage when two police officers were fatally shot by a gunman while sitting in their patrol car in Brooklyn

Merit Award:
WCBS 880
“Explosion in Harlem”
“A quick and comprehensive reaction to a big breaking news tragedy.”

  1. RADIO: NEWS FEATURE

Medallion Winner:
ESPN Radio
“Outside the Lines and The Sporting Life: Roberts Rules”
Kelly Naqi, correspondent. William Weinbaum, producer. Robert O’Reilly, Justin Stokes, location sound mixers. Jason Sharkey, editor.   Kelly Rohrer, production assistant. Carolyn Hong, coordinating producer. Rayna Banks, associate producer. Eric Lynch, assignment editor. Dwayne Bray, senior coordinating producer. Vince Doria, vice president of news.
A lively portrait of Michele Roberts, new head of the NBA players union.  We learn she is charming, witty, bold, and dedicated to making certain that, in her words, “an institution this important and one that is predominantly African-American cannot be allowed to fail.”

Merit Award:
WCBS 880
“The Gem Vac Vets” by Wayne Cabot
Military veterans tell their stories on Veterans Day as a small group does every Tuesday at a little shop in New Jersey.

  1. ONLINE BREAKING NEWS

Medallion Winner:
The Wall Street Journal (WSJ.com)
“East Harlem Explosion”
With digital bulletins, constant tweets, video, and overall mastery of social media, alongside print coverage, Journal reporters were all over the massive explosion that killed eight, collapsed two Park Avenue buildings and overturned countless lives.

Two Merit Awards:
DNAinfo.com
“4-Year-Old Tortured Before Death Endured Nomadic Life Filled With Abuse”
Murray Weiss, James Fanelli, Janon Fisher
Fine pursuit of the reasons for the terrible unnecessary death of a four-year-old boy who slipped through the cracks of the social services network.

Newsday.com
“Cops Shot”
The Newsday staff produced excellent and exhaustive multi-media coverage of the shooting of two New York police officers in their patrol car.

  1. ONLINE INVESTIGATIVE REPORTING/WEB EXCLUSIVE

Medallion Winner:
ProPublica
“How Wall Street Tobacco Deals Left States With Billions in Toxic Debt”
“Tobacco Bond” Series by Cezary Podkul.
Building special data bases to probe the public records left by Wall Street bond deals built around scheduled payoffs from the national tobacco settlement of 1999, these meticulously researched stories were the first to document that nearly half the money no longer goes to benefit taxpayers. Instead, it’s being siphoned off to cover a multi-generational legacy of debt taken on by dozens of the governments involved – debt that some may never be able to repay. Apps built by Yue Qiu and Lena Groeger allow readers to track the financial effects of these bad deals county by county in New York State and elsewhere.

Merit Award:
DNAinfo.com
“Mayor’s Top Aide Hid Relationship With Convicted Felon” by Murray Weiss & James Fanelli.
Ongoing digging and consistent results about the relationships of the chief of staff for the First Lady of New York affected the running dispute between the Mayor and the police union leadership.

  1. ONLINE NEWS COMMENTARY

Medallion Winner:
TheStreet.com
“Unaccountable Bureaucracy” and other columns by Susan Antilla
In these searing columns, Antilla highlights the anti-consumer sentiment that has taken hold of significant portions of the Republican Party as it attempts to dismantle agencies such as the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which she says “has broken new ground reining in sleazy debt collectors, slipshod mortgage servicers and banks.” In just two years, the agency has already handled 270,000 complaints from consumers and has returned almost $3 billion to them. She also critiques the soft-on-enforcement stance that appears to be the real posture of the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority.

Merit Award:
The Record
“GWB Files”
Staff of The Record
The Record’s ongoing catalogue of the evolution of the George Washington Bridge scandal is the multi-media scorecard subscribers need to keep track of this cast of characters.”

  1. ONLINE PUBLIC SERVICE

Medallion Winner:
ProPublica and National Public Radio
“Red Cross” by Jesse Eisinger & Justin Elliott, ProPublica; Laura Sullivan, NPR
The diligence of this reporting team paid off as it refused to accept the original opaque explanations from the Red Cross about how the relief organization spent hundreds of millions of dollars during its responses to Hurricanes Sandy and Isaac. As ProPublica/NPR concluded: “The Red Cross botched key elements of its mission after Sandy and Isaac, leaving behind a trail of unmet needs and acrimony, according to an investigation by ProPublica and NPR. The charity’s shortcomings were detailed in confidential reports and internal emails, as well as accounts from current and former disaster relief specialists. What’s more, Red Cross officials at national headquarters in Washington, D.C., compounded the charity’s inability to provide relief by “diverting assets for public relations purposes,” as one internal report puts it. Distribution of relief supplies, the report said, was “politically driven.”

Merit Award:
Newsday/News 12
Cash Crop: “Marijuana on Long Island and Across the United States”
Mandy Hofmockel, Thomas Maier, Saba Ali, Matthew Cassella, Timothy Healy and Newsday.com and Newsday Staffs
The complete package on marijuana on Long Island with text, photographs, videos, charts, maps and other interactive graphics, legal documents, etc.

Photos from Robert B. Fiske Jr. Luncheon – November 20, 2014

All photos courtesy of Bill Diehl

Robert B. Fiske Jr speaking at Silurians Luncheon
Robert B. Fiske Jr speaking at Silurians Luncheon
Robert B. Fiske Jr. and Allan Dodds Frank

Robert B. Fiske Jr. and Allan Dodds Frank

Photos from Lucinda Franks Luncheon – October 14, 2014

All photos courtesy of Mort Sheinman

Lucinda Franks reading from her book.

Lucinda Franks reading from her book.

Lucinda Franks and Allan Dodds Frank

Lucinda Franks and Allan Dodds Frank

Lucinda Franks and Enid Nemy

Enid Nemy and Lucinda Franks

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

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

Silurians Honor Gloria Steinem
for a Lifetime of Distinguished Achievement

By Bill Diehl

Gloria Steinem received the Silurians Lifetime Achievement Award at a gala dinner at The Players on Dec. 4. President Myron Kandel presented her with a plaque inscribed, “In recognition of a lifetime of excellence as a writer, editor, feminist, and activist, whose advocacy for gender equality has placed her in the pantheon of civil libertarians everywhere.”


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Tabloid greats wrote about ordinary ‘ruck’ of life

July 7th, 2011

By Pat Fenton  –  from the Irish Times Online

Breslin is back at the Daily News and Pete Hamill has a new book out that everybody is talking about, “Tabloid City.” And that’s good news, but sadly, both events also remind me that something important to Irish culture is slipping away from us. The sort of journalism they both perfected as they wrote stories in the Daily News and the New York Post about the city’s Irish working-class neighborhoods is fading away. And so are some of the Irish neighborhoods they wrote about.

The first time I ever read a newspaper column by Pete Hamill I was sitting in Kerrigan’s bar in Windsor Terrace, Brooklyn one afternoon, reading the New York Post. It was in the 1960s, and I had just come home from two years in the Army. I was 22.

I didn’t know who Pete Hamill was, but I couldn’t stop reading what he was writing about our neighborhood. He was writing about the factories on  7th Avenue, about the local bars like Farrell’s on 16th Street and 9th Avenue, and how his father from Belfast, Ireland, drank there. My father from Galway, Ireland, drank there too.

I remember holding up the Post, a liberal newspaper at that time and hated in our conservative neighborhood, and asking the bartender if he knew who this guy Pete Hamill was. And I remember what he said to me.  ”He’s that effing Communist from down on 7th Avenue. And he went to Holy Name School, too,” he said, shaking his head, as he mentioned the parochial school we all went to. He said more, but I don’t remember it.

All that stuck in my mind was that he was writing about us. Our world. And I knew then for the first time that I wanted to be a writer.

The sort of writing he was doing, picking up on Irish-American working-class stories in his journalism where James T. Farrell left off in his fiction with his Studs Lonigan trilogy is disappearing.

His Studs Lonigan could have been a local legend in Windsor Terrace that he wrote about in his columns, a dock worker named Noonan Taylor, who some said was the toughest man in Brooklyn. He wrote about bar fights, and drinking your fill of whiskey and beer on the weekends after a week of back breaking, labor in the factories of the neighborhood, and slow dancing with the neighborhood girls on Saturday nights down in places like the Caton Inn on Coney Island Avenue as the song “Dream,” by Jo Stafford, played over and over again on the juke box.

The late Jimmy Cannon was probably one of the first Irish-American journalists to cross the vague line that bordered fiction and factual writing in newspapers, and doing it before anyone ever heard the term “New Journalism.”

After Cannon came a long list of other Irish-American journalists like: Hamill, Jimmy Breslin, Joe Flaherty, Dennis Duggan, Jack Deacy, Jim Dwyer, Dan Barry and T. J. English, all of them with their own story to tell about New York’s Irish working-class.

Before Joe Flaherty got his first by-line, he worked as a longshoreman on the docks of Red Hook, Brooklyn, unloading grain bags as a member of the union his late father was the president of, Local 1266 of the Grain Handlers.

Flaherty, who wrote for the Village Voice, and sadly died too young, was no doubt one of the best of them. He once told me that “if you really want to find out about this city go out and talk to a guy who cuts meat for a living. Talk to a guy who makes a living behind the stick of a bar. They’ll tell you what’s really wrong with it. They know more about it than any politician.”

Their beat was up in the bars of Bainbridge Avenue in the Bronx, it was Beach 116th Street in Rockaway, and places like 9th Avenue down in Windsor Terrace, Brooklyn, that once had Irish saloons on both corners of 17th Street, Kerrigan’s and McNulty’s, it was T.J. English’s Hell’s Kitchen, and Breslin’s Queens Boulevard, lined with bars and cocktail lounges all the way down to the entrance of the 59th Street Bridge — bars where stories of the city were told again and again over whiskey and beer on Saturday nights.

They were all writing about the ordinary ruck of life that existed in these places. The Daily News, where Breslin worked for more than a decade, probably has two of the last of that genre of writers left, Denis Hamill and Michael Daly.

I got to know Breslin after I had a story published in New York Magazine in 1973. It was called “Confessions of a Working-Stiff,” about my years of working as a cargo-man out in Kennedy Airport for Seaboard World Airlines.

He was always telling me to write a book. One afternoon when we were drinking in a rough, cargo man’s bar called the Owl, near Kennedy Airport, I told him that I had gone to the library and took out a book on how to write a novel.

I had been working with him on an idea he had about turning the world of cargo men at Kennedy Airport into a pilot for a television series.

I remember him uttering a string of curses under his breath and then barking at me in that gravelly Breslin voice that turned every head in the bar, “Jesus, you don’t read a book on writing a book; you just write it.”

I tried to spit out that I just wanted to get an idea of how many chapters a novel should be, how long it should be, but he would have none of it as he shook his head in annoyance. “Don’t worry. You’ll know when it’s done.”

After that outburst, I was nearly afraid to ask him my next question.  Would he sign a first edition I brought with me of his novel “World Without End, Amen”? He took some time writing in it, so I asked him what he wrote. He just barked, “Never mind. Read it later.” And he slammed it shut.

When I got home, I opened it up and read the words, “May 11, 1978. For Pat Fenton. Who should simply sit down and start writing 2 pages a day for the next year. Sincerely, Jimmy Breslin.”

Some Saturday afternoons I would just walk into the old Daily News building on 42nd Street, and take an elevator up to the floor he was on. This was in the 1970s, before metal scanners. He would be sitting alone in a glass fronted, small office at the end of a long hall. I would watch him struggle with his newspaper column with the pressure of a deadline pushing on him. He would stop every now and then and scream at me, “Answer the phone.”

His coat would be thrown over a chair and his tie would be hanging unmade around his neck, as if he was getting ready for a bar fight rather than the creative act of writing. The sweat would roll down his head in beads and all along his desk, and on the floor there would be piles of crumpled paper with his discarded words. With the intensity of a bullfighter, he would stare at the typewriter that held paper covered with his pen marks.

When he was finished writing, he would sit back in his chair and read his copy to an editor over the phone, and the story would appear in that night’s Bulldog edition of the Sunday Daily News with all the smoothness and spontaneity of a great barroom tale.

Then he would knot up his tie again, walk out of the Daily News building, hail a cab, and wave as he disappeared into the streets of the city.

Today, the sort of Irish working-class journalism that he, Jimmy Cannon, and Pete Hamill came out of is also disappearing, and so is the world that nurtured it. Glasses up to the lot of them.

No One Died in the Press Box

By Arlene Schulman from her blog ArlenesScratchPaper.blogspot.com

Once in a while when the subject comes up, I inform the inquisitive that the most formative period in my life so far was my twenties and thirties,when I was raised by itinerant prizefighters, baseball players and the sportswriters who covered them: those who did well and neer-do-wells, trainers of champions and their opponents, and ball players who sometimes made foolish errors on and off the field. Like a sticky-fingered thief, I slipped into rooms of their souls to steal their stories and repurpose them into my own.

Willie Randolph
Ray Arcel
From Willie Randolph of the New York Yankees, I learned about the helplessness of fumbling baseballs, game after game in front of millions, so that a wrongly colored tablecloth at a dinner for thirty seemed so less important. Hank Steinbrenner, younger and slimmer (and so was I) spoke of the expectations of his father and I looked at the expectations of my own. Boxing trainer Ray Arcel and his quiet dignity, humanity and humility taught me that the bum in the ring is still a man with the same dignity, no matter what his price tag. From boxing gym owner Artemio Colon, I learned that one doesn’t have to be a world champion to be a success. 
Artemio Colon

I didn’t have a head full of statistics or a box of rubber-bandedbaseball cards and failed dreams of playing the outfield. My curiosity, plain and simple, was to understand how people lived, won, lost, loved, persevered, who they were and where they were headed. 

           Film editor and amateur boxing referee Frank Martinez pushed me out of the editing room, shoved a camera in my hand and ordered me to shoot and to write about people. I haven’t stopped.

Sitting in press boxes, kibitzing in dugouts and locker rooms, and attending sporting events alongside renowned sportswriters like Dave Anderson, Vic Ziegel, Barney Nagler, Mike Katz and Jerry Izenberg. I dismissed contemporary novels as too trivial compared to their writings and the writings of A.J. Liebling, Red Smith, Bill Heinz, Budd Schulberg and Paul Gallico, who captured a colorful sports scene when the world was a much smaller place and people spent more time with each other.

            At the non-quite yet half-century mark, I find myself bereft of an acknowledgment to the men and women who have helped shape, inspire, propel, encourage and even discourage me, and who are no longer with us. (The living are another story.) But at least half a dozen times a year, someone’s obituary appears and this part of my life reappears once again, only to disappear at the turn of a page or the click of a link on a website.

Leon Spinks

Eddie Futch and Michael Spinks

Many of the men would sit at the bar and regale each other with stories or eat dinner together. I remember dining with the boxing trainer Eddie Futch and his fighters more than once: they drank water, ate steak, and went to bed before 10 pm. So did I. Or I stayed in my hotel room and watched television or telephoned my latest boyfriend or friends to complain that the wallpaper didn’t match the bedspread and that I couldn’t wait to be home.
A woman was a novelty and sometimes I was mistaken for a sportswriter’s girlfriend or daughter or the press assistant. Never the round card girl, though. At press conferences, I was one of the fellas, mixed in with a sea of tweed jackets and plaid shirts, a distinctive fashion style I have always avoided. I must confess, though, like The Odd Couples’ Oscar Madison, I have dried my hands on kitchen curtains.
Since I did not write for one particular newspaper, I missed out on the nurturing of an editor and newsroom colleagues and adapting to one newspaper style with its tics and temperaments.  Instead, I led more of a latchkey type of existence, adapting styles and becoming resourceful in finding and shaping stories for different outlets, by working the beat on the street much like a cop would. I’d pick up news and information and call editors to pitch stories and when one door closed, I rang other doorbells.
Jose Torres
Irving Rudd

Along the way, the men and women I met lived through times we will never see again. They were trailblazers and groundbreakers, some working for newspapers no longer in existence or carving out careers during the early days of television. I owe them my education, from the clever and witty press agent Irving Rudd, a Damon Runyon character who wore a 1955 Dodgers World Series ring and handled publicity for the Dodgers before they left Brooklyn, and then moved over to boxing; New York Post sportswriter Leonard Lewin who sat next to me ringside and who had more years of experience thanI was old; the writer Marshall Frady whose crisp, elegant writing I only came to appreciate long after we both worked for the ABC News documentary unit; sports producerAmy Sacks and Eleanor Sanger, the first female network sports producer, whose creativity as producers at ABC Sports were limitless; the quiet, courtly and reflective boxing trainer, Eddie Futch; Daily News sports columnist Vic Ziegel; former prizefighters Danny Kapilow and Tino Raino of Ring 8; the humorous and sly boxing trainer Jimmy O’Pharrow from Starrett City, Brooklyn; Minnesota Twins baseball player Kirby Puckett, whose eyes shone with enthusiasm before he self-destructed; former White House press secretary and ABC News correspondent Pierre Salinger, who left me reeling from his cigar smoke; the uncontainable and seemingly invincible boxing champion and writer Jose Torres; the fiery Jack Newfield; writer Barney Nagler, who first refused me admission to the Boxing Writers Association and then, later, called me fearless; quiet boxing champion Floyd Patterson; cartoonist Bill Gallo, who offered, and gave me, me his unconditional support; Madison Square Garden boxing president John Condon, who gave me the opportunity to photograph at the Garden; writer Bill Heinz, who shared writing tips with me pounded out on an old manual typewriter; sportscaster Don Dunphy; writer Budd Schulberg; the classy Joan O’Sullivan and the feisty New York Times reporter Edith Evans Asbury, both of whom I met at the Newswomen’s Club; Carl Nesfield, managing editor of the black weekly newspaper, Big Red, who knew what it was like to be an outsider; Manuel de Dios Unanue, who offered me my first steady gig when he was the editor-in-chief of El Diario-La Prensa, even though I didn’t speak much Spanish; sportswriter Victor Calderone, who recommended me to Manuel; and Mickey Mantle, who conducted the interview with a drink in his hand and hoped that I would “do good in radio.”

Victor Calderon and Rene Cubas
Bobby Murcer

Ira Becker, the owner of Gleason’s Gym on 30th Street, forced me to pay admission a couple of times before I was accepted; Yankees shortstop and broadcaster Phil Rizzuto was quite a character while outfielder turned sportscaster Bobby Murcer sent me to an art gallery; Dick Sandler, the sports editor of Newsday, gave me a chance to write for his paper while irrepressible Will Lieberson, who gave early roles to Dustin Hoffman and Jane Curtin,directed Broadway and off-Broadway shows and reported for the Armed Forces, regaled me with stories about the theater. From ABC News, the producer Steve Fleischman, who was married to film editor Dede Allen, spoke about the business of television; Emmy award winning producer and director Tom Priestley; Judy Crichton, whose legacy in television can never be matched, introduced me to her husband, novelist Robert Crichton, my first meeting with a real author; film editor Nils Rasmussen, who introduced me to the work of his late wife, Life magazine photographer Lisa Larsen, who photographed fashion, Khrushchev and documented refugees, among other subjects; videotape editor Walter Essenfeld who treated production assistants with the same respect as veteran news correspondents; ABC News correspondent Jules Bergman, who recommended books about science; Kitty Lynch of the ABC News Library, who stretched in the ladies room every day at three p.m. wearing a little black dress and perfectly coiffed hair and reading glasses.

I remember riding to Atlantic City with New York Times sportswriter Phil Berger as he sang Frank Sinatra songs. He died much too soon at 58 and treated me like an old Army buddy. He had a work ethic learned in the Army that I still admire: at the keyboard at nine a.m. sharp with an hour for lunch, and then writing until five p.m. I tried, but there were too many distractions.
Pete Sheehy
 Pete Sheehy, the Yankees clubhouse man who dated back to the days of Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig, would bring me popsicles and stored my camera equipment in his locker, possibly making me the only woman to have a locker (of sorts) with the New York Yankees. He died on my birthday in 1985.
Most of the men I met who treated me like a comrade were old enough to be my father or grandfather. These weren’t relationships of shared intimacies and confidences but more like a young soldier in the trenches. We were too far apart in age and temperament and respect for anything but that.
“Hey, kid,” was a common greeting by p.r. men Irving Rudd and Murray Goodman.
Thankfully, I didn’t pick up the vices of some of the writers or what they might explain as indulgences, which included drinking, chain-smoking, chasing women, and in one case snorting cocaine. Every so often a fist fight or feud, or a skirmish or scuffle would erupt. No one died in the press box. One, Manuel de Dios Unanue, was murdered after exposing Columbian drug traffickers.
The men all had stories, particularly the ones who covered the sixties. I wished I had been old enough to live through it, to witness and write about the turbulent times of Robert F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, and Muhammad Ali. While theirs are collections of stories and relationships, mine is one of small moments and incidents. I remember a Yankees relief pitcher named Tim Stoddard who commanded the space by his locker; at six feet eight inches tall, there was no quarrel from me. Whenever a herd of sportswriters moved towards him, he would inform them in no uncertain terms where to go. He sat in his locker reading a book on the day I decided to approach him.
Tim Stoddard
“Don’t you know I don’t speak to the press?” he growled without looking up.
“I had heard that,” I replied cheerfully, “but I didn’t think that included me. I’d like to ask you about your mother for a Mother’s Day story.”
Tim put his book down and answered every question, paying an emotional and tearful tribute to his mother who had died the year before.
Another, the volatile George Bell of the Toronto Blue Jays, cursed at reporters and women sportswriters in general. People knew to stay away. Only one person didn’t know any better. When he launched into a tirade in Spanish, I answered back with a curse word in Spanish. He approached me a few minutes later.
“What do you want to talk to me about?” he asked. “Do you know what you said to me in Spanish?”
“I most certainly did,” I replied haughtily. “But I don’t expect to be treated the way you spoke to me. I’ll be in the Dominican Republic on assignment and would like to arrange for an interview.”
He gave me his telephone number and I did interview him and others. When one of my contact lenses ripped leaving me unable to see, he drove me to his eye doctor for a replacement.
My colleagues once reminded each other, the day before a fight, that Roberto Duran would not grant interviews. I pretended I hadn’t heard and with nothing else to do, I tracked Roberto down in his room and knocked on the door. He was playing dominoes with friends.
Roberto Duran
I introduced myself and said that I was there to ask a few questions and to take a few photographs.
“Oh, come on in,” someone said. “He speaks English but he doesn’t feel comfortable with the language.”
“Oh, good,” I said, easing myself into a chair at the table, “because I speak Spanish and I don’t feel comfortable speaking it so we’re even.”
Marvin Kohn
While the men spoke about champions and contenders, Jack Dempsey’s fourth, last and most loyal wife, Deanna, was lending me a sparkly gold sweater for a Boxing Writers dinner. A female publicist wanted to pluck my unruly blond eyebrows and I allowed it (I still feel the pain). Marvin Kohn, who handed the press for the New York State Athletic Commission and was once Dorothy Dandridge’s p.r. guy, telephoned me one day to tell me that he had consulted with Barney Nagler: “We think you should dress better.” They were right. I shopped for better dresses for boxing dinners and squeezed my feet into painful heels. Barney and Marvin were from a different time and place, when men wore suits and hats and women wore gowns to the boxing matches, and when press credentials stated that no women were allowed in the press box.
The best advice I never took from them: “Marry the poor bastard.”
The old adage “If I knew now what I knew then” doesn’t always hold true. You have to go through most experiences first to be able to appreciate them later. Sometimes it’s best not to know, but to look back with relish.
So when the dust settles on another year lived and when I finally hit that half-century mark, I’ll raise a glass with overdue gratitude for everyone getting me through the first fifty years. I shared a birthday, August 13, with Marvin Kohn and for a few years’ running we would share a celebratory lunch at Ellen’s Cafe down near City Hall.
“Another year has passed,” he would remark.
Yes, Marvin, another year.
But this year and long overdue, I’ll look up and tell Irving and Marvin and Barney and Bill and Pete and Amy and Judy, Walter and the rest: “The kid owes you all a thousand thanks.”

Pal Whitey: My Troubled Friendship With the Legendary Gangster

By Lewis Grossberger | Grossblogger.com

It was back in the ‘60s that I met Whitey Bulger.

I had traveled to Boston’s colorful old Southie neighborhood to finally see if I could realize my dream: to make it as an Irish minstrel.

At a raffish neighborhood bar one night, after I had sung “Danny Boy” while accompanying myself on the flute–no easy feat, by the way—a tough-looking guy with extremely blond hair came over and introduced himself.

“I’m James Bulger,” he said. “Call me Whitey and I’ll  strangle you.”

“How about Bulgy?” I quipped. He struck me over the head with a bottle of beer, opening a gash on my scalp that required fourteen stitches. From then on, we were the best of pals.

“If Whitey don’t kill you, that means he likes you,” a member of his organization, the Winter Hill Gang, explained. “He’s got rage issues.”   Read more…….