Annals of Really Bad Media Relations: Durocher Got Mad at the AP Reporter and Flattened Him Three Times

Paul Dickson’s new book, Leo Durocher: Baseball’s Prodigal Son, is out this week to lively reviews. Publisher’s Weekly says: “The author often approaches his subject with tabloid fervor as he writes of the manager’s 1947 game suspension, his contested friendship with actor George Raft and his gangster buddies, his divorces (including from actress Loraine Day), and his feuds with Babe Ruth and Casey Stengel. Dickson’s entertaining book brings the rambunctious Hall of Famer and true sports original to life.”

Jimmy Breslin Saw Donald Trump as a Big Ego With Bodyguards

By Barnard Law Collier

Jimmy Breslin died Sunday at 88.

Over the years, nobody has written more clearly about who and what Donald Trump really was and is than Jimmy Breslin. A glimpse from the New York Daily News:

Jimmy Breslin took a look at one of New York’s biggest characters, Donald Trump, and saw a chump.

One of Breslin’s earliest mentions of Trump avoided even using the name that would soon be screamed from front pages and skyscrapers worldwide.

In a 1982 Daily News column, Breslin brushed past “a young builder named Junior with a Big Ego,” who had recently made a famous but fruitless bid to buy the newspaper.

“Breslin Knew That the Best Stories Weren’t at the Press Conferences or Briefings”

By David Colton

The first breaking news story I ever covered was a massacre by a crazed Nazi-sympathizer in New Rochelle, N.Y., in February 1977. The gunman killed five, then himself, surrounded by 300 cops at a moving company near the New England Thruway.

Working for a tiny weekly newspaper in Pelham, I was among a handful of local reporters standing behind the police line in the cold. The big New York City media wasn’t there yet.

Suddenly a rumpled and grizzled figure came up to us. Jimmy Breslin. He asked me, a neophyte reporter, “So what’s the situation here?”

In the Writers’ Corner of the Newsroom With Jimmy Breslin

Jimmy Breslin in his 30s when he looked like a dark Irish cupid.

By Barnard Law Collier

In a crowded corner of the New York Herald Tribune newsroom in the early 1960s stood a cluster of  cigarette-burned desks and beat-up typewriters for Tom Wolfe, Walter Kerr, Jimmy Breslin, Gail Green, Hunter Thompson, and me.

Most of the time the writers’ corner was empty because it was when Trib reporters were expected to be out and about in the metropolis.

It is the emptiness of the writers’ corner that I remember most, because the times I sat at my desk was usually very late at night when quietness was what I craved.

A Magazine’s End That Editors and Writers Might Interpret Differently

From a story headlined, “Lucky Peach closing after it marinates for a while,” in today’s Washington Post:

The story’s lede:

Lucky Peach’s death, like the food magazine’s existence, was chaotic, original and unpredictable.

Later in the story:

Todd Kliman, a frequent contributor to magazines, said Lucky Peach was that rare periodical that let writers be writers, rather than the puppets of a dominant editor.

Bill Walsh: A Copy Editor Who Could Make You Smile

Bill Walsh loved to chat about editing.

Today’s Washington Post has a beautifully written obit on Bill Walsh, a much-admired copy editor and author. The hed: “Post copy editor was a witty authority on an ever-changing language.”

The lede, written by Adam Bernstein: “Bill Walsh, a Washington Post copy editor who wrote three irreverent books about his craft, noting evolutions and devolutions of language, the indispensability of hyphens and his hostility toward semicolons, and distinctions—for the sake of clarity—between Playboy Playmates and Playboy Bunnies, died March 15 at a hospice center in Arlington, Va. He was 55.”

When the Target Audience Was the Kansas City Milkman

In 1960, when I went to work for UPI, there was still talk about writing so that the story could be understood by a Kansas City milkman. He was the wire service symbol of the average American and if you worked for UPI or the AP you wrote simply and directly so a Kansas City milkman could understand it.

He soon faded as a symbol because more and more journalists had no idea what a milkman was. Before the 1950s a milkman delivered milk to homes because refrigeration technology was primitive and many families wanted fresh milk on a daily basis. The milk came in glass jars that held a quart of milk and you left the used jars outside in a bin to be picked up and replaced with fresh bottles by the milkman on his daily route.

Fowler, Collier, Strunk, and Orwell—More Advice on Writing Well

Some reaction to Jacques Barzun’s advice that you should not write as you speak:

Henry Fowler, author of A Dictionary of Modern English Usage, said it better and earlier than Barzun: “Prefer the familiar word to the far-fetched. Prefer the concrete word to the abstract. Prefer the single word to the circumlocution. Prefer the short word to the long. Prefer the Saxon word to the Romance.”
—Mike Feinsilber

If you speak a language other than the one you are writing in, translate your idea as best you can into your second language and then translate that version back into the language in which you are writing.

“Write as We Might Speak If We Spoke Extremely Well”

From Simple & Direct: A Rhetoric for Writers, by Jacques Barzun:

The whole world will tell you, if you care to ask, that your words should be simple & direct. Everybody likes the other fellow’s prose plain. It has even been said that we should write as we speak. That is absurd, as we know from the courtroom dialogue. Most speaking is not plain or direct, but vague, clumsy, confused, and wordy. This last fault appears in every transcript from a taped conversation, which is why we say “reduce to writing.” What is meant by the advice to write as we speak is to write as we might speak if we spoke extremely well.

Sorry, New York Times—Tom Hanks Wants to be Ben Bradlee, Not Abe Rosenthal

Hanks, Streep to star in Pentagon Papers film

Real life editors: Abe Rosenthal of the New York Times, Ben Bradlee of the Washington Post.

Oscar winners Tom Hanks, Meryl Streep and Steven Spielberg are joining forces for a drama about the fourth estate called  “The Post,” which chronicles The Washington Post’s legal battle to publish the classified Pentagon Papers in 1971.

—Reliable Source column in The Washington Post, March 7, 2017

Laurels and more to the New York Times for what may be the story of the decade—the acquisition of the Pentagon papers, the painstaking examination of the documents, the breaking of the story, and the successful court fight to lift the noose of prior government restraint.