The Star was known as a writer’s diary, often more creative and entertaining than the heavier Post. It was the first proving ground for some of the best journalists of our time, including national political reporter David Broder, who eventually migrated to The Post, New Yorker investigative star Jane Mayer, and New York columnist. Times Maureen Dowd. This is where Mary McGrory, another essential Post political columnist, sharpened her quill.
Having made a living reporting on the lives of others, many journalists naturally feel compelled to write memoirs, even though these books often end up on the $ 2 shelves at used book sales. (I have a small library of it, including the memoir of Los Angeles Times reporter Will Fowler, who in 1947 found the severed body of a woman known as the Black Dahlia. from my collection is “From Kristallnacht to Watergate: Memoirs of a Newspaperman,” by former Post editor Harry Rosenfeld.) McGrory, whom Bernstein absolutely adored, resisted the madness of memories and pestered me when I asked her once if she intended to write one, saying, “I’m way too busy writing my column,” which she produced three times a week.
McGrory has always said that she would happily have worked at The Star forever. For his part, Bernstein wanted nothing more than to become the city’s editor-in-chief. The well-cut man who actually held the job, Sidney Epstein, was his role model and, besides the author, the most intriguing character in the book. Epstein mentored his young teddy bear during the hours they spent establishing the weekly schedule for all of the town hall workers. Bernstein’s excitement was palpable when, very early on, he saw the town’s editor-in-chief rally his troops to cover the tragedy of two boys being electrocuted at a local swimming pool. It also vividly echoes the newspaper’s Herculean efforts to cover up the assassination of John F. Kennedy.
Sadly, Epstein couldn’t save his protégé from the Star’s rule requiring a college degree, so at age 21, Bernstein quit and, after an acting job at a New Jersey newspaper, was snapped up by The Post. As we know, Carl Bernstein still had a lot of history to pursue. But it’s a story he’s already told.
In 2008, as the digital revolution destroyed newspaper advertising and distribution, Clay Shirky, an influential media analyst at New York University, warned in a widely read article titled “Newspapers and Thinking unthinkable ”against the tears of the past. He argued that the survival of journalism was crucial, but that print newspapers could – and would – disappear. “They’ll miss us when we’re gone” was not, he chided, a sustainable business model.
Maybe not. But people still appreciate the connection between a newspaper and its readers and want reporters to know the communities they cover well. Carl Bernstein’s book, which is ultimately a eulogy for print newspapers, is a passionate reminder of what exactly is lost.