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?Utterly fascinating . . . highly recommended anyone curious about heyday of newspapers.? ? Library Book Watch
Listen in as dozens of veteran newspaper men and women share their favorite stories about life on the job at Cleveland?s newspapers during the 1950s, ?60s, and ?70s?when spirited competition between the Cleveland Press and the Plain Dealer made the newspaper business the most exciting business in town.
Their stories are funny, tragic, ...
“Utterly fascinating . . . highly recommended anyone curious about heyday of newspapers.” — Library Book Watch
Listen in as dozens of veteran newspaper men and women share their favorite stories about life on the job at Cleveland’s newspapers during the 1950s, ’60s, and ’70s—when spirited competition between the Cleveland Press and the Plain Dealer made the newspaper business the most exciting business in town.
Their stories are funny, tragic, human and sometimes outrageous. Read them and find out why reporters in those days knew they had the world’s best job. Back then, the door to the city room was wide open and you never knew who might walk in—strippers, mental patients, circus clowns, the mayor . . . It was an amazing parade.
The best stories rarely just walked in, though. Reporters wore out shoe leather, jamming dimes into pay phones, pressing their ears to closed doors. Photographers recorded the action, whether a murder victim or a murderer or the Girl Scout who sold the most cookies.
Now, here are the stories behind the stories, told by the men and women who covered them. Includes eye-opening stories from investigative reporters, society writers, theater critics, sportswriters, photographers, editors, and many others.
Chapter 1 “Screw the competition.” The Press Vs. The PD
General Assignment Reporter, Press
You learned your lessons the hard way. I learned how to cajole pictures from grieving wives and mothers. On the night shift, if somebody got killed in an automobile accident or a shooting or whatever, you’d want to get a picture. Michael Kelly was a reporter for the Plain Dealer. Well, Mike was a very nice person. He just couldn’t do enough for you. He and I went out to a grieving parent’s home one time to get pictures of somebody who had died. We got there at the same time and he said, “Let me do the talking.” We were talking and getting information. I’m writing as fast as I could. He said, “Do you have any pictures of little Johnny?” And so she brought out the pictures of him and he took them all. He said, “Thank you so much.” He’s leaving, and I said, “Do you have any more pictures?” She said, “Well, no. I gave them all to him.” I said, “Well, Mike.” He said, “Screw you.” If you got there first, take them all. Screw the competition.
The competition was so fierce that I once bribed a prisoner with a carton of Lucky Strikes if he promised that, after our interview, he would not talk with the reporter for the morning paper.
Reporter, Editor, Plain Dealer
The heyday for the Press was in the ’40s and ’50s. By the ’60s, television was beginning to impact the afternoon papers. Then the Plain Dealer was beginning to move against the Press. There were a lot of young guys at the PD. Everybody was aggressive as hell and there was as much competition in-house as there was against the Press. If you had a good story on your beat you’d look over and there’d be two or three of your own guys there because they’d leave their beats and come and try to get a piece of the story. And the rule was—we had a game we played—the game was nothing mattered unless it was Page 1 above the fold. And on that night if you got that, you’d wait for the paper to come out—the early edition—you’d sit at the Headliner and have a beer, and there was no better feeling. That was really the great time for reporting, when you could score a headline and it mattered. The times were great, because the stories were there in the civil rights era and we were writing about things we could see, the riots, the marches, Rev. Bruce Klunder getting run over by the bulldozer. These were significant, important stories—the emergence of the black leaders in town; Carl Stokes was beginning to make his political run. It was a very exciting time.
Reporter, Plain Dealer
The atmosphere at the police station was always fraught with tension. It wasn’t just the deadlines; it was the competition. To be scooped by the police reporters of the Press or the News—this was a calamity that we all dreaded. Suppose there was a fire at 10:30 p.m., with several persons burned and arson suspected—and that we Plain Dealer guys were unaware of it. (Not every incident was reported in detail, if at all, on the police radio.) Suppose, then, that the Press greeted its readers the next day with that story in large headlines on Page 1. We’d gotten scooped. The fire had broken out “on our time,” which is to say in time for the morning Plain Dealer to report it first, but we’d missed it. The next day, we’d have to do a follow-up on a story that the morning paper should have already had. This was humiliating. We’d have to live with the self-satisfied smirk of the Press reporter. (Some, not all, acted that way.) Being scooped was dangerous too. Ben Tidyman would have to explain the failing to the city editor, who’d demand to know who among us had been on duty. Ben would stoutly defend us, but not always convincingly.
Reporter, Plain Dealer
The competition kept the adrenaline going. There was a charge in getting something that the Press missed, and when they beat you, it just made you go back and try harder. One of my favorite memories is of waiting a long time for the Cleveland school board to come out of executive session and start the meeting. While the Press reporter sat looking at the ceiling, I used the time to thumb through the voluminous agenda and saw they were hiring a laborer who had the last name of a board member. The lead on my story the next day was something like “Schools vote to cut teaching positions and hire the son of a board member.” The Press reporter told me that I got him in big trouble because he had missed it.
Reporter, Editor, Plain Dealer
One day a call came in for a traffic fatality near University Circle. Then they were calling for homicide. Then a double homicide. The victim was a senior partner at Baker Hostetler who was having an affair with a woman attorney. The woman’s estranged husband was waiting for them, with a shotgun, when they came home. He shot the attorney first, who stumbled down the stairs, got into his car and died. Then the woman was shot. The wife of the victim was being taken upstairs at Central Station. Bob Tidyman walked on the elevator, interviewed her between floors and had the interview on Page 1 the next morning. It was interesting. We had a managing editor who decided it was bad style to run crime news on Page 1, so we had one column going down the right side, and inside the full story. The Press had a huge headline: “Give Up, Max, Father Urges,” and the whole front page on the murder case.
We competed with the Plain Dealer. Get that strawberry shortcake recipe out. Get it out this week. Beat them to it. It was funny. We were competitive. We had to get our biscuits or whatever—we had to get our latkes in before they did, all those recipes that people wanted every year. They’re in season, because we only wrote about things in season, which a lot of them don’t do anymore. But that was how we competed—get that strawberry shortcake out.
Criminal Courts Reporter, Press
There was a Plain Dealer courthouse reporter who was my competition, a guy named Van Vliet. He just had such an obnoxious way about him that most of the judges didn’t like him. They would, right in front of him, say, “Van Vliet, we’ve got no stories for you today. Oh, Jim Marino, from the Press, come into my chambers.” They’d do it right in front of Van Vliet to tick him off. So here are my bosses back at the city desk thinking that I’m beating the pants off of the Plain Dealer because I’m so much a better reporter than the other guy, and the truth of the matter was that the judges just disliked him.
V. David Sartin
Reporter, Plain Dealer
I enjoyed the competition. Well, as a police beat reporter you knew the Press came out several times in the morning and they would sometimes, often, have the jump on a breaking story, a midnight murder, or a 2 a.m. murder. They would often have the jump on it, and then they had that edition that came out around 9 a.m. And then they ran several editions throughout the day, and you knew that this story you wanted for your first edition that night had to beat the pants off what the Press had done all day—and you wanted not just to take the next development, but to get the solid, better story to start with. The one they could not catch up to at 9 a.m. You wanted that one. I enjoyed that a lot. I faced the Press as a police reporter, a suburban reporter, as a rewrite guy and later as a beat reporter. When you had a beat where you went against a Press reporter, your heart would sink when they had a better story than you.
[Excerpted from Gimme Rewrite, Sweetheart, © John H. Tidyman. All rights reserved. Gray & Company, Publishers.]
1. “Screw the competition.”: The Press vs. the PD
2. Stop the Presses!: The Big Stories
3. “There’s a report of a dead body . . .”: The Police Beat
4 “You never knew who was going to walk through . . .”: The City Room
5. “It seemed like an easy job . . .”: Getting Started in Newspapers
6. “There’s always another deadline . . .”: Other Beats
7. Gimme Rewrite, Sweetheart!: The Rewrite Desk
8. “I thought I died and went to heaven.”: Sportswriters
9. “I got so many calls about Liberace . . .”: Critics
10. More Than a Snapshot: Photographers
11. “I had to wake up the widows.”: Life on the Death Beat
12. The Women’s Department: Women Reporters
13. “Too many martinis.”: Drinking
14. “Don’t mess with the Guild.”: Management and Labor
15. Top Dogs: Louis Seltzer and Tom Vail
16. “The hobnobbing was fantastic.”: Such Interesting People
17. This Job Could Kill You: Hazardous Assignments
18. “We understood each other.”: Politics
19. “You can’t take this away!”: The End of the Press