The Making of an Ink-Stained Wretch: Half a Century Pounding the Political Beat

Overview

Jules Witcover has covered American politics for more than half a century. His career extends from the "I Like Ike"days of manual typewriters and whistle-stop trains to the high-tech era of laptop computers and jet travel, covering every presidential matchup from Richard Nixon and John F. Kennedy to George W. Bush and John Kerry.

In The Making of an Ink-Stained Wretch, this venerated reporter reveals anecdotes from 56 years in journalism, 52 of them in Washington, D.C., and on ...

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Overview

Jules Witcover has covered American politics for more than half a century. His career extends from the "I Like Ike"days of manual typewriters and whistle-stop trains to the high-tech era of laptop computers and jet travel, covering every presidential matchup from Richard Nixon and John F. Kennedy to George W. Bush and John Kerry.

In The Making of an Ink-Stained Wretch, this venerated reporter reveals anecdotes from 56 years in journalism, 52 of them in Washington, D.C., and on the campaign trail, tracing his journey from small-town reporter to nationally syndicated columnist and author. In the process, he moved from the confines of straight reporting to analysis, emerging today as a sharp critic of presidents in both parties.

Witcover, as one of the original "boys on the bus,"provides a personal perspective on the life of a political writer on the road. He testifies to the often-fickle relationship between the press and the candidates, gives readers more than a glimpse of what goes on behind the scenes, and writes of critical public events from close range. He was only steps away from Robert Kennedy the night of the candidate's assassination and was at Gerald Ford's side in California when another assassination attempt was foiled. He watched from the South Lawn of the White House as Richard Nixon departed Washington after resigning the presidency. He traveled with the campaign of gubernatorial and then presidential candidate Ronald Reagan and a few years ago rode the "Straight Talk Express"with John McCain.

With wit and candor, Witcover captures the grit, glamour, joy, and excitement of newspaper reporting. He presents an insider's view on the changing role and style of reporters, commentators, and other shapers of opinion in today's contentious political climate.

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Editorial Reviews

Booklist

Witcover shares many boys-on-the-bus adventures and also offers a glimpse into the newsrooms of the illustrious dailies for which he reported.

Foreword

His cautionary tales of the future of politics and journalism are enlightening.

— Karl Helicher

Library Journal
Veteran reporter Witcover (The Year the Dream Died: Revisiting 1968 in America), now a syndicated columnist, tackles the people and campaigns behind his 50-plus years on the political beat, with the nation's capital as his home base. Beginning with his time as a local newspaper reporter and ending with his coverage of and commentary on the 2004 presidential campaign, he touches on his experiences covering each presidential race since 1960, as well as primaries, encounters with candidates, and anecdotes from the field. Over the years, Witcover had significant personal contact with scores of politicians before they became nationally known, including George Wallace, Richard Nixon, and Robert F. Kennedy. He makes the reader feel "on location" with him during his encounters with RFK before and on the day of his assassination. Witcover notes that even as cell phones ease communication (gone are the days of "racing house to house looking for a phone"), actual access to candidates and to key sources is far less prevalent than it used to be. While this is certainly not the only memoir penned by a political reporter, it serves as an excellent historical reference for political junkies and is written in a lively, easy-to-read manner. Recommended for academic and public libraries.-Leigh Mihlrad, Albert Einstein Coll. of Medicine of Yeshiva Univ., Bronx, NY Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A veteran political journalist narrates his journey from typewriter to Internet, from JFK to GWB. The prolific Witcover (Party of the People: A History of the Democrats, 2003, etc.) calculates that he and his co-columnist, Jack Germond, wrote 6,912 pieces in their 24-year collaboration-in addition to thousands of daily news articles and feature stories. And many books. Most of these, says Witcover, were produced under the most strenuous and stressful of conditions: hard and imminent deadlines, bad food, disingenuous sources. And booze. Witcover recalls waking up at times with a buzzing head and a dim memory. Yet he and his contemporaries-mostly male-still pounded out stories on portable typewriters in the backs of buses and trains. No sissy cell phones and Blackberries in those days! The author begins with a snapshot of his childhood (no other college graduates in his family) and quickly takes us through his years in the Navy (he enlisted just as World War II was ending), through Columbia University, through his first real job, at a Rhode Island paper-all in the first 20 pages. Then he settles in to narrate a fairly conventional chronicle of his years covering some of the most significant events of the last century. He interviewed Otto Frank and Martin Luther King Jr. He covered JFK in West Virginia. He followed Reagan, Romney and Rockefeller. He developed an odd amity with George Wallace. He was in the room when Robert Kennedy was shot. He covered the rise and fall and rise of Nixon, the weird careers of Spiro Agnew and Lester Maddox. He wrote about the self-destructions of Muskie, Eagleton, Hart and Perot. He both mistrusted and admired Clinton and thinks the current White Houseresident is the most dangerous president in his lifetime. Witcover is not often deeply reflective-not until the final chapter-and some passages have a cut-and-paste character, but his intimate accounts of American politics over the past 50 years are always engaging, ever intelligent.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780801882470
  • Publisher: Johns Hopkins University Press
  • Publication date: 10/1/2005
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 368
  • Product dimensions: 6.30 (w) x 9.25 (h) x 1.15 (d)

Meet the Author

Jules Witcover, syndicated by (Chicago) Tribune Media Services, has written on politics for the Newhouse Newspapers, the Los Angeles Times, the Washington Post, the Washington Star, and the Baltimore Sun. He has written more than a dozen books, including 85 Days: The Last Campaign of Robert Kennedy; The Resurrection of Richard Nixon; Marathon: The Pursuit of the Presidency 1972--1976; Crapshoot: Rolling the Dice on the Vice Presidency; The Year the Dream Died: Revisiting 1968 in America; No Way to Pick a President: How Money and Hired Guns Have debased American Elections; and, most recently, Party of the People: A History of the Democrats.

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 21, 2006

    A hard read

    I had difficulty reading this book. The authors hatred of conservatives manifested itself throughout the book.

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