The Last Newspaperman

The Last Newspaperman

4.3 3
by Mark Di Ionno
     
 

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Jersey in the '30s was Fred Haines s beat, though it was hardly worthy of the reporter who d scooped the Ruth Snyder story back in '27. "The most famous Daily News cover ever," Haines bragged. His photo showed Snyder strapped to the electric chair. "Respectable" papers denounced it as vulgar, but it sold millions of copies and cemented Haines s reputation as the go

Overview

Jersey in the '30s was Fred Haines s beat, though it was hardly worthy of the reporter who d scooped the Ruth Snyder story back in '27. "The most famous Daily News cover ever," Haines bragged. His photo showed Snyder strapped to the electric chair. "Respectable" papers denounced it as vulgar, but it sold millions of copies and cemented Haines s reputation as the go-to "tabloid guy" just as celebrity worship was becoming an American obsession. But that was before Haines had the bad sense to publicly insult an even faster-rising media star named Walter Winchell. Haines wound up on the graveyard shift at the Daily Mirror, covering the most trivial stories his editor could dredge up. And Jersey. "Strictly Sticksville," he said, remembering a cold March night in 1932. That was the night he drove down to rural Hopewell, near Trenton, oblivious that the story of the century was about to break under his byline. The infant son of Charles Lindbergh had been kidnapped, and Haines was about to become part of a media frenzy unlike anything anyone had ever seen.

Editorial Reviews

Kirkus Reviews
Newspaper columnist Di Ionno offers a multifaceted debut novel about a journalist at odds with whether to educate or exploit his audience. In the last month of 1999, a young, unnamed reporter yearns to write the capstone clincher sure to close out the century with a bang. In a nursing home, he meets nonagenarian Fred Haines, a retired journalist who formerly covered the New Jersey beat and has enough secrets to make him the ideal subject for an article. The tale unfolds as the narrator reads Haines' manuscript, a chronicle of his life. Haines tells the reporter about how he began his career as an idealistic young reporter but became a "tabloid guy" whose behavior and lack of ethics made him partly responsible for the proliferation of yellow journalism in the 1920s and '30s. He compromised himself with stunts like snapping photos of murderer Ruth Brown Snyder's electric chair execution and slandering influential rival newspaperman Walter Winchell, which ended up relegating him to writing flashy tabloid news pieces for the lowbrow Daily Mirror. On a routine assignment, Haines stumbled upon the biggest story of his career: the 1932 Lindbergh baby kidnapping, its gruesome aftermath and subsequent investigation, which affected his life and livelihood. Brilliantly interwoven throughout the novel are revelatory associations--between the sage old man and the inquisitive younger one--about how sensationalistic journalism continues to influence the industry today. Haines remarks that, as news people, "We spread the crimes and tragedies but ignore the better side of humanity." Di Ionno's love of his home state of New Jersey is evident not only through the nonfiction he's published and his columns for the Star-Ledger, but in this first novel which impressively merges fact and fiction into a resonant story of morality and meaning. A creative double-edged, historically inspired debut.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780937548745
Publisher:
Plexus Publishing, Inc.
Publication date:
09/17/2012
Pages:
224
Product dimensions:
5.80(w) x 8.40(h) x 1.00(d)
Age Range:
15 Years

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The Last Newspaperman 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
AloisNJ More than 1 year ago
Excellent read!  I couldn't put this book down. 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
cathygeeNJ More than 1 year ago
Mark Di Ionno is an exceptionally well-regarded columnist for the Star Ledger; he has been recognized as the top NJ columnist for four of the last five years. He has written three non-fiction books about NJ that were very well received over the years (New Jersey's Coastal Heritage, A Guide to New Jersey's Revolutionary War Trail, and Backroads: Driving at the Speed of Life); all have been award-winning non-fiction pieces. The Last Newspaperman is Di Ionno's first novel. Topically, it's about the impact the tabloid media has had on the perception and coverage of news and news events. It tells this story from the point of view of a reporter named Fred Haines, a fictional character who was "on the scene" of the Lindbergh kidnapping and who broke the story. He also was instrumental in the coverage of three other major media events that were centered in NJ: the burning of the ship the Morro Castle, off the coast of Spring Lake, the explosion of the Hindenberg, and the War of the Worlds/HG Wells radio broadcast; the aliens were supposed to have landed in Grovers Mill, which is now a part of West Windsor. The way information is shaped and distorted by the media, then and now, will give us all time to ponder our individual gullibility and our responsibility to get verification of facts before we go off the deep end (see the section on the "War of the Worlds" broadcast). It is also, IMHO, a story about behavior, consequences, and redemption, while the consequences from that behavior also play out. It is about regret, lessons learned, and the ways our lives can be transformed through the lessons we learn through love. The characters are very well drawn, and the work is historically as accurate as it can be - a tribute to Di Ionno's own sense of responsibility to get information verified.