The Last Newspapermanby Mark Di Ionno
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
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.
- Plexus Publishing, Inc.
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Excellent read! I couldn't put this book down.
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.