January 18, 2022

The World Live Breaking News Coverage & Updates IN ENGLISH

The World Live Breaking News Coverage & Updates IN ENGLISH

Carl Bernstein on life in a 1960s’ newsroom

4 min read
, Carl Bernstein on life in a 1960s’ newsroom, The World Live Breaking News Coverage & Updates IN ENGLISH
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, Carl Bernstein on life in a 1960s’ newsroom, The World Live Breaking News Coverage & Updates IN ENGLISH
, Carl Bernstein on life in a 1960s’ newsroom, The World Live Breaking News Coverage & Updates IN ENGLISH

Carl Bernstein’s new book is his second memoir. His first Loyalties, appeared more than three decades ago, in 1989.

Loyalties was about growing up in an idealistic and radical family — his father, a union organiser, had been a member of the Communist Party in the 1940s — under constant surveillance and harassment from the FBI.

His new one is about how he fell in love with newspapering. As a teenager he was hired as a copy boy at The Evening Star, an afternoon daily in Washington, D C.

It was the moment when he felt he’d been handed a ticket to the rest of his life. The “glorious chaos” and “purposeful commotion” of a good newspaper appealed to Bernstein on a primal level.

His parents, in their idealism, had been distant figures. At the paper he discovered people who were “less complicated, less fraught.” He barely graduated from high school and dropped out of college.

Bernstein found “a haven in reporting, especially the way The Star went about it: Proceeding without judgment or predisposition to wherever the facts and context and rigorous questioning led, to some notion of the truth in all its complexity. I liked that place. And the comfort and purpose it gave me.”

When I learned, a few months ago, that a Bernstein memoir was coming down the tracks, I marked it as a must-read.

His Watergate reporting, with Bob Woodward at The Washington Post, brought down a presidency and inspired a generation of muckrakers. He was portrayed in movies by Dustin Hoffman and, less flatteringly, by Jack Nicholson. He was a dandy; he had top-flight hair.

His lively bachelordom was well chronicled. He jilted the beloved Nora Ephron, who delivered a version of their short marriage in her novel Heartburn. He’s been a big beast of the media world for five decades.

At 77, he is entering his anecdotage. Who wouldn’t want to read about his sense of all these things, and to view his dash-cam footage?

That’s not what Chasing History is. The book tells the story of his journalistic apprenticeship at The Evening Star, the Pepsi to The Washington Post’s Coca-Cola, from 1960 to 1965. He was in his teens and early 20s. It ends before he gets to The Post, and long before he sets eyes on Woodward or Ephron.

The result is a fond, earnest, sepia-toned book, the colour of old clippings. It’s pretty good. I mean, it’s OK. It’s better than a sharp stick in the eye. It’s just … long and pokey and a bit under-thought. I might not have finished it if my paycheque didn’t depend on leaving a clean plate.

A lot happened in the early 1960s, Chasing History reminds us: Russians in space; Bay of Pigs; the Cuban missile crisis; the March on Washington; John F Kennedy’s assassination; the Beatles’ touchdown in the United States; the Chaney, Goodman and Schwerner murders in Mississippi; the Selma-to-Montgomery march.

Bernstein was thrilled to feel a part of these events by osmosis, as those in a do, even if his role was mostly taking dictation from reporters. He describes these historical events in detail, as if few had written about them before.

He’s evocative about newsrooms themselves circa 1960: The and papers, the gunmetal desks, the dirty Royal typewriters, the “hailstorms” of typing, the bulletins arriving, the printing press rumbling through the floor.

He made himself useful. He learned by following the grizzled old guys — they were mostly guys — around. He learned to cover fires, to talk to cops, to take good notes, to carry shotgun rolls of dimes for pay phones.

“Working for The Star was a little like being part of a troupe of actors in a repertory company,” he writes, “all of us absorbed in the same project, all wrapped up in the stories, the work.” He continues: “We were smart, we never had enough money and we often had too much to drink.”

His enthusiasm was infectious. If he’d been a dog, his head would have always been outside the car window.

It rankles the author still that The Star recognised he had talent and energy but would not hire him as a reporter because he didn’t have a college degree. This was during a period when journalism, long seen as quasi-blue-collar work, was being invaded by dapper young men from the Ivy League.

“My view was that you might be better prepared by graduating from horticultural school than from Yale or Princeton,” Bernstein writes. “At least that way you could write the gardening column.”

Had it run to 175 pages, Chasing History might have been a small classic. Bernstein makes sound like what it is — a humble calling that can be a noble one.

His heart glows remembering his early days in the business, but he can’t quite make ours glow alongside his. If at 370 pages this book overstays its welcome, well, the kid was all right.


©2022 The New York Times News Service

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Carl Bernstein on life in a 1960s’ newsroom

4 min read
, Carl Bernstein on life in a 1960s’ newsroom, The World Live Breaking News Coverage & Updates IN ENGLISH
Share This :
, Carl Bernstein on life in a 1960s’ newsroom, The World Live Breaking News Coverage & Updates IN ENGLISH
, Carl Bernstein on life in a 1960s’ newsroom, The World Live Breaking News Coverage & Updates IN ENGLISH

Carl Bernstein’s new book is his second memoir. His first Loyalties, appeared more than three decades ago, in 1989.

Loyalties was about growing up in an idealistic and radical family — his father, a union organiser, had been a member of the Communist Party in the 1940s — under constant surveillance and harassment from the FBI.

His new one is about how he fell in love with newspapering. As a teenager he was hired as a copy boy at The Evening Star, an afternoon daily in Washington, D C.

It was the moment when he felt he’d been handed a ticket to the rest of his life. The “glorious chaos” and “purposeful commotion” of a good newspaper appealed to Bernstein on a primal level.

His parents, in their idealism, had been distant figures. At the paper he discovered people who were “less complicated, less fraught.” He barely graduated from high school and dropped out of college.

Bernstein found “a haven in reporting, especially the way The Star went about it: Proceeding without judgment or predisposition to wherever the facts and context and rigorous questioning led, to some notion of the truth in all its complexity. I liked that place. And the comfort and purpose it gave me.”

When I learned, a few months ago, that a Bernstein memoir was coming down the tracks, I marked it as a must-read.

His Watergate reporting, with Bob Woodward at The Washington Post, brought down a presidency and inspired a generation of muckrakers. He was portrayed in movies by Dustin Hoffman and, less flatteringly, by Jack Nicholson. He was a dandy; he had top-flight hair.

His lively bachelordom was well chronicled. He jilted the beloved Nora Ephron, who delivered a version of their short marriage in her novel Heartburn. He’s been a big beast of the media world for five decades.

At 77, he is entering his anecdotage. Who wouldn’t want to read about his sense of all these things, and to view his dash-cam footage?

That’s not what Chasing History is. The book tells the story of his journalistic apprenticeship at The Evening Star, the Pepsi to The Washington Post’s Coca-Cola, from 1960 to 1965. He was in his teens and early 20s. It ends before he gets to The Post, and long before he sets eyes on Woodward or Ephron.

The result is a fond, earnest, sepia-toned book, the colour of old clippings. It’s pretty good. I mean, it’s OK. It’s better than a sharp stick in the eye. It’s just … long and pokey and a bit under-thought. I might not have finished it if my paycheque didn’t depend on leaving a clean plate.

A lot happened in the early 1960s, Chasing History reminds us: Russians in space; Bay of Pigs; the Cuban missile crisis; the March on Washington; John F Kennedy’s assassination; the Beatles’ touchdown in the United States; the Chaney, Goodman and Schwerner murders in Mississippi; the Selma-to-Montgomery march.

Bernstein was thrilled to feel a part of these events by osmosis, as those in a do, even if his role was mostly taking dictation from reporters. He describes these historical events in detail, as if few had written about them before.

He’s evocative about newsrooms themselves circa 1960: The and papers, the gunmetal desks, the dirty Royal typewriters, the “hailstorms” of typing, the bulletins arriving, the printing press rumbling through the floor.

He made himself useful. He learned by following the grizzled old guys — they were mostly guys — around. He learned to cover fires, to talk to cops, to take good notes, to carry shotgun rolls of dimes for pay phones.

“Working for The Star was a little like being part of a troupe of actors in a repertory company,” he writes, “all of us absorbed in the same project, all wrapped up in the stories, the work.” He continues: “We were smart, we never had enough money and we often had too much to drink.”

His enthusiasm was infectious. If he’d been a dog, his head would have always been outside the car window.

It rankles the author still that The Star recognised he had talent and energy but would not hire him as a reporter because he didn’t have a college degree. This was during a period when journalism, long seen as quasi-blue-collar work, was being invaded by dapper young men from the Ivy League.

“My view was that you might be better prepared by graduating from horticultural school than from Yale or Princeton,” Bernstein writes. “At least that way you could write the gardening column.”

Had it run to 175 pages, Chasing History might have been a small classic. Bernstein makes sound like what it is — a humble calling that can be a noble one.

His heart glows remembering his early days in the business, but he can’t quite make ours glow alongside his. If at 370 pages this book overstays its welcome, well, the kid was all right.


©2022 The New York Times News Service

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