Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Marty Merzer's tribute to newspaperman Jimmy Breslin

"Journalists have graduate degrees, wear clean suits and sip cappuccino at the Starbucks. Newspapermen generally attended high school, sometimes wear clean shirts, especially on Mondays, and, not so long ago, stashed booze in their desks." -Martin Merzer, Miami Herald, Aug. 22, 2000.


Retired Miami Herald staff writer Marty Merzer's tribute to newspaperman Jimmy Breslin:
By Marty Merzer

New York newspaperman Jimmy Breslin died today at age 88. He was my professional idol and role model. Not that I placed myself in his league, just that...I strived to do so.

I've always tried to emphasize this to newbies: If you want to be a good newspaper writer, you must read good newspaper writing. And, boy, did I.

Growing up in New York City in the 1960s, I was blessed to be surrounded in print by some of the best newspaper writers ever to pound typewriters and yell, "Copy!" Among them: Pete Hamill, Jack Newfield, Nora Ephron, Red Smith, Dick Schaap, Tom Wolfe, Gail Sheehy and, chief among them, Jimmy Breslin.

Later in life, I got to know Hamill and Breslin a bit, but that wasn't as important as...hearing their voices as I wrote, and employing what I learned from reading their work.

That meant finding an original angle, even if that required looking along the edges of an event. Noticing and employing telling detail. Using plain language in a...voice...that's appealing, welcoming, but doesn't get in the way.

Breslin and Hamill and the others. They were enormous influences on my life, and consequently on the lives of my family. I thank them for that.

Below [this post] are some of Breslin's best-known pieces. Look at the detail, the storytelling. Sense the humanity, the empathy. Listen to the voice. But also make no mistake about it - every one of his pieces was worth your time. He never bagged a story or a column. He knew that his name would be atop it and that carried real responsibility. (That's another thing I try to tell newbies: Never, ever bag a story. For god sakes, your name is on it.)

I'll never forget Jimmy Breslin. My fingers never will stop hearing his voice.


Breslin: Digging JFK grave was his honor

Breslin: A Death in Emergency Room One

Breslin: A Matter of life or death

New York Times: Jimmy Breslin, Legendary New York City Newspaper Columnist, Dies at 88


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