Sunday, November 10, 2013

The Greatest Newspaperman Covers the Biggest Story

 Newspaperman Milt Sosin.
June, 1990. 
Milt Sosin was not a journalist. He was a newspaperman, and there is a vast difference.

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.

For more than a half century, he has been a legend in Florida newspapering -- a super-competitive, cantankerous, feisty, abrasive, editor-hating, ambulance-chasing, go-get-'em tough guy from an era when newspapermen still unashamedly used the word scoop, when there were bulldog editions and legmen and shouts of "Stop the presses!" -John Dorschner, Tropic magazine, Feb. 16, 1992.

[Milt] Sosin did not become a South Florida journalism legend by being Mr. Nice Guy. He got there by guts and guile, by working hard and traveling far. He got there by an almost supernatural ability to be where news was taking place. A plane crashes and Sosin is on board. A hurricane changes course and strikes where Sosin is staying. The man who killed John F. Kennedy is murdered and Sosin is close enough to smell gunpowder.

"I know he wasn't at Pearl Harbor," says Howard Kleinberg, the former editor of the now-defunct Miami News, where Sosin was the star reporter for 32 years. "And I know he wasn't at the birth of Christ. But he was everywhere else." -Jeff Klinkenberg, St. Petersburg Times, July 15, 1990.


Miami News
Nov. 23, 1963. 
(Click to enlarge.)
There's no one left to ask, but I'm pretty sure that on a Friday afternoon 50 years ago this month, when editors at the Miami News got word that President John F. Kennedy had been murdered in Dallas, someone in the newsroom shouted, "Send Sosin!"

And that's how Milt Sosin - already a legend at the News - ended up covering the biggest story of his career.

In 1963, the 55-year-old Sosin was the Miami News' star reporter, and "he always carried his passport, with a few hundred dollars and a bag packed, ready to take off at an instant's notice," the Herald's John Dorschner wrote in 1992.

Sosin arrived in Dallas a few hours after Kennedy's death, joining an unruly mob of more than 100 newsmen crowded into the  Dallas Police station. 

Not long after that, he began filing dispatches back to the paper.


Miami News, Nov. 23, 1963. 

Miami News, Nov. 24, 1963.

On Sunday morning Sosin joined a gang of about 50 newsmen, TV reporters and technicians, and photographers, all jammed into the basement of the Dallas Police Department to witness the transfer of accused assassin Lee Harvey Oswald to an armored car that would transport him to jail.

Sosin's presence in the basement that Sunday confirmed that he did, indeed, have a "supernatural ability to be where news was taking place."

In 1983, on the 20th anniversary of Kennedy's death, Sosin recounted just how close he had been to Jack Ruby when Ruby rushed forward and shot Oswald:
It was shortly after noon on Nov. 24, 1963 and my mother was watching television in her Manhattan apartment. My sister, Lee, was in the kitchen washing the lunch dishes when she heard my mother cry out.

"Lee, come here, quick!"

Lee ran into the living room and saw my mother pointing at the TV.

"They just shot Milt," my mother said.

I had been standing a few feet from Jack Ruby when he shot Lee Harvey Oswald in the basement of Dallas City Hall.

My mother thought Ruby had shot me.

My sister watched the action on the screen for a few moments until she spotted me. "No, he's all right," Lee said. "There he is, standing there talking to that big man in a white hat."

Miami News, Nov. 25, 1963.


Sosin, left, and Tom Petit, center.
(Click to enlarge.)
The late Miami News columnist John Keasler once described Sosin as "the most abrasive, annoying, persistent reporter I ever saw."

That Sunday morning, an entire nation got to see just how "annoying" and "persistent" Sosin could be.

Seconds after the shooting of Oswald, Tom Petit of NBC News was attempting to interview fellow reporters on live TV, when (at about 2:30 in the video below) Sosin barged in and co-opted the interview, convinced perhaps, that Petit wasn't asking the right questions. Or the questions Sosin wanted asked.



Sosin retired from the News in 1976.

The next day he took a part time job with the Associated Press as a "stringer" at the federal courthouse in Miami, working for the wire service for another quarter century.

In 1983, when he was 75 years-old, Sosin once again demonstrated his ability to be where news was taking place.

In January of that year, U.S District Judge Alcee Hastings went on trial on bribery conspiracy charges.

On February 4th a jury found Hastings not guilty.

Matt Bokor, the A.P.'s Miami news editor, got news of the verdict from Sosin:

Milt had an open phone line to me for the Hastings verdict. Just seconds after Milt relayed the "not guilty" verdict, I heard a bit of a commotion. Milt was yelling, "No, judge, I'm on this line, use the other phone, use the other phone!" (Or something very close to that.)

I asked Milt where he was calling from -- he was in Hastings' chambers, on Hastings' phone!

Then I heard, "Mama, I'm innocent! Mama I'm innocent!" Milt had put his receiver beside the phone Hastings was using to call his mother. Milt asks me: "Are you getting this? Are you getting this?" And repeats, "Mama, I'm innocent."

Yes, Milt, I got it, great stuff!

Milt Sosin died in August 2000. He was 92.

His friends and colleagues still keep his memory close.


  1. I remember seeing Milt Sosin at the federal courthouse almost every time I went there but never knew his full backstory. Quite a characterr.

    Clay K.

  2. I remember seeing this very odd looking man in federal court the first time I went there. I quickly learned who he was and how tough he could be. In at least one memorable case I caught him trying to interview my client in the hallway and when I tried to intercede he pushed me away and shouted "wait until I am finished!" He was a Miami original.


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