The Fine Print by Jack Schwartz

The Fine Print

My Life as a Deskman
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Vivid personal dispatches from the heyday of print journalism.

Veteran journalist Schwartz started his career in the late 1950s.  His passionately penned memoir spans the world of New York City newspapers from his first job as a college student and part-time copy boy at the Mirror, the Hearst flagship paper in Manhattan, to the New York Times. Youthful vigor and determination carried him through a grueling schedule of taking day classes at City College, editing the school paper, and working at the Mirror until well past midnight. Schwartz’s fledgling newspaper experience broadened with subsequent positions at the New York Post, an inaugural reporter gig at the Long Island Press (for $85 a week), and a charmed extended tenure with Newsday, where his “tabloid heart” chased celebrities for the entertainment section. A stint with the Grey Lady soon followed. With a storyteller’s verve, Schwartz meticulously describes these positions and their associated historical moments; e.g., the blackout of 1965 and the 1973 Nixon regime “unraveling.” The writer’s early admiration for an editor’s “sixth sense for where the story was—and wasn’t” bled into his future managing style. A chatty raconteur, Schwartz writes vividly of the hazing rituals of new copy boys, the “blue collar pragmatism” prevalent among journalists, egotistical columnists, and varied interactions with storied media notables like Walter Winchell, Lee Mortimer, and much later, Michaelangelo Signorile, and author Nelson DeMille, who both failed to appreciate Schwartz’s pioneering spadework as book review editor for Newsday Books, which included enlisting Christopher Hitchens’ “scriptural prose” and reviewing LGBT titles during the AIDS epidemic. Schwartz’s prose exudes a palpable affinity for the written word, and his text recalls the days of bustling newsrooms where “everyone seemed to be smoking, drinking or growling—some simultaneously.” Readers interested in how the pre-Internet newspaper business was run in the mid-to-late 20th century will find Schwartz’s memoir educational as well as charmingly anecdotal.

A fond, nostalgic celebration of a decadeslong career in media.

Pub Date: May 29th, 2015
ISBN: 978-1-5116-3732-9
Page count: 402pp
Publisher: CreateSpace
Program: Kirkus Indie
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15th, 2015


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