Grobaty’s (Growing Up in Long Beach, 2013, etc.) memoir chronicles a four-decade career as a Southern California newspaperman.
In 1976, the author, armed with only his brief experience on a community college newspaper, applied for employment with his hometown paper, the Long Beach Press-Telegram. Over the following decades, he worked his way up from copyboy to veteran journalist, holding a wide range of reporting and columnist positions. His book is a personal and professional memoir as well as a good-natured testament to the decline of print journalism: “We don’t buy ink by the barrel these days,” Grobaty writes, commenting on declining circulation. “We pick up a half-gallon on the way to work.” As a journeyman reporter, he observed the last days of highflying, hard-drinking, mid-20th-century newspaper culture. His establishment as a daily columnist coincided with the slow decline of the industry, and in middle age, he witnessed the capitulation of daily print media to the Internet. Eventually, Grobaty makes a sort of reluctant peace with the digital era, confident that his calling of columnist transcends the medium of print. At times, he ventures into the content of his columns—such as one on the relative danger of local fleabag highway motels—which meander away from the narrative arc; some chapters include reprints of entire columns. But for the author, there’s little separation between those columns and his life: “You write columns for a certain number of years and the daily snippets start to weave together as your sprawling memoirs.” For the reader, Grobaty’s quick, clever prose—honed over decades of deadlines—is a pleasure to follow wherever it leads. The loose biographical structure and distinct chapters allow readers to enjoy the volume straight through or as an anthology that one may pick up at different points. Overall, this book will make a pleasant Sunday read for anyone looking to return to the pre-blog joys of opening a freshly delivered morning paper, pouring a cup of coffee, and reading the musings of a favorite local columnist.
A humorous love letter to a dying vocation.