In my 35th Old Newark recollection
of September 18, 2002, I wrote a long overdue and appropriate remembrance and
obituary of "The Once Great Newark Evening News."1
The Newark Evening News, which
dominated the New Jersey newspaper publishing scene before its demise on August
31, 1972, was considered the New York Times of New Jersey.
At the end of 2003, a former
veteran Newark News reporter, William Gordon, who worked in the Newark News
Market Street building for a dozen years, retired from a resumed newspaper
career with the Star-Ledger, and, with his retirement, wrote a retrospective of
his long journalistic career. It appeared in the Star-Ledger on January 2,
Gordon Recalls Newark News
In that retrospective he included
a close-up and insider's look at his life inside the walls of that hallowed
downtown Newark landmark building, after he was transferred there from the
paper's storefront bureau in Belmar.
Within a week of his transfer to
Newark from Belmar, Gordon recalled, "I was sitting at the rewrite bank of the
boisterous newsroom in Newark, wearing headphones and pounding the keys of a
20-year old Remington upright with a crooked spacebar."
News Rewrite Desk
At the time of Gordon's transfer
to the News rewrite desk, the Newark News was unique among New Jersey papers who
required reporters at the scene of a breaking story to dictate their story in
finished form to the rewrite desk, consisting of six writers, who would prepare
it for publication.
Gordon recalls that his job at the
rewrite desk was a pressurecooker job. As the News published four editions
daily, with deadlines often only minutes away, Gordon recalled: "You cobbled
together stories from raw data phoned in by reporters at the scene and whatever
wire service copy was available.
"An editor would hover over you to
snatch 'takes' from your typewriter as you banged them out, leaving you to guess
Promotion to General Assignment
Gordon apparently did well enough
at his rewrite stint to win an upgrade to general assignment.
"General assignment had its
pressures, too," Gordon recalled, as he told of being ordered to Newark Airport
to interview ex-President Harry Truman.
Gordon found the ex-President
already on a plane readied for takeoff. But, he said, he boarded the
plane, barged sweatily down the plane's aisle until he found Truman, got his
story and departed.
50s/60s Work Environment
The working environment at the
News in the 1950s and 1960s, according to Gordon, was a noisy disorderly place,
always seeming to be in tumult.
"Typewriters were ancient and
often minus important functions. Once during a ribbon shortage, we were
told to make do by inserting carbon paper between sheets of newsprint and time
"Newsroom furniture was old and
battered. I had seen archival photographs of the late 19th century
New York Herald Tribune that appear not one whit different from what I recall at
the Newark News city room in the 1960s, except for the shape of the telephone."
In spite of the antiquated
environment, Gordon recalled fondly that the "no-nonsense workplace workplace
produced in the end crisp eye-appealing editions of the news of the day with
nary a sign of the toil and seeming confusion that went into their making."
News as a Colorful Place
Gordon recalls the Newark News as
a colorful place to work. He cites "an editor, just back from a
three-martini lunch might be seen doing a war dance on the top of his desk.
Photographers in their ninth floor aerie used a basket on a rope to lower photos
to the Market Street sidewalk for pickup by a runner from the engraving company
down the street.
"Pay call," said Gordon, "was a
blast on a police whistle, followed by a rush to line up at the paymaster's
table2 ... For some reason, pay envelopes always contained $2 bills which marked
the bearer as a News employee wherever he preferred them in the city.
"Security," said Gordon, "Was lax.
Anyone could and did wander into the newsroom ... One night, upset by the
migration of strangers up from Market Street, a young editor angrily ordered an
unshaven cigar-smoking man to leave the building. The man, who was
departing anyway, obliged. He was Willie Ratner3, the News veteran
Summing Up His News Experience
In summing up his Newark News
experience, Gordon wrote in his Star-Ledger recollection, "My memory of the city
room at the old Newark Evening News was one of drab surroundings in which the
hue and cry of reporters and editors pierced the din raised by teletype
machines, ancient typewriters, and telephones and "joining the chorus were fire
bells, and a blaring police radio.
"If it all wasn't exactly like
'The Front Page', it was pretty close. It was the kind of old-fashioned
newspaper setting that a guy like Jimmy Breslin enjoyed working in, where
Breslin once crowed 'you could throw your cigar butt on the floor and nobody'd
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All three footnotes in above entry refer you to Nat Bodian's
earlier entry on Newark News .
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