C. Fraser Smith, has authored a marvelous memoir of newspapering, albeit bittersweet. We all know what has become of papers, including the decimation of three he worked at: The Jersey Journal, The Providence Journal, and the Baltimore Sun. As he writes, “And now we watch a self-sustaining profession turn to dust.”
This book is a reminder of the role newspapers played in the daily lives of their readers and a reminder too of the characters who used to people newsrooms – colorful editors and reporters dedicated to their craft, working hard and yet having fun. They were eyewitnesses to history but also documented it and shaped it.
Fraser was at the Providence Journal from 1965 to 1977. For many of those years we overlapped; indeed, we had neighboring desks in the old smoke-filled news room. Fraser was peerless in writing about such issues as poverty and drugs and housing; he and his family even spent a year living in the Hartford Park project.
His book conjures Journal figures you may have forgotten or never knew but who spring to life here, like Jack Monaghan, Tony Lioce, Carol Young, Ham Davis, Al Johnson, Cory Dean, Merrill Bailey, John Hackett, Joe Ungaro, Jim Wyman, Charles Spilman…and such episodes as the time angry mobster Dickie Callei came to the newsroom, accompanied by his lawyer, Rep. Joe Bevilacqua, to grouse about coverage. Did I mention the references to Journal hangouts like Paul’s restaurant and Hope’s bar?
This book is a great read. Warning: It could make you cry. Okay, I won’t speak for you. It almost made ME cry.