One of the worst things about technology is the way it's taking the poetry out of the newspaper game. We're all appalled to learn that a computer geek can hit a few buttons and hack into someone's private telephone information. That's a terrible thing to do for many reasons, and here comes another one:
Where's the artistry? Where's the flair?
There's a fine line between naughty and nasty in the pursuit of a story, and nobody walked that line better than legendary New York Post reporter Mike Pearl.
Pearl had many gifts as a newspaperman, the best of which was something they don't teach at the Columbia School of Journalism -- he could read upside-down as easily as the rest of the population reads rightside-up.
So whenever he dropped into the Manhattan District Attorney's office for what seemed like a casual chat with the public relations people, he was actually reading whatever documents happened to be in front of them from the other side of the desk.
Bang! One front-page exclusive after another, until the PR people got wise to what was happening and cleared their desks whenever Pearl came in.
Pearl is long retired. I had dinner with him a few weeks ago, and he ordered his meal from my menu. I was sitting directly across from him, face-to-face.
The true greats never lose it.
Another New York City court reporter was deaf in one ear and wore a hearing aid. When a jury was deliberating behind closed doors, he'd stick the hearing aid in his good ear, press it to the door and get an amplified play-by-play of whatever was going on inside.
Again, not the sort of thing they teach at Columbia J-School, but there it is.
Upside-down reading. Eavesdropping. Looking around corners. Naughty but not nasty. The little things that made working for a tabloid newspaper so damn much fun.
Now, it's turning into a whole new ballgame. Difference is, nobody seems to be having fun.
Charlie Carillo's latest novel is One Hit Wonder. His website is www.charliecarillo.com. He's a producer for the TV show Inside Edition and a former New York Post reporter.
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