THE BLOG
07/13/2011 08:15 pm ET | Updated Sep 12, 2011

Hit the Road, Hack -- And Don't You Come Back No More

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:

It's boring.

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.