Sunday, May 26, 2013

The Last Newspaper Man by Mark Di Lonno

Looking for a human interest story, a local newspaper journalist wanders into a retirement home, looking for a human interest story.  He finds much more than he ever expected.  He finds Freddie Haimes.  Freddie was one of the best of the tabloid reporters in the 1930's, back when newspapers were kings.  He covered all the big stories; the execution of Ruth Synder, the burning of the Morro Castle cruise ship, the explosion of the Hindenburg.  He also covered the biggest story of them all, the story that exemplified the tabloid story: the kidnapping of the Charles Lindbergh baby and the subsequent investigation and trial. 

Lindbergh was America's first reality star and he was idolized by the common man.  The media made him out to be a real hero, and he was that, but he was also a man, subject to human frailties like the rest of the population.  He could be cold and distant, and that side of him was never reported.   It was unimaginable that the son of such a man could be taken, or that the story wouldn't turn out well, as heroes don't deserve pain and suffering.   Haimes was the first reporter on the scene that night and managed to worm himself into the investigation.

As the days bled into weeks, he was changed.  He admired Anne Lindbergh and the quiet dignity with which she faced this tragedy.  He fell in love himself with a local woman.  Still, he was a newspaperman, and his job was to get the story.  When he gets a huge scoop, he must decide if he will print it, or withhold it to spare Mrs. Lindbergh.  His decision has far-reaching consequences that changed his life forever.

Mark Di Lonno has written a fascinating story about the news events of the 1930's, tabloid reporting, and the men who made up the reporting profession.  A journalist himself, he is spot-on in reporting the conflicts and moral decisions that must be made between the need to inform the public and the need to help the victims retain some humanity.  He explores the dying of print journalism and discusses the rise of alternate media such as radio, television and the Internet.  More than any of this, however, Di Lonno takes the reader inside the life of a real newspaperman and shows his conflicts and pride.  This book is recommended for readers interested in great writing and a wonderful story.

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