Remembering David Halberstam

The late David Halberstam was a journalist, heart and soul, with a distinctive way of writing history

DAVID HALBERSTAM had put the finishing touches on his final book, The Coldest Winter, in the spring of 2007, just five days before his tragic death in a car accident in California. He had essentially finished the book months earlier, but with a book there is finishing, and then a little more finishing, and then a final finishing, and after months of revising, checking and rechecking, slashing, inserting, and wrestling with endless pages of manuscript and printed proofs, he stopped by his publisher’s office on an April Wednesday and dropped off his final corrections.Read more »

“it Was Nice”

CHARLES SAXON’S fond but clear-eyed cartoons are a definitive record of suburban life in the 1960s and ’70s

When his affluent neighbors in suburban Connecticut accused him of using them as characters in his New Yorker cartoons, Charles Saxon quickly assured them that he was “really satirizing himself. Since he seemed to lead the same sort of life they did, shared the same interests, and belonged to the same country club, they found the explanation acceptable. Even when their exact words appeared in his cartoon gag lines, they tended not to recognize themselves. Read more »

The Four Days That Made Tv News

What you don’t remember about the day JFK was shot

It was a series of sounds and images that had monumental impact and will always remain in the minds of those who watched: the bloodstained suit, the child saluting the coffin, the funeral procession to the muffled drums, the riderless horse. More than thirty years later American culture is still obsessed by the assassination of President John F. Kennedy and by its greater meaning. Yet, viewed purely in television terms, the impact of the four-day coverage of the Kennedy killing and funeral looms almost as large.Read more »

I’m Sorry, Mr. President

A VETERAN JOURNALIST reflects on how public discourse has been tarnished by the press’s relentless war against Presidents—including his own biggest offense

WHEN COMMERCE SECRETARY RON Brown was killed in a plane crash in Dubrovnik, Croatia, last April, I took the occasion to write a column about the way public officials are now treated in the world’s greatest democracy, saying, “The press, talk shows, the politicians themselves and their consultants, the guys around the corner—we have all raised trash talk to the American dialogue.” Read more »

The Fate Of Leo Frank

He was a Northerner. He was an industrialist. He was a Jew. And a young girl was murdered in his factory.

ON DECEMBER 23, 1983, THE LEAD EDITORIAL IN THE ATLANTA Constitution began, “Leo Frank has been lynched a second time.” The first lynching had occurred almost seventy years earlier, when Leo Frank, convicted murderer of a thirteen-year-old girl, had been taken from prison by a band of vigilantes and hanged from a tree in the girl’s hometown of Marietta, Georgia. The lynching was perhaps unique, for Frank was not black but a Jew. Frank also is widely considered to have been innocent of his crime.Read more »

Our Times... And Mine

A newsman returns to a classic work by a famous predecessor and finds that Mark Sullivan’s vanished America has something to tell us

I confess, I am not the likeliest candidate to have condensed Mark Sullivan’s Our Times into a new, one-volume edition. That landmark of popular history is a genuine, certified classic, and usually about the closest any working reporter gets to a classic is a Coke at the end of a long day.

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Covarrubias

He may have been the greatest caricaturist of all time—he has imitators to this day—but his true passion was for a very different discipline

The trouble was, he couldn’t say no to anyone. Badgered by magazine editors, book publishers, theater producers, political agitators, and college presidents to contribute his talents to their interests, Miguel Covarrubias said yes to all, forgetting that there were limits to even his energies. In time his careless acquiescences would prove ruinous, but until then he enjoyed enormous success as anthropologist, author, painter, muralist, stage designer, and—most especially—caricaturist. Read more »

The Key To The Warren Report

Seen in its proper historical context—amid the height of the Cold War—the investigation into Kennedy’s assassination looks much more impressive and its shortcomings much more understandable

In September 1994, after doggedly repeating a white lie for forty-seven years, the Air Force finally admitted the truth about a mysterious 1947 crash in the New Mexico desert. The debris was not a weather balloon after all but wreckage from Project Mogul, a top-secret high-altitude balloon system for detecting the first Soviet nuclear blasts halfway across the globe. Read more »

He Was There

An Interview With Walter Cronkite

As the editors discovered right at the outset of planning this issue, it is all but impossible to think about the course of the past forty years without also thinking about Walter Cronkite. He helped invent broadcast journalism, brought it to a level of professionalism that has never been surpassed, and for decades on “The CBS Evening News” explained to the nation the events that have since coalesced into history.Read more »

Walter Winchell

The most powerful columnist who ever lived single-handedly made our current culture of celebrity— and then was destroyed by the tools he had used to build it

“WHY WALTER WINCHELL?” I have been asked repeatedly during the years I have been working on a biography of him. Why someone so passé or someone so beneath contempt as also to be beneath biography? There are, I believe, two sets of reasons a biographer chooses a subject: the ones he knows at the outset and the subliminal ones he only discovers along the way, although the latter often prove to have been the more powerful lure and to say more about the subject as well. Read more »