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A scream from New York ... for us.

"Take Tony on three."

"Tony."

"Yeah. I got a floater at the 49th St. pier."

Not fight out of "The Front Page," but as close as you could get in the mid-1950s, and that was pretty close if you worked at the AP Local Desk in New York and had a running engagement with legmen you never saw calling in with notes about bloated bodies rising from the mud in the Hudson or a LaGuardia-bound airliner just smashed on Rikers Island, so you could whip out stories in takes, on a wire that went to papers that lived by the minute and snapped at the quick and the real: raw, lean grafs for their editors to read on the phone to beat reporters or mark up for the next edition or hand to rewritemen to make into art, sometimes surreal, in a battle of seven dailies that included three tabloids bought on the streets, at all hours of the day, by half the people of New York.

One was the Post.

The rest ranged from elegant to shabby.

The Herald Tribune was the elegant one, facing the end with style, but no match for the class act of the morning, the Times. The Daily News, still smartly tuned in to its legendary, imaginary reader, Sweeney, the lunchbucket guy, had the A.M. numbers and the applause from the bleachers, and it still cost a nickel. Coming at it head-on, the Daily Mirror gave us amazing high-wire acts, but it couldn't out-Sweeney the News.

The evening broadsheets were, by then, just reminders of old glories. The Journal-American was fading out, with Hearst's eagle grandly presiding over front page splashes of red ink that could not ignite the embers.

Scripps-Howard's World Telegram & Sun was a blend of dying novas once brilliant from the light and fire of Lippmann, Dana, Day and Pulitzer.

The mornings were best. In the evening there were no stars.

Except for the Post.

It was Dorothy Schiff's Post, diviner of trends and meanings in the struggles on the left, voice of liberal certitude, sophisticate of the world but pure New York provincial: clarion of what was happening with the hatters and the garment workers, hawker of reforms and pursuer of Tammany Hall, newspaper of first resort for the ACLU, B'nai B'rith and the NAACP.

And for sauce, it had not just smart-talking, street-wise showman-writers, but the huge talent and swift scythe of Murray Kempton and brooding etudes of Max Lerner.

What better bloodline for those staffers who took over the Post in March in a grand, romantic, hopeless act of rebellion? (See pages 24 and 48.)

This was a paper whose fate seemed to lie entirely in the hands of bankruptcy lawyers, judges and forces from Middle Earth, but for a few days an insurrection staved off oblivion.

Absurd behavior. Grown men and women behaving as if even the owner could not tell them what to do. But also mythical. They did what every journalist wants to do, at some time, in some place, and never, ever did.

This was not just to hell with the boss. It was a primal scream by journalists reaching back into their reason for being, declaring they were not just employees, or budget items, but the heart and mind of a newspiper, temporarily in custody of its soul.

All of us heard it. A monument should mark the spot.
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Title Annotation:Abe Hirschfeld's ouster from the New York Post
Author:Cleghorn, Reese
Publication:American Journalism Review
Article Type:Editorial
Date:May 1, 1993
Words:567
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