THE PAPER

ABOUT THE BOOK

Published 1986 by Alfred A. Knopf, Inc.
Finalist, National Book Award in History
Winner, George Polk Prize

 

 

Few American newspapers – and perhaps none at all in the view of some students of the craft – have matched the many excellences of the New York Herald Tribune. In the crispness of its writing and editing, the bite of its critics and commentators, the range of its coverage, and the clarity of its typography, the “Trib” (as media people and many of its readers affectionately called it) raised newspapering to an art form. It had an influence and importance out of all proportion to its size. Abraham Lincoln valued its support so highly during the Civil War he went to great lengths to retain the allegiance of its co-founder Horace Greeley. And President Eisenhower felt it was so significant a national institution and Republican organ that while in the White House he helped broker the sale of the paper to its last owner, multimillionaire John Hay Whitney.

image001From Karl Marx to Tom Wolfe, its list of staffers and contributors was spectacularly distinguished, including Walter Lippmann, Dorothy Thompson, Virgil Thomson, Eugenia Sheppard, Red Smith, Heywood Broun, and brothers Joseph and Stewart Alsop. At the close of World War II, the Herald Tribune, which represented the marriage of two newspapers that had done more than any other to create modern daily journalism, was at its apex of power and prestige. Yet just twenty-one years later, its influence still palpable in every newsroom across the nation, the Trib was gone. It is this story – of a great American daily’s rise to international renown and its doomed fight for survival in the world’s media capital – that Richard Kluger tells in this sweeping and fascinating book.

It begins in pre-Civil War New York with two bitter enemies who, between them, practically invented the newspaper as we know it: the Herald’s James Gordon Bennett, a cynic who brought aggressive honesty to re-porting for the first time, and the Tribune’s Greeley, whose passion for social justice and vision of a national destiny made him an American icon and the most widely read polemicist since Tom Paine. These two giant figures loomed above a colorful, intensely competitive age, and with a novelist’s sense of detail and character, Kluger gives us an extraordinary picture of them and their time. Here is Bennett breaking new ground in 1836 with his extended coverage of the sensational murder of a well-known prostitute near City Hall… the Tribune scooping the War Department on the outcome of the Battle of Antietam in 1862…Greeley going upstate to testify in a libel suit brought against him by James Fenimore Cooper, then rushing back to the city in time to write a hilarious account of the trial for the next morning’s edition…the birth of investigative journalism as the Tribune’s editors cracked the coded messages proving that Tilden’s backers tried to fix the presidential election of 1876.

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After the two papers and their two traditions – political and reportorial – merged early in the twentieth century, the fate of the Herald Tribune became intertwined with that of the pride-driven Reid family and its dynastic rule of the paper. In particular, it is the story of Helen Reid, the social secretary who married the owner’s son and became the paper’s dominant force, and of her two sons, whose fratricidal struggle for control helped bring about its downfall. To try to save it, one of America’s richest men lent his name and fortune as a last wave of staff talent redefined the limits and redesigned the look of U.S. daily journalism.

The Tribune’s story is populated with a Dickensian cast of characters: Ishbel Ross, the dainty little woman who was the best and hardest-working reporter of her time…the acerbic city editor, Stanley Walker, and his successor, L. L. Engelking, who set a standard of city-room fervor and ferocity for a generation of newsmen…Homer

Bigart, the stuttering copyboy who became America’s finest and most daring combat correspondent…the beautiful, bitchy, and intensely competitive Marguerite Higgins, who won a Pulitzer Prize by the time she was thirty…as well as modern figures like humorist Art Buchwald, crack drama critic Walter Kerr, straight-from-the gut reporter and columnist Jimmy Breslin, and superb science writer Earl Ubell.

Above all, The Paper is a rich and revealing work of social and literary history, and exploration of the “free” in free press, and an elegiac tribute to the fading world of print journalism that spawned and sustained what was, line for line, America’s best newspaper.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE PAPER

THE CRITICAL RESPONSE

 

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* BOSTON GLOBE (J. Anthony Lukas): “Probably the best book ever written about an American newspaper. But it is more than that – a brilliant piece of social history that recounts in vivid and telling detail the changing conception of ‘news’ in America…. The book is chockablock with marvelous yarns…. And what a cast of characters Kluger has to work with…. Some of the most vivid pages in The Paper are Kluger’s portraits of these arresting personalities.”

* THE NEW YORK TIMES (Christopher Lehmann-Haupt): “Monumental…with a narrative sweep that is always absorbing and sometimes breathtaking…. What invigorates this history is Mr. Kluger’s enthusiasm for his subject, which is apparent everywhere in the loving detail with which he tells the story…and in the liveliness of the prose with which he profiles some of the Tribune’s more unusual personalities.”

* WASHINGTON POST (Jonathan Yardley): “Engrossing…if there is a better book about an American newspaper, I am unaware of it…. It is loaded to the gunnels with newspaper anecdotes, but at its core The Paper is a book about the relationship between the press and the powerful, the press and the wealthy.”

 

“The romance of The Front Page, genteel anti-Semitism, the disaster of newspaper labor relations, and the rise and fall of newspaper fortunes. All are there in The Paper. It is irresistible.”

– ANTHONY LEWIS

 

* TIME MAGAZINE (Paul Gray): “Richard Kluger is uniquely qualified to tell this tale…. He brings a novelist’s imagination to some vivid material.”

* SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE (Larry Lee): “Fascinating from start to finish, the best book about American journalism since Swanberg’s Citizen Hearst. Huge and engrossing.”

* CHICAGO SUN-TIMES (Robert Sherrill): “A magnificently romantic history not only of the ill-fated New York Herald Tribune but of New York newspapering generally…peopled with unforgettable heroes and knaves.”

* KIRKUS REVIEWS: “Remarkable…a fascinating account of a greatness that once was…. This book will hold you in its narrative grip as you revel in a story of a grand venture and epic characters…. Here the history of a newspaper is a graphic presentation of a nation’s life.”

* NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW (David Shaw): “Compelling…most delightfully so when Mr. Kluger is limning the words and deeds of the people who made The Paper crackle with vitality for more than a century…. He does a remarkable job of bringing these people to life on the printed page.”

* COLUMBIA JOURNALISM REVIEW (William Zinsser): “Kluger’s book [reminds us] that any history of American newspapers is also a history of American life…. His research is prodigious…. The Paper is a brilliant achievement in its thoroughness and its warmth.”

 

“To read The Paper is to travel the Herald Tribune as one does the Titanic on its ill-fated journey, or witness the inexorable death of Willy Loman, salesman. There have been dynamic portraits of publishers and yeasty yarns about journalists, but no single book has captured the organic interaction between the boardroom and the newsroom as has this classic by Richard Kluger.”

 – FRED W. FRIENDLY, producer of Edward R. Murrow’s TV news reports

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Copies

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

* NEW YORK DAILY NEWS (Liz Smith): This “smashing new history…is recommended reading for every newspaper buff.”

* THE NEW YORKER: “A solid, vivid biography of one of this country’s finest newspapers…. The author, who was the Tribune’s literary editor from 1963 to 1966, allows himself enough elbow-room…to give a lively account of…the workings of the paper as a commercial and journalistic undertaking and to furnish portrait sketches of the men and women who got the paper out….”

* PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER (Marc Shogol): “In meticulously documenting the rise and fall of the Trib and the affairs of the day that it reported, interpreted and helped shape, Kluger really has chronicled the development of the modern American newspaper…. A classically wrought 801-page history…. The Trib almost never was boring, and Kluger’s book definitely does the standards and traditions of that late, lamented journal proud.”

* NEWSDAY (Herbert Kupferberg): “A prodigious and candid book. In writing The Paper, [Kluger] has done an even more awesome job of research [than in Simple Justice]…. Few papers have accumulated such rich lore and legendry, compiled such an innovative journalistic record, or presented such an array of talented and creative writers and editors. Some unforgettable names find their due in these pages….

* BALTIMORE SUN (Neil A. Grauer): “A splendidly written and masterly history…the finest book about newspapers in the 17 years since the publication of Gay Talese’s…. The Kingdom and the Power…which Mr. Kluger’s book certainly equals and often surpasses…. He is astonishingly adept at recreating the working atmosphere in which the Herald Tribune was produced and in breathing life into the personalities…who put it together.”

* NEWARK STAR-LEDGER (Roger Harris): “What Kluger has done is to write one of the two great books about a newspaper, the other being The Kingdom and the Power, the 1969 study by Gay Talese of The New York Times…. One of the things that makes Kluger’s book preferable is that he goes into every aspect of newspaper life….areas that are seldom touched in books about newspapers…. Kluger’s portraiture is excellent.”

* CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR (Charles Fountain): “It is Richard Kluger’s contention that ‘the Tribune was not inferior to the Times – only less successful.’ He argues very convincingly on behalf of that premise. His is a thorough and image001sensitive study; and as befits the subject and his own Herald Tribune pedigree – he was the paper’s literary editor from 1962 to 1966 – it is also brilliantly written.”

* CHICAGO TRIBUNE (W.A. Swanberg): “The book’s fine scholarship glows behind its gutsy writing and wonderful cast of characters. This tale of the Tribune’s fateful crisis is a grade-A journalistic cliffhanger.”

* LOS ANGELES TIMES (Don Cook): “Kluger…has performed a vast labor of love and research on 131 years of Herald Tribune history, written with verve, style and skill. [But] this is not just a book of nostalgic fluff for old newspaper buffs. It is an absorbing, serious, and colorful picture of social, political and journalistic life in an era when newspapers across America were family businesses, and reporters…were the television of the times…. In Kluger’s warm, witty, wonderful obituary, the Trib still lives.”

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* CLEVELAND PLAIN DEALER (Webster Schott): “Not for money and not for honor are books like Richard Kluger’s The Paper written. They are written for higher purpose: sometimes to right a wrong, to grieve a tragedy or to celebrate a truth endangered or lost. Books like The Paper are written for moral purposes…. His Simple Justice (1976) is the essential book on the Supreme Court’s decision outlawing racial segregation in our public schools. In a less grave voice here, Kluger invests The Paper with no less depth of feeling, literary grace or zeal to get the story full and right.”

* TORONTO STAR (John Miller): “Kluger’s deeply researched book is not so much an obituary…as it is a celebration of an institution that once lived…. This is a rollicking, readable book for all its bulk…. All who care about journalism should read this book.”

* HARVARD BUSINESS REVIEW (Ronald Varney): “A cautionary tale about the way too much money – and too little business knowledge – can destroy an organization’s ability to fulfill its public trust…. Any businessperson can learn from this readable tale. The writing is clear, evocative, and evenhanded. It would have made the imperious old Herald Tribune editors proud.”

* ARIZONA REPUBLIC (John Swagerty): “The story…of what many students of the subject regard as the best newspaper in the history of American journalism…is told in a monumental work by Richard Kluger, the last literary editor of the Tribune. Combining graceful narrative with exhaustive research, Kluger has produced the best nonfiction book of the year.”

* ST. PETERSBURG TIMES (Justus D. Doenecke): “Kluger presents a truly fascinating account, one that does much with the history of American journalism in general. If his volume is a bit on the hefty side…it is as lively as it is learned. Just as important, it is written with dedication to an enterprise in which everyone – from the lowliest copy boy to senior editor – was uniformly proud to be a part.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE PAPER

EXCERPTS

 

 

October 10, 1945:
a prelim

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Misadventures
in
Moscow

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Mr. Greeley’s
day at the office

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The lone ranger

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Superstars Wolfe
and Breslin

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