Monday, July 06, 2009
Late Edition: A Love Story by Bob Greene
I'm afraid Bob Greene's new book won't find a large audience, although I hope I'm wrong. Late Edition: A Love Story is a sentimental look back for those of us who remember a hometown newspaper with affection, regret the loss of newspapers, or even had a passion in life that was important enough to become our life's work. He wrote a love story to the Columbus Citizen-Journal, the first newspaper where he worked. But, the book became a tribute to all dying newspapers, and a way of life.
Bob Greene has been fortunate enough to travel the United States, reporting on large stories, and small intimate ones. He's written bestselling books, and newspaper and magazine columns read worldwide. But, it all started with one local newspaper, the Columbus Citizen-Journal, a paper that wasn't even the major newspaper in a medium-sized city, Columbus, Ohio. It never covered the national issues in the way the Columbus Dispatch did. But, the newspaper staff took in a copyboy named Bob Greene in 1964, and when he walked out the doors four years later, he left a piece of his heart, and his youth, behind.
When John F. Kennedy was shot, Greene was a junior in high school. When the announcement came over the school's PA system, some students wept, others sat there stunned. Greene's reaction was to write a story, and take it over to the Columbus Citizen-Journal, even though he'd never been there before. That story was never published, but the feeling he felt when he walked into the newspaper never left him. He had to be part of the noise and laughter, part of the newspaper. Bob Greene was in love. The following summer, he became part of the staff as a copyboy, and summer after summer he returned to the people and work he loved. He was part of a community, putting out a newspaper to be read by the people of Columbus. And, that newspaper had the job of sharing community news with the city.
Late Edition is Greene's story of finding his passion in life, a love of newspapers, a love of the story and bringing that story to people. Greene grew up, and became part of a family outside of his personal family in the years he worked at the Columbus Citizen-Journal. But, looking back, he says he should have seen the changes coming to newspapers, as people in town, including his own parents, who once read a morning and evening newspaper, turned to television for their evening news, and didn't have as much time to read about news. And, he shows the reasons newspapers have slowly folded across the country.
Bob Greene's Columbus Citizen-Journal was a local newspaper, focusing on the events that effected the people right there in central Ohio. Even major news stories needed a local connection. He saw the newspaper as a scrapbook of the community, telling the city's story. It was the men at this newspaper that taught Greene to focus on the people. The Bob Greene that became famous for his newspaper columns had roots in a newspaper that knew people cared most about the stories that related to their friends and family, their city.
Greene's book does have famous people in it, but they are the famous people that the residents of Columbus cared about; Jack Nicklaus, Woody Hayes, John Havlicek; all residents at one time of Columbus. The Columbus Citizen-Journal, like so many local newspapers, was a scrapbook designed specifically for local readers.
Ironically, the Columbus Citizen-Journal didn't fold because it was no longer read, but because the Columbus Dispatch wanted to be the morning newspaper for the city. Greene had been gone for years when the paper published its last edition in December of 1985, but he returned for one final goodbye to the staff and newspaper that raised him. Late Edition is a love story of one newspaper, of all newspapers. It's a compliment to all those reporters and newspaper employees who, day after day, turned out stories about their communities. It was always a work of love.
As I said, Late Edition might not be for everyone. I'm from Ohio, and I know the places and people Greene talks about. I'm from a small town that once had a weekly newspaper. People there cared about who won the local coloring contest, who gave money to the library in memory of friends, who attended a third grader's birthday party. There were pictures of children at storytime, and family and friends having fun at local festivals and parades. They were even smaller stories than the ones covered by the Columbus Citizen-Journal, but they were the human interest stories that touched lives. Late Edition is sentimental and nostalgic for Greene, and for those of us who remember local newspapers with fondness. It's a book to show us how much we've lost in allowing our local newspapers to slowly fade away. They'll be missed, and we don't even know all of the ways yet.
Late Edition: A Love Story by Bob Greene. St. Martin's Press, ©2009. ISBN 9780312375300 (hardcover), 288p.