Nat Hentoff Remembers the Maine
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July 20, 1961, Vol. VI, No. 39
By Nat Hentoff
I am less critical than I ought to be of the New York Journal-American, partly because I find much of it entertaining -- in contrast to the other Hearst sob sister in town, the fading morning Mirror. It also reminds me of my boyhood. Our family paper in Boston was the Boston American which, along with "Skippy," had many of the dessert-without-supper qualities of its New York counterpart. I am old enough to remember reading O.O. McIntyre with delight and then not being able to remember a single thing he said a week later. With Bert Bacharach, I can forget a whole column in three minutes.
In terms of reporting, the Journal-American is as skimpy and inconsistent as the other two afternoon papers. (Say what you will about the Times; it is the only newspaper in town). On cosmic affairs, of course, we are occasionally treated to the head-hunting safaris of William Randolph Hearst, Jr. (well, look at the son Winston Churchill had). Mr. Hearst is an affable nincompoop (witness his now notorious interview with political analyst Generalissimo Franco); but we can be secure in the knowledge that he won't start another family war with Spain. Bob Considine, another member of the Task Force (Dagwood and friends abroad) is, I think, a minor tragedy of journalism. Considine has a good, quick mind and must have had convictions at one time; but he has so long been part of the mindless Hearst "feature" department that I sometimes think he turns out much of his admittedly professional copy while dozing or watching television.
The Journal-American's editorials are as crankily predictable as the fact that "Gene Knight," its night-club reviewer, will praise any show in town unless Lenny Bruce is in it. We are regularly exhorted to stop coddling young punks and restart nuclear testing, but we can forget the Maine. Of the columnists, there is the unreconstructed head of the vigilantes, Westbrook Pegler. I used to agree with Murray Kempton that at least Pegler wrote well, but even the granite style has cracked and the columns, alas, have more of the querulousness of age than the pride of anger. George Sokolsky can sometimes be rather alert in his comfortable, stuffily self-congratulatory way. A recent column on intellectuals closed with this entirely accurate appraisal of at least some of the Kennedy brain-trust: "There is a hopefulness about them but also an opportunism which, when expressed in action, can often be ugly and degrading."
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