Gay Talese, recent recipient of a Polk Award
for distinguished journalism, shows his stuff at the Times
, describing how he revised a beggar's message so it would play better in New York's competitive advertising market. Unsolicited, Talese changed a nameless mendicant's punchy, "Homeless. Please Help," to the more poetic, "Please Support Pres. Obama's Stimulus Plan, and begin right here... at the bottom... Thank you." Talese does not report the man's response but, determined to prove long copy is not dead, the author of Thy Neighbor's Wife
and Honor Thy Father
later printed this message out and taped it to pieces of cardboard "the dry cleaner sends home with my shirts" and thereafter, when approached for spare change, instead handed out the signs, asking in return for the indigents' contact information. Those that had phones he later quizzed. Only one, Byron Breeze, reported an increase in income, though another kindly assured Talese, "It's a powerful pitch." It is not reported whether any of the men thought of asking Talese to sign the ads and then offering them for sale at auction. But if any of them are reading this -- and the unemployed are a large part of our fanbase -- we encourage them to suggest it if he calls back. Photo (cc) julialat34.