Joe Saltzman is an award-winning
broadcast journalist and professor in the USC Annenberg School for Communications.
In 2010, he was named
national journalism and communication teacher of the year by the Scripps
Howard Foundation. He
spent 15 years researching and meticulously cataloging images of journalists in films,
television and radio shows, commercials, cartoons and popular literature. His vast
collection includes thousands of hours of TV shows and old radio programs, and he has
recently made them available through a project of Annenbergs Norman Lear Center
called The Image of the Journalist in Popular Culture,
of which he serves as director. Saltzman, who teaches a course called The Image of the
Journalist in Popular Culture, has won three teaching awards while at USC, where he also
received his B.A. in journalism. He remains an active journalist, producing medical
documentaries, functioning as a senior investigative producer for Entertainment
Tonight, and writing articles, reviews, columns, and opinion pieces for hundreds of
magazines and newspapers. He has won more than 50 awards, including the Columbia
University-duPont broadcast journalism award (the broadcasting equivalent of the Pulitzer
Prize), four Emmys, four Golden Mikes, two Edward R. Murrow Awards, a Silver Gavel, and
one of the first NAACP Image awards. He was interviewed by Rip Rense.
RENSE: Tell me about the place, if you would. Put it in some historical perspective. . .
SALTZMAN: It was a newspaperman's paper---of course, now that would be newspaperperson's paper, but you know what I mean. It was really honest journalism. These people were in the mold of the 'Front Page' kind of reporters. They drank a lot, they cursed a lot, they worked all kinds of hours. They didn't give a damn about any authority. They were out ot screw the L.A. Times, which they considered the conservative enemy of newspapers. They didn't feel the Times did any reporting whatsoever, and they prided themselves on scooping the Times and everybody else in town. They really thought they were the class newspaper.
At that time, there were six papers in town. At that time, you would get drunk and screw up and get fired, but it wasn't a big deal because you would go to another newspaper. And if you were good enough, you were always hired and re-hired. But to get to the Daily News was what everybody wanted to do. Everybody who wanted to be a hard-drinking tough newspaperman, and that included women, would go to the Daily News. It was that kind of operation. And the stories---people called it a liberal paper in a conservative town, but it was really just doing honest journalism. Remember that at that time, the L.A. Times was bought and paid for. They were trying to be kingmakers of politicians, they didn't report the news at all fairly. The DN did, and was kind of a thorn in everybody's side.
But in truth, all of those newspapers were not very good. Nostalgia makes them seem
much better than they were, but there is no doubt that working on that paper must have
been a ball. Everybody I've talked to who worked on that paper remembered it like an Eden
in newspapers! A place where they could really do their job and tweak the administration's
SALTZMAN: They did what old-fashioned newspaperpeople do, and that was to tweak authority, to expose corruption, and do things in the public interest---and try and help people who had no other people to go. Truly the Fourth Estate. A newspaper that the poor, the sick, the indigent, people who had no place to go, and the Times wouldn't even talk to, could go and get a story in the newspaper. That showed some corruption or unfairness or injustice. For that reason, it had a very good reputation among fellow journalists.
It's alumni were awfully famous, and they were the cream of Los Angeles journalism and
other cities' journalism. Fred Coonradt was a prime example, who was a DN guy. He ended up
as a professor of journalism at USC for 20-30 years, and would always regale the class
with anecdotes about the DN. His wife worked with on the DN as well, Sarah Boynoff.
Boynoff and Cuhnrad were really kind of the celebrity couple of the Daily News before they
moved on. Sarah went to the Herald-Examiner and ended up at KTLA and other places. Claimed
to have the best Rolodex in the business.
SALTZMAN: She was tough---all these people, to me, came right out of the movies. I'm director of the Image of the Journalist in Popular Culture. IJPC.org. We have a great website. Lot of stuff about Hollywood, image of the journalist in movies and TV and fiction. One of the reasons I love the subject is the images of journalists that got me in to journalism. And Fred and Sarah were perfect for that! Sarah was the sob sister to end all sob sisters! She's the one who got the letters of the Lana Turner/Johnny Stompinato murders---front page stuff. She was just the toughest woman you'll ever meet. In fact, when someone took her Rolodex, she hit him so hard that he fell across the room, and she said, "If you ever touch that again, I'll kill you." It was her phone numbers that had taken a lifetime, a career, to build. I think that happened at the Herald-Examiner---it's been told so many times, I think it happened everywhere she worked. At the DN, she was sort of a young wife of Coonradt. He died several years go. My wife and I were close to them, because of the USC affiliation. We loved Sarah. She mellowed quite a bit in later years. Coonradt was a very tough journalist---and they all were. Trying to think--was Matt Weinstock a columnist there? That was it---they had these incredible writers. They had the newspapermen's newspapermen there, and women, too.
RENSE: Manchester Boddy had much to do with that, did he not?
SALTZMAN: Boddy was very good at that, and he really wanted a good newspaper. I can't remember all the details, but in many ways, I think he ran a pretty tight ship when it came to editorial policy. He was revered because he cared about journalism, and he cared about giving writers's space, and letting them do what they wanted to do, pretty much. That's what journalism was supposed to be! You know, you go out---you write stories that move people. They had a lot of stylists, a lot of hard-writing journalists. The tradition would be Jimmy Breslin. There's only one Jimmy Breslin now, but there were an awful lot of them at the Daily News. And it was the kind of journalism that I think Jim Bellows would have loved. He would have loved the Daily News.
RENSE: When he took over the Herald-Examiner, where I was lucky to work, I think it was very much in a Daily News tradition.
SALTZMAN: Right. His type of journalism really was based on the Daily News image. Although I don't know how he'd feel about that comment.
RENSE: Can there ever be another paper like that again?
SALTZMAN; I don't think we'll ever see that kind of newspaper again. I don't think you have the people. Journalism used to be working class people---people who were poor, and identified with the poor, sick, and indigent, and the people who didn't really have a voice. And who cared about the working class, because they were a part of the working class---like Breslin still is. Studs Terkel. Nowadays, the young people going into journalism---even the old-timers---are purely of the middle and upper middle class. They make a lot of money, comparatively, and they really don't identify with the working class. I mean, I came from a window-cleaner family. I was the first kid to go to college from my family. My wife's dad was a postman. We had great sympathy for the working people because we came from that class. But now, my kids came from an upper-middle-class life, and when they went into various writing and journalism and what-not, they didn't have that same sympathy. They couldn't.
copyright 2003, 2012 Rip Rense