Vern Partlow (right), with Daily News staffer Jack Cravens.
Vern Partlow was a longtime Daily News reporter who began at the paper in the '30's. A man with a great social conscience, Partlow was active in the trade movement early in his life, and in the mid-1940s, hosted of a Los Angeles-based radio program about union issues which aired on a Congress of Industrial Organizations-owned radio statio. Partlow was also a musician, and a member of an alliance of left-wing musicians formed in 1945 by Pete Seeger and Lee Hays called "People's Songs." Seeger recorded two of Partlow's songs, "Old Man Atom," a wonderful and very controversial anti-nuclear anthem, and the wry and hilarious, "A Newspaperman Meets Such Interesting People." Partlow was fondly remembered by all the old "Newsies" I interviewed for this website, and every one of them was wont to break out in at least the chorus of "A Newspaperman. . ." (When I was a kid, my father, Art Rense, who was colleague of Partlow while a sportswriter for the News, would very occasionally sing a verse or two at the dinner table, chuckling.) Given the lack of affection that "Newspaperman" expresses for publishers, you'd think that might have cost Partlow his job, but it was "Old Man Atom" that not only cost him a job, but a career. The song led federal agents to investigate Partlow for his left-wing political views, and in October 1952, he was named a member of the Communist Party by witnesses testifying before the House Un-American Activities Committee. Partlow was asked by Daily News management to publicly declare that he was not a Communist, and he courageously refused on the grounds that no one should be required to publicly declare his political affiliation in order to keep his job. He was promptly fired and blacklisted, quite an irony for a paper that had prided itself as "the only Democratic newspaper west of the Rockies," but publisher Manchester Boddy had essentially abandoned the newspaper by then, for a (failed) career in politics, and there was a red-baiting element in management. The Newspaper Guild appealed the case, and lost. Partlow went on to a career in public relations.
Here is a link to a story with all the "Newspaperman" lyrics, plus a clip of Seeger singing part of the song, and a link to the full, original recording by Seeger of "A Newspaperman Meets Such Interesting People" and "Old Man Atom," both of which make fine accompaniment for touring this site.
The full Seeger recording:
Wikipedia entry for Vern Partlow:
copyright 2003, 2015 Rip Rense