If you are too young to remember June 17, 1982 then you probably won't understand what all the fuss is about.
Likewise if you grew up getting your news from the Internet or Cable TV or even the Daily Show on Comedy Central, you can never fully understand what the golden era of newspapers was like.
But if you are a little more, let's say mature, then you will remember that the Cleveland Plain Dealer would be delivered in the morning and later that afternoon, the Cleveland Press would hit your porch. In the 50's, 60's and 70's - the time frame of Gimme Rewrite, Sweetheart: Tales from the Last Glory Days of Cleveland Newspapers Told by the Men and Women Who Reported the News - Cleveland was certainly big enough for 2 major daily newspapers.
The natural competition between the papers and the timing issues (early morning vs later afternoon) made for some great reporting and, as you read in this book, underhanded, if not downright illegal, strategies to scoop the competition.
Tidyman interviewed dozens of Cleveland reporters, editors and photographers and compiled stories from 54 of them in this book. Many of the names will be familiar: Mike Roberts, Bob Dolgan, Dick Feagler, Dan Coughlin, George Condon and many more.
The book is divided into 19 chapters and each consists of numerous stories and quotes pertaining to that topic. For example, Chapter 1 is 'Screw the Competition' and features stories of the Press vs the Plain Dealer. Cleveland Press Reporter Jim Dudas told how he once bribed a prisoner with a carton of Lucky Strikes so that he would not talk with a reporter from the Plain Dealer.
Other chapters cover interesting glimpses into the process such as The Police Beat, Critics, the Rewrite Desk, and, Stop the Presses, Big Stories. Sportswriters, women reporters and photographers get their own sections. The legendary drinking of news people, at the Headliner and everywhere else in town, merits its own section.
There are some terrific black and white photos in the middle of the book of the old Cleveland Press and Plain Dealer buildings and city rooms, the Press's Louis Seltzer and the PD's Tom Vail and many of the reporters quoted in the book.
The Top Dogs chapter shows how different Louie Seltzer, the unpolished but extremely involved Cleveland Press editor and Thomas Vail, the Ivy League, aloof leader of the Plain Dealer were. Press reporter Bill Tanner tells how Seltzer was the most well-known person in Cleveland and was even dubbed 'Mr. Cleveland' by Life Magazine.
The Such Interesting People chapter is fun because of the name dropping of people like Ted Williams, Richard Nixon, Lorin Maazel and even Tiny Tim. The book ends, fittingly, with the stories of the end of the Cleveland Press, which was the end of an era in Cleveland and duplicated in many cities across the country.
I often found myself intending to just read a few snippets and ending up reading entire chapters at a time. And not just because I delivered both the Press and PD as a paper boy back in the day.
If you are old enough to remember the Cleveland Press, you will enjoy these glimpses of the inner workings of the two daily papers because they remind you of a very different time.
If you are younger, read this book to see what it was like when Cleveland was on top and when the news was gathered via shoe leather, phone calls, martinis and cigarettes and written to the clicking cadence of manual typewriters.