This book touches on 4 areas that are simply fascinating to me: Newspaper reporting in its heyday before computers and the Internet, the 1960's, Cleveland in the 1960's and a first-hand account of the Vietnam War by a reporter who spent 8 months all over the Far Eastern country.
Click image below for more info or to buy from Amazon
Author Michael D. Roberts got his start as a newspaper reporter in 1962 and joined the Plain Dealer in 1963. His time there included covering the Vietnam War, the Middle East, and the newspaper's Washington Bureau as well as Cleveland and national stories such as Carl Stokes mayoral campaign and election, the riots in Hough and Glenville, the shootings at Kent State and more.
The newsroom that Roberts describes is what you would imagine from the time with the clouds of cigarette smoke, heavy drinking, clacking of typewriters, jockeying for assignments, newsroom politics and more. He depicts the Plain Dealer's competition with the Cleveland Press and later the TV stations as well as the internal competitions among writers, editors and management. Compared to today's 24x7 cable news cycle, social media and "anyone-can-publish-anything" atmosphere the rigor of the 1960's newsroom with fact checking, multiple sources and journalistic integrity jump out. The newsroom stories alone are enough of a reason to read this book.
Add to that, first-hand accounts of Roberts 8 months as a war reporter in Vietnam. His first day in country was the first day of the Tet offensive. Roberts tells stories never heard of in the official versions of the War and his insights as an eye witness are priceless. New information (to me at least) comes out about the My Lai napalm girl photo and the execution of the Viet Cong soldier. It's powerful stuff. Again, just the Vietnam coverage would make the book a must read. Roberts then travelled to the Middle East and encountered Menachem Begin, Moyshe Dayan and others.
For a Clevelander who is a little too young to have experienced the 1960's, his tales of the city are enthralling. Of course I knew all the historical facts. In fact my fireman uncle was shot at during the Hough riots. But the insider's viewpoint from Roberts' perspective brings the history to life. Details emerge about the emerging racial issues - from the riots to Carl Stokes and beyond. Who knew that Martin Luther King was on hand for Stokes' historic election but kept out of view so the new mayor could have the spotlight on himself? Was it really a bar disagreement on 79th that was the cause of the riots? Roberts saw a lot and tells a lot in this book.
There are stories of May 4th at Kent State that go beyond what we all have heard such as Dorothy Fuldheim messing up a potential interview with the National Guard commander.
It would be fun to sit with Roberts in one of those rooftop bars he writes about and hear even more stories (I bet he has plenty) about this exciting time. But the book is a good start.
Reviewed by Dan Hanson
You may also enjoy:
Top of Page
Books for Cleveland Seniors and Boomers