America’s Greatest Newspaper Columns
Edited by John Avlon, Jesse Angelo and Errol Louis
It is a great American art form, read by millions every day. Taped on refrigerators and tacked up over desks, its wisdom is folded in wallets and emailed among friends. The best of it rises to the level of literature: balancing the urgency of news with the precision of poetry.
Deadline Artists is a celebration of the American newspaper column. This collection features reported columns by masters of the craft including H.L. Mencken, Ernie Pyle, Murray Kempton, Jimmy Breslin, and Mike Royko. It also includes columns by public figures such as Theodore Roosevelt, Orson Welles, Eleanor Roosevelt, Langston Hughes, and Hunter S. Thompson. In our time, voices like Peggy Noonan, Tom Friedman, Carl Hiaasen, David Brooks, and Steve Lopez carry on this tradition.
Newspaper columnists are their readers’ advisers, advocates, and confidants, helping them to make sense of current events while subtly defining the spirit of the age. These columns give readers the chance to view history in the present tense. It also includes appreciations of everyday life: stories of love, loss, laughter and faith—struggles against the odds and long shots that come in.
At a time of great transition in the news media, when obituaries for newspapers are being written every day, Deadline Artists makes the case for the continued relevance of opinion journalism. Beloved but half-remembered columns that were gathering dust in libraries or moldering on microfilm are now available in one volume, celebrating the near-miracle that stories composed on daily deadlines can resonate with beauty and power decades later.
“It is the great American art form, read by millions every day.” When these eloquent, compassionate newspaper columns were first delivered, they were treated as individual works of art, almanacs to suit any disposition. Well-catalogued and categorized, this exultant retrospective of American journalism seems ideal for today’s attention spans and travel schedules. In the most memorable modern excerpt from the section “Wars and Other Foreign Affairs,” Pete Hamill stands in a “pale gray wilderness” following the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and tells readers: “As I write, it remains present tense.” In other sections, Hunter S. Thompson and O. Henry reveal a raw, emotional, and entertaining style of journalism; a formula that Jimmy Breslin’s surreal “‘Are You John Lennon?'” piece surely encapsulates. Avlon, Angelo, and Louis’s glorious compilation “is a chance to be there at moments when America changes, for better or for worse.” Free-flowing to the very end, lasting drops of pure wisdom come in the form of Mary Schmich’s infamous “sunscreen” composition, while Benjamin Franklin’s 1757 sermon of advice literally offers words to live by. “Well done is better than well said,” Franklin writes, but as far as this essential anthology goes, it’s so well done, there’s nothing left to say.”
“An indispensible anthology of an American art form — a broad and brilliantly chosen compilation of the best newspaper column writing past and present — and a real feast. I couldn’t stop reading. The stories, yarns, insights and characters — the immediacy and passion — still resonate, still make you laugh, and think.”
—– Peggy Noonan, columnist for The Wall Street Journal
“An amazing and totally wonderful book, between whose covers is crammed more insight, wisdom, and wit than any book I can recall over the past decade. I hope every public library acquires copies of Deadline Artists.”
-Paul LeClerc, President Emeritus The New York Public Library
“This superb collection of columns is a rare treat. It rounds up much of the best newspaper writing ever done—from raging opinion to wise commentary, from graceful essay to subtle humor. Bravo!”
-– Stephen B. Shepard, Founding Dean CUNY Graduate School of Journalism
“When I first fell in love with the art of column writing, I longed for a book like this. Finally! This collection isn’t just essential for journalists, students and libraries, but also for anyone who wants great writing in their home.”
–Kathleen Parker, Pulitzer-Prize winning columnist for The Washington Post
“Nearly every American city once had a repository of institutional memory that described the thrills, the tears, the tenderness or the torment of the time. It was called the daily newspaper column. And the columnists were like brilliant photographers using words to deliver an instant snapshot of history viewed through their own lens. John Avlon, Jesse Angelo and Errol Louis have performed a huge public service by capturing hundreds of those moments with this collection”
-– Mike Barnicle, columnist for the Boston Herald
“Deadline Artists belongs on the shelf with essential collections of great writing, and especially great journalism. It’s wide scope and definitive range, the care and thoughtfulness with which these columns have been selected, evoke newspapers at their best – calling us to celebrate newspaper history at a moment when papers themselves are endangered.”
-– Richard Tofel, general manager of ProPublica and former assistant publisher of The Wall Street Journal