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Newspapers 1990-1999


In the early 1990s, Long Island-based Newsday started a New York City edition of the tabloid newspaper. The paper had a weekly real estate section and I offered up a few ideas based on my experiences at Habitat. Dave Harrison, my editor, was a great guy and a good editor to work with. I did many stories for both the Long Island and New York City editions, often employing my sources from the magazine (one of them repeatedly asked me when I was going to quote him in Newsday). Unfortunately, when Harrison left in a buyout, I lost my connection with the paper (and the New York City edition was soon discontinued; it was later revived with little fanfare).

The other newspaper stories in this section are born of less-happy marriages between writer and editor. The stand-up comedy piece was one of two written for a Long Island edition of the Village Voice (the other was on the character The Saint). Although my editor said that she liked the story – and I was paid for it – it never appeared. The Upstairs Downstairs story for the New York Times is more problematical. I pitched the idea to an editor at the paper, and she wrote me back a strange letter saying that she liked my proposal letter, but that my sample story clips (all published pieces) were not "sophisticated enough" for the Times. That floored me, as few pieces in the paper seemed to me to be particularly sophisticated. This was, I think, a dodge on her part to get me to write the piece on spec (i.e., no promised fee, just a promise to consider the story). Normally, I wouldn't agree to such conditions, but hoping for a credit in the paper and confident of my abilities to write in a Times-like style, I accepted. I even agreed to a December 27 deadline, which meant working over Christmas holidays. I got the story in on time, of course, and then waited a week or two for the editor to get back to me. Finally, I called her – only to find that she had left the paper's full-time employment in a buyout some weeks before (naturally, a call to her writers was too much to ask). Her temporary replacement told me she'd look into it. Three months later – when the "hook" for the story, the release of the series on videotape and DVD – was long gone, someone got back to me. "The story has no hook any longer," I was told. And whose fault was that? The newspaper did pay me $200 for my expenses, however.