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Living the lucky life of a newspaperman

Richard Cohen on

She laughed.

There were no better bosses then the Grahams -- and, more recently, Jeff Bezos. I roamed the world on their dime. Flying into Cairo for the first time, I looked out the window. A sandstorm obscured the pyramids, but I envisioned them anyway and I could not get over the fact that I was being paid to see them. What fools the Grahams were. I would have done it for nothing.

Back in 2017, I helped produce a documentary for HBO on the life of Ben Bradlee. HBO called it "The Newspaperman," and I thought, how wonderful, how apt. That was Bradlee and, with the same permission he gave me to write a column, I take that appellation for myself as well. It is, I think, the highest of callings, and I never wanted to be anything else. You go to work and someone pins an imaginary badge on you and deputizes you to go forth and discover life, ask questions, turn over rocks and, in the case of a column, think so hard it's physically draining.

I had grown up reading the once-liberal New York Post. It was a brave, scrappy paper with great, iconoclastic writers, particularly its columnists. I gorged on Murray Kempton, Jimmy Cannon and Pete Hamill. I read them all, envied them all and wanted to be like them. Later, I became a copyboy for The New York Herald Tribune and noticed that reporters were required to read the paper. They got paid for it. Amazing. Professional ballplayers must feel the same way. Imagine getting paid to play a game!

That first day at the Post, I was assigned a desk next to Carl Bernstein. We became fast friends and so, like a barnacle on a ship, I attached myself to him and Bob Woodward, going through Watergate with them. Earlier, I watched in awe and pride as the Post risked all sorts of legal and financial penalties to publish the Pentagon Papers after The New York Times had been enjoined from doing so. This was one great newspaper that I had just walked into. Again, what luck!

Now it is over. I have written books and screenplays and will continue to do so. My girlfriend and I are going to Paris for a month and we're getting a dog. I will have time to walk it now. I will miss newspapering, but I know I had the best it ever had to offer.

 

I was very lucky indeed.

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Richard Cohen's email address is cohenr@washpost.com.

(c) 2019, Washington Post Writers Group

 

 

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