To comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable…
Finley Peter Dunne, a reporter who cut a wide path during the golden age of “muckraker journalism” coined that phrase and my favorite variation of it was uttered by Gene Kelly in Stanley Kramer’s film on the Scopes Monkey trial, Inherit The Wind: “It’s the job of the newspaper to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.” Over the years I had a plaque with that dictum hanging over my desk in various newsrooms starting with the Newport Daily News, in Newport, R.I. It was my hometown paper and I learned the trade there as a cub reporter working for $50.00 a week.
Years later, somewhat tarnished by age, the plaque was gaffer’s tapped to the wall in my office at ABC News where I’d graduated to telling stories on video. But whatever the medium, that phrase, as I see it, is a pretty concise description of the press’s duty. Like many journalists, who came up when newspapers were printed with real galleys and hot type, I’ve harbored the secret desire to own my own broadside — to be able to cover events without having to get my copy cleared through the slot desk. Somebody – maybe it was Ben Franklin himself — wrote that the only true freedom of the press belongs to those who own their own newspaper. But that dream was forever out of reach for me until now.
Today marks my first ever blog and the launch of my new website. My own “paper” with delivery to the world. Until now I’ve cut and pasted together something resembling a web presence via Apple’s now defunct program iWeb. But as I embark on new challenges as an investigative reporter, screenwriter, book publisher and non-fiction book author, I’ve finally moved into the New Millennium with a splendid new site (designed by Tom Morine of the sba.com). It has the look and feel of a newspaper without the overhead. I can remake the front page in a couple of key strokes. Anybody who wants to read it can subscribe for free and not a single tree will fall to the newsprint monster. It’s my hope that in the days ahead – not every day for God’s sake – but a few times a week — to weigh in on my thoughts about the human condition. To do some reporting. To discuss the topics that have made up the body of my work in the last third of my career: the FBI’s counter-terrorism performance, the al Qaeda threat, organized crime, police corruption, presidential politics and whatever else feels like grist for the mill.
BURYING MY LEAD The news that I should have led with as I backed into this, is that today, my new company, Tenacity Media Books, is publishing in ebook (Kindle) and trade paperback, two beautiful new editions of the iconic true crime classic: Murder, Inc. The Story of The Syndicate by Burton B. Turkus and Sid Feder. CLICK HERE for a link to the new Foreward I wrote for the book and CLICK HERE to examine some of the new “front matter” added by designer Walton Mendelson, including mug shots of the Murder, Inc. principals from “Lucky” Luciano to Bugsy Siegel, crime scene photos of some of the 1,000 Murder, Inc. victims and maps of Brooklyn to locate the axis of this “killing machine” that spanned the 1930’s and 1940’s. It was interdicted only by the courageous work of Assistant Brooklyn D.A. Burt Turkus.
The beautiful new cover is by Wells Moore, an extraordinary graphic designer whom I’m known since the 1970′s. CLICK HERE to buy it. As you’ll see from the forward, Deal With The Devil, due out next year from HarperCollins, picks up where Murder Inc. left off,. It documents the FBI’s 32 year association with Colombo family capo Gregory Scarpa Sr. who was himself known as “The Killing Machine” as well as “The Grim Reaper” and “Hannibal Lecter.” With more than 1,150 heretofore secret files from the Bureau documenting the FBI’s three decade run with Scarpa Sr., my hope is that Deal With The Devil will do for the half century from 1950 through the 1990’s what Murder Inc. did for the post Prohibition and War years –rip the covers off the secret world of organized crime.
The manuscript runs to more than 200,000 words and contains no less than 1,900 end notes of documentary annotation.
I’m going to be discussing both books tonight for all of you who have trouble sleeping, when I guest for three hours with George Noory on Coast to Coast AM from 11:00 p.m. PDT to 2:00 a.m. into the wee hours Tuesday morning. Here’s A LINK to their site so that you can locate your station if you’re game for some shocking new revelations about The Federal Bureau of Investigation. Hopefully, after toinight I’ll get my second wind and reappear in blog form later in the week. In the meantime, enjoy my little cyber newspaper. Peter Lance June 18th, 2012 9:00 p.m. PDT