Journalism as a trade is undergoing a strange shift, both in ideals and applications. As this is happening, there’s an Old Guard who carried the torch for traditional journalism their entire lives who are dying off, leaving a legacy and an example for others to follow. One of these is Jimmy Breslin, who passed away recently at the age of 88.
Breslin was more than a dynamic writer and Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist. He will be remembered as a champion of the people, one of NYC’s shining voices in support of the working man. His columns in the New York Daily News served as a clarion call and a wake-up call, whichever was needed at the time, to rally people or to chastise those in power who had forgotten who they should serve.
Prolific is one of those terms which is thrown around a lot these days, especially when discussing someone who has passed on. But if a term ever applied to anyone, it certainly fit Breslin, who saw his byline not only in the Daily News but also in the New York Post, Newsday, New York Herald Tribune and the New York Journal American. In all times and in every venue his pen served the common folks, defending and proclaiming their value and their inherent rights.
Some New Yorkers will remember Breslin teaming up with fellow scribe Norman Mailer to challenge John Lindsay for mayor. The political bid came up short, of course, but that didn’t stop them from making their point.
Of course, Breslin’s name is also connected to one of NYC’s darkest times in recent memory. When David Berkowitz, the notorious Son of Sam serial killer, was on the loose, he frequently wrote to Breslin. The journalist refused to allow the killer to use him to help terrify the people. He always told Berkowitz the best thing would be to stop, to give himself up.
After his death, Breslin was eulogized by Senator Chuck Schumer, who said “…the sidewalks of New York have lost a great one… every day, Breslin showed how great the average New Yorker was…”
It was this voice that New York will miss the most. So many people know NYC as a place of places, the home of Times Square, Manhattan, and Lady Liberty. But those of us who live and work here have come to love the people – the dynamic, hardworking, talented, and creative people who really make this city thrive. That’s what Breslin brought every day, and we’re grateful for it.