The journalism world is a darker place today.
Pete Hamill, the street-wise newspaper columnist who for decades wrote eloquently and masterfully about all manner of topics, most especially his beloved New York City, died on Wednesday. He was 85.
Hamill was many things over the course of his successful career. In addition to being a columnist for the New York Daily News, the New York Post, Newsday, the Village Voice, New York magazine and Esquire, Hamill wrote screenplays, several novels and a bestselling memoir, “A Drinking Life.”
Not bad for a high school dropout from Brooklyn.
Hamill was a throwback to a time when reporters still worked on typewriters and smoking in newsrooms wasn't just allowed, it often was encouraged.
An obituary penned by The Associated Press likened him to one of New York City's "last great crusading columnists," the kind who related to underdogs and little people while also mingling with the elite as his job required.
Hamill was self-taught and street-wise and, in an era now dominated by video and pretty much digital everything, he was still well connected to the printed page, the old-fashioned world of newspapers where he wrote about everything from baseball to politics, murders, boxing, riots and wars in Vietnam, Nicaragua, Lebanon and Ireland.
Mostly, though, Hamill wrote about his home city, offering reflections on everyday stuff like subway rides and stickball games and the days when Brooklyn had its own professional baseball team.
“I have the native son’s irrational love of the place,” Hamill wrote in his 2004 book, “Downtown: My Manhattan.” “New York is a city of daily irritations, occasional horrors, hourly tests of will and even courage, and huge dollops of pure beauty.”
As the New York Press Club noted in a statement following his death on Wednesday, Hamill served as an "inspiration to generations of reporters who reveled in his unique style of storytelling and his gifts as a writer and reporter who spoke truth to power."
Indeed, the modern, "Fake News," internet-first world could learn a thing or two from an old-school journalist like him.
“Pete was a giant of journalism, a quintessential New Yorker and a personal friend to my father and myself," New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo said in a statement. "I learned much from him and he inspired me. Pete’s death is going to leave a hole in the heart of New Yorkers.”
New York City lost one of its own on Wednesday. The journalism profession lost a legend in Hamill, an every person's columnist who did what all the great ones have always done: use their voice to comfort as many of the afflicted and afflict as many of the comfortable as possible.
Hamill believed in the value of quality journalism and the power of the printed word. He demonstrated throughout his life undying support for newspapers and the people who produce them.
“Quite simply, I love newspapers and the men and women who make them," Hamill wrote in his book, "News is a Verb." "Newspapers have given me a full, rich life. They have provided me with a ringside seat at some of the most extraordinary events in my time on the planet. They have been my university. They have helped feed, house and educate my children. I want them to go on and on and on.”
We do, too, Pete.