April 2, 2023
By Arthur H. Gunther III
The daily birth of a newspaper is a wondrous thing, with news, commentary, photographs, the who, what, where, when, why and how of information light and heavy and everywhere in between. Each edition is from sweat and muscle and emotion held back in required detachment. It is Damon Runyonesque in the effort, reporting on the characters that are people. It is “Front Page” in the newsroom scramble to ready the press run.
It succeeds daily. It fails daily. It is fuller at times, less so on other days. But in all, a daily newspaper, so many now dying on the vine, replaced by word bites and sound bites and gossip and falsehood and layered opinion on social media, is information, without which there is darkness and the threat of it dying in a cesspool of special interest and downright deliberate destruction of values.
A long time ago, yet the passage of years is no matter, the former Rockland Journal-News in a village begun in the 1800s but continuing still, in Nyack, N.Y., there was a reporter, Diana Hurley, an original Pomona, N.Y., resident who was part of the challenging generation that saw John F. Kennedy killed and with him youthful hope and optimism.
The generals’ war, the military-industrial complex war that was Vietnam, was taking more and more youth for canon fodder without defined purpose, and Americans at home were confusing the warriors with the generals and government. Many mocked those military fortunate enough to return, unfortunate though to come back with nightmares and a veterans system that seemed – seems still – to consider them less of a solider, sailor or Marine for surviving and having any residual injury or mental condition. PTSD was their shame, the idiots who profit from war told those men and women who responded to the call for duty.
In that time, in the late 1960s and very early 1970s, The Journal-News reported on the war, too often on the burials of young men in their hometown cemeteries. Such news was in the daily birth of a local newspaper, even death.
Diana Hurley was one of those who reported, and though in her early 20s and one of the youth affected by the national pall after JFK, and though she opposed the war and though she saw the reasoning of the war protestors who left Woodstock to put flowers in National Guard rifle barrels, Diana was a reporter of facts. Unlike the mixed “news” that all too often appears today as fact layered with opinion, she kept her views out of the typewriter. She was not without flaws, as with all of us, but she tried her best – and succeeded.
Diana covered rightist pro-war protests against students at the community college, wrote of barbers who would not cut long hair on males, told readers of worries that the Fellowship of Reconciliation, a peace group in Upper Nyack, might be bombed.
Like so many of my colleagues at a small community newspaper, Diana reported for the readers facts observed and researched. She left commentary for Norm Baker and Grant Jobson on the editorial page.
Diana would go beyond 53 Hudson Ave. in Nyack, move to New England and work at other than newspapers. And she would pass away much too soon.
Her soul is pooled with others of the ink-stained profession who together gave daily birth to information that has saved and can and must continue to save democracy. Her legacy – their legacy – is so important now in this deliberately assaulted time.
The writer is a retired newspaperman. email@example.com