TALKING WITH HY B. TURNER
“As a teenager I used to hang around with a New York American reporter,” says Hy B. Turner. “Every time we passed Park Row, he would point out the buildings and tell about the great editors who had worked there. I was fascinated, just fascinated.”
Turner’s fascination led to a long career as a journalist in New York and elsewhere. “They called me the ‘Iron Man of Journalism’ because I worked for so many papers,” he notes. Often he held two full-time jobs. “I’d go from one job to the other,” remembers Turner. “On Saturdays I took it easy; I worked only one.”
Yet throughout his career, Turner’s fascination remained fixed on the story of Park Row. Getting the story into book form, however, took many years and several false starts. In fact, the original idea dates back to the end of World War II. “I started research in February of ’46,” he recalls. “I was 28.”
Turner first tried telling the story as historical fiction. Later, he tried writing it as a textbook. But neither approach stuck closely enough to the editors and the newspapers themselves to suit him. “My love is journalism and always has been,” he explains. As a result, he eventually reworked the story into a straight narrative and sold it to Fordham University Press–more than 50 years after the idea first occurred to him.
For Turner, the story’s appeal is in the editors: Pulitzer, Greeley, Hearst, and especially Bennett, whom Turner calls “the most vital person in American journalism.” Joseph Patterson, an early editor of the Daily News, is another favorite. While Turner ponders writing a Patterson biography, he remains involved in journalism, serving his local air force base as a volunteer copy editor and self-described “newsboy.” “It’s my life all over again,” he says with a chuckle.