INK, The Years of Journalism Before the Days of Bloggers, by Robert Coram, Five Bridges Press, Atlanta, GA, 2019. Soft cover, 265 pages.
This is the second of Robert Coram’s memoirs, beginning where Gully Dirt ends, with his escape from his hard-scrabble southwest Georgia home. The opening paragraph sets the stage:
I was twenty-four, had flunked out of college, served three sentences in a military stockade–which, if you want to get technical, can be called a federal penitentiary–been tossed out of the U.S. Air Force, served a year on probation for letting a patient escape from a mental institution, then come to Atlanta, where I had been fired from my first three jobs.
One stupid mistake after another.
You may remember the opening of the 1990 movie, Goodfellas, where the narrator, Henry Hill (played by Ray Liotta), explains that “As far back as I can remember I always wanted to be a gangster.” All Robert Coram ever wanted to be was a reporter. In the South in the 1950s, the pinnacles of journalism were the Atlanta Journal and Atlanta Constitution, different papers, with different staffs, but with the same owner and sharing spaces in the same building. It wouldn’t be much of an exaggeration to say that in the days after WW II and before the rise of television and then social media, everybody in the South who counted, whether they looked to the past or hoped for change, read one of these two papers every day. By comparison, all other southern newspapers were local.
If you paid your dues, worked your way up from obits in small-town newspapers, learned to boil down a mountain of facts into 250 words and dictate them into a telephone as the clocked ticked towards that evening’s deadline, and did this long enough and were extremely lucky, you might aspire someday to work for one of the Atlanta papers.
Now, at the age of 24, despite one stupid mistake after another, Robert Coram is being handed this opportunity. What he does with it is the subject of INK.
I don’t want to spoil any of the book, but you’ll find a surprisingly lot of John Boyd in Robert Coram and perhaps even something of yourself: We’ve all done stupid things and survived. The opening quote is from Jean Renoir, “The only things that are important in life are the things you remember,” but it could have easily been Nietzsche’s famous dictum, “That which does not kill me makes me stronger.”
[Note: I have known Robert Coram for some 20 years–we both lived for many years in the northeast corner of Atlanta–and for about half that time, I worked for his wife, Jeannine Addams, in her public relations firm. Jeannine is still my agent, although they are now divorced. His mention in Boyd that I was working on a book applying Boyd’s principles to business is responsible for the lion’s share of whatever success I’ve had with that book.]