What's it like being a journalist's
As a school-age child it meant having extremely cool show and tell, especially when my father was covering Cape Canaveral. The kids at Flower Hill Elementary tried to rip the indestructible mylar-like material of silver space suits. They sampled freeze-dried meatloaf, pudding and other celestial delectable of the first astronauts.
Sometimes my father's interpretations of events were too au courant for Port Washington high school. My history teacher, who had one arm, when agitated by my liberal-media comments, would furiously flap his stump and bark, "Diamond! You're so full of hot air I can use you to blow up balloons at the Carnival!"
You could take Ed Diamond, reporter, out of the newsroom but not his inquiring mind nor his driving curiosity to get the scoop. Other fathers would come to the University of Chicago and take their kids out for a decent meal. We went to the Bandersnatch, a student coffee house, where he earnestly interviewed students about the colossal sociopolitical conflicts of "the 60's". My face was the color of my red zinger tea as he grilled my friends, "How do you feel about President Levi's handling of the sit-in?"
He lived and literally breathed the intensity of those phenomenal times. To write with authenticity for Newsweek's cover story on the counter-culture and altered states of consciousness, he did, indeed, under my expert supervision, inhale.
What's it like being a journalist's daughter?
He often communicated in sound-bites or headline speak: "Ellen, you're looking good for an aging Boomer" or "How's it going, soccer mom?" He was a Zen man. His awareness and focus was smack in the moment. Sometimes I could only capture his attention for a moment. He was up to the minute on news, politics, culture, sports. He could always recommend the hot movie, show, restaurant or club. His letters, stuffed with relevant clippings, fell from my mailbox like confetti: "FYI, Your Dad". The last one was postmarked July 10th; probably dropped into the mail as he set off on his busy schedule that fatal day.
What is it like being a journalist's daughter?
As a keen investigative reporter he knew how to work communication systems, ferret out information, and find sources. In my roaring twenties he found me on the beaches of Marrakesh while I was still finding myself. Through a purple haze I read his classified in The International Herald Tribune: Ellen Diamond. Call Home. Good News. The news, of course, was that he and my mother and my sisters were coming to take me home. But I was too much my father's daughter for that. I stuck by the guns I inherited from him until, as a teacher in Paris, with proper working papers, une vrais Carte de Travail, I achieved respectability and more importantly, his respect.
In January 1991, he was closely monitoring two stories: the impending Gulf War and the birth of his sixth grandchild. My baby and Saddam Hussein had the same pull out date: January 15th. Just before midnight on January 14th, Ethan Samuel was born. No sooner was he nuzzling to nurse when the phone rang in the birthing room. Expecting to be paged to the next delivery, the nurse efficiently answered the phone. Bemused, she handed it to me. "It's your father." He knew how to be first at any scene.
Just this March my husband and I took our children to Israel. There were some last minute itinerary changes and our hotel listing in Tel Aviv was incorrect. On our first day in Tel Aviv, we happened to be within blocks of Cafe Appropos at the time of the Purim suicide bombing. Sherwin, an emergency physician, ran to help the victims while I calmed our terrified and sobbing children. Shaken, but safely back at our hotel, before we could organize ourselves to call home and reassure our parents, the phone rang. Of course, it was my father. Not only was he a consummate investigative reporter, but a loving and concerned father and grandfather.
What is it like being a journalist's daughter?
His press badge was a backstage pass to the most riveting events of our times; a passport to the glamor, excitement and power of newsmakers. I screamed until my teeny bopper tonsils were sore at the Beatles' Carnegie Hall concert and the Ed Sullivan show. As high schoolers my best friend, Dorian, and I, at the star-studded black-tie premier of 2001. were launched on an Odyssey lightyears from suburbia. Family trips to Disney Land and the 1964 World's Fair, when a flash of his press id propelled us to the start of labyrinth lines, made journalism look like a great job.
But being a member of the working press didn't always make magic. A minor medical condition necessitated taking Justine, about 7 years old, to Beth Israel emergency room one steamy summer night. With a flourish, Dad presented his card to the triage nurse. She shrugged, gave it right back, and hustled in the next assigned patient, as some of us patiently awaited our turn.
What is it like being a journalist's daughter?
The most thrilling journalistic happenings were the conventions. As I trailed him bustling through the pressrooms chatting up media-celebrities, poltico-celebrities, celebrity-celebrities; weaving in and out of costume crazed conventioneers, I understood the derivation of the term Democratic/ Republican Party. The whole world was watching when he took me to my first convention: Chicago 1968. In 1996, 28 years later I tagged along again.
His death was sudden, unexpected, a terrible shock. Yet last August was the first time I had a sense of the last time with him. In the brutal heat as he struggled to compete with 20 something year olds and 3 am deadlines, I knew this was the last convention he would cover as an insider. I never thought it would be his last, period. But stored in my photo-memory neurons is a vivid image of him that night walking down Michigan Ave toward the Chicago River. I watched until he disappeared into the darkness, enveloped in the wings of the night Hawk, the moonlight Wrigley Building and Tribune Towers glowing in the background. Both he and his father worked for the Tribune and Sun Times housed in those stone carved monuments to a free press.
He liked to say, "I've followed the media since it was called the press" (NY Jan. 28, 1985). From hunt and peck typewriting and rotary phones, he became one of the first 70 plus year olds with a web site. When I was an infant he popped nickels into the pay phone outside our apartment, to his grandchildren he specialized in "multi-media" greetings: phone, fax, e-mail, and snail mail.
Keeping up with the times was his forte. I believe he thought the world was becoming a better place. When I worked as the psychologist for School of the Art Institute of Chicago, my office was located on Michigan Ave across from the museum, in the landmark Chicago Athletic Association building, which the School had converted into dorms, classrooms and offices, including my Department of Counseling. He reminded my student workers that our space was once a restricted club. "No women, no blacks, no Asians, no Jews, no Catholics", he informed them.
A lovely Eurasian girl, herself an artwork of colorful clothes, a shock of pink hair, bejeweled and bedazzled with pierces and tattoos, laughed quizzically, "Who was left?" Always the Socratic teacher, he answered a question with a question, "Who do you think used to run this country?" But from his benign smile, I could tell that her ignorance pleased him. Perhaps she had no experience of the hatred that stung him as a boy; roughed up if he crossed the boundaries of Chicago's fiercely ethnic enclaves; the unspeakable horrors of WWII Europe he first witnessed at age 17.
As a journalist's daughter, I feel a complicated pang knowing his story was not fully told. Though, as a journalist's daughter I grew up knowing the 5 W's and 1H like a mantra, there is much I failed to discover about my father's own story. It was only a few years ago that I learned he liberated a death camp in Germany. It was only after his death that I learned from my aunt its name: Gardalagan. And it was only weeks ago, at a party, that I learned a neighbor of ours in Sands Point, a man my father knew, was one of the few surviving Jews of Gardalagan. We rode the school bus together, children of the Gl and children of the survivor, never knowing the shared past our fathers struggled to forget.
He was gifted with genuine and insatiable curiosity, the passion to uncover, the energy to discover and the intelligence to express it all in symbols called words. There was a seamless integration of his true, best self with his work. The qualities that made him a great man and father were the qualities that made him a great journalist and teacher. How he lived was how he made his living.
Those who know him well, know that, characteristically, he has by now figured out who really killed Kennedy and what really happened to Jimmy Hoffa. He's found the room with the best view in Atlantis and sailed in the Bermuda Triangle.
For my father writing transcended the confines of career, profession or even lifestyle. It was Art. It was his bliss. It had a deep resonance in his being. Sorting through his papers I found a file marked "incoming gigs". For him journalism was like making music — joyous and creative. I believe teaching at NYU was one of his favorite gigs.
I found a memo to Mary Quigley concerning faculty biographies dated February 25,1997: "I'm happy to be quoted saying: '...To paraphrase what the great Count Basie once said about jazz, doing journalism has never really been work for me. It is, rather, a continuous means of asserting oneself as a human being, and an agent of the world...It is a discipline of the soul, a daily testing, an expression of the value and sense of life..."
Mother gave me memorabilia father saved about me. There was a promise in a child's scrawl to buy him a present when I received 40 cents in back allowance, a fiftieth birthday card sent from Paris. And this letter on the occasion of his 72nd birthday, enclosed were some wonderful naches-inducing photos of his grandchildren. "June 18, 1997. Dearest Dad, Happy Birthday! Here are some photos to remind you of the awesome heritage you have created. NYU might get your videos and news collection, but we've got endowed with your genes."
The Edwin Diamond Award by Ellen Diamond is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
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