Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter passes

Jimmy Breslin and Vinette K. Pryce during the investigation of the Howard Beach incident in 1986.

I was a mere cub reporter when I got my first taste of working the competitive New York beat.

It was the 80s and I was issued my very first working press credential during the tenure of Benjamin Ward — the first Black NYPD Commissioner.

I assumed its privilege allowing recipients to cross police and fire lines enabled all access to reporting the news of the day.

Assigned to cover a very controversial racial murder trial, I found out otherwise. On a day I walked into Queens Supreme Court bypassing the court watchers to take my place in one of the three front rows designated for media, I was received with stares.

Most of the seats were already occupied but I managed to luck up on an empty space perfectly open at the aisle of the front pew.

As I recall, as I eased into the space, court officers almost stopped in their duty to look at me. They seemed skeptic yet approving after noticing my working press credential.

I couldn’t read the quizzical stares.

However, throughout testimonies I couldn’t help noticing that some of the media colleagues eyed me as if questioning my presence.

As the case progressed, Jimmy Breslin walked in.

I glanced in his direction as if reverent with acknowledgement.

Jimmy Breslin was an icon in the news business.

Everyone knew him.

Police almost feared him for the exposes he was so accustomed to focusing on the police department. When interviewing politicians they seemed cautiously calculated in framing their responses. And reporters — seasoned and otherwise — print and electronic seem to dole respect on this iconic newsman.

During the first break, I found out that despite the fact reporters are granted credentials, not all reporters are equal. I found out that reporters who regularly cover a particular court have priority seating.

Seats are reserved for United Press International, Associated Press, New York Times, New York Newsday, the Daily News, New York Post, New York Law Review and a long list of media outlets.

I was told that the seat I claimed was regarded and ‘owned’ by Breslin, a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist.

Perhaps the look I sensed from court officers and colleagues were actually concern for my welfare or maybe admonition at my cluelessness.

Breslin was a gentleman.

He took a seat in the back and later schooled me about the unspoken rules of court reporting. He was not one to sit in court all day, every day but when he came in it was usually going to be a big news day.

We went to lunch that day and he was kind enough to indulge me with some of the intricacies many editors behind the desks might not know or even comprehend.

After that day I was ushered into a fraternity that included veterans and another Pulitzer Prize winner Mike Mc Alary and Joe Papin, a courtroom artist from the Daily News and New York Post.

That entre proved to be the endorsement many newcomers envied for credibility and membership among the insiders.

Breslin broke many important cases — the Michael Griffith Murder Case among them.

Breslin died last Sunday at age 88.

His legacy will be enduring.

I am grateful for his tutelage.

Caribbean’s Only Nobel Laureate From The English-speaking Caribbean Passes

Three years ago, along with Kenton Kirby, the then editor of this publication I was privileged to be celebrated by the Caribbean Cultural Theater. The honor was a momentous treasure I regard with pride. That the auspicious cultural and creative group appreciated my contribution was more than gratifying. But the fact I was to receive a tangible memento on the very same date as Nobel Laureate Derek Walcott seemed an immeasurable distinction.

The St. Lucian “literary giant” traveled to New York to receive the beautiful and artful plaque presented by Ewayne McDonald, the theater’s artistic director.

I had been a fan of Walcott’s poetry and playwritings for a very long time.

He was one of the prides of the Caribbean and deeply loved his country and people.

Walcott was awarded the Nobel Prize in literature in 1992, the second Caribbean writer to receive the honor after Saint-John Perse of Guadeloupe who received the award in 1960. The Nobel committee described Walcott’s work as “a poetic oeuvre of great luminosity, sustained by a historical vision, the outcome of a multicultural commitment.”

As a part of St Lucia’s Independence Day celebrations last year, he became one of the first knights of the Order of St. Lucia, granting him the title of ‘Sir.’

Walcott died March 17 at age 87.

His career began with a scholarship enabling him to study at the University of the West Indies in Kingston, Jamaica.

On hearing the news, Olivia Grange, Jamaica’s minister of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport offered condolences to his family and the people of St. Lucia. She recalled Walcott’s “excellence as a writer” saying that he maintained “close connection to Jamaica.” Grange said there on the island he was an Honorary Fellow at the Institute of Jamaica, taught at Jamaica College, one of the nation’s most prestigious institutions and wrote for a publication known as the Public Opinion.

She said his passing “represents a great loss to the region.”

The minister described the poet as “an important voice for the people of the Caribbean whom he loved so deeply.”

Taxing Times Ahead – Three Days Later

Unless you are among the top-tier money-earning, super-rich or the 45th president of the United States, April 18 offers more than a three-day reprieve from filing 2016 taxes and could alleviate some of the anxieties from late disclosures.

Usually, April 15 is the day taxes are due but this year, the deadline falls on a Saturday.

Coupled with that Monday, the District of Columbia celebrates Emancipation Day, which is normally April 16. Since that celebratory date is a Sunday, like federal holidays is subject to a Monday observance.

Therefore, the tax deadline is Tuesday, April 18.

To those the Department of the Treasury’s Internal Revenue Service will mail a check, many happy returns.

Women’s History Month

ABC-TV Names Female 1st Black President

Feminists are basking in the change that has finally arrived at one major television network.

ABC-TV recently named Channing Dungey president of entertainment.

Some are describing the bold decision as a revolutionary move to diversity and a major step to advancing the role of a woman and particularly one of African descent.

The announcement by Ben Sherwood, co-chairman, Disney Media Networks is a first for the network, and most significantly the first appointment of its kind for an African-American female to ever lead the entertainment division of a major broadcast network.

“Channing is a gifted leader and a proven magnet for top creative talent, with an impressive record of developing compelling, breakthrough programming that resonates with viewers,” Sherwood said.

“I’m thrilled and humbled that Ben has entrusted me with this tremendous opportunity,” Dungey said.

The pioneering achiever added: “I’ve had the great honor of working alongside the talented team at ABC for many years and look forward to starting this exciting new chapter with them.”

Dungey, who’s been with the network since 2009 and its affiliated studio since 2004 last served as executive vice president of drama was instrumental in developing ABC hits such as “Scandal,” “How to Get Away With Murder,” “Quantico” “Criminal Minds” “Army Wives” and “Once Upon A Time.”

She replaces Paul Lee.

“I am truly grateful to Paul for being a valued mentor and friend,” she said about her former boss.

The upwardly spiraled 47-year-old is also the sister to actress Merrin Dungey renown for starring roles in “Once Upon a Time” and “Brooklyn Nine-Nine.”

Catch You On The Inside!

In this Tuesday April 1, 2014, file photo, the recipient of the 1992 Nobel Prize in Literature Derek Walcott attends a news conference in Mexico City. Walcott, known for capturing the essence of his native Caribbean and became the region’s most internationally famous writer, died early Friday, March 17, 2017, on the island of St. Lucia, according to his son, Peter.
Associated Press / Berenice Bautista, File

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