Editor’s note: Stu Bykofsky, a columnist at the Daily News and The Inquirer since 1987, whose work has won many awards, is not exactly the retiring type. But, alas, he is retiring this week.
Well, they finally got me.
The financial tornado that has decimated newsrooms for decades has claimed me. Two days after the 47th anniversary of my hiring at the Daily News, I was offered, and accepted, a “voluntary separation agreement.” It did not come as a surprise.
No hanky in my hands. What happened to me has happened to hundreds of my colleagues and millions of other Americans.
I used to joke that my retirement plan was to be wheeled out of the building on a gurney. Instead, I will walk out of the Inquirer newsroom, where I have been stationed since the two papers merged and the Daily News was submerged.
At the Daily News, we didn’t just write tabloid, we lived tabloid. Years ago, we had a 12-year-old columnist who later was convicted of manslaughter. Also, the chief of our former newspaper chain sent his grandson to us to learn journalism, and he was murdered in his Rittenhouse Square apartment.
Aside from working in a candy store as a kid and in a warehouse, I’ve never held a job outside journalism since landing at the New York World-Telegram and the Sun in 1959.
Nor wanted to.
To spend a lifetime doing what you want to do is a blessing, and most of my peers know it. Journalists want to get it right, bring light, tell stories, and make things better. We are not enemies of the people.
I’ve been privileged to help people wronged by the system and to rip blundering bureaucracies and pusillanimous politicians.
I’ve defined myself as a journalist for 60 years, and I still will, even as I find something else to do. I am open to offers, because I have a few gallons left in my tank, and I know where the bodies are buried.
Most readers know my guiding star: Obey the Law. That applies to immigration and bicycling and guns and the Parking Authority and supervised injection sites and policing. I don’t know why obeying the law — the firewall between us and chaos — should be controversial, but apparently it is.
That belief puts me at odds with some in my newsroom and in our city. I know that.
Philadelphia has a soaring homicide rate and a backbreaking poverty rate. The city has not done enough to fix it, and I haven’t done enough to hold it accountable.
Some of us, to paraphrase the late New York Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, are defining deviancy down, normalizing bad behavior. You can start with President Donald Trump’s truth-twisting, then turn to Democratic cities that refuse to prosecute shoplifting and shield even convicted foreign felons from deportation. That is insanity.
Starting Monday, themes like these will be explored at StuBykofsky.com, where I will write what and how I want.
For almost a half-century, I covered this crazy city, but assignments have taken me all over America and as far as Jerusalem. This occupation has had me — born in the South Bronx, reared in a Brooklyn project — rubbing shoulders with big stars and powerful politicians.
Joan Collins once made a pass at me, and Jim Kenney, dressed as a Ninja turtle, once knocked me on my ass. This was when we were friends, before he attended progressive reeducation camp.
In this long career, I’ve hit a few home runs and committed a few errors.
I raised $500,000 for Variety, the Children’s Charity, through the unique Candidates Comedy Night that I invented. My 2004 expose led City Council to reform the city animal shelter.
In 1993, during the World Series, I wrongly reported that Toronto Blue Jays slugger Joe Carter had visited a gentlemen’s club. I corrected the record, but when the clean-living Carter hit a home run ending the series, one local publication blamed me for killing the Phillies.
Years later, I failed to get Graterford lifer Marcus Perez the sentence he was promised, despite the sentencing judge admitting he made a mistake. DA Larry Krasner can fix this in a heartbeat, and should.
From phone calls and emails, I know I speak for traditional, older, newspaper-reading Americans. I am liked less by lost-in-the-Twitterverse younger people, who live their lives on cell phones.
I’ve enjoyed informing you, prodding you, supporting you, entertaining you, infuriating you.