Barry Newman, regarded as “the King of the A-heds” at the Wall Street Journal, retired today.
Newman has written over 500 A-heds in his 43 years at the paper. (The page one Journal feature is called an A-hed.) His first ran on Dec. 3, 1970, and his most recent — a piece on apostrophes — was published in the print edition on May 16.
“There are generations of people, like me, whose idea of what a story could be – or even what journalism could be – was redefined by Barry’s work,” says Journal reporter Conor Dougherty.
In his retirement, Newman will serve as a Journal writing coach, “working with Page One to encourage, advise and console reporters who are in the throes of doing WSJ A-heds,” he tells Romenesko readers.
“CUNY Journalism Press has also asked me to put together a story collection, interwoven with instructional and, I hope, amusing essays on how I got the ideas and did the reporting and writing. It’s due next April.”
His favorite stories?
“I’ve done so many it’s all a blur,” he writes. “But a couple of months ago I got an email, as below, from a guy who has written a country-music song based on an A-hed I did in Spain in the early 80s and was collected in a book called ‘The Literary Journalists.’ Plenty of reporters have movies made of their stories, but how many have country-music songs? I think it’s great and it describes exactly how I feel right now. You can dance to it, slowly.”
I’m a big fan of your work. I also happen to play in a band in Baltimore, Md and we’ve recorded a song based on your story “Banderillero.” I didn’t sit down with the story to write the song — rather it stuck with me and seemed like my memory of it distilled into a country song. I wanted to send you a rough track of it and ask if you mind if we use it and thank for the inspiration — not only here, but as a writer (the drummer in this group is a public radio reporter). We will credit it as based on your story.
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Woods (at right) sent me a link to his song this afternoon, and said of Newman: “I continue to learn from his stories all the time. Working at an alt-weekly, I don’t get as much time as he often did to report stories but we are often working under the same spatial constraints — and he can do short and deep better than anyone since Hemingway.”