Joe McGinniss: I’ve never once written ‘albeit’

March 10, 2014: Joe McGinniss is dead at 71 (

Letter to Romenesko (October 23, 2013)

From JOE McGINNISS: In January, 1965, when I was a rookie reporter at the Worcester Telegram, city editor Al Marcello told me to write a summary story for the annual ass-kissing Business Review that would emphasize the dynamic transformation of Worcester’s central business district.
The trouble was, there was no transformation. Downtown Worcester would look in 1965 much as it had looked in 1945, with the single exception of a new Holiday Inn at the edge of town. I think it was [reporter] Tom Brennan who went there and discovered that all their restaurant food would be portion-controlled, reheatable, and sent in plastic bags from corporate headquarters in Chicago.  I believe Al Marcello cut that detail from Tom’s story.

I took the easy way out. I wrote a parody, stressing that the groundwork for quantum leaps in urban dynamics often developed in increments that remained beneath the notice of the casual observer. But Al didn’t recognize it as a spoof. He actually commended me for that piece, saying, “Now you’re starting to get the hang of things.”

My lead was:

“Change comes slowly to the heart of any major city.”

For [wife] Nancy and me, that line become a touchstone.  Whenever things didn’t develop as quickly as we wanted, or didn’t develop at all, one of us would say to the other, “Change comes slowly to the heart of any major city.”

So you can imagine my delight when I came upon this piece in today’s Globe. The lede includes this sentence:

Now the city is redeveloping downtown, albeit at a pace that seems impossibly slow.

Ah, Worcester!  

Although you’ll notice that I didn’t write “albeit.” One of the things of which I’m most proud is that over a writing career that spans more than fifty years, I’ve never once written “albeit.”

In fact, in my opinion, one of the seldom discussed reasons for the death of print journalism is that newspapers started to hire editors who thought that reporters who wrote “albeit” must be smart.