Journalism’s a shrew and a scold. I like her.
She makes you sick, she makes you old. I like her.
She’s daily trouble, storm and strife.
She’s love and hate, and death and life.
She ain’t no lady. She’s my wife.
I like her. — F.P.A.
As the radio narrator notes, F.P.A.’s poem about journalism was written to mark the 1931 demise of the New York World, “a newspaper that newspapermen admired above all others.”
While not a “dramatization,” the 1956 radio program “Biographies in Sound” captured a bit of Franklin Pierce Adams’ style and character, as did his column itself — both examples of how the 20th century listening and reading audience formed its impressions of what journalists were and did.
While some journalists focused on crime, politics and life’s little human dramas, Adams connected journalism to the elite literary and celebrity life of New York, from the Algonquin Hotel roundtable, to Broadway, tennis courts and croquet lawns. As the friends and colleagues on the radio documentary make clear, it was a different world.
Before there were blogs, there were newspaper columns… and some were more than print pulpits for political pundits. Franklin Pierce Adams’ daily (yes, daily) “Conning Tower” column of witty notes and poetry entertained readers of various New York newspapers through most of the first half of the century. Think “Huffington Post,” but on dead trees.
While his initials “F.P.A.” were the column’s brand-name, he hosted what the radio narrator refers to as a “Who’s Who in the literary history of the past generation,” introducing Dorothy Parker, James Thurber and other writers who went on to the New Yorker, newspapers, magazines, books and Broadway.
Adams (1881 to 1960) wrote columns for the Evening Mail, the Tribune, Stars and Stripes, the New York World, Herald Tribune and New York Post.
- For a short biography and bibliography, see the Poetry Foundation’s Franklin Pierce Adams page.
- F.P.A.’s Wikipedia biography.
- Time magazine, 1946, profile, if you subscribe or have access to a library database.
Beyond his newspaper readers, Adams also was known to millions as a panelist on the long-running radio quiz program, “Information Please,” which is well represented in digital archives. (Archive.org has three pages of “Information Please” episodes as MP3 files)
- Franklin Pierce Adams works at Project Gutenberg
- Franklin Pierce Adams works at The Internet Archive
Biographies in Sound, running from 1954 through 1958, was a radio documentary series whose subjects included living or recently deceased celebrities, some of whom were journalists and former journalists.