A journalist poet with a passion for croquet

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.

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)


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.

About Bob Stepno

mild-mannered reporter who found computers & the Web in grad school in the 1980s (Wesleyan) and '90s (UNC); taught journalism, media studies, Web production; retired to write, make music, photograph sunsets & walks in the woods.
This entry was posted in 1920s, 1930s, 1940s, columnists, New York City, newspapers, radio. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to A journalist poet with a passion for croquet

  1. Dan Axtell says:

    F.P.A.’s “Journalism” is included in Nat Benchley’s 2009 “The Lost Algonquin Round Table.” Benchley reads the poem during the September 20, 2009 interview on NPR, http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=113005574 . I think it’s important to note that the poem is not included in any published collections of original works. Instead, it is homage to “Tobacco is a Dirty Weed,” written 16 years earlier by a Penn State undergraduate, Gramm Lee Hemminger:

    Tobacco is a dirty weed. I like it.
    It satisfies no normal need. I like it
    It makes you thin, it makes you lean,
    It takes the hair right off your bean.
    It’s the worst darn stuff I’ve ever seen.
    I like it.

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