Journalists in the best newsrooms care for each other about as deeply as marines on patrol do, and from time to time they want to say so. As yeomen whose stock in trade is prose they regard it with some skepticism, and when special occasions arise they sometimes turn to a literary form better suited for camouflaging profound affection inside nonchalant wit. That would be verse, and particularly when they are young they take enormous pleasure in it.
Friday was Bill Mullen’s last day on the job at the Tribune, which he joined in 1967. In the early 70s his doughy, everyman’s face allowed him to work undercover as a functionary in the Chicago Board of Elections. The irregularities he documented there won the Tribune a Pulitzer Prize in 1973. Then Mullen and a Tribune photographer traveled to Africa, India, and Southeast Asida to document famine, and Mullen won a second Pulitzer in 1975. In 1988, when I had a conversation with him for the Reader, he was newly returned from nine months on the road reporting on the world’s political refugees. Refugee camps are hard to visit because host countries don’t particularly like to show them off and the refugees themselves don’t know whom to trust.