The passing of David Halberstam yesterday marks the end of what was one of the most influential journalism careers of the last half century -- possible ever.
What made Halberstam so special? One could point to any number of contributions to America, starting with his reporting on the Vietnam War for the New York Times in the early 1960s in which he worked so hard to tell the truth that President Kennedy tried (unsuccessfully) to have him removed from the combat beat.
He won a Pulitzer Prize for his work, and over the next four decades, he would write nearly two dozen books, on topics ranging from war to Michael Jordan. His writing always made his readers think, even if what he had to say often was uncomfortable to hear. But then again, what journalist is doing his or her job if they're not bringing uncomfortable facts to light?
What I will remember and miss most about Halberstam is that he truly was one of the most gifted writers I ever had the pleasure to read. In an industry where the writing has increasingly become more and more bland as we crunch things up into bite-sized chunks for easy consumption, Halberstam's ability to incorporate powerful prose into his narratives was a breath of fresh air for those of us who still value quality writing.
They just don't make 'em like that anymore. Aspiring journalists would do well to read his work and learn what they can from a true master of the craft.
Outside of his books, Halberstam wrote a series of columns for ESPN's Page 2 in 2000-2001. Here are some of my favorites.
- Sports can distract, but they don't heal -- Sports in the aftermath of 9/11
- One splendid day -- 12 hours with Ted Williams
- In admiration of Allen Iverson