Michael Kline: (00:00:01) Here we are at the boardroom of the Concord Free Public Library. My name is Michael Kline. It's very cool, almost mid-July, Sunday evening. I've never seen July weather like this before, but it's been refreshing and pleasant, even though I know it probably is a harbinger of more of what we've had recently in West Virginia—killing floods. So I'm here with Carrie Kline, and would you say, "My name is" and introduce yourself?
Kevin Dupont: Sure. My name is Kevin Dupont.
MK: And your date of birth, please?
KP: My date of birth is January 11, 1953.
MK: Maybe you could start off if you would—tell us a little bit about your people and where you were raised.
KP: I was raised all of five miles east of here in Bedford, Massachusetts. My family moved here not long after World War Two. My father met my mother in England. He was a serviceman, and my mother was raised in Industrial England near Manchester. And they got married at the tail end of the war. My sister was was born in Manchester. And then, after the war, my father came out of the service and was assigned to Westover Airbase which is in Springfield, Massachusetts about a hundred miles west of here, roughly. That's where I was born. And then, in the mid-fifties, we moved to Bedford and I went to school in Bedford Public School System. And my folks lived in Bedford the rest of their lives. That's my rather unremarkable story. (Laughs)
MK: And you're still living in Bedford, or you're—
KP: No, I live here in Concord. I got married in 1994, and my wife and I built a home in Concord. I call it the last left in Concord. It's actually north Concord, the northern edge of town, which is up on Strawberry Hill Road. It is the last left on Strawberry Hill Road. And we're the last house on the left in the last left in Concord.
MK: You are way up there, aren't you?
KP: (Laughs) Some days, it feels like that. We love it out there. It's quiet. And we've liked the town. Our son went to school here—to private schools here—to Defense School, which is out on Monument Road, and ultimately, graduated. I can see it out the window here from the Concord Library. The Concord Academy is where he went to high school.
MK: That's where you went?
KP: No, it's where my son went.
MK: I'm sorry.
KP: Yeah. And so he's just finished his freshman year at college. And—as I said, I went to Bedford High School, which is—I would say—roughly five miles to the east. I can add more about my family if you want more on my family.
MK: Whatever you feel like telling—that would be fine.
KP: (Laughs) So I would think because of my mother's interests in Literature and English—specifically, poetry—was very much a stimulus of why I started to gravitate towards writing and appreciation of English. It's not necessarily why I followed this career path, but certainly appreciation for words, good writing, and—the written word.
My real hook for writing and journalism was competition. I wouldn't say that's for everybody, but what I liked early on in the process of journalism was competing against the other paper in town, or the other radio or TV stations in town. And waking up and feeling like—or going to bed feeling I had won, and then, waking up to find out whether I had won or not.
But as much as I like great writing—and the days that I feel good about my writing, which aren't all that many, it was day-to-day competition. Not that my career is there now. This goes back to the mid till late seventies when I started to write every day.
But that's what I really liked was being on a beat be it baseball with the Red Sox, or hockey with the Bruins, or wherever they put me day-to-day, just to go cover the story, and either find some nuance that somebody didn't have, or true news that somebody didn't have. That's really what I liked.
MK: But it was competition-driven?
KP: Yeah, very much. I mean, again, I appreciate the written word. I love it when I've got time to write. You don't often have time to write in journalism, day-to-day journalism anyway. I've often said that what you do least is what they call the job.
You spend your least amount of time writing. You spend a whole lot of time thinking, chasing, telephone calls, standing in hotel lobbies, standing in dressing rooms, watching games—all of these things I like, butthe food, I like the food.
But when you get right down to it—when you're known as a writer in this business, it's where you spend your least amount of time. Because much of the writing is on deadline, which is another thing I've really liked. I much prefer deadline writing than being given—. This is quite a self-analysis, isn't it?
MK: It's fine. We don't get this very often. This is fascinating.
KP: I much prefer deadline writing over open-ended writing in terms of when it has to be in. I much prefer, "Go to the event, talk to the people, see what you have to do, put it all into the porridge, and get to it." Just get to the writing. It's cathartic.
There's a relief in having spent the day thinking you did the job well, hoping you did the job well, getting it out of your fingertips—literally, and—and moving on to the next day. As opposed to a feature. Worst of the features is the goose chase where the boss has a general idea there may be a story out there to do.
Two things will have happened at the end of my career, which is coming up soon. I will not have missed a deadline, and I would never have said no. Those are the two things I can hang my hat on. Everything else is fairly subjective, but when they ask you, you do, and you turn it in when they ask.
When they give you these sort of loose ideas about maybe the story is there—"Why don't you see if this is here?" Well, that's all well and good if it's there. And you can do this linear sort of approach to reporting and writing, and you get it. And that's great, because that's what they wanted.
When it's really vague or when you know in your heart going out that it isn't there, but they've asked. You're on the clock, you do it. That sort of stuff drives me crazy at this point of my career. As opposed to if they just give you an assignment to go out the door. They tell you, "Go do the Red Sox game today."
Well, you know if it doesn't rain, or if there isn't a blizzard—in April, they're going to play. And at the end of the day, you're going to talk to people. You're going to sit down. And getting back to where I started this long-winded explanation. Typically, you have anywhere from at the end of the night—anywhere from thirty minutes, forty-five minutes—maybe an hour to do your writing.
At the end of the day, oftentimes you've spent ten to eleven to twelve hours on that assignment before you get to write. So, again, they call it writing. I don't know really if that's fair. It's a lot of thinking, waiting, watching, connecting dots, and then, actually you get to take out your laptop.
Or in the old days, when we took out the Royal Typewriter with—with our paper and carbon—and carbon copies—and as we say, bang it out. I wish there were more banging out. And be careful what you wish for, because that is happening—that has—the iteration of the business now, which—as we speak today.
I don't know what the iteration will be a week from today or months from today, but the iteration now is to—to the detriment of—I think everyone—is to write it even before you've got all your facts, which is because you have to service the web.
In the old days, you wrote for either the daily Globe, the afternoon Globe—the Daily Globe which was thrown on everyone's doorstep at 6am, the afternoon Globe or the evening Globe which came out usually around—first edition, one or 2 o'clock in the afternoon, and the big beast—the big money maker of the whole operation, which is true of every major metropolitan even till today—the Sunday paper. So, you worked for those three products.
Well, at The Globe, we no longer have the afternoon—the evening Globe, but we certainly have the daily—at least at the moment, we have the daily Globe, we have the Sunday Globe, which remains the money maker. But we also have two digital platforms—one known as Boston.com—another one, which is BostonGlobe.com, which is the pay website.
And the—the iteration now—the mandate is constantly to be performing for the digital product in the moment. The faster the better. Actually, if you could write it before the moment, they'd like that. So, what it leads to is a lot of initial reporting—you post up electronically or digitally under the product.
And then, you might freshen that up anywhere from fifteen minutes later to thirty minutes later as you're learning more about the story. It's not unlike if you're sitting home watching CNN. And I'll only use—this is the most recent example—the shootings in Dallas where the five—the five police officers were killed, and seven others injured. They're doing it real-time, electronic media—television.
So you're watching—you're watching the story change. You're watching the errors get fixed—even till forty-eight or seventy hours later in the reporting, you can see the numbers are changing—the facts are being flushed out—that's what's happening in the digital product for us, because we're doing exactly that same. We're making the same mistakes. We're making the same fixes as we go along.
MK: (00:12:10) The same mistakes?
KP: Well, the same mistakes in terms of—if you watch the—if you watch the Dallas reporting, the initial reporting was two officers. And then, it was four officers. So, it's not necessarily a mistake, but it's this constant—there are times—and I know this is cynical—there are times I think there—there are almost—
MK: Go ahead. Say it.
KP: No—there are times I think—I wonder if they're making mistakes on purpose to keep people—to keep the—to keep the audience there and watching.
MK: To keep the edge on?
KP: Yeah. Yeah—and that—that is really cynical. I don't—another version of that is storm reporting. Especially around here, winter storm reporting. They—they will tell you on Saturday that we're in for the worst snow storm in twenty years on Wednesday. And they play that out—and Wednesday comes, and it's—it's a dusting.
And I really—again, this is being cynical—I said it myself. Did they really think we were going to get pounded, or do they just put this up there to keep us glued to the TV? Certainly, on that aspect, I'm—I'm damn sure now they're doing it to keep eyeballs.
MK: Maybe they just watched (00:13:34)?
KP: (Laughs) Yeah, exactly. Everybody run to the grocery store—fill the bath tub with water—all of that. So—but, to go full circle on this, where I was going with The Globe and the digital product—and I'm only using The Globe because that's the paper I work for, but this is going on in every major newsroom in the country—is that you're asked—you're being asked more and more to perform on the digital platform—or multiple digital platforms in the moment—and the job—I actually started one in the mid-seventies when I got out of college, that's become the afterthought, which is to write for the morning paper.
And there are still those of us in the business—I'm one of them—and this would be anybody over age fifty—that where we feel best is when we see our stuff in print. That's—that's how we've been conditioned. That's our mantra. So, I'm happy to perform on the digital platform. If they want a story every eight minutes, I'll give them a story every eight minutes. I'm not alone. Everyone—I'm sure everyone—not everyone—almost everyone on our department would do that. But it doesn't feel very satisfying to me.
Because—much of it is just—it's almost note-taking in terms of, "Here's the story. Here's the story eight minutes in. Here's the story half an hour in. Here's the story two hours in." And the truth of the matter is, many times when I actually sit down at 6:30 or 7:00 at night to write for that morning paper, it—it certainly would resemble what I've put on the digital platform earlier, but it isn't comprehensive. I've—I've been—I haven't necessarily, and most likely haven't been able to sort of interject any style or tempo to the story—I'm a storyteller. I like—I like to feel the words and feel the narration, and grow with the narration. And there's an organic process.
MK: (00:15:50) And the rhythm.
KP: Yeah, rhythm—tempo, choosing right words, going back, throwing bad words out—throwing lazy words out. If—if anybody wants to call that an art form, that's kind of what it feels like—to turn in your best effort at the end of the day is still where I am—I think a lot of guys are. That's not the digital product.
MK: So, you—you make a deadline, and you turn in your piece. And then, what? What's the—what's the sequence after that?
KP: You go to the bar, of course. (Laughs)
MK: You do. But what happens to the piece, I mean? Does the editor have his or her way with it then?
KP: I've worked for a number of products. The—the product that was least friendly to writers was the New York Times. The New York Times, I was there for about three years on that staff. They had a way of—turning everyone's story into the same—not the same story—it was a wonderful paper to work for. It re—it remains the king in my mind. But the—it was—it was not a writer's paper then. It's not a writer's paper now.
MK: Writer's paper?
KP: Writer's paper in the sense that they gave you—they would not give you leeway for forms, rhythm—whatever device you wanted to use—metaphor, analogies—whatever. They were very disinclined to that. It was—it was a real Times style. Again, I left there in 1985. It—it is looser today than it was.
Whereas at The Globe, for many of us including myself, it—the copy is rarely—rarely massaged. They read it for facts. They do have questions. They are there as a safety net because we all make stupid mistakes. And—but that—that has been—in the sports department, that has been the mantra, which is to let the writers write.
So, that's—that was part of the reason I came back—part of the reason is that it was—it was—it was and I think still is a better place for a writer to feel comfortable and do what you want to do.
MK: (00:18:40) So, your chances were pretty good then. It sounds like you've seen roughly the same piece you had written the next morning.
KP: Right. This—I'm having flashbacks now to—I remember—I remember being at the Times. And I mean, very disgruntled over what had happened to my copy. Not that I can tell you today what it was about—I'm sure it was a game story. And there was an old fellow—this has disappeared from the landscape, too. Which many—in the old days, you would see former writers end up working for teams in their public relations department. Often as kind of goodwill ambassadors. In some cases, it was a reward for writers who had been sort of friendly to the team. So, I don't know if that was Barney's position or not. But Barney Kremenko was this older guy.
Carrie Kline: Spelled?
KP: Barney Kremenko. Barney-e-y. And then, Kremenko, K-r-e-m-e-n-k-o. Jewish guy, Brooklyn. The accent—loved him. And he'd been through a million—million stories. And he saw I was down. I didn't make any bones about what it was I was down about. And he looked at me in this very grandfatherly way.
He says, "Kevin, haven't you"—I can't do the accent, so I won't try—"Haven't you learned yet?" And I said, "What's that Barney?" He said, "Write it, and forget it." Which is, when you hand it in, let them do what they want to do. And—that helped because kind of in the old analogy, "You can't fight City Hall."
The editors are the editors. They're just going to do what they want to the copy. But the way—to me, so many stories are—you've got—you've got what you have to get into the story, which—if it's a game story, it's who won, who lost, what was the big play? What was the play that went unrewarded?—all the usual stuff.
And then, you—once you've got the nuts and bolts into it, the fun of it is to—is to kind of play around with it to convey all that, and maybe give people a laugh. Maybe make some comparisons—whatever you're going to do—the Times wasn't up for that. So, I had spent the previous six years at a paper here in Boston, which was the—it doesn't exist.
It exists in a different iteration today, but it was the Boston Herald American, which was a broadsheet. Today, it exists as a tabloid, the Boston Herald. Heck. You can get anything in that paper—pretty much anything. And then, Murdock bought it, which is the reason I left. And then, sort of went off the rails in terms of the paper.
So, I went from six years of no editing to these next two or three years that were very buttoned down, Times-style editing. It was—it was really—it was really a shock. But Barney's words still echo. Obviously, I'm telling that story. I left the Times in '85. So, Barney probably told me that story in 1984. God loved Barney. Thirty-two years later, I can still hear his voice.
MK: (00:22:08) "Write it, and forget it."
KP: "Write it, and forget it." Yeah. And head to the bar. (Laughs) Which we did at the old Herald. It was a—a bar around—talk about the way times have changed. There was a bar right around—actually still is right around the corner from where the old Herald used to be. It's called J.J. Foley's.
So, many of us—before we became five, six, seven-day-a-week writers, we had stints on the desk, editing copy. And part of the routine in 1977 and '78 was between editions, run to Foley's, have a beer and come back. Not everybody came back. (Laughs) I fear some of them might still be there, but—but that was accepted practice.
MK: Keep the machine well oiled.
KP: Keep the machine well oiled. But again, there was no competition. There was competition paper to paper, but papers were—the old adage, literally printing money in the basement. And—
MK: Printing money?
KP: Well, in terms of—there was—there was no—talk about this—I sometimes give tours at The Globe. It really was the ultimate business model in terms of taking in advertising dollars. If you wanted—if you lived in the suburbs and you wanted to sell your used car—private sale, really the only way to do that was to call The Globe or The Herald, and take out—and spend ninety to a hundred dollars for a tiny little add—we call Classified or agate type.
And nobody had that business. TV didn't have that business. Radio didn't have that business. The only people who had that—the entities, were the papers. Now, that died overnight along with the—which killed American newspapering, and in many ways, American journalism, is the Internet. Specifically, Classified Advertising died at the doorstep of—of Craigslist.
So, for help wanted, which were massive money makers—I mean, massive. There was—we had The Globe, we had this three or four times a year—something called the Big Help, which was page upon page upon page of Classified Advertising—for employers who wanted employees. So, that was the place. That's how you sold your house.
I had friends—when they knew I worked at The Globe, the real estate section which—the big real estate section came out on Sundays—it's—it's a tiny representation today of what it was then. But that was where if people were selling their houses or renting their apartments, that was the place—that was the only place.
And I had friends who knew I worked at The Globe. That paper that came out on Sunday—that Real Estate Section was printed at 10 a.m. or a little bit earlier. It was coming off the presses at 10 a.m. on Saturdays. I would have friends begging me to meet me at The Globe—meet them at The Globe, to give them that Sunday Globe Real Estate Section so they could go look at open houses or—or apartments.
MK: (00:25:51) —and get a head start.
KP: Yeah. And now, of course—everybody knows. That's instantaneous. But there's—I could take you today. We're about to lose—The Globe is about to abandon its building after—I think fifty-eight or fifty-seven years—this massive plant in South Boston, on William Morrissey Boulevard—on the second floor.
And I can remember this as a copyboy as a kid, you could walk by that classified section, and it was row upon row upon row—virtually, I'm going to say hundred percent women at the phones taking these ads. Most of the women were fifty-five plus, which seemed old to me then. I was just twenty when I started.
And—and banks of these desks with women with their headsets on, taking Classified Ads of people selling their refrigerator, people wanting help at the hardware store—all the things Classifieds covered—everyone would be on phone. There would be an electronic reader like you would see these days at McDonald's or Dunkin' Donuts—the customers with their orders either at the drive-up window or the counter.
So, they're giving it a digital readout of when that order's going to be ready, or how it's in process. All these women would be working. And there was just—this was our automation at the time. There was a little digital crawl up near the ceiling. And it would—routinely say thirty-eight calls waiting, fifty-two calls waiting, and it was just nothing but money. I mean, almost falling from the sky, right?—with this digital read near the ceiling. And overnight, gone.
MK: (00:27:37) Was that anticipated?
KP: Not at all.
MK: Not at all?
KP: No. And—and as I've said many times, we—as an industry, we haven't recovered from that. It was—it was really a monopoly. So, newspapering—newspapers didn't—they didn't improvise because they didn't have to improvise. If they'd—if they'd been—if they'd had the foresight—easy to say. I don't think anybody understood where the Internet would come from and where it would go—and maybe we still don't know.
But if while they were awash in money—and I mean, they were awash—if they had invested in other businesses, maybe those businesses could support the journalism today—maybe. I mean, Jeff Bezos owns the Washington Post. He's a multi—multibillionaire with Amazon—owns Amazon. And he's trying to figure out what will sustain the Washington Post. Because they—they had our business—we all had the same business model.
And I hope—not for myself, selfishly—because I am at the—in terms of my career, I am at the end of the rainbow, but—I'm a big believer in a free press. It's one of the major—major supporters if you will—I'm trying to think of an analogy that's failing me at the moment. But hand in hand, free press and free democracy. If the—if the free press goes away, we are really in a pickle. And I see that it is going away. I see it—a public that isn't as discerning—that isn't as critical. And if the—if the papers go away, true mainstream journalism goes away, supported by advertising, by people paying, reaching in their pockets. To get it back would be so much more expensive than preserving it now.
People—people can preserve it now for probably thirty bucks a month. There's a lot of people who look at that and say, "That's a utility bill." And they're not doing it. They won't do it. It costs eight hundred dollars a year now to get The Globe delivered to your home. People aren't paying seventy—seventy-five bucks a month. They're just not. The business is trying to get them to pay that news utility bill of thirty to thirty-five dollars. And people are balking at that.
But what I—what I say to my friends who balk—and I understand balking. Because, as an example, at The Globe, we've got—we just—we just got our first raises in eleven years. I mean, eleven years without raises. So, I—I perfectly understand not wanting to perceive news and knowledge as a utility bill. But if America doesn't do that, then it's going to be double, triple, quadruple the price to preserve it, or bring it back rather than preserve it.
But I'm—I'm not optimistic about people reaching in—and although, as we well know, people are quite willing to pay a hundred and—a hundred and fifty, two hundred dollars a month to watch television. And I'm—I suppose the pushback to that is—I'm being awfully longwinded. If you want me to—
MK: (00:31:22) No, this is great.
KP: If you want me to be brief—
MK: This is just what we came to record.
KP: Okay. The pushback there is, I assume many people believe that the television news they're getting, and documentaries—that they feel they are paying for it, and that's enough. And maybe they're right. I don't—I don't subscribe to that theory. I do all of that, but I also read the papers, and the papers still offer a range and depth that doesn't exist anywhere else.
I have to bring up the story that's only germane because of pain. But my—my father who as I told you, left World War Two, and was stationed—became Civil Service at Westover Air Force Base—his job got transferred to Hanscom Field here in Bedford, which is why we came to Bedford. He was an electronic technician, which during the military—during the war, he fixed the radios that went into the bombers.
I think ninety percent of his work was on fixing radio equipment, and also fixing meters to fix radio equipment. So, he did that at Hanscom Field in a different vein because the war effort was long gone but they still needed electronics—electronic repair. His part-time job was working at a place, and I used to go with him sometimes.
It was—this has also disappeared from America. He worked at a TV repair store. They sold televisions. It was almost like walking into a drugstore for—your prescriptions. You could walk into a television store and buy televisions or radios. I'm sure you probably remember this. And people routinely brought in their busted televisions to be repaired. It was usually change the tubes.
But I remember him when cable television first started. Now, that would have been right at the end of the sixties—start of the seventies. He looked at me and said, "Kevin, I've done this a long time. People will not pay to watch television." (Laughs) I'm from a long line of a family of being wrong.
KP: Now, my dad died in '89. People were—were paying a good amount of money every month for television by then. He found it very hard to believe. He'd be—he'd find this unfathomable now that—I think our cable bill at home is upward of two hundred a month, which isn't just the cable. It's the high speed internet you have to have, especially for my job. The telephone gets bundled into it, but I think of that every time I look at that bill, my old man, Melvin L. Dupont, "Kevin, no one will pay to watch television." (Laughs) Amazing. Amazing where we've gone.
MK: (00:34:43) What's—what's your take on that? On the—on the power of the visual image over the depth and breadth of print?
KP: Well, from a writing aspect, I've written for both. I do quite a bit of television—and have for the last twenty-five years. Most of the television I do is I'm on as a guest. So, someone's—not unlike we're doing here. Someone's asking me a question, and I'll give them my two cents. But when you're actually writing for television, you write to the pictures. You write to the available video. Ninety percent of your writing is the pictures.
So, it's—and of course, the way, that's evolving now is in some cases, the reporter is actually taking the pictures being video. When I first got in—when I entered the business, typically, it was a three-man team, electronically, for television—the reporter, the cameraperson—cameraman, and the sound person. The sound person was a separate person. Then the sound got folded into the camera.
And now, in many instances, not on major—I wouldn't say here in Boston—channels four, five, and seven, which are the three networks—typically, it's a reporter with a cameraperson. But in lesser finance products, the television stations, now, sometimes the reporters lug in the camera, too.
So, the reporter is doing the job of three. Not unlike that—not unlike when you go to the park, or Carman, or the fair where you see the guy that—I think it's the hurdy-gurdy man on the corner where he plays the cymbals with his knees, and he—he plays the drums, and he's got the harmonica going, and—that's kind of where the industry's gone electronically—is, one person's doing all these tools—playing all these tools at the same time.
And the print job is becoming that way, too. They're increasingly asking us to shoot video when we're on assignment with our trusty iPhones—take pictures, shoot video. I can tell you that—I see the kids entering the business now from J. School. They're—they're already doing that. They—it doesn't feel foreign to them. It still feels foreign to me. I'm doing it.
I can tell you that the quality of my photography or my video is quite poor, but—again, when that becomes what they're asking you to do, you're thinking visually, whereas, the print job, you're always thinking detail. You're always—you're always trying to get people to tell you a little bit more—tell you a little bit more, take what they've said.
So much of reporting is listening. Listen to the responses, develop off the responses. When you're shooting video and you're taking pictures, foe mw, a sixty-four and a three-and-a-half year old brain, it doesn't interface well with thinking for detail.
MK: Now, when you write for television, are the visuals already laid out and you write to the pictures? Is that what I understood you to say?
KP: Right. It may not be that they've laid it out, but you've gone—you've covered that story as a reporter. You know what the visuals are—so, as you—
MK: In other words, you know what pictures you took?
KP: (00:38:45) Or your cameraperson took. You reported the story. The camera was rolling when this play happened, or the people who—they were interviewing said something, so you're playing off what they said. So, this—the—even in narration, if the picture isn't there, it becomes very awkward.
You're not going to stray far on your story if the picture isn't there. When you're writing for print, you really don't care what the pictures are. You know the—you know the camera—they sent the photographer, or they sent the video. But my job is text. My job is narration, not true in television. It is narration, but it's narration specifically to what they have for the visuals.
So, I could—I could come back to the shop and say, "I just saw Jesus Christ selling candy on the corner." And they'd say, "That's great. Any pictures?" "Gee, no. But I know it was Jesus Christ selling candy on the corner." "We can't use it." Obviously an exaggeration—but that's—
MK: But a motivator, nonetheless.
KP: Yeah. And—and I also think—because I'm straying in a religion here on what people do believe or don't believe about deities, or Jesus—or anybody. But as a reporter, if somebody's read you for twenty-five, or thirty, or thirty-five, or forty years, you have a certain credibility.
Where even if they don't believe in a deity, or specifically Jesus, I think they'll at least give you the benefit that you believed it was—that you're just not making it up. So, this is what you saw. This is what you witnessed. This is what you're saying. Of course, this is the same now. I've chosen religion, but politics, business, sports, I think print still develops people—or has developed people that if you don't have the picture, people will believe your words.
They believe the sincerity of your words. Whether they want to believe what you've concluded or not, that's another issue. I don't know if that's going to exist—as I've told you, the—given the financial parameters, or cascading dynamics of the financials, I don't know if people are going to stay long enough at papers to develop that kind of rapport. It rarely happens in television—in local markets.
MK: A lot of turnover?
KP: A huge turnover. They turn them over faster than I can remember their names. Now, here in Boston, that has not been true in sports. A lot—if you went to the three—the three stations today, the main anchors in sports have been there for quite some time. And for me, that was part of the reason I chose print.
Because originally, I did go to school for broadcasting film. It was a journalism school—this is Boston University. It was then known as the School of Public Communication. And their disciplines were print journalism, broadcasting film, which I chose, and also advertising. But I was convinced by my sophomore year that I would go to print journalism because newspapers will always be there—(Laughs)—hand in hand with my father telling me—telling me that people wouldn't pay to watch television—the belief then.
But this goes back to—as we've covered here, the dynamics of the advertising—people truly believe that—there was obviously a consolidation of the business over decades. There were fewer and fewer papers, but everyone truly believed that every town would have two or three dailies. And of course, in many cities now, there's only one left. And in many of those cities, that one is in peril. But—
MK: Number of days left, did you say?
KP: Number of days—I'm sorry.
MK: Were you talking—did you say one day left, or one day less?
KP: (00:43:48) I'm not sure what I said. There were fewer papers—one less paper.
MK: That was it. The papers were dropping?
KP: Yes, they drop off consistently. And it's challenged on major metropolitans and local papers as well—right here with the Concord Journal, or the Bedford Minuteman—or the Lexington Minuteman—they've all—we're all in this together in terms of chasing the disappearing dollars.
MK: You related this initially, so I understood it, to your mother's love of literature and, specifically, poetry? Is that what you said?
KP: Yeah. Yeah—just—she—she grew up in—basically, country poverty in English—one of five or six children—if you do that math quickly, but—so, I think all of them—I don't think anyone in my mother's family—of all the kids, I don't think any of them went to school after age of twelve or thirteen.
Part of that was because she was born in 1925. And I think the children in her family were born from the late tens, right at the end of World War One. And then, probably to the end of the twenties. So, for countryside England then, that was fairly typical. It was a little bit accelerated in her case and her sister's cases because of the war effort.
They were all by ages fourteen, fifteen, sixteen—working for the war effort in one way or the other, either—either making military uniforms—not necessarily the ballistics or the artillery stuff, but all in various ways related to World War Two. So, really, her only education was one room school house, and reading, and books, and memorizing poetry. Which she, till her dying day, she could still recite those poems.
MK: (00:46:16) What was her favorite one?
KP: She had one about ducks—an obscure poetry about ducks. It's called Ducks Too—and various Shakespeare. Take a break?
MK: Yeah, sure.
KP: Yeah. So, for my mother's poetry, it was Shakespeare, Hamlet, Kipling's If. And she could just sort of start reciting it usually saying how much she disliked the headmaster teacher—what was his name? Antweisel (??) was his name. I can't—I don't know—I—I'm sure she told me a million times. I can't remember.
But that was the schoolhouse where if you dint know the poetry, they took the ruler and crashed it across your knuckles. It was a much different world. And later in life, she was—beat a path regularly to the—not the Concord Library, but the Bedford Library—constantly getting books to read. In some cases, going over the poetry she knew to keep her mind sharp.
And in later years, really liked talk radio—late night talk radio. Especially WBZ with David Brudnoy, she loved David Brudnoy. And ironically—somewhat ironically, I guess, because part of the reason—very much part of the reason I got into writing sports is because I love to play to play as well.
And I was—like so many kids--growing up under the delusion that I would play professionally, which I had no chance of, but we all believed that. And so—particularly baseball. I love baseball—that was my father's sport. We constantly went to games as kids—when I was a kid, he was there all the time. And—
MK: Was there a Little League at that time?
KP: Yeah, sure. We had a Little League. Again, very—
MK: This was at Bedford?
KP: Uh-huh. Yeah, Bedford Little League. I pitched—I played first base. And I loved it—and—those were childhood days—idyllic childhood days. You would just wake up and grab your glove, and throw it one your bike, and peddle to the—peddle to the playground and play all day. My arms—my arms being just black—being in the sun all day.
A good day was to come home and dump all that dirt out of your sneakers, which usually stunk the holy hell. But we all had our gloves on our handle bars, and we played. Summer came. And every summer was pretty much the same. Which is, you went back to the school that you just got out of, where they had free summer recreation from 9:00 to 4:00. 9:00 to 12:00, we played baseball. Everybody went home for lunch from 12:00 to 1:00, and we came back and played more baseball from 1:00 to 4:00.
And so, that was really where I began to love playing baseball. There was a very significant summer here. In 1967, when the Red Sox finally won something—when they got in the World Series, they hadn't won for—hadn't won my few years, but they were just this on-going ram shackle bunch of bums who—who—I don't know—there was some comfort in them losing—I think. It was—I kind of liked it.
But they had this big summer in 1967. I was fourteen. I was extremely impressionable, and there's no question that their success in 1967 for me, and also our lead columnist who was one of my best friends, Dan Shaughnessy, who grew up just west here in Groton. Shaughnessy is S-h-a-u-g-h-n-e-s-s-y. And he's been our lead columnist in sports for twenty-five years now.
MK: At the Globe?
KP: At The Globe, yeah. As an aside, I'll tell you this. He's being inducted in the Baseball Hall of Fame later this month. There were three of us who started together. We're all the same age. Lesley Visser—Lesley, L-e-s-l-e-y, Visser, V-i-s-s-e-r. Lesley Visser, Dan, and myself, we all started together in The Globe's sport department in the mid-seventies.
And—I would say Lesley is the best known of the three of us today because she did a lot of work on CBS. But what's neat about Dan being inducted in the Hall of Fame is the three of us—that will bring it full circle—the three of us who hung around all the time—we were just out of college. We went and did everything together. We drank together. We went to the movies together.
Dan and I were roommates for two or three years. Lesley—(Laughs)—Lesley lived above the post office at Brookline Village. No one was more disinclined to anything domestic than Lesley—anything domestic. And the proof of this was—in her kitchen, she did have a stove, and she used it to keep sweaters in it. It was really the stove—that would be the oven, right? Yes, the oven—was really just another burrow. She didn't know how to turn it on.
KP: (00:52:08) But anyway—(Laughs)—the three of us were great pals. And we're still great pals till this day—although I don't see much of Lesley. She lives in Florida and has sort of lived a different life. But Lesley is in the Football Hall of Fame in Kenton. I am in the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto, and now, Dan will be in the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. So—
MK: You're—you're in the athletic hall of fame?
KP: It is—it's the—it's the—all these halls of fame for these specific sports—Canton is the Football Hall of Fame—Canton, Ohio. The Hockey Hall of Fame is in Toronto. Cooperstown is the Baseball Hall of Fame. All those halls of fame have a separate media wing if you will. Wing might be overstating it. Area. And each of us has been inducted—
MK: Into the media?
KP: Into the media portion of the Hall of Fame.
MK: I didn't know they had that.
KP: Yeah. So—when you do television or you do radio, you typically are introduced as Lesley Visser, the Football Hall of Fame. Kevin Dupont, the Hockey Hall of Fame. Now, Dan—and they—it's the Spink's Award for Baseball. It's the Ferguson Award for Hockey. Honestly, I don't know what it is for—I should know what it is for football.
CK: Did you say Sphinx?
KP: Spink's—S-p-i-n-k. And I don't know what Spink's first name was—and I should know that, too. So—that's really—for the three of us, when we were literally going to the Dollar Movie in Brookline Village to see The Lion in Winter with Katharine Hepburn—not knowing if we would ever make it—Lesley would be in Cooperstown. I'll be there—that's going to be a fun day—to see Dan get his.
Technically, you're not—it's kind of a funny story. You're not inducted into the Hall of Fame. You are recognized—and they make that distinction for obvious reasons. Players are inducted. General Managers are inducted as builders. The media—even—even though people say you've been inducted, technically, you're not.
But the story I'm getting to hear in a long way, that I was honored in 2002 in the Hockey Hall of Fame. At the time, my son was five. Everyone was saying that I was going to be inducted because that's sort of the vernacular of this. My son was going around—age five now—telling everybody that, "My dad is being abducted into the Hall of Fame." (Laughs)
And my son has an appreciation for words now. He's in his first year of college. (Laughs) But it's—it's one of my favorite stories—because the image I got of that was like they were going to chain me to an old radiator at the Hall—at the Hall of Fame.
MK: (00:55:16) (Laughs) Certainly, nothing like that ever happened.
KP: (Laughs) No. I was—I was abducted with great honor. It was—it was a wonderful time.
MK: Your two friends who have—who have had similar levels of recognition—
MK: Were they people you competed with every day?
KP: No. I wouldn't say we competed. To a degree, we did. And then, we—there was one time—this would have been about a year—the three of us were doing—this is something else that's kind of disappeared from the business. I've talked about everything that's disappeared. There was a real sort of methodology of developing within the business.
So, no one walked out of college and just got a job at The Globe. What was great for the three of us, we got jobs at The Globe on the schoolboy staff. And the three of us worked for a fellow by the name of Neil Singelais—S-i-n-g-e-l-a-i-s, who'd lived in Lexington. Neil was the schoolboy editor.
KP: Schoolboy—the school sports—scholastics reporting was huge then. It's still a staple of the section.
MK: Local—local high school games?
KP: Local high school games in eastern Massachusetts. The emphasis for the Boston Globe was eastern Massachusetts, which South Shore, Metro West, North Shore—hundreds of schools—got a couple of stories about this. But the three of us, Lesley Visser, Dan Shaughnessy and myself, we all graduated from college—different colleges—in '75. I was BU. Lesley was BC. Shaughnessy, Holy Cross.
We all joined the staff—it wasn't full-time staff writing jobs, but as correspondence, working for Neil Singelais. And everybody called us Neil's wheels—because we were on the schoolboy staff. So, as I said, the three of us have graduated from the schoolboy staff as Neil's wheels to our respective halls of fame. One of my favorite stories of that era: Neil was this lovable guy. He was probably late fifties, early sixties at the time. Our big thing was presenting the Ernie Dalton Award. Ernie Dalton had been the school editor before Neil. Dalton, D-a-l-t-o-n. And I think we still give this award out. The individual schools in Massachusetts had different divisions, division one, two, and three. And that's how Dan and I, and Lesley were working at two. Neil was division one. I was division two. Shaughnessy was three. Lesley was division four. And of course, we constantly teased each other about who was bigger or more important.
CK: The Neil spelling?
KP: Neil Singelais is S-i-n-g-e-l-a-i-s.
CK: And Neil?
KP: Neil, I'm sorry—N-e-i-l.
CK: So you were teasing each other—
KP: Yeah. I was doing that. But there was this big award every year that Neil would go present to the town that had the best school program based on wins—in division one, division two, division three—big hunker of a trophy that Neil would go out and do. I never went to these—but it would be—the classic high school auditorium. They'd bring the whole school in, and Neil would walk out, the athletic director would shake his hand.
So, there's this one day, Neil is going to be going out to Lincoln-Sudbury—a couple towns over here—to present the Dalton Award—very absent-minded guy, Neil. He would come routinely to work with a black shoe and a brown shoe—mismatched socks, constantly out on the parking lot—and we loved Neil—out on the parking lot looking for his car—couldn't remember where he parked it.
So, he comes in this day, and he's got to go out to Lincoln-Sudbury, and Shaughnessy and I are in there. And it's snowing already. And Neil's all worried about the presentation, whether the school is going to be still in session. He's got to get out there, so he's telling Shaughnessy, "Listen--" he's telling him this four hours before it happens-- "I'm going to be leaving at one o'clock. Could you bring the trophy around to the backdoor at the parking lot, and I'll drive up, and you can put it in, and then, I'll drive away?" "Sure, Neil." I mean, it was easy—nothing to this. Well, in classic Neil fashion, he's reminding Dan every thirty minutes over the course of four hours—and he's driving Dan cuckoo.
So, one o'clock comes, Neil looks at Dan. Says, "I'm going out now. I'll see you at the backdoor at the parking lot." "Okay." Neil goes out, Dan's pulling out his Holy Cross Knit Cap—the purple with the white trim—this big parker that he's got on. Out he goes with this forty-pound piece of hardware.
And I'm just typing away thinking nothing of it. But twenty minutes later, here comes Shaughnessy back, covered in snow, holding the trophy. I said, "Dan, what's the story? What happened?" He didn't show." He said, "Well, he didn't know." Neil got in his car and drove home to Lexington, and forgot about the whole thing. And finally, in words livening for me, like an hour later, the phone rings. It's Neil. Dan picks up, "Neil, what's going on? Where the hell are you?" "I can't believe I'm that stupid. I drove—I forgot about the whole thing and went home." (Laughs) Had to drive back in, Shaughnessy had to hand him the trophy and out he went to Lincoln-Sudbury. (Laughs)
MK: (01:01:35) Was it to be given out that afternoon?
KP: Yeah, sure.
MK: So, it was down to the wire.
KP: I think what happened was Neil handing it over to the athletic director without the whole high school auditorium display. But they were wonderful times. We learned a lot. We had a lot of fun, and we felt privileged not only to work for The Globe, to work for Neil, and it was—it was our—it was a starting point for all of us.
Lesley got hired on staff there. He went on to a lot of television work with CBS. Dan and I had to leave to find jobs elsewhere, again, because The Globe typically wouldn't hire right out of college—part of Lesley's—part of Lesley's advantage was Title IX at the time—Title IX, and—and adding women and minorities to the staff that helped her immensely.
MK: Did it add them, also, to the concept of school—the schoolboy program? Did it become a school person program, or—or did it have a schoolgirl's division?
KP: That's interesting—not necessarily. We started covering more women sports because of Title IX, and because of awareness. But again, we weren't covering it because in many cases, women weren't playing—girls weren't playing. But Title IX forced—not necessarily high schools, to play, but certainly colleges—to add programs where women could play.
But if I think back to the mid-seventies, high school's girls' sports were field hockey, soccer—and that was pretty much it. Track and field—there was some track and field. But now—and rightly so--they've got a vast number of options to choose from.
MK: Not to be a stickler, but is it still called the Schoolboy Program?
KP: It's called Scholastics. But it was very much the schoolboy beat—that's what it was. But that was the nomenclature, or the vernacular, for all departments. And for those of us old enough, we still call it Schoolboy's. We also call the starter positions of which I was one copyboys.
CK: Coffee boys?
KP: Copy. It was—it was coffee, too, but copyboy was the term. The Globe had a term which it still has. We were called Night Hawks. And my first shift as a Night Hawk was February 28, 1973. And—(Laughs)—the things that I remember here.
MK: Along night, huh?
KP: I loved it. I just—I loved it. I loved being a copyboy. It just—I just loved the business. And just the sound of it, and the smell of it—the smell of it was the—the wire machines as they typed out stories—they had a smell to them. Editing was by hand, and gluepots, so, I remember, certainly, the gluepot smell because they give it as a big can of glue that you individually filled—that was part of the duty. You filled the gluepots for the editors, because they would paste up.
You would turn your stories in takes—you were assigned stories by takes. They would say, "Give us three takes on a Red Sox sidebar." One take would be two hundred words—and a take was how many words you could fit onto a type-written page. So, when the editing came, they would take the three takes, or four takes, or five takes. And they would literally glue those takes together for one long story.
And then, they were hand-edited in pencil for corrections, facts, misspellings—all of that. So, part of the job—part of the job I started in February—on February 28, 1973, was—was filling the gluepots. But part of the reason I remember the date in starting was I had been in to interview as a prospective copyboy—I think about a week earlier.
And there wasn't much to it other than meeting the sports editor at the time, Ronny Roberts, taking a typing test—that was part of it. And I was fortunate—I was a pretty good typer. And I think more than anything, it was just that they knew you could converse and talk, which I thought everybody did that. Now that I see the kids today, lo and behold, not everybody can. (Laughs)
But what happened was it was an emergency. They called me in, and I couldn't get in there fast enough after saying yes. And I barreled down the Mass Pike to get there. And when I got there—and I still have this somewhere in the house—there were large pads of paper—8x11—standard pairs of paper. Some of the paper was white—some of it was pink.
The pink paper was used to glue on top of those stories that would be edited, because that's where headlines would be written by the copy editors—they would write headlines right on the pink copy. Nonetheless, when I got in there, there was a pink piece of paper with my name on it—it—written in grease pencil because grease pencil was used quite frequently—orange grease pencil.
It had my name, Kevin Dupont—it had my phone number in Bedford, 275-6840, my parents' phone number. And then, in large capital letters under my name and phone number, the two words, "Last Resort," meaning that if they could get no one else to come in to fill the shift, "Call this Dupont character. Maybe he'll come in."
It was an illness. Kenny Hughes was one of the other copyboys. He'd had to go have surgery for something, his back or something. So I worked the next five nights, and I kept that "Last Resort." And it is somewhere in the basement of our house in an old trunk. How prophetic. (Laughs) "Last Resort."
MK: Can we—was any of this local athletic reporting related to Concord? Can you recall great Concord athletes, or teams?
KP: I can't say that I've had a lot of interaction. I was very fortunate. Dan and I were both fortunate. Dan Shaughnessy's first job was covering the Orioles in Baltimore for the Baltimore Evening Sun. My first real job was at the Boston Herald American, covering the Red Sox.
So, I went—which is very fortunate at the time—from covering schoolboys and schoolgirls, pretty much to covering pro sports. In that very short window that I did the amateurs, or the schools, I wasn't out in Concord much. In 1988 I covered my first Olympics, and that was the first one, the Calgary Winter Games, and then, Summer Games in Seoul, South Korea.
And there was a Concord angle to one of those stories, which was—I believe the woman's first name was Caitlin. Last name, Belodeaux—B-e-l-o-d-e-a-u-x. The Belodeaux family in Concord did a lot of fencing—just one more sport I knew nothing about, and to this day, know nothing about. But often, when you do Olympics, you go to these sports that don't have much profile.
Anyone who's watched NBC's coverage of Winter Games or Summer Games would know that you're often watching sports you would never watch—be it Weightlifting—Water Polo, Beach Volleyball. So, often, as a reporter, you're going to this thing—Equestrian is another one—where I've had to cover Equestrian sometimes. I barely know which end of the horse is the front or the back.
KP: But I had to go over because of this Belodeaux woman. I had to go over to Fencing for two days in a row. So, I went over the first day—of course, you're in a foreign country—don't speak a word, and typically, at the main—these—the way these Olympics work for the media—the papers would all have these little sort of—sometimes full offices, sometimes, just a bank of desks in a giant room.
But the—the facility was the main press center. So, you'd go to the main press center. There'd be papers there from all over the world—reporters from all different papers from all over the world. Typically, the Americans were all herded into one area. So, we'd have an office. The New York Times would have an office. The Washington Post would have an office.
And part of the drill was—in a foreign country, you'd have these sort of—I'm not going to call flashcards, but little cards that could say, "Take me back. Please take me back to the main press center," or "Take me to this venue." So, because it's Korea, which is twelve or fourteen hours different, you never really knew where you were with addition, or where you had to write.
But I was over to cover Fencing and the Belodeaux woman. I can't tell you twenty-eight years later how she did. All I can tell you, though, is I came out of that venue feeling on deadline. I had to get back to the main press center, and there were no buses—there were no cabs. It was a very long wait. But I—finally, I got back. The second day, I'm back there again.
And this time, I am hell-bent coming out of this facility—out of the—out of where they've had the fencing. I'm going to get this cab as fast as I can get it. I don't care if I'm the ugly American cutting in front of people. I'll get back. I'll give this guy my card—I'll get back, "Please take me to the main press center."
It ends—I come rushing out, I'm waving my hand like a madman as soon as I come out where all the cars area, and lo and behold, there's—there's really not much going on outside, which I felt fortunate about. I'm waving my hand. First car I see, the guy's waving back, right? "Great," I say, "Great." I jump in the backseat. Away we go. I hand up my card, and I'm saying: "Main Press Center."
But the guy at the wheel, he can see. Nodding—couldn't be nicer. I sit in the back, I've got—I think I had a walk—Sony Walkman—I'm listening to some music. This ride goes forever. It should be like ten minutes, and now, it's twenty. And—it wasn't nowhere near the main press center.
And I'm not feeling in peril here. I'm just—I can't figure. I think he's taking me for a ride as any American would, right? (Laughs) Finally, out of nowhere, you can see the main press center. And I'm pointing. And the guy's nodding. He's smiling, couldn't be nicer. And I'm debating. Now even if I give this guy a little bit of grief for obviously taking me on a joyride, I don't know if he's going to understand me anyway.
So, can I say something? I've got to write this Belodeaux story on the Fencing. So, finally, I'm saying, "I don't know what I'm going to say, but I'm going to say something." So, he pulls up. I open the door, and I inch toward the front seat from the back, and I say, "Okay, how much?" And he gives me this dead stare like he doesn't understand. "How much?" And I'm giving him the universal sign for money, like this.
He turns around looking at me and he says, "No, no. Not a taxi. I'm not a taxi." He was just some guy who had seen me waving his hand just kind enough to give me a ride. I felt like such an idiot to be—I fell right into the classic American former New Yorker at this point in my life, where you give grief to anybody just for the sake of giving grief. Just some very nice guy gave me a ride that day. And I felt compelled. I did leave a thousand Won or something in the front seat. Quintessential, ugly American.
Other Concord stories, no. I can remember being here routinely for the Patriots Day Parade when I was ages four, five, six, and seven, which is the big deal—the Patriots Day Parade, especially when you're a little kid. And I remember always wanting a tri-cornered hat that the real Patriots wore. Never got the tri-cornered hat. That was always a scar in my mind.
And I also remember standing on the sidewalk—this would have been probably 195 at what then was Brigham's. And it is now Helen's. And I was with my mother—(Laughs)—we're looking across the street where a truck delivery is trying to back in next to Vanderhoof Hardware, which is still there. And he not only took out the front picture window of Vanderhoof's, he took out the front picture window of the adjoining store, too.
And I can remember the clatter and the calamity of people running around. I mean—of course, by today's standards, we see it routinely on television in terms of shootings and terrorism—obviously nothing—but it was—it was—as a six-year-old, it was like the world was coming to an end—seeing this truck driver take out the two store windows—the clatter and the people yelling. We also—my mother's best friend—this woman, Elanor Bleday—
KP: Elanor, E-l-a-n-o-r. Bleday, B-l-e-d-a-y. All her kids went to Concord Carlisle. I talked about moving to Bedford in the mid-fifties. The Bledays were in the same subdivision in Bedford then. We were on Randplace—R-a-n-d, and I believe the Bledays were on Putnam, P-u-t-n-a-m, which sounds very Yankee in Concord, doesn't it? Putnam.
And by the second grade—within very short order, when I was seven, we—we moved to Fitchdale Avenue in Bedford. At about the same time, the Bledays moved to Concord. I think they actually moved to Concord for the same reason many people do today—it's the—the school system—not that Bedford had a bad school system by any means.
Bedford was very good—as—as I think people in Concord might disagree with this. I think it's closed the gap considerably. But the Bledays went to Concord and went to Martin Road, which was literally around the corner from the north bridge.
(01:18:10) (end of Audio Track 1)
And Elanor was a very bright woman. I think she was educated as a chemist, but she was not a career woman. She stayed home with the three kids, Ronald, Raymond, and Irene, none of whom I've seen for at least fifty years now. But Elanor was a very bright woman, did the beehive thing in the backyard, but also had cats. And when the cats would have litters, she would put the kittens in a picnic basket and tie either a pink ribbon or a blue ribbon, based on sex, and then, she would walk over to the north bridge, which is a big deal there in town. And she would give away the cats on sunny Sunday days out of the picnic basket. It always worked.
Those were our closest connections to Concord were the Bledays, who my mother visited constantly—or Elanor would come over to our house. I loved that about the kittens. And then watching the utter destruction of the storefront at Vanderhoof Hardware. And I can't—to this day, I can't spell Vanderhoof. Sorry. But I can drive you by, you could copy it off the—which I presume they put the glass back in place.
MK: But—so—it sounds as though hockey was your major subject—both the player, and to write about it?
KP: Yeah. My—my dream in journalism was to cover the Red Sox and do baseball. And I was very fortunate to be doing it very young. I was a Red Sox beat guy by the age of twenty-four, twenty-five. I won't tie up the evening here talking about what I think of baseball reporting, but I generally term it a mental illness. There are many reasons for that, but mostly because it's every day, and especially around here, it's every day on the only days we have good weather. But long story short, I was put on it at the Boston Herald American, and there were two older veteran guys who did not like it.
Oddly, I think they liked me. I may be wrong around that, but they greatly resented me because they were very territorial. That was the thing to do in town was to be the Red Sox. If you worked for a newspaper, the crowning achievement was to be a Red Sox beat person. I'll make a very long story short here. The sports editor who hired me ostensibly to be this young guy on the Red Sox, he was fired pretty quickly.
He was fired within a couple of years. They put a new sports editor in charge who was pals with the two cronies who were on the beat. And I hesitate to say "Cronies" because I did like them both. But it was ugly, some of what they were doing, basically, to sabotage me. So, the sports editor that hired me got fired, Rick Sayers, S-a-y-e-r-s.
Milt Greenglass got put in as the sports editor. And within about four and a half minutes, I was off the Red Sox and assigned to the Bruins. I was crest-fallen to say the least, and very hurt by it. But it turned out to be a wonderful thing for me because other than baseball, hockey was my favorite sport.
And the truth of it is, to this day it's a great sport to write, but it was also a great sport to report, because access was terrific. It was quite good then in baseball, access to players. The problem with the players in baseball-- truer today if you will—they're really jerks. The hockey guys were good guys. It was a humbling sport. One thing true of sports journalism is, usually, the more humbling the sport, the better the athlete.
So, players who get beaten up routinely are usually very good guys to deal with: football players, boxers, and mixed martial artists. Not that I'm much of a UFC guy, but sports where people routinely get their head beaten are usually good guys. And hockey is less that sport today. Hockey, when I covered it, was riddled with fighting and brawling—what we call Buckets of Blood. Routinely, both benchers would empty.
They'd beat each other up on the ice. They'd carry it into the hallway. They'd beat each other, and I loved it. I've subsequently become a proponent of abolishing fighting entirely in the sport. It shouldn't be in the game for lots of reasons. I still love a good fight. (Laughs) I have to admit that. I know that's a contradiction, but I think that's just human nature. I think people like to see people fighting, especially when they're not one of the people.
CK: Somehow, you're equating that the fight—the brawl with some of the best guys?
KP: Yeah. And again, football—boxing, I just believe that it's because they're always in this danger business, or danger zone that dealing with us is nothing. And typically, it should be nothing. There's really nothing to fear. Now—
MK: Dealing with us reporters?
KP: Yeah. And that said, there are extremely incompetent people in my business. There are bad writers. What we say of bad writers sometimes is they can't write home for money. But I can also tell you that there are bad writers who are excellent reporters, who are great competitors—their words get to the desk. They're barely decipherable sometimes, but they're good. They're valuable to departments.
So, there's a lot of things you can be in my business, A good writer isn't necessarily going to carry the day. You can be a good reporter. You can be great about detail, which is reporting. You can have most of all, great news judgment. In the end, you're not a good writer, but it almost doesn't matter. It's not even almost. It doesn't matter.
MK: Great news judgment?
KP: What is a story? What is a story, right? Go into—go into a locker room—I tell kids all the time, "What ends up making or breaking you in this business isn't—isn't necessarily your ability to use words or even tell the story. It's to be able to walk into a dressing room and to know who's lying," and why are they lying?
Are they lying to protect themselves, are they lying for someone else? There's a lot of lying—accepted lying in our business, and it becomes sort of a sixth sense to decipher—if not who's lying, who's really telling you the truth—or who's telling you the real truth—that becomes critical.
MK: (00:08:54) And by this time, you've had enough experience both playing the sports and reporting them to—to be able to assess that pretty well?
KP: You hope so. Yeah. What I tell kids all the time is the most important thing you are is right. Because if you're wrong enough, they'll get somebody else. It's great to turn in great pros. It's great to think, or believe, or even demonstrate that you have news judgment.
But if in the end, with all those—if you've got good words—if you've got good news judgment—if what you write is wrong, then you're out of work. You have to be right. Everybody's wrong sometimes. But you have to build enough pennies to the right side of things to be able to weather the storm of being wrong.
MK: Balance the book.
KP: Yeah, exactly—balance the book. And wrong is by being wrong. It's by missing a story. All of it's tolerable, but—and again, it's sports. None of us is launching the nuclear missile here.
So, even if you're wrong, it's almost, "So what?" But I can tell you the worst feeling in the business is being wrong. The times you're wrong stick with you far more than the day you won, or the day you were right and everybody else was wrong. When you make a mistake, it hurts. And also, when you see that not bother people, typically, they don't stay in the business long.
I think you have to feel it because you don't get rich in this job. It isn't about the money. It really is about whatever it is. As I explained, for me, it was competition—and feeling that I was delivering and beating people. For some people, it's—they feel they're turning in beautiful pros.
But ultimately, wherever you're finding your high in the business, or whatever that reward is, you've got to be right far more than you're wrong. And by far more, I mean, you've got to be right ninety, ninety-five percent of the time.
MK: This has been great. Is there—is there—
KP: I don't know. I don't think I've said much. I've talked a lot—I don't know if I said much.
MK: Is there anything else—is there anything else you want to—dig into here?
KP: Let's see—I don't know, I think we talked about the business, my family—no.
MK: (00:12:25) Thank you very much.
CK: Could you talk about changes to the built and social environment in Concord that you've seen over—over your life—and perhaps in athletics as well?
KP: Concord athletics—is that it?
CK: Could be.
KP: Personally, my closest association with the social fabric of town is—is not through journalism but through my church. I'm catholic. And when we moved to Concord, there were two catholic churches in town. There's now only one. My wife and I, and when my son was born, we went to Our Lady's, which was over in West Concord. And in 2004, that church was closed. And then, there was the other church in town which is this—the standing catholic church, which is now Holy Family. At the time, it was known as St. Bernard's. But long story short, the archdiocese closed both, and merged—they used different words, but that's what it was—a merger between the two standing catholic churches.
And now, we are one catholic church, Holy Family, right on Monument Square—an iconic building.a beautiful building, and a beautiful church. Because I don't work in town my son only went to school for—public school for K-3 before he started going to a private school in town—Defense School, and then, ultimately, Concord Academy across the street.
Really, our connectedness to the town, socially, has been the church in many ways—and many different capacities. So, I—trying to—trying to really glean how this town has changed in the twenty years that I've lived here, I might not have a really clear or fair view of that, because I'd be viewing it through the prism of two churches that closed.
And the incredibly parallel universe that is the Catholic Church, and mainstream print journalism. They're both collapsing for different reasons. But it seems to me—seeing it through the church lens, and also just seeing it through the taxpayer lens, the greatest change has been the cost of housing and the cost of living here, which was high anyway when we got in twenty years ago, but it is so exorbitantly high now that lower and middle income families can't afford to live here. The elderly can't afford to live here.
So, when you take out those large segments of the socio-economic network, you begin to see sort of a sterilization of who lives here—or a hemoginization—and hemoginization is younger, rich,high income, high capacity in terms of being able to spend, and that definitely permeates I think every part of the town.
I think it shows up in what store's open, what store's close, the new housing stock. This is true in much of America, but if I drove you around town, you would see 19—forties, fifties, sixties—and even into the seventies subdivisions of home that were built anywhere from say fourteen or eighteen hundred square feet.
Many of them, Cape Cod-style homes, single-level rent homes, split levels—what were called Acorn Houses. None of these houses would exceed two thousand square feet. Well, now, no one's building a house here less than thirty-five hundred square feet. And nothing thirty-five hundred square feet or above is less than a million dollars.
So that changes everything. The town I talked about earlier in Bedford where we threw our glove on our bicycle and went up to the corner and played ball. That doesn't exist. Those kids all go to camps. I guess the word that comes to my mind, at the risk of offending whoever's listening, is that there's been a professionalization of the citizenry, that it is exceedingly and progressively white collar. And I miss the blue collar edge. I have to believe if we define blue collar as firefighters, police, town workers, teachers—I can't believe any of them can afford to live here.
MK: (00:18:34) Many of them don't.
KP: Yeah. And of course, I grew up in an area where a lot of these towns to hold those jobs, you had to live in that town. If you were a policeman in Bedford, you had to live in Bedford. If you were a teacher—that all began to change in the sixties or seventies. This isn't unique to Concord.
This is true of many—if you will—of the tonier suburbs around Boston. But I can tell you, I really miss that part of connectedness to the town where—and of course, these don't even exist anymore. But as a kid, we went to the little grocery store that was run by the Stephanellis. And the Gilman's ran the Bedford butcher market. Those stories don't even exist anymore. But what was nice is when you walked into those stores, you knew them and they knew you. They knew your first name. They knew your mother and father—your dad was just here. I'm sure my son has never been in a store in Concord where they said, "Your mom or dad were just here." They wouldn't know who anybody is. (Laughs)
I'm sure if I got the Bleday kids I mentioned who grew up on Martin Road in the fifties and sixties, they could probably tell you that same story. Concord has to its credit, tried to zone in, keep out chain stores. We do have a CVS. What else do we have in that vein? Nothing's coming to mind here.
KP: Yeah, there is not a—there is a Cumberland Farm at the gas station. But they have tried to keep it kind of that Americana version. Vanderhoof Hardware may be a good example even though there is an Ace Hardware.
MK: Even if you can't spell it.
KP: Even if you can or can't spell it, exactly. On the sports scene in town, I think it's developed—from my eye, it's—it's held on to its traditions in terms of—not that I could recite you their state titles, but typically, does extremely well in youths in high school soccer. Football, decent. Tennis, excellent. And—I would say that if—
MK: (00:21:30) Hockey?
KP: Hockey, okay. Yeah. Not great. Lacrosse, improving. That's something that's really in the last ten to twelve to fifteen years—statewide, the emphasis for lacrosse boys and girls has grown dramatically to the detriment of baseball, because it's played in the spring. Many—many kids now don't look at baseball or softball because lacrosse is far more popular, got a lot more action.
And kids, I think, feel far more vital even if they're not producing. But if you're running around with a stick in your hand,there's a feeling of vitality in that, and you're—you're really in it. Whereas, if you're playing right field in baseball, you ain't in it. Football does a great job at that.
That's an ethos of football at whatever level is, no matter what position you play, coaches typically make you feel important. Because you're one of eleven on defense. You're one of eleven on offense. This team doesn't perform unless you're performing at whatever narrow definition or broad definition of your role is.
But that's one thing about baseball. And this isn't just Concord, of course. This is every town. This is at every level. Be it high school, college. It's difficult getting Americans to engage in the game now, both from the recreational standpoint of playing it, and also from observing it just because there is so much downtime in it. It's still a beautiful game.
There's so much strategy that's—and there's so much to think about during the game, even though maybe nothing's happening.
But I don't see a society right now that appreciates the undercurrent, the intellectual stimulation of a game. People want to run around with a stick in their hand. Of course, I've spent most of my life covering this sport where people race around with a stick in their hand chasing four ounces of rubber. So, what do I know?
CK: Thank you.