Of timeless news men

I once worked with a man who (last year) retired after 61 years on the same station. I watched and admired another gentleman at the end of his career of 63 years on the air. And I’ve read columns by writers who spent their last days on memories of games or people that happened 40 years ago because they or their editors thought that was what their audience was interested in.

Even if you’re mailing in a memories column, even if you’re working part time broadcasting at the end of your career in a station where everyone calls you “Mr.” on air in deference to your time in the business, even if the new kid is printing things out for you because printers are a mystery to you … if you spend that long in the media, you’ve done something.

So I’d like to introduce you to David Perlman:

David Perlman was born in 1918 — a decade before the discovery of penicillin and the Big Bang Theory.

And, for the majority of his career, he covered scientific progress in the 20th century and beyond, writing thousands of articles about everything from the beginning of the space age to the computer age.

Until now.

The 98-year-old science editor is retiring from The San Francisco Chronicle after nearly seven decades at the newspaper, a decision he said had been coming for a while.

It is too easy to say “end of an era” but that is truly the case at the Chronicle. I hope all the young people on the staff there were smart enough to spend some time with Perlman. The man no doubt has plenty to teach us all.


And then there’s the next generation. I gave a tour of Franklin Hall to 15 members of the local Boys and Girls Club. It was a sort of last minute thing: Can you show these kids around in half an hour?

So they show up and they are younger than I expected. Know your audience and all of that, so I showed them the giant screen, the television studio and the video game design labs. Fourteen of them said they wanted to move in. Most did not seem dissuaded by the idea that there are no beds or showers or a real kitchen in the building.

I think they just liked that we could play Xbox or Playstation games on the giant screen.

One of them asks how old you have to be to come to college. And then she decides that’s too far off. Oh, but if you study hard and do well in school, my young friend, you too can sit here with us and watch the giant TV.

I wonder what Perlman would say to a gaggle of elementary school children who stopped by his corner of the newsroom in his last days on the job.

Comments are closed.