Courthouses are used to reporters. They go with the territory like bailiffs and juries.
But it’s not every day that a Pulitzer Prize winning reporter shows up at the Palm Beach County courthouse. That happened in September 1986 when New York legend Jimmy Breslin, who died last weekend, came to cover the trial of a man accused of murdering his mother-in-law.
Rumpled, smoking an ever-present cigar and looking for the humanistic details that made his reportage stand out from the pack, Breslin took the time to speak with Palm Beach Post reporter Paul Blythe.
“They ask me what I want to cover a murder trial in Palm Beach County for,” Breslin said. “I tell ‘em it’s murder. It was good enough for Shakespeare; it’s good enough for me. This is real life. It isn’t some $49 fender-bender in Judge Wapner’s court. This is a woman who’s died and a man whose life is on the line.”
Breslin liked the stories of everyday people, the ones often ignored.
“I tell the stories of the poor because they’re the best stories…I’m not doing it out of any, huh, like they say bleeding heart stuff. It’s that I need the copy that’s the best. That’s my basic business, right. They have the best stories so I talk to ‘em. What the (expletive) else would you do? What are you supposed to do? The worst stories?”
Here are some other quotes from the always colorful columnist and author:
On reporting: “You better go out into neighborhoods or go out in the places where people are going. Go into their houses, their courtrooms, their police stations, their restaurants near city hall. Just talk to people, what else can you do? There’s no magic. It’s going out to the streets to talk to people.”
On winning the Pulitzer that year: “I thought I shoulda won that so long ago, I thought I already had it.”