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Len Gilbert, Former Post Managing Editor

February 4th, 2013 · 4 Comments · Analysis and Comment, News and Events

Len Gilbert gave me my first newspaper job when he served as managing editor of the Bridgeport Post-Telegram, the predecessors of the Connecticut Post. I was 17 years old and hadn’t a clue. The process of churning out a paper was different in the late 1970s. No computers. No cell phones. You cranked on Underwood and Royal typewriters. Carbon sandwiched by copy paper. Editors fed a conveyer belt that delivered copy to the brutes in the composing room below that cast the lead type to print the papers. Gilbert informed me my journalism career would begin by crafting obits.

Obits? I wondered. What’s that? Donuts? Journalists of that era were generally crusty sorts, but one of the veteran scribes who took pity on me was James G. Clark, legendary for his sense of humor, writing skills and drinking endurance.

“Mr. Clark,” I posed, “what’s an obit?”

“Grimaldi, you didn’t ask Gilbert that question did you because he might fire you before you started.”

I stood there quiet as the master educated me. “An obituary is something you write when a person dies.” Obituaries, Clark added, were no less important than spot news stories because it’s the last chance for people to express themselves, and they’re doing it through you.

In 1977 Lenny Gilbert gave a teenager a chance for a career in journalism. Every time I wrote something that provoked a reader complaint to his office, he always backed me up. Mr. Gilbert passed away last week. He was 99.

His obituary from the CT Post follows.

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4 Comments so far ↓

  • indices

    Many here will remember when the Bridgeport Post/Telegram was actually quite a good little newspaper, local rather than a part of a national conglomerate, with much more than pages of adverts and newsfeeds available everywhere. Of course that was a long time ago, when Bridgeport was a more vibrant and less troubled city, and besides the radio, the paper was about the only and best source of news and info. They did a nice job back in the day, and it was a bargain for whatever it cost: 5¢, 10¢, 25¢ (and no tax!) twice a day for the morning and evening editions, which had enough different news from 12 hours ago to make it worth it. Kids on bikes with paper routes … And it was huge–what was it, about six feet across when opened up? BTW, a good obit is sometimes the most interesting story in a paper …

  • Jim Callahan

    You could have told us about the award granted to Mr. Gilbert by The Telegram on “behalf” of the Fairfield County Public Relations Association, or would that fall into the category of “more Telegram horseplay?”

  • Zena Lu

    This post evokes a sensory smorgasbord. The sounds of manual and electric typewriters being pecked away at, phones ringing and the floor vibrating from the printing press are audible. The smell of typewriter ribbon ink, carbon paper and the oily olfactory assault of a lead printing press comes through. A picture of a world-worn editor wearing a bow tie and possibly a fedora comes into focus. So does the visualization of a wide-eyed hopeful youngster, soaking up the experience of a weathered journalist veteran who is smoking a cigarette and tossing back cold, slimy coffee. If that is what an obit should evoke, it did. But I suppose it’s a matter of subjective perception. Whatever it is, it’s charming, and more than a little nostalgic.

    Okay, so I am in a mood tonight.

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