Published DateTo the editor,
With news of the passing of retired Manchester Union Leader editorial writer Jim Finnegan last weekend, brings to mind a letter I wrote some 18 or so years ago to Mrs. Nackey Scripps Loeb, then president and publisher of a great newspaper.
Some of what I wrote to Mrs. Loeb applies just as much today, as it did then. I wrote, in part:
Jim Finnegan joined the paper in his late 20s, and for almost 40 years carried the torch — with others — of conservative opinion in the Granite State's largest newspaper.
As a former newspaperman, myself, I was always amazed at Finnegan's output: three or four editorials each weekday. In the old days, this kind of volume was common. Damon Runyon, Ring Lardner, Ernie Pyle, Hal Boyle would write daily news columns, laced heavily with humor and opinion. That's what made them stars. Jim Finnegan was a star, cut from the same mold as these great scribes from the golden days of newspapers.
Writing opinion is hard work. It's more that a relaying the news of the day or quotes from other people. This kind of writing has to come from your own gut. To pull it out of yourself means there has to be something there to begin with. Finnegan had it.
Jim Finnegan worked hard, was consistent, and set the tone of the body politic in New Hampshire. That tone was a traditionalist, up-front, conservative, take-no-prisoners brand of newspapering. Like his late mentor, William Loeb, Finnegan made you think. He made thinking about certain matters unavoidable. His writing for decades launched many a hot jaw session at luncheonettes, bars, and breakfast tables across the state of New Hampshire. Presidential hopefuls, governors, bureaucrats, back-bench politicians alike turned to him every morning.
Now that's a newspaperman, and one who has been long missed.