Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Riddles Perhaps; Old Reporter Spoke Truth

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Riddles Perhaps; Old Reporter Spoke Truth

Article excerpt

Herbert Bayer was the dean of Florida political reporters.

He may have been the dean of all Florida reporters. He had been

a reporter forever when I came to work for The Florida

Times-Union.

He was state editor then, but by then his course was largely

run and he devoted much of his time to guiding younger

reporters, such as Hank Drane, and much younger reporters, such

as myself, through the often murky and uncharted waters of

newspapering as we knew it. He was Godfather, Mentor and Rabbi,

ever accessible, ever remote.

I asked him once how long he had been a newspaperman and he

said quite seriously and without hesitation,"Since Jolly Roger

sailed the Spanish Main."

I didn't believe him, of course. But I did not not believe him

either, for Herbert Bayer spoke often in riddles and fables. He

imparted his wisdom to reporters as much in badinage and banter

as he did in recitation and cant.

Often there was a good reason his wisdom was veiled behind the

half smile and raised eyebrow, the anecdote and half-finished

yarn:

Herbert Bayer knew where all the dogs were buried.

He probably buried a few himself.

Little that happened in a half-century of civic intercourse in

Jacksonville and Florida had escaped him. His influence was

enormous. His typewriter was a serious weapon. So was his

telephone.

Hank Drane, who followed Bayer's footsteps as political editor,

once asked Bayer why he never wrote a book. Never had the itch,

said the courtly old gent, airily dismissing the notion. No

tale-bearer he.

Yeah, sure, we thought. He knows too much. His lips are sealed.

He locked his desk before he went home every night, and he

covered his typewriter, too. Sooner Don Corleone would write a

book.

I knew Bayer had worked with the evening paper in Jacksonville

for some time before he came to the Times-Union. I knew he had

worked for the old and uppity Florida Metropolis when it

regularly kicked the shins of the Gray Lady of Adams Street, as

the irreverent often referred to the morning print. So that

would be in the early 1920s . …

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