Class of 1959
In the senior yearbook of his Bronx junior high school, next to a photograph of a smiling young man with bright red hair, it says that Jacob (Jack) Schwartz “a journalist will be/He will make it, wait and see.” It was, in the most definitive of ways, a self-fulfilling prophecy. Schwartz, who was the editor of his senior yearbook, wrote the caption himself, and “make it” he did.
He was a newspaperman for almost 50 years, working for six metropolitan dailies as a reporter and a columnist, but primarily as an editor, with a focus on books and culture. At one point, he even took a turn at The International Herald Tribune in Paris. He was the recipient of a Nieman fellowship from Harvard in 1971 and an International Affairs fellowship at Columbia in 1972. In 2005, when he retired from The New York Times, where he spent the bulk of his career, he began giving back, teaching a Master's Project course at the Columbia School of Journalism and mentoring at the Writers Institute at the CUNY Graduate Center Writers Institute. He has also taught copy editing at NYU.
|On the job, before newsrooms went digital|
A product of old-school journalism, Schwartz is bemused by how the ambience of newsrooms has changed. The sound of the workplaces he remembers — the chatter, the telephones, the typewriters — has been muted, and with it a sense of conviviality and camaraderie. In the modern city room, he said, interaction is often more digital than direct. But he added that the trade-off is a quantum leap in the gathering and dissemination of news afforded by the advances in digital journalism, a change as necessary as it is inevitable.
Schwartz, who was born in 1938 and raised in the Bronx, was accepted to the prestigious Bronx High School of Science but chose to attend Christopher Columbus High School because that’s where many of his friends were headed. He had been on school newspapers in junior high and in high school and when he entered City College, he decided to major in English (“What else,” he said, “although I snuck in a lot of history classes”) and joined the staff of The Campus. Eventually, he would become its editor-in-chief. While still a student, he got his first paying jobs in journalism: copy boy at The Daily Mirror, then at The New York Post. Shortly after graduation, he joined The Long Island Press as a reporter, then went over to Newsday as a reporter and columnist. In 1973, he was hired by The Times, where he filled a variety of editing roles on the Week in Review, the Sunday Magazine, the Culture Section, the Arts & Leisure pages and the Metro Desk. Schwartz left The Times in 1988 and rejoined Newsday, this time as book editor. After seven years, he moved to The Daily News as book editor before rejoining The Times as assistant editor at the Weekend section. In addition, he worked on the daily culture pages, remaining there until he retired.
His stint at the International Herald Tribune was in 1970, when he took a short leave from his first go-round at Newsday and went to Paris for several months. While there, he worked as news editor and then on the copy desk.
A year earlier, Schwartz took part in one of that era’s more celebrated literary escapades. The late Mike McGrady, then a Newsday columnist, corralled 24 of his colleagues and asked them to each write a chapter of a novel that would spoof sex-drenched books that had become mainstream bestsellers. “Naked Came the Stranger” was intended as a parody of bad writing, but Schwartz — whose contribution concerned a rabbi whose amorous ambitions are thwarted when he’s bitten in the behind by a German shepherd — won special notice from his fellow authors: a Best-Written Chapter award.