Class of 1954
When Women's Wear Daily was planning a 90th birthday issue in 2001, the paper asked Mort Sheinman to sign on as consulting editor. It was a wise move. Until his retirement in 2000, Sheinman had been with WWD for 40 years, 28 of them as its managing editor. He had mentored more than one generation of reporters and played a major role in setting the tone of the paper's coverage. During his time there, WWD became one of the best-known and most influential trade newspapers in the world, publishing five times a week on the women’s clothing industry in the United States and, increasingly, from all over the globe.
Sheinman, who was born in the Bronx on Oct. 7, 1933, started writing for newspapers while in junior high school and continued at Theodore Roosevelt High School. At CCNY, he joined the sports staff of The Campus, eventually becaming sports editor and managing editor. When Sheinman was a freshman, his editor was Marvin Kalb and the College’s basketball players were national champions. When he was a sophomore, some of them were arrested for taking part in a betting scandal. In later years, Sheinman appeared in “City Dump,” an HBO documentary of that dark chapter in the College’s history. A few years after that, he was interviewed in “Schmatta,” another HBO documentary, this one on the rags-to-riches-to rags saga of New York’s garment industry. Like many who came before and after him, his biggest influence at CCNY was Professor Irving Rosenthal’s English 51 and English 52 journalism classes.
|Mort Sheinman in the WWD newsroom, reporting by lantern-light during a major East Coast power failure, Nov. 9, 1965.|
“Not a day went by in my professional life when I didn’t rely on some of what he taught us,” Sheinman said.
That professional life began while Sheinman was still at school and got a part-time job with the Bronx Press-Review, covering local sports and writing an Inquiring Reporter column. After graduation and a two-year Army hitch, he joined The New York Daily News in December 1956 as a copy boy and then was promoted to sports clerk. He came to WWD in May 1960, just as the paper was about to shed its image as a staid chronicler of the garment business and become much more provocative by expanding the scope of its coverage to all manner of cultural events and their influence on fashion. For several years, Sheinman reported on business developments on Seventh Avenue before entering the editing ranks. He was named managing editor in 1972, working with the news staff in New York and bureaus in Boston, Dallas, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Washington, Paris, London, Milan and Tokyo. That same year, he acquired a second title, becoming the first managing editor of the newly born W magazine.
Although primarily responsible for overseeing the newsroom, Sheinman — who co-edited “The WWD Style Book,” the most ambitious manual of style and usage in the paper's history — never stopped writing his own pieces. His output included profiles of personalities ranging from cultural anthropologist Margaret Mead and Harlem Globetrotter Marques Haynes to the urbane Alistair Cooke and the unpredictable Zero Mostel. For W and other magazines, he also wrote a series of “adventure travel” reports — accompanied by his own photography — based on treks in the Himalayas in Nepal, the Vale of Kashmir and the Pamirs in Central Asia; the Caucasus in Eurasia; the Italian Alps; and the Spanish Pyrenees. He also chronicled an 11-day trip sitting in a wooden saddle on the back of a camel in the Hoggar Mountains of southern Algeria. “That was an interesting experience,” he said, “for a city kid who was brought up to never trust an animal that stood higher than your crotch.”
After retiring in January 2000, Sheinman taught an "Introduction to Journalism" course at the Fashion Institute of Technology; contributed to a memoir of his time at WWD (“Fashion, Retailing and a Bygone Era”); wrote several dozen entries for a new edition of the Encyclopaedia Judaica; edited, wrote and took pictures for an online newsletter put out by the Flatiron/23rd Partnership, a business improvement district in Manhattan; and edited a number of fiction and non-fiction books. He also honed his skills as a photographer at workshops in the U.S., Mexico, Argentina and Italy. From 2008 to 2010, he was president of the Society of the Silurians, one of the oldest press clubs in the nation, and has been active on its board since 2003.