The Great Cop Reporters are far more disarming than the average bear. They exude empathy. They understand. They listen.
They barely even talk.
Those who have heard and seen it all – the cops – don’t want to hear it from someone they might, in a rare departure from the norm, dare to trust.
Perhaps this selfless component is the driver that led a couple of The Great Ones to become speechwriters. They become the unseen hand that moves the world in which their bosses live. They make a difference, and they can still live in the shadows. Those who count know what they have done, and that is enough.
Two Connecticut boys I have had the pleasure of working with made this move to speechwriting. Of course, they didn’t always prosper. But, in their chosen arenas, no gladiators could take them out.
They are Tony Dolan of Bridgeport and Harry Phillips of Uncasville.
Dolan won a Pulitzer Prize for his expose of police corruption and mob influence published in The Stamford Advocate. He still keeps in touch with the clean cops who helped him highlight drug dealing, burglary, gun-running and murder – all run out of police headquarters in the 1970s.
Dolan turned down some big newspaper jobs to become chief speechwriter for President Reagan. In between he wrote for National Review and hung out at law firms doing research. Currently, he serves as special adviser to Defense Secretary Rumsfeld.
Like Dolan, Phillips is a political conservative. There was nothing conservative, however, about the scrapes they got involved in and the stories they did. Currently, Phillips is the senior speechwriter for the director of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management. He won his Pulitzer of sorts this year – the top speechwriting prize from the nation’s largest public relations group – the Bronze Anvil Award from the Public Relations Society of America.
I met Phillips one night in 1975 when we were both rookie reporters for The Norwich Bulletin. He had just come from a zoning commission meeting where he was warned not to write a story about officials opposing a trailer park because it would supposedly bring lots of black people to town. The story included some juicy quotes and established him as a serious reporter.
Along the way, Phillips’ scoops included a story about legendary bounty hunter Stan Rivkin who was beaten and sent to the hospital by a local felon. Rivkin later became the subject of a TV movie.
The cops loved to take Phillips on raids and busts. Once a perp spit at him and the cops sent the guy to a jail in Hartford that had just been condemned. On another occasion, Phillips sat in the detective squad room, helping the cops put together a press release about a particularly complicated bust. The cops gave the release to the chief, who announced the news to Phillips.
When Phillips left newspapers to become a press guy at the Capitol in Hartford, police announced his departure on a statewide teletype. Phillips went on to work for a few congressmen and as editorial director for the U.S. Department of Energy.
Newspapers are missing a lot without guys like Dolan and Phillips. I still check in with them every now and then for a tune-up on the basics.
By ANDY THIBAULT, Columnist
Law Tribune Newspapers
October 4, 2004