The gentleman journalist

If there has ever been a nicer person in the journalism business than the Associated Press’ George Esper, not many people know about him. Esper, who toiled for the Associated Press, died last night at age 79.

He spent 10 years reporting in Vietnam, the last two as the Associated Press bureau chief. He was the guy who told you about the fall of Saigon. But most of us old people in the business — especially those near his Boston base in the ’80s — remember him better as the person who could get positively wide-eyed at our stories of covering the mundane city hall and cop shop beats that young reporters are required to cover.

I spent several evenings as a pup reporter telling him about my work, while simultaneously thinking, “why would someone like you care?” But he did.

And that’s where we learned a valuable lesson: You don’t have to be a jerk to get the story, but you do have to be a great storyteller. Oh, and it won’t kill anyone to care a bit about people. When the North Vietnamese rolled into Saigon, he offered them poundcake and Coke. Not just anyone can meet an invading army.

At a time when the world of journalism needs more George Espers, it sadly has one fewer.

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