The New New Journalism
Robert S. Boynton
Ted Conover
Richard Ben Cramer
Leon Dash
William Finnegan
Jonathan Harr
Alex Kotlowitz
Jon Krakauer
Jane Kramer
William Langewiesche
Adrian Nicole LeBlanc
Michael Lewis
Susan Orlean
Richard Preston
Ron Rosenbaum
Eric Schlosser
Gay Talese
Calvin Trillin
Lawrence Weschler
Lawrence Wright
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by Robert S. Boynton

           Richard Ben Cramer is known for tackling "impossible" stories. Sometimes the impossibility lies in lack of access to the main character, as was the case with his legendary Esquire profile of Ted Williams, or his biography of Joe DiMaggio. Other times, a story may have been written about so often and at such great length that it seems impossible to cover freshly, as with presidential campaigns or international peace negotiations.
           Born in Rochester, New York, in 1950, Cramer attended Johns Hopkins. After being rejected by The Baltimore Sun, he got an MA in journalism from Columbia and was hired by the paper in 1973. Cramer covered city hall and local politics for three years before leaving for The Philadelphia Inquirer, where he soon became the paper's New York bureau chief.
           In 1977, Cramer was sent to Cairo to cover the Israeli-Egyptian peace negotiations, and was during his Middle East assignment that he successfully combined his dogged reporting with a vivid writing style that echoed Tom Wolfe's New Journalism literary experiments.His dispatches earned him a 1979 Pulitzer for international reporting, and in 1980, he won the Ernie Pyle Award for foreign reporting and an Overseas Press Club Award for his writing from Afghanistan.
           Despite his fame as a newspaper reporter and foreign correspondent, Cramer came into his own—professionally and aesthetically—as a magazine journalist. Cramer left the Inquirer and moved to New York, where he became a full-time freelance magazine writer, producing lengthy profiles for Esquire and Rolling Stone. Freed from the constraints of newspapers, he reveled in the amount of space he could devote to his intensely reported articles.
           What It Takes: The Way to the White House, is an epic chronicle of the 1988 election, a group portrait of presidential candidates (George Bush, Bob Dole, Michael Dukakis, Gary Hart, Joe Biden, and Richard Gephardt) as multidimensional people, rather than as "personalities" or stand-ins for various ideologies or policies. The book is as much a work of journalism as a jeremiad against a political system in which a cynical media judges candidates by sound bites and ad hoc moral codes. The book was propelled by a single question: what kind of life would lead a man to think that he ought to be president of the United States?
           Cramer's next "impossible" assignment was a biography of Yankees legend Joe DiMaggio. A famously private, reticent man, DiMaggio had fended off all previous attempts to write about him. DiMaggio's 1999 death provided Cramer with his biggest break. Many of DiMaggio's friends who had been reluctant to talk suddenly wanted to share their memories. Joe DiMaggio: The Hero's Life, portrayed its subject in an unflattering light. DiMaggio's cheapness, greed, and coldness came to the fore, while Cramer subjected the "Hero Machine," the media and public's uncritical adoration that had produced his celebrity, to an unsparing critique.
           For his most recent book, How Israel Lost (2004), Cramer revisited many of the places he reported on in the late seventies and early eighties. He is currently working on a book about the American garment industry in the early twentieth century.
           Richard Ben Cramer died at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore of complications from lung cancer on January 7, 2013 at age 62


How Israel Lost, Simon & Schuster, 2004
Joe DiMaggio: The Hero's Life, Simon & Schuster, 2000
Bob Dole, Vintage, 1995
What It Takes: The Way to the White House, Random House, 1992
Ted Williams: The Seasons of the Kid, Prentice Hall, 1991


"Seroius Business", Bronx Banter, October 22, 2010

"The DiMaggio Nobody Knew", Newsweek, March 22, 1999

"The America That Ruth Built", Time, July 27, 1998

"A Native Son's Thoughts", Sports Illustrated, September 11, 1995

"Little England", Esquire, December 1993

"Know Your Way Home", Esquire, October 1993

"Men of Honor", Esquire, June 1993

"Nice Guys Finish Last", Texas Monthly, August 1992

"George Bush’s White Men", Esquire, February 1992

"For Play: A Celebration of Golf the Glorious", Esquire, June 1987

"Fore Play", Esquire, June 1987

"Citizen Ueberroth", Esquire, February 1987

"What Do You Think of Ted Williams Now?", Esquire, June 1986

"Beyond Mengele", Rolling Stone, November 21, 1985

"The Valley of Death", Rolling Stone, October 24, 1985

"The Ballad of Johnny France", Esquire, October 1985

"Olympic Cheating", Rolling Stone, February 14, 1985

"Can the Best Mayor Win?", Esquire, October 1984

"The Strange and Mysterious Death of Mrs. Jerry Lee Lewis", Rolling Stone, March 1, 1984

"Feeding on the Hungry", The Philadelphia Inquirer, special supplement, 1981

"Inside the Afghan Rebellion", The Philadelphia Inquirer, special supplement, 1980

"Portrait of a Family", The Philadelphia Inquirer Sunday Magazine, October 21, 1979

"Report from the Mideast: A Human Drama", The Philadelphia Inquirer, special supplement, 1978

"Diary of a Damn Yankee Fan", The Baltimore Sun, October 17, 1977

Interviews and Reviews

Kimmerling, Baruch, “How Israel Lost by Richard Ben Cramer,” Salon, July 19, 2004

Interview about How Israel Lost, Forum with Michael Krasny, KQED. June 23, 2004

Interview about How Israel Lost, Weekend Edition, NPR, June 12, 2004

Interview about How Israel Lost, The Paula Gordon Show, WGUN-AM, May 21, 2004

“What’s Changed for Israel: Interview with Rebecca Phillips,” Beliefnet,

Kaplan, Ron, “The Hero’s New Clothes: A Review of Joe DiMaggio: The Hero’s Life,” January Magazine, December 2000

“Richard Ben Cramer chats about his book, Joe DiMaggio: The Hero's Life,”, CNN, October 25, 2000

Interview about Joe DiMaggio Talk of the Nation, NPR, October 25, 2000

Interview about Joe DiMaggio: The Hero's Life, The Paula Gordon Show, WGUN-AM, October 24, 2000

“Yankee Clipper,” All Things Considered, October 17, 2000

“DiMaggio Past,” All Things Considered, March 8, 1999

Interview about What it Takes, Frontline, July 9, 1996

© Robert S. Boynton