I'll Be Home
The Writings of Jim McGrath
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Editorials, op-eds, and other writings by a memorable newspaperman.
The winner of more awards than any editorial writer in the Albany Times Union's history, Jim McGrath was both an Albany institution and a keen observer of the world beyond his beloved adopted city. When he died in 2013 at the age of fifty-six, the newspaper lost a writer who combined a passionate advocacy for society's most vulnerable people with a scathing disregard for the elite whose actions created an underclass in the United States. His writing was often elegiac, but his take on his adopted home state of New York and his beloved Albany was variously bemused, witty, irreverent, and indignant. He could relate to the plight of the minimum-wage worker as easily as he could talk to a US senator, and he feared no one. His editorials and commentaries charted many of the most critical issues in New York and the country: the death penalty, civil liberties, gay rights, historic presidential campaigns, the economy, terrorism, and more—all with an incisiveness that remains relevant, if not more so, in the present political era.
In addition to his editorials and op-eds, I'll Be Home contains essays, critiques, and other writings that have never before been published, as well as appraisals of his work and life by former colleagues Rex Smith, Fred LeBrun, Dan Lynch, and others. The book is both a tribute to a memorable newspaperman and an insider's perspective on politics and life through the lens of an editorial writer, a position that Jim described as "a great seat at a really weird show. "
Jim McGrath was chief editorial writer at the Albany Times Union. He was named the Hearst Editorial Writer of the Year several times, and also received numerous first- and second-place awards by the New York State Associated Press Association, and two first-place awards by the New York Newspaper Publishers Association. His widow,Darryl McGrath, is an Albany journalist and the author of Flight Paths: A Field Journal of Hope, Heartbreak, and Miracles with New York's Bird People, also published by SUNY Press. Howard Healy is a copyeditor and proofreader for the New York State Bar Association; he retired as editorial page editor of the Times Union in 2008.
"McGrath's body of work reveals thematic threads, consistent styling, and a fixed set of principles that his faithful daily readers likely would not have focused on or even discerned. That makes his book an instructive text for beginners trying to figure out the tricks of persuasive editorial writing. How McGrath did it comes clear here. " — Literary Journalism Studies
"…I found his new book both inspiring and daunting. Read it and it's clear Jim set an impossibly high standard for those of us who continue in the profession he so loved. I hope our work, and my work, honors his. " — Chris Churchill, Albany Times Union
"Jim McGrath's voice is one, at heart, of place—of the Albany he adopted as his own, of the Boston neighborhood where he grew up—but it is also much more than that. It is a great American voice, lyrical, penetrating, and unfailingly original, and it was silenced too soon. But it is so good to hear it again in this beautiful book. " — Michael Larabee, Op-ed Editor, The Washington Post
"Jim McGrath was a great American voice, a no-nonsense journalist who wrote eloquently about intolerance, injustice, poverty, and corruption. He wasn't afraid to tell the truth, and he did so masterfully. His work is inspiring, witty, profound, and kindhearted. No wonder so many held him in high esteem—even those he skewered. " — Sam Roe, Chicago Tribune
"For me, Albany has always been home, and it was the great honor and privilege of my life to have been its mayor for twenty years. For Jim, Albany, became his adopted home, a place he loved and cared for as passionately as I did and that mutual love for this place was the bond we shared. Even when we disagreed, we respected each other's commitment to our community and to its residents who relied on us in different, but equally important ways. And whether it was across the table at an editorial board meeting, or sharing a beverage at McGeary's, Jim was never hesitant to speak truth to power. His writings, many of which I took issue with, always reflected his commitment to honesty, accuracy, and fairness. That commitment made Albany a better city and without question it made me a better mayor. This book bears witness to Jim's legacy and to the impact he had on our community and on so many lives. It also serves as a testament to the vital role a great journalist plays in the vibrancy of our democratic process. The lessons to be learned here could not come at a better time. For all that we are in his debt. " — Jerry Jennings, Mayor of Albany, 1994–2013
"Jim's arguments were thoughtful and his writing was elegant. But what stands out most in this collection are his passion and his humanity. His passion for journalism. His passion for fairness. His passion for truth. He railed against injustice. He scoffed at heavy-handed politics. He spoke out on behalf of those who couldn't speak for themselves. Even in print, you could see his arms waving in outrage as he called upon society to rectify another of its shortcomings. " — Benjamin Weller, Newsday