Requiem For An Editor (Who's Retiring)
Reporters revered Ron Dzwonkowski as the unrivalled wizard of rewrite, that all-but-extinct art of translating notes shouted over a pay phone (texting was a decade away) into prose fit for print, writes Brian Dickerson.
The Free Press has had dozens of genuine wordsmiths over the years, but more than a few acquired that reputation chiefly because readers never saw their work until Dzwonkowski had massaged it into lucid, grammatical English.
Besides that, he was simply more fun to be around than anyone else in the building -- a gushing fire hose of good-natured, equal-opportunity insult, a connoisseur of gallows humor, an ex-broadcaster whose foghorn voice, raised often in urgency or sarcasm but rarely in anger, soared above the tumult of the newsroom.
He probed each new hire's capacity for ridicule with the delicacy of a physician palpating a bruised limb, sorting those who could withstand the Dzwonkowski treatment full-on from those who would need to be toughened up gradually. The opposite of a bully, he reserved his most merciless mockery for the few who had authority to fire him, confident that none would dare to.
For Deadline Detroit's report on the Free Press' unusual number of departures in the past 12 months, click here.