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Jonathan Alter Remembers The Careers Of Writers Jimmy Breslin & Pete Hamill In New Documentary

DJ Sixsmith 

Jimmy Breslin and Pete Hamill are two of the most famous print journalists to ever walk the streets of New York.

Breslin, the native of Queens, and Hamill, the native of Park Slope, worked together for years at the New York Daily News and penned some of the most memorable stories and columns ever about The Son of Sam, JFK, RFK and 9/11.

Author and director Jonathan Alter decided to tell the story of their careers in a new documentary called "Breslin & Hamill: Deadline Artists." The documentary took three years to make and features interviews with people like activist Gloria Steinem, director Spike Lee and actress Shirley Maclaine.

"Print journalists were a big deal. Can you image a print journalist dating the most famous woman in the world or a print journalist hosting Saturday Night Live," said Alter in an interview with CBS Local. "The film takes you back to a lost New York for better and for worse. A New York that was riven by race and class. The thing about Breslin and Hamill is that they were always standing up for the little guy."

The Sit-Down: Jonathan Alter by CBS Local News on YouTube

Hamill became famous for his relationship with Jackie Onassis Kennedy and Breslin hosted SNL in the 1980s.

The Pulitzer Prize winner Breslin passed away at the age of 88 in 2017, while Hamill is 83 years old. The late Breslin is remembered for many different reasons, but many New Yorkers will recall the reporter corresponding through the newspaper with David Berkowitz, The Son of Sam in 1976. Alter believes a big part of Breslin's success came from the way he separated himself from the pack.

"I think what he understood from an early age is that the better story was in the loser's locker room where the other reporters weren't," said Alter. "In his most famous column after John F. Kennedy was assassinated, everyone else was covering the funeral and he talked to the poor sucker who had to dig the grave for $3 per hour on his day off. He gets this fantastic column out of it that is taught in journalism schools."

While Breslin made a name for himself with his reporting, Hamill rose to prominence with his beautiful writing style. Alter remembers Hamill's pieces reading like French novels and the one piece that sticks out to him the most all these years later is the column he wrote about the attacks of September 11, 2001.

"It's just a beautiful piece of writing. It's kind of a haunting sequence that unfolds," said Alter. "I think it was one of the very best things, if not the best thing written about that day."

"Breslin & Hamill: Deadline Artists" premieres on Monday, January 28.

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