Back Room Smoke - A Friend Remembered
A Column by Herb Cohen
Published: September 25, 2009
(cont'd from above)
You can find the details about Eliza’s death in the rest of this paper. I won’t rehash that reality. I would rather my friend be remembered for her life.

She came to The Metrocity Times after a stint in one of those backwater daily papers that serve as the minor leagues for Big League publications as TMT. She was a hard worker, eager as a beagle puppy and a bit wet behind the ears. When she arrived, the editor at the time, Tommy Grant, told me to show her the ropes and introduce her to the right people.

Eliza was a smart gal. She kept her eyes and ears open. In no time, she was running around on her own, giving her old “professor,” me, a run for his money.

Eliza liked a good mystery. She also liked a good fight. Along with her love of facts, Eliza was a good reporter. This was a lethal combination when it came time to take on the bad guys.

Readers of TMT reaped the benefits of Eliza’s abilities. Crooked politicians were tossed into the stir. Families were reunited with their children. Laws changed to better protect consumers.

Eliza made us all proud.

Eliza, however, was more than just a reporter.

She was a mother. “She wasn’t like other moms,” said her son Edward. “For her, it wasn’t about making peanut butter sandwiches and standing on the sidelines of soccer games. My mom was all about making sure I was a strong human being and knew the value of standing up for what is right. She loved me for me, not what she wanted me to be.”

She was a friend.

“I was just an intern when I got here,” said her colleague, Aisha Washington. “She was this prize-winning reporter. She didn’t have to take notice of me. I was nobody. I was at the paper for a couple of weeks, banging my head against all kind of doors working on my stories. Eliza noticed my frustration. She sat down at my desk, and walked me through what she would do in my situation. After that, she made it a point to become my mentor. She taught me everything she knew. She gave me a better education than any of my journalism professors did.”

“Eliza was one of a kind,” said our current editor Jack Harrington. “She was born to be an investigative journalist. She just had the knack. I never knew anybody else like her before she walked into this newsroom. I doubt I will ever know anybody like her again. She was the heart and soul of this newsroom.”
Today the flag flies at half-staff at The Metrocity Times. All of our hearts are heavy with grief today as we struggle to say goodbye to a friend and a damn fine reporter.

…and that’s the back room smoke.

This is the Back Room Smoke…  If you work at a newspaper, bodies come and bodies go. Reporters move from city to city, looking for a better job. Reporters become editors. Editors take new jobs, better jobs, taking what they learned here to somewhere else. Reporters and editors retire and make new lives for themselves in Florida and Arizona.

Sometimes, at a newspaper, you have to deal with death. Old age catches up with even ink-stained wretches such as our lot. For these colleagues, we shed a tear, take pause, consider our own mortality, and then life goes on.

We write about death and it seems like another fact we have to digest.
This time, however, the facts are harder to digest.

Eliza Hamilton, a fine reporter at The Metrocity Times—and a very good friend of mine—is dead.
(cont'd below)
The Metrocity Times - Bloom of the Stogie City
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