August 16, 2012 | by Harry Stein
In early July, 1971, just out of journalism school, I took off for Paris. My intention was to spend a year or so freelancing. To this end, I carried with me assignments from two very small magazines and a sealed envelope, which I’d been given by Judith Crist, lately my critical-writing professor at Columbia’s School of Journalism.
“Give this to Murray Weiss at the International Trib,” she instructed.
Weiss was the editor in chief of that august journal and, she said, formerly a colleague of hers at its long-defunct but still much-admired progenitor, the New York Herald Tribune.
“What’s in it?”
“Don’t worry, just give it to him.”
A week or so later, in the Trib offices on the rue de Berri, I handed it over to Weiss’s no-nonsense assistant. “It’s from Judith Crist,” I said meaningfully—not the twenty-two-year-old nothing standing before her.
She walked briskly to the office beyond, and, after a long beat, like in a too-obvious movie, there came a roar of laughter. “Send him in!”
Weiss was behind his desk, holding the letter, still looking much amused. He half rose to shake my hand. “Listen,” he said, chuckling, “this is very nice of Judy. But, no, I’m not going to fire our film critic and hire you.”