Mike Levine wrote columns, news stories and, as executive editor at the Times Herald-Record, letters to readers, for more than 20 years.
He looked at life with a columnist’s instinctual attraction for the compelling story. He viewed writing as a disciplined craft, the heart of which was close observation and excellent listening.
He combined that with editing, revision and clarity.
Though he wrote extensively about the Hudson Valley in New York, his columns have universal appeal. They read as well as in Missoula as they do in Monticello.
Here's a sampling:
His column about the first day of school is a reader favorite.
"The Miracle" is a story in three parts that was published in 1999. It is an enduring story of faith and hope in the face of adversity.
He wrote about the death of a generous man who gave to his community who was known as "Teddy Bear."
In this column, he wrote about Memorial Day.
In this one, he wrote about atoning for sins at the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur.
As executive editor of the Times Herald-Record, a tabloid, he was painstaking about what went on the front page. And, as he acknowledged in this letter to readers, sometimes the headlines on the front worked and sometimes they didn't.
This is an archive of all of his columns except for the first year, which you will find on microfilm at Thrall Library in Middletown. This archive takes a little bit of navigating. Not all the column headlines are readily apparent until you click in the years and PDFs. Also, please note: The Times Herald-Record has a paywall and you can only get free access up to 10 online stories per month.
Here are PDFs to two of his earlier columns:
No doubt, everyone has a favorite Mike Levine column. But how do you pick the best of them to put in a book?
I can tell you it's not easy.
Mike wrote with passion and swung for the fences every time he put fingers to the keyboard. But not every one of the more than 2,000 columns he wrote over 20 years could make it into the book.
I had to develop some strict guidelines to narrow the choices.
For instance, Mike wrote extensively about Hudson Valley and New York State politics and though they were hard-hitting and fun to read, I had to be careful that they were not too parochial for a general audience.
I started with a huge number of “finalists” because they transcended local geography and touched on themes of life, human nature, injustices and humor that would speak to a broad audience.
From there, I just kept narrowing. The results were lists and lists of notes and stacks of columns labeled “Keepers,” “Maybe” and “Rejects.”
One thing that repeatedly buzzed through my head was Mike’s admonition that our work as journalists “could not read like homework.”
I wanted to keep the selection to what I felt was the best representation of his range and depth.
The end result is that some might feel some column or theme of his was slighted or overlooked in the final selections.
To be sure, this was a subjective process. But at the end of the day I think everyone will find something in this book to inspire them.
I know I did.
-- Christopher Mele