The unexpected memoirs of a journalist

I only met Tracy Early a few times, but I knew him through reputation.

Early was one of the best-known religion journalists in New York, over a span of several decades, before his death in December 2005. For a quarter-century, he was the New York correspondent for Catholic News Service. He also wrote for National Catholic Reporter, the Christian Science Monitor and many other publications.

He was a distinguished looking fellow who asked the kind of precise questions at press conferences that journalists, well, don’t always ask.

Early completed the manuscript for a book that he never got published. But his brother, Grady Early, of San Marcos, Texas, has stepped in to finish the project. The book, called “Sidebars: Reflections by a Missionary Journalist in New York,” is available directly through him.

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Early wrote about what he did and what he cared about: reporting in New York on everyone from evangelicals to Jews and everything from abortion to liberation theology.

His brother also includes a biography of the author.

In a letter sent to Early’s friends and associates, Grade Early writes: “Using his observations and his articles over those years, he paints vivid pictures of major issues that he reported on for so long. He writes in natural language with humor and insight and, in some cases, unedited bluntness. Along the way, he often intersperses comments that reflect his own religious theology.

“As Tracy wrote in a note, the book is neither highbrow nor lowbrow but — what’s left? — middlebrow. The subject matter and treatment is not designed for theologians, but for anyone with an interest in religious issues.”

Many reader must have assumed that Tracy Early was Catholic. But he was an ordained Baptist minister who attended Riverside Church.

Father Jim Gardiner of the Franciscan Friars of the Atonement told NCR around the time of Early’s death: “He embodied ecumenism to the point that it took me several years to realize that he wasn’t Catholic. He was so knowledgeable and so respectfully inquisitive and so personally supportive and so human.â€?

To obtain a copy of the book, send $30 to Grady Early, 214 Triple Crown Run, San Marcos, Texas 78666. I’m going to get mine.

Gary Stern

Gary Stern covered education in the Lower Hudson Valley for several years during the early 1990s. Now's he back on the beat. He believes that schools are one of the main reasons that people live around here and that educational issues -- from curriculum to financing -- are among the most challenging things that journalists can write about. He continues to be amazed by the complexity of educational jargon. Gary got his B.A. at SUNY Buffalo and his M.A. from the University of Missouri Journalism School (where his master's thesis was about the best ways to cover education). He lives in White Plains with his wife and two sons, who attend public schools.