After covering medicine, the environment, and sports at The Boston Globe, Tye now writes books and runs a fellowship program that trains journalists covering health care
It was the moment every Nieman dreads. My Cinderella year was nearly done, and while my job at The Boston Globe was infinitely better than any charwoman’s, it also was the same daily journalism I’d been doing for nearly 15 years. So I did what we did well—had a cocktail party and tried to think only big and upbeat thoughts.
Thankfully, this particular party was hosted by our inspired creative writing instructor, novelist Anne Bernays, and her brilliant biographer husband, Justin Kaplan. The conversation turned to books, and Justin commented that if Edward L. Bernays wasn’t his father-in-law, he’d write the biography of the so-called “father of public relations.”
The next morning, I was sitting in the library of Eddie Bernays’s rambling white Victorian not far from the Charles River, listening to the 102-year-old tell stories about his Uncle Sigmund Freud, his buddies Thomas Alva Edison and Calvin Coolidge, and, most of all, Eddie himself.
He told how he had engineered the overthrow of Guatemala’s leftist government, promoted cigarettes he suspected were deadly at the same time that he was promoting national health insurance, and remade bacon and eggs into the all-American breakfast.
Two years later, I had written his biography, “The Father of Spin.” Fifteen years after that, I have written a biography of Superman and am finishing one on Robert Kennedy.
I am still a journalist, but thanks to my Nieman year and that moment at Anne and Justin’s cocktail party I am doing what for me is an exciting, longer form of it, along with running my own modest fellowship program, now in its 12th year, for medical journalists. Neither would have been likely without a Nieman year of new thinking about the world and new (and forever) friends who helped me reimagine where I fit in.