Soon after New York Daily News reporter Paul LaRosa took a buyout from the tabloid in March, 1991 after suffering through what he described as “a violent and contentious five-month strike,’’ he like so many others, took the reporting tools they learned as print journalists and transferred them to another medium.
LaRosa actually had started working for CBS in their entertainment division during the newspaper strike as a writer for “Top Cops.’’ His job involved finding some of the most dramatic blood curdling police stories he could find, write up a snappy description, and then turn it over to the screen writers and a production team in Toronto, who would then work their magic and whip up a dramatic production for television.
Encouraged by his new television experience and hoping to take advantage of the sudden rise in television news magazine productions, LaRosa sent his Daily News bylined clips to CBS, hoping to get hired for the new show, “Street Stories with Ed Bradley.” Though CBS did call him in for an interview, he didn’t get the job, but was so encouraged by the rejection letter (which indicated they might hire him in the future) that LaRosa never became too discouraged.
When LaRosa learned the show was renewed, he immediately sent them another batch of clips. They brought him in for another interview, only this time they hired him on six-month contract basis. Similar to his other television assignment with “Top Cops’’, LaRosa was responsible for finding dramatic police stories, put into writing a compelling narrative and then pass it on to the producers.
After being hired a second time by CBS, LaRosa knew if he was going to have a future in this business, it would be incumbent upon him to learn exactly how television shows are produced from the ground up. So, armed with a notebook, he approached the producers and editors and asked them to teach him all he needs to know about dramatic television production. They were all too willing to oblige this enthusiastic greenhorn, bringing him on television shoots and showing him precisely what makes gripping television drama.
A year later, LaRosa’s boss was reassigned to take over “48 Hours’’ and decided to bring this former Daily News reporter along with her. That was 20 years ago this month. After 18 years producing for “48 Hours,’’ LaRosa has been on the receiving end of two Emmys. He’s also co-produced the highly-acclaimed documentary “9/11” which also won an Edward R. Murrow and Peabody Awards.
“I did learn television’’ LaRosa tells me “and was humbled by it; I consider it much harder than print journalism.’’
His success in the television industry has led to him to some lucrative book deals, something that wasn’t possible working for a daily newspaper. The reason is simple. When you produce for television, there is usually loads of material left on the cutting room floor. One story in particular – the murder/suicide of the Tacoma Police Chief and his wife in front of their two young children in 2003, prompted LaRosa to approach his bosses about writing a book about this chilling episode, which took place at Gig Harbor, Washington, a quiet Tacoma suburb.
CBS agreed; and soon LaRosa was off writing about it, which led to the publication of “Tacoma Confidential.”
LaRosa wrote three more books since “Tacoma Confidential ‘’ and just this spring he published his memoirs, “Leaving Story Avenue - My journey from the projects to the front page,’’ a book which chronicles his humble origins, growing up in the Soundview, Bronx housing projects, landing a job as copy boy at The Daily News fresh out of college, later being promoted to reporter, all during a bygone era before computers and by extension the Internet, has, for the most part, wiped out a once thriving industry.
Among the many stories LaRosa pounded out at the Daily News, the one that will live in infamy is his front-page splash about John Lennon’s fatal shooting at the Dakota, while working the late shift (midnight-8 a.m.), a shift known to news types as the “lobster shift.’’
Despite his success in the television industry, LaRosa tells me that he feels very lucky to have worked at two great jobs at such great places. “Although I’ve worked longer at CBS than The Daily News, I consider myself a newspaperman and writer at heart.’’
LaRosa graduated from Cardinal Hayes High School and Fordham University and attended Columbia University, where he did graduate work as a Revson Fellow. He lives in Park Slope.
July 3, 2012