The Story of Etan Patz: Reporters Remember the Quest to Cover (and Find) Soho’s Missing Boy

Raab: I mean, it’s a hell of a story. Anyone who doesn’t see that as a great story, especially after it’s early stages, shouldn’t be in journalism. I mean it’s simple, if you don’t know a story then sit down.

Jimmy Breslin, then a columnist at the Daily News; now an author: I didn’t write about it. Do you know how many fucking kids die in Brooklyn and Queens?

David Hershkovits, then a reporter at the Soho Weekly News; now co-editor and publisher of Paper magazine: I read that Philip Glass had said that The New York Times had a policy of not covering anything below 14th Street.

Weiss: Right from the get-go there was an enormous competition between all the papers. There’s always civility and cordiality, but underneath it is a brutal competition that goes on. All the newspapers were fighting to find out what each newspaper had or find out what the cops were doing or their leads.

Schmetterer: That was a time where the police and the press had pretty good relations, but they didn’t really know anything. They were canvassing the neighborhood and they were looking everywhere. One of the things I remember most about this were how many cops were in the street looking under garbage cans, opening up the dumpsters, going into alleys and basements. I mean you could walk up to them and get their observations.

Miller: The thing to do was to stay on it, to stay connected to it, because if you didn’t, you were likely to miss an important development as a reporter.

Schmetterer: It was a time when the News and the Post were engaged in real tabloid battle.

Sam Roberts, then the city editor at the Daily News; now the urban affairs correspondent at The New York Times: I think the News had a much better sense of the city. Murdoch came in very aggressively, but with a large number of people who didn’t know the city particularly well. They made some sort of glaring mistakes early on. I remember one story, during the David Berkowitz case. One of the mothers of the one of the victims was interviewed and it said she was sitting on her veranda in Brooklyn. Someone at the News, I think it was Jimmy Breslin, said, “A Jew hasn’t sat on a veranda in 2000 years.” But they were very aggressive.

Steve Dunleavy, then a reporter at the New York Post; now retired: I don’t know that you’d say it was the dream story for a new New York Post. It was a horror story for the New York Post.

Raab: The Times did respectable stories. Even if the tabloids might have feasted on it, for us it was still a great story. Nobody had any problems, I had no problems with the Times editor.

Goodman: The paper then was the paper of record, so a story like that was a very important story. The paper wanted to be on top of it, wanted to have everything, and then anything the tabloids would have, you had to have at least that much in your story.