In a different age of news media and Brooklyn, there was the original incarnation of The Brooklyn Graphic. Old timers will remember the newspaper for its hyper-local southern Brooklyn beat, and for being Bensonhurst’s only weekly paper. “Serving Bensonhurst, Dyker Heights, Gravesend, Coney Island and Borough Park” read the paper’s slogan.
“The Brooklyn Graphic was a true local paper,” one former Graphic photographer from the early 1980s, Frank Manno, told us over the phone, “it was a pretty significant paper. It had classifieds, a sports section, and a pretty good distribution around Brooklyn.”
Begun in 1955 by late great and beloved Bensonhurst native and World War II veteran Herb Berman, the Graphic’s old office was located above a retail shop on 86th and Bay 26th streets — a cross street that now also bears the name “Herb Berman Way”.
“Herb was a wonderful man,” Graphic’s veteran Aldo Lorefice recalls of his old boss. Lorefice worked at the paper from 1975 to 1981.
A 2006 New York Times article announcing the news of Herb Berman Way’s co-naming a year after Berman’s death, recalls all of the improvements he accomplished for his community through attentive and persistent journalism:
Herb Berman, who tamed the Killer Pillar and drove the rats from Tobacco Road. Herb Berman, who quieted the screech of the elevated train and stopped its nuts and bolts from raining down on the heads of pedestrians on 86th Street. Herb Berman, who helped find a missing 9-year-old girl by putting her photograph on the front page of his paper. Herb Berman, who, when the Temple Sons of Israel was destroyed by arson, led a campaign to raise $40,000 for its rebuilding. Herb Berman, who dodged bullets at the Battle of the Bulge and grappled with hot lead at The Brooklyn Eagle.
So, what happened to the Brooklyn Graphic?
“I don’t know why but it went the way of the dinosaur and no one seems to know what happened or where it went,” Manno told us over the phone.
What happened was, in 1992, Berman sold the paper to Courier-Life Publications — the publisher of local papers the Brooklyn Daily and the Brooklyn Paper — who still keeps up weekly publication of the Graphic today — both online and in print.
As for old copies of the paper, many believe them to be lost to time, according to Lorefice. In a sudden, out-of-character decision just before his death, Berman decided to toss out all of his meticulously bound archived copies of the paper.
“It’s a big piece of history that’s gone,” Lorefice said, shaking his head.
Luckily, however, the The Brooklyn Historical Society has copies of the paper dating from July 1999 to August 1999 and from January 2001 to December 2005. Courier Life has issues dating back to 2010 online, and the Brooklyn Public Library has almost all of the Graphic’s classic years, from November 1955 through July 1999, stored on microfilm.