Cover image for Boxing the kangaroo: a reporter's memoir
Boxing the kangaroo: a reporter's memoir
Donovan, Robert J.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Columbia, MO: Univerity of Missouri Press, [2000]

Physical Description:
x, 141 pages ; 24 cm
General Note:
Includes index.
Personal Subject:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PN4874.D685 A3 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



"The host had brought out a pair of boxing gloves and asked the president if any of his friends would like to indulge in the Australian sport of boxing kangaroos. Once the president of the United States had selected me, there was almost no way out, unless I ran home to tell my mother."

In Boxing the Kangaroo: A Reporter's Memoir, Robert J. Donovan shares many exciting events that highlighted his stellar journalistic career. As an investigative reporter during five presidential administrations, Donovan has had many "insider" experiences. His memoir delightfully humanizes each of the five presidents he reported on: Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon.

Donovan began his career working as a night copyboy for the Buffalo Courier-Express, earning seven dollars a week. In 1937, he got a job as a reporter for the New York Herald Tribune, where he worked for many years. By 1942 the Herald Tribune had assigned Donovan to cover City Hall and the lively activities of Fiorello La Guardia. After his service in World War II he returned to the Herald Tribune to cover the man from Missouri who followed FDR. Ultimately, Donovan served as chief of the New York Herald Tribune Washington bureau and the Los Angeles Times Washington bureau.

Donovan traveled across the country with Harry S. Truman during his "Give 'Em Hell, Harry" campaign. He covered Dwight D. Eisenhower's election, about which he says there was never a doubt--Ike, the war hero, mesmerized the country. He was a personal friend of John F. Kennedy, having written about the President's PT-109 heroics in World War II, and was on the scene the day Kennedy was assassinated: "The drama in the second press bus, in which I rode in the presidential motorcade in Dallas, is unforgettable. Why has the motorcade stopped?' a reporter asked as we drew near the Texas School Book Depository. . . . I heard a shot,' another said. A voice in the rear contradicted him. That was a motorcycle backfiring.'" Donovan would find out shortly before the rest of the world that, in fact, it was not a motorcycle backfiring, but the firing of an assassin's bullet that killed the nation's thirty-fifth president.

Boxing the Kangaroo is one of the best "I was there" accounts of American history. This fascinating book will appeal to journalists, American history buffs, and the general reader alike.

Author Notes

Robert J. Donovan lives in Washington, D.C. He is the author of numerous books, including Conflict and Crisis: The Presidency of Harry S Truman, 1945-1948 and Tumultuous Years: The Presidency of Harry S Truman, 1949-1953.

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

Three new books reflect differently on American journalism. The essays by 10 prominent reporters and editors that former New York Times reporter Serrin has collected afford hard-eyed assessment of the way journalism is conducted. The pieces examine the coziness between journalists and powerful sources, the blurring of the traditional separation of news from advertising, and the impact of corporate conglomerate management on journalism. Two black reporters note the practice of self-censorship to avoid being typecast and the lack of diversity in newsrooms. The contributors include two Pulitzer Prize winners, independent newspaper publishers, and a newspaper ombudsman. Donovan, an investigative reporter for several newspapers, witnessed and wrote about the history-making events of five presidential administrations. In his memoir, he presents the familiar figure of the veteran journalist, traveling the country by train with Truman's campaign, reporting on the election of Eisenhower, and covering the assassination of Kennedy, a personal friend. He recounts the weightiness of historic events and personal encounters with historic figures, including an incident when President Johnson challenged him to box a kangaroo. Murray, a Pulitzer Prize winner and Boston Globe columnist, takes the basic elements of a hard news story--who, what, where, when, how, and why--and looks at them from the perspective of his own reporting experiences and those of several other journalists whom he interviewed about their approaches to writing to deadline. Murray was "a secret poet desperate to go public" who came to appreciate the writing craft of journalism. In this book, he brings his love of writing and his curiosity about life to advising writers of all types on how to write clearly and succinctly. --Vanessa Bush

Library Journal Review

This reporter's memoir is anecdotal history at its best. Donovan, who was Washington bureau chief for both the New York Herald Tribune and the Los Angeles Times, writes as an "insider" who covered U.S. presidents from Harry Truman through Lyndon Johnson. Readers get detailed explanations of how and why he wrote best-selling books on JFK's World War II PT-109 heroics, a re-election biography of Dwight Eisenhower, and a celebrated two-volume history of Truman's presidency. In a sense, there is a kind of quaintness to what Donovan describes because most of it happened before the proliferation of TV- and Internet-larded expansive news coverage. Indeed, Donovan's career began in Buffalo in 1935, when reportorial skills required notebooks, pencils, and typewriters. Unhappily, the poorly chosen title--referring to an inconsequential incident during coverage of an LBJ tour to Australia--tends to denigrate the strength of this work. For public libraries.--Chet Hagan, Historical Review of Berks Cty., PA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.