Dick Sheeran pens 'News Hound'

After nearly four decades in print, radio and television journalism, the Point Breeze native recounts his career and childhood in ‘News Hound.’

By Jess Fuerst

Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 7 | Posted Jan. 10, 2013

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Dick Sheeran

Dick Sheeran grew up on the 1800 block of South Hicks Street. At age 21, his father, a milkman, wanted to live on a “big” street, so the family moved to 17th Street and Passyunk Avenue. 

“Those days in South Philly, the street was our theater; that’s where you played. Now you can’t move because everybody has three cars,” Sheeran, 73, said. 

Sheeran decided to chronicle what he nostalgically refers to as “simpler” times spent in 1940s and 50s’ South Philly. Though originally intended as a memoir for friends and family, he was urged to publish his reminisces and has since done so in “News Hound: From Halfball in South Philly to TV News.” 

“The name derives from something at my junior high school, Vare, at 24th and Snyder. There was a club,” he said. “I wanted to be in the news business way back in sixth grade. In sixth grade I went to Drexel School at 16th and Moore — it’s no longer there — but Ms. Seaman, a classroom teacher, had the Classroom Gazette. I wrote some articles in sixth grade and saw my byline and that’s it — that’s all it took.”

Sheeran went on to have a storied career in print and on-air journalism. It began as a copy boy for the Daily News and wound up in a retirement from an on-screen role with local television channels in 2003. His ascent through the media ranks is also chronicled in “News Hound.” 

“It starts with television, because I figured that would be the highest interest, then radio and newspapers. Then I get into South Philadelphia reminiscing,” Sheeran, who makes his home in Atlantic City, N.J., said of the 150-page book. 

Though he sets up shop in Jersey these days, he is often back on his block, meeting with fellow South Philadelphia High, 2101 S. Broad St., alums, or grabbing a bite at many of his favorite local restaurants. 

“I get back there all the time — that’s one of the beauties of growing up in South Philly. I talk about a social club we had. There were a number of social clubs for people in their late teens, early 20s,” he said. “We rented a clubhouse. We would have live jazz shows on Sunday afternoons. Guys would come in and play their hearts out … Consequently I have South Philly friends I’ve known for 60 years or more and we get together.”

Though he never intended to turn a profit, Sheeran has derived a lot of joy out of the self-published work, which has allowed him to connect with those he knows, and even those he doesn’t, who have had a chance to pick up a copy. 

“In Ocean City last week, having lunch, a guy came up to me who had bought the book at SunRose [bookstore]. He said, ‘I really enjoyed your book.’ He was just another diner, walking out of the restaurant,” Sheeran said. “That is really one of the reasons I did it. To have somebody come up to me and say something like that.” 

In addition to the occasional stranger, there are a few closer to home that Sheeran has been surprised to see take an interest in his story. 

“It’s really for the boomers, anybody that remembers the simpler times in South Philly. They would actually get the most out of it,” he said. “But my grandson — I have seven grandsons — thought it was interesting to read about the days before video games and stuff like that.”

In high school, Sheeran sold papers at 15th and Chestnut streets. At the suggestion of a colleague, he showed up at the Daily News to see about a job. 

“The next thing I know I was hired as a copy boy. You don’t make any money but it’s wonderful experience. It’s almost like an apprenticeship, but I was going to school at the same time,” Sheeran said. “J. Ray Hunt, the managing editor, he’s the one that really gave me my break. He said, ‘I’m going to make you the police reporter.’ It was the biggest step in my news career. 

“I’d work the midnight to 8 shift for the Daily News, and cover from the police headquarters. The experience was incredible. Then they brought you inside as a rewriter, then a deskman.”

During this time Sheeran also matriculated at Temple University. The demanding schedule only allowed him to finish two years of credits — though, in retirement, he has completed his degree at Thomas Edison State College — as his work life began to gain speed. 

“It was very special to me. I spent five years in radio as a reporter,” Sheeran said. “When I told my colleagues at the paper I was going to work for a radio station that did all news all the time, they said I was crazy.

“It was KYW in Philly. This had just started — All News, All the Time. They said, ‘A radio station that doesn’t play records? That’ll never amount to anything.’”

Luckily, they were wrong, and radio — a department in which Sheeran teaches at Temple some semesters — was another steppingstone to television. Taking a stab at an on-air performance led to 30 years on screen in the Philadelphia area. All of these roles, however, have become an integral part of Sheeran’s current life and newest profession.

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Comments 1 - 7 of 7
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1. pat rowley said... on Jan 27, 2013 at 01:24AM

“miss guys like you.times were mush fron our lady of mt carmel 3rd and dad and uncles were longshoremen at the docks.good luck .i will get your book”

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2. TC said... on Mar 19, 2013 at 07:16PM

“todays newsfolks are pressed out colorform actors that are more concerned with their teeth and tan lines....miss ya Dick”

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3. Roy Glenn said... on Sep 10, 2013 at 06:01AM

“Thanks for speaking at the Southampton Historical Society in Vincentown NJ on September 9, 2013. It was a very entertaining evening. You mentioned the (3) things that altered the area of Philadelphia where you grew up. You also noted that the same happened to many places. Those three things mentioned were air conditioners, cars and TV. While they have all helped us to live in more comfort, they have also isolated us from the folks next door. Computers and video games have also influenced our children to stay inside when the weather is perfect. It is too bad the kids now will miss so much of what kids in the past enjoyed. Those outdoor activities helped to improve physical and mental health in the kids of the past.
Yes the comedians of the past had us laughing without offensive words. We know that much was implied. Red Skelton would often embrace a well- built female guest on his show. Once he released his guest the comment was often you smashed both of them. He then would pull two cigars from his pocket to imply they were the objects that were smashed when we all knew that was not what he really was talking about.

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7. diana said... on Nov 11, 2014 at 05:32PM

“Enjoyed your talk at the Cherry Hill Public Library recently. It was a joy hearing your stories and meeting you. You were in good company with men and women who were committed to digging up the news , not just passing along whatever is online. Your talk recalled those "better" days of journalism. The kids nowadays do not have it better!”


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