When Mort Young became our resident computer expert last March, we got a lot more than we bargained for. Most SI writers and editors are low-tech people who, having been married to their typewriters for years, assumed a computer specialist would be some sort of evil alien. But in Young we got not only a patient, amiable man who allays our fears of bits and bytes but also someone who understands that "deadline" doesn't mean the phone isn't working.
For 27 years, Young made his living as a reporter, writer and editor. After graduating from New York University, he went to work for the Long Island Daily Press as a reporter. A year and a half later he had saved enough money to buy a ticket to the Middle East. For the next 2½ years, Young lived in Morocco, Egypt and Lebanon, supporting himself by writing free-lance articles. "It was a hand-to-mouth existence," says Young. "And not much mouth." He went to the Middle East weighing 145 pounds and returned at 120, but he loved his stay there.
"I ended up teaching 18th-century English literature at a junior college outside Beirut," he says. "It was a magnificent city, absolutely lovely, and I hated to leave, but I had to make a living."
Young returned to New York and went to work for the now defunct New York Journal-American. A 10-part series he wrote in 1965 on police procedures was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. In 1974 he became assistant national editor for the Hearst newspapers, doing investigative and overseas reporting as well as drama criticism. "I wrote the reviews at night," says Young. "I guess my main claim to fame in that job was that I was the only reviewer to pan A Chorus Line." In all this, Young also wrote a book, UFO: Top Secret. It sold out its paperback run. In 1981 he was named editor of the Hearst Feature Service.
But by 1984 Young decided he needed a change. "After nearly 30 years of newspaper work, I got the feeling every story was repeating itself," he says. He took some computer courses and eventually found his way to SI. Young is the person a writer calls at 4 a.m. when his accursed cursor is frozen in midparagraph, and the one editors holler for when their terminals are apparently terminal. It's a seven-day-a-week job, which is why Young carries a beeper with him, even on weekends.
When Young wants to get away from it all, he climbs on his Nighthawk 650 motorcycle and rides out into the New Jersey and New York countrysides. "It's a nice change," he says. "I'm just responsible for that one machine and myself."
Young allays the low-tech crowd's fears.