Tico Times is Proof: No Such Thing as an ‘Ex-Journalist’

May 19, 2006

Richard and Elisabeth Dyer were living proof that there is no such thing as an ex-newspaperman (or woman).

For that matter, The Tico Times is, too.

The paper was founded, and later revived, by former journalists who simply couldn t stay away from the business they loved.

When students from Lincoln School approached Betty (as she was known to her friends) about teaching them something about journalism, she had been on the sidelines for a number of years. She had left a flourishing career in New York to marry Richard (Dick) and accompany him to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where he was bureau chief for International News Service (INS) and King Features syndicate. Daughter Dery was born there, and by the time the family moved to Costa Rica in 1951, Betty had become a fulltime mom and hostess, helping Dick in his new job as the United Fruit Company s public relations director for Central America.

Because of Dick s job, the Dyers hosted a steady stream of correspondents from all the major U.S. and Latin American papers, most of whom were friends from their journalism days, and they stayed in close contact with the news world. But they missed the day-today excitement of the news biz .

So when an excuse to start a paper presented itself, both thought it was a great idea. Betty loved being back in the saddle, and when not traveling around the isthmus and the country for the Bananera, Dick contributed articles on sports, Latin American politics and travel.

Curiously enough, both got into journalism by chance. Betty was born in Carson City, Nevada and grew up in San Francisco, California. As a freshman English major at the University of California at Berkeley, she got in the wrong line (she thought she was signing up for the drama club) and ended up trying out for the Daily Californian. She got hooked on newspapering, eventually becoming the paper s Women s Editor.

After graduation, under the byline of Elisabeth Townsend, she worked on the Berkeley Gazette and the Oakland Post-Enquirer, where Dick was a colleague. Both were early organizers of the American Newspaper Guild, and her union work took Betty across the United States.

She ended up in New York, where she became the city s first woman rewrite man for The New York Post and assistant city editor of the newspaper PM. She also authored a children s book, Johnny and His Wonderful Bed , which was published by Stephen Daye and opens (of course) with Johnny trying to tell his story to reporters.

At a time when women journalists tended to cover society events and soft news , Betty made a name for herself as a gutsy reporter, covering such traditionally male beats as crime, labor and politics. Among her big success stories was her coverage for The Post of the mysterious murder of U.S.-born British multimillionaire baronet Sir Harry Oakes in his palatial villa in the Bahamas in 1943. Her dispatches were so well-read that she was asked to stay in Nassau for weeks and cover the story for many other publications, including Time magazine.

Dick, a native of San Francisco, spent part of his childhood in Mexico, where he fell in love with Latin America. He graduated from Stanford University with a degree in mechanical engineering, did graduate work in Latin American history at the University of California at Berkeley, and got into journalism after the diesel engine company that had offered him a job when he graduated fell on hard times during the Depression.

After jobs on various Bay Area papers, Dick worked his way up to news editor of the Oakland Post-Enquirer. Then he signed on as assistant navigator and photographer with a Uruguayan crew that was sailing an old San Francisco Bay ferryboat to Montevideo. He covered this adventure for Life magazine, after which he traveled and freelanced in Uruguay, Argentina, Paraguay, Bolivia, Peru and Chile before joining the Associated Press in Buenos Aires. He was later sent to Rio as AP s assistant bureau chief.

When World War II started, Dick became a navigation instructor in the U.S. Army, later serving on the Inter-American Defense Board in Washington, D.C. as Brazilian liaison officer.During a trip to New York, he reconnected with Betty and they were married in 1944.

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