An industry in its infancy
At least once a day, Richard Malkin shuffles into the small study of his New York home, selects a record from one of the tall bookcases stuffed with music, and whiles away some time listening to one of his favorite composers.
At 98, his hearing has faded, but he still takes time to regularly embrace music, one of his many loves. The room itself is lined with treasures — a Pakistani stringed instrument, a framed note written by composer Clara Schumann to her babysitter, a letter penned by Napoleon’s court conductor — and Malkin will freely talk about his love of the arts.
His first cousin once removed, who died half a decade ago, taught violin at Juilliard in New York City and served as concertmaster of the NBC Orchestra. In the early part of 1900, Malkin’s relatives, Jacob and Joseph, started a conservatory in Boston. Malkin himself doesn’t play — he briefly pursued violin as a 12 year old, and in fact, still has the instrument in his basement — and his two children, while creatively inclined, don’t either.
Yes, Malkin will talk about how he spends his days surrounded by music and books or about memories of living in the shadow of Yankee Stadium, but his visitors, of which he has many, mostly want to talk about his career. Malkin is, hands down, the most successful air cargo journalist the industry has ever known. He steered this publication through the airfreight industry’s first three-and-a-half decades and subsequently worked for the 13 years at the Journal of Commerce before serving as the editor of CNS Focus. In 2005, he was elected into The International Air Cargo Association’s Hall of Fame. He has a coffee table full of award statuettes given to him by thankful industry groups (and a dozen or so more tucked away, he adds). To the journalism industry, Richard Malkin is air cargo.
Malkin was born to be a journalist — not specifically one covering air cargo, but a journalist nonetheless. He spent his early years at a newspaper in Rockland County, New York, but he also had another passion. “Ever since my youth I had wanted to be a journalist, a reporter,” he says, resting on a couch in the living room of his cozy home. “But along the way, I developed a very strong interest in literature and felt I wanted to write creatively. Very early, I started with writing short stories — fiction.”
He wrote about his early life and pursuing a job with Air Cargo World, then known as Air Transportation, in 2002 anniversary issue of Air Cargo World, saying that he was drawn to the prospect of editing a cargo magazine because he wanted to “improve my earning capacity.” As a general assignment reporter, first covering everything from obituaries to murders and then slowly moving into the political arena, he wasn’t getting paid enough to cover his significant family expenses, he says.
In the 2002 article, he explains that air cargo was simply a way to buttress his bank account until he could move onto something he loved. That something was, of course, writing fictional short stories, an endeavor that won him an O. Henry Award as a runner up to Truman Capote, he says. But air cargo hooked him.
“Passenger people will disagree with me, but almost from the beginning, I recognized air cargo as the more glamorous and romantic side of the business,” he wrote. “I spent the next six decades talking about getting out, yet never got around to doing it. Go figure.”
Malkin’s journalistic career hits all the major high notes of air cargo’s history. His first career-defining experience, one of his most thrilling while covering the industry, he says, came in the 1940s. In 1949, he traveled to Frankfurt for what was then Air Transportation to write a series of articles revolving around the Berlin Airlift.