Category Archives: Working

I used to work in a place that… ‘doesn’t even exist anymore’

Pancho's

In a comment way back the middle of last month, Bryan linked to one of my favorite bits in “The Right Stuff” (which is saying something, since I love all of that film). It’s the scene in which The Media (portrayed throughout the film as an overexcited colonial animal constantly emitting motor-drive sounds like the ever-present background noise of crickets in the night) ask Dennis Quaid’s Gordon Cooper, “Who was the best pilot you ever saw?”

Cooper beams, and the viewer smiles with him, because we know the character loves to pose that question rhetorically, and answer it himself with, “You’re lookin’ at him.”

But then he gets serious, and says thoughtfully, hesitantly, in a low voice:

Who is the best pilot I ever saw? I’ll tell you. I’ve seen a lot of them, and most of them were pictures on a wall… back at some place that… doesn’t even exist anymore….

That’s a reference to Pancho’s Happy Bottom Riding Club, a run-down, low-rent bar and grill (as portrayed in the film, anyway) in the desert outside Edwards Air Force Base, where test pilots who had been killed in the line of duty were honored by having their pictures nailed up behind the bar. Pancho’s had burned down a number of years before Cooper became an astronaut.

Well, I just had a moment of wistful remembrance like that of Cooper’s.

I was on my way to an appointment on Market Street, which runs between Bluff Road and Key Road just south of Williams-Brice Stadium. And as I turned off George Rogers onto Key, I was shocked to see that the building housing The State‘s (and The Columbia Record‘s) former offices, there in the shadow of the stadium, was just gone, and something else was being built in its place. Even the little parking lot in front had been dug up.

That was where I worked for the first year I was at The State. We moved to the new building in 1988, and SC ETV bought the building. I knew that ETV had stopped using it, and had seen it looking rather derelict lately.

And most of my memories of The State were down the road in the new building. And I was pretty stressed that one year in the old building, trying to get acclimated to a new paper after my years in Tennessee and Kansas. I didn’t really settle in and start to enjoy myself until after we moved.

Still, it was a bit of a shock.

So I guess I’ll recover the way Gordo did when the journalists were too thick to follow his humble, honest effort to answer the question.

I’ll just give a cocky grin and say, “Who’s the best editor you ever saw? You’re lookin’ at him!”

My piece for the Brookings Institution

When I returned from Thailand, I had an email from Elaine Kamarck at the Brookings Institution:

1477344_10152268988702708_889340808_nI’m reaching out to invite you to contribute a short essay for our FixGov blog at the Brookings Institution. FixGov focuses on new ideas to make government work and identifies and aims to solve the nation’s most pressing political and governance challenges with sensible and realistic solutions.

A major thematic focus area of the blog and our work here at Brookings is improving media capacity.  Given your expertise, I welcome you to author a blog post for an upcoming series that will explain the current state of media in America and propose solutions for reinvigorating the industry, improving local and national news coverage and bolstering media oversight. The series will begin in mid- to late-Spring…

I sort of wondered how they got my name. I learned that, as I had suspected, E.J. Dionne had mentioned me. Which I appreciate.

Anyway, I proposed a topic to them and sat down and wrote it a couple of weekends back, and today it was published.

My topic was the decline of mid-sized newspapers, and why it matters — in terms of not being able to perform (as well) their watchdog role on the state and local level. After mentioning the ironic juxtaposition of the Charleston paper getting a Pulitzer on the same day more staff reductions were announced at The State (which happened after I chose my topic, but gave me a timely peg), I elaborated:

That matters because midsized papers have been the watchdog on the levels of government that most affect our lives. We drown in political news, commentary, gossip and minutiae out of Washington, but there’s no such informational vitality at the state and local level. When there are less than a third as many of you as there used to be, and you’ve added the 24/7 churn of web publishing, it gets hard to do anything more than feed the beast. Enterprise suffers….

And then I got to this point:

So, with newspapers shrinking and blogs unlikely to replace them, who is going to watch our state legislatures and city halls across the country? Increasingly, no one. Or worse, the wrong people…

That’s when I got into the fact that it was great that the S.C. Policy Council stayed on the Bobby Harrell story until action was taken. But I found it disturbing that an ideological group that doesn’t want to tell us where its money comes from was playing a role once played by broad-interest newspapers supported transparently by the ads you saw every day.

But you know what? Just go read the whole thing. Then, if you like, come back and we can discuss it further.

Corey Hutchins writes about buyouts at The State

Yesterday afternoon, Corey Hutchins called me to find out what I knew about the latest round of staff reductions at The State. I pointed him to my report two weeks ago, and chatted a bit about what I had learned since then. Beyond a few names, I had little else to say to enlighten him.

Corey’s report was just published by Columbia Journalism Review. And for me, the most pertinent part is the names of the longtime colleagues:

A number of entries disappeared from the paper’s online listing of newsroom staff between Thursday and Friday, though it was not immediately clear whether all the changes were related to the buyouts. Some of the names not on the current list include features reporter Joey Holleman, education and religion reporter Carolyn Click, associate editor and editorial board member Warren Bolton, photojournalist Kim Kim Foster-Tobin, sports columnist Ron Morris, and sports writer Neil White, who had been with the paper nearly 30 years.

Investigative reporter John Monk, who has deep sources in the legal and law enforcement worlds, is still listed, as are veteran environmental reporter Sammy Fretwell, business and military reporter Jeff Wilkinson, and longtime newsman Clif LeBlanc….

I had already told y’all about Warren and Neil, the only two I had confirmed of the dozen I had tentatively identified. Nothing in Corey’s report contradicted anything I had heard. I will say that some of the people I’ve heard are leaving are still listed on the newsroom’s online roster. Maybe I heard wrong; I don’t know.

Today is Warren’s last day. Here’s the only notice I’ve seen of that in print, at the end of his column today:

Editor’s Note: After 29 years with The State, the past 18 as a member of the editorial board, Mr. Bolton is leaving the newspaper. His insight and his journalism have enriched our community.

Kind of makes my farewell tour from the paper — three columns on the subject, a whole day’s letters to the editor, and multiple blog posts — look like an extended display of narcissism, doesn’t it?

My thoughts and prayers are with those leaving, and with those staying behind, from the top of management to the lowest folks on the totem pole. They’ve all been fighting a tough battle for years, and it just got harder for most of those left behind.

I’d love to be able to help, if I could.

Yes, indeed. Everyone needs an editor…

This is old — posted in 2014. But I just saw it, and I can’t help chortling:

Copy editors are a necessity in any newsroom, but sadly, the positions are slowly disappearing.

Recently, Gannett sacked a hefty amount of editors from its various titles across the nation, and the decision appears to have affected the top dogs. Gannett U.S. Community Publishing President Bob Dickey’s second quarter newsletter, released Wednesday, contained a major typo: Gannett was misspelled….

Did you see it? That’s right. Gannett did not sack a hefty amount of editors. That’s impossible. They sacked a healthy number of editors.

Of course, my enjoyment of this is tempered by the fact that I am a one-time copy editor, since laid off…

I’m glad Obama picked Clancy to head Secret Service

It may seem counterintuitive to many, but I’m glad the president made this decision, and not just because the guy’s name is Clancy (I mean, could you find a better name for a top cop?):

President Obama has named his acting director and trusted former detail leader Joseph Clancy as the new permanent leader of the Secret Service, the White House said Wednesday.

Clancy, 59, has led the agency for the past four months since being asked by the president to replace Julia Pierson, who resigned Oct. 1 amid a series of major security lapses. He had emerged as the likely choice for the full-time role last week, when the administration officials informed candidates that the president had made a selection.

Among the challenges for Clancy will be to determine how to secure the perimeter of the White House complex, in the wake of an intruder bursting past several layers of security last fall and a small drone aircraft landing on the lawn last month. The new director also will be charged with overseeing the massive security operation of protecting the candidates in the 2016 presidential race, through the primaries and the general election…

His selection goes against the advice of an independent panel, appointed by Homeland Security Secretary Jeh C. Johnson to examine the security failures, that recommended the agency name an outsider to the top job for the first time in the 150-year history of the Secret Service.

But Obama signaled to associates that his trust in Clancy trumped other concerns…

Why do I prefer Clancy to some outsider? I’ll offer four reasons:

  1. I think an insider who fully understands the challenges the service faces and is committed to overcoming them — assuming he is personally up to the job — is more likely to have the full, unhesitating cooperation of the rank and file in getting the job done. This is a demoralized agency, and being led by one of their own is better for morale than having some Pro from Dover come in and assume he knows it all.
  2. The president’s had experience with this particular guy, observing him in the job, and therefore he’s a known quantity — beyond the fact that the president is used to putting the lives of his family in his hands. POTUS is the boss, and it needs to be someone who has his confidence and full backing.
  3. I’ve just got a prejudice for hiring from within, of giving good people a chance to advance where they are. I’ve been the Pro from Dover myself a couple of times, and while I was qualified and had confidence in my own abilities, I fully understood the resistance I got from people who knew the place far better than I did and resented me as an outsider. Also, I’ve got this thing about trusting people to do their jobs unless they, personally, have demonstrated they’re not up to it. (The agency may have been falling down on the job, but I’ve heard of no indication that Clancy has.) For instance, I’ve got a thing against special prosecutors, who tend to be appointed for political reasons to do jobs that regular cops and prosecutors should be able to do if we just trust their professionalism — which we shouldn’t do if they’ve shown themselves unsuited, but if they haven’t, it’s wrong not to trust them.
  4. Finally, who you gonna trust — a guy named “Clancy,” or one named “Jeh?”

OK; I was kidding with that last one.

‘Everything You Hate About Advertising in One Fake Video That’s Almost Too Real’

white men

‘Using a specific ratio of Asian people to Black people to Women to White men…’

Something fun that I posted on the ADCO blog earlier…

An explanation, from AdWeek:

Well, this is hilarious on a few different levels.

Stock video provider Dissolve has taken the text of Kendra Eash’s brilliant advertising takedown, “This Is a Generic Brand Video,” originally published by McSweeney’s, and set it to actual stock video clips.

The company explains: “The minute we saw Kendra Eash’s brilliant ‘This Is a Generic Brand Video’ on McSweeney’s, we knew it was our moral imperative to make that generic brand video so. No surprise, we had all the footage.”

The results, narrated by Dallas McClain, are outstanding. You’ve seen all of this footage in ads from major brands. It’s everywhere. And it’s great that a stock video house would so gleefully celebrate the soul-sucking manipulations for which its offerings are generally used.

Watch below, and have a great self-hating rest of your afternoon.

Be sure to adjust the setting to HD 1080, in order to fully enjoy the empty experience of viewing Dissolve’s awesome stock footage:

And here I am as a tyro journalist, at about the same time

baby journalist

I ran across this picture during the same search that produced the one of Dylan and The Band.

Evidently, I did not take this. I don’t remember who did.

Anyway, that’s me front and center looking at the camera, with the Groucho mustache, the circa 1965 Beatles hair, the octagonal wire-rims, the distinctly big-collared 1970s sport shirt, and the white Keds. This was in the newsroom of The Helmsman, the student paper at Memphis State University, probably around the same time as the Dylan/Band picture. So somewhere in the 1973-75 range.

This was during my stint as either editorial page editor or news editor of the paper. I say this because I’m turned away from the manual typewriter and evidently pencil-editing someone else’s copy instead of writing. I’m sitting in the slot position of the copy desk, the standard U-shaped desk that an editor I worked with after graduation called “the elephant’s commode.”

Dan Henderson, our fearless leader.

Dan Henderson, our fearless leader.

But we didn’t really have a formal copy desk and slot man. There were four or five kids, of whom I was one, who were the core of the paper and made everything happen, with other contributors coming and going. Another of the inner group is in the background at far right, his finger in his near ear as he tries to hear someone on the phone. His name was Oran; I forget his last name.

I don’t know what the long-haired guy standing in the doorway of the supply closet is looking at; he seems to be just grooving on a spot in the ceiling.

Note the detritus of a paper-based publishing system. Aside from the typewriters, there’s a pencil sharpener, a tape dispenser, a stapler, and several pots of rubber cement. The rubber cement was for gluing all the pages, or takes, of a story together into one long, continuous strip of paper. The piece was sent to a commercial print shop several miles away where the paper was put together, and which we had to visit to proof and let the pages go.

The newsroom was small. Whoever shot this is standing in the middle of it.

Dan pretends to point to something on a piece of copy I'm pretending to edit. This was for the yearbook. Notice we didn't make the slightest effort to groom for the occasion.

Dan pretends to point to something on a piece of copy I’m pretending to edit. This was for the yearbook. Notice we didn’t make the slightest effort to groom for the occasion…

The closed door behind me is the Inner Sanctum of whoever was our chief editor at the time — probably the late Dan Henderson, who was later an assistant managing editor at The Commercial Appeal. Oran was to work for them later, too, in a rural bureau in West Tennessee. Those bureau people weren’t in the Guild, and were treated like dirt by the people in Memphis. One night, Oran called in his story, and the editor took it, and asked all the questions he had while editing it, and then said, “By the way, we won’t be needing your services any more.” Yeah, he was fired. He had moved out of Memphis and set up residence in some dinky town for the sake of the paper, and that’s how they let him go. Sayonara, pal.

Some would say that’s a good argument for unionizing reporters, since it was the fact that Oran was not in the Guild that let him be treated this way. For my part, I think there’s something about Guild papers (The Commercial Appeal was the only one I ever worked at) that created an unnecessarily adversarial relationship between journalists and management, so the powers that be took out their hostility on the ones they could take it out on. But that’s just my theory…

What ‘we believe,’ compared to what I believe

Bear with me, those of you who aren’t interested in religious arcana. I’ll post something for you later. But it is Advent, after all, and therefore a time for reflection…

On a previous post, Mike Cakora shared a favorite quote:

“A consensus means that everyone agrees to say collectively what no one believes individually.”
– Abba Eban, Israeli diplomat (1915-2002)

My response to that got so involved, I decided to turn it into a separate post…

I really like the Abba Eban quote, even though I suspect he is trying to say something negative about consensus, when I think it is a wonderful thing.

The point he makes is at the heart of why I’m so pedantic about the distinction between an editorial and a column. An editorial expresses a group opinion (preferably an actual consensus, which was our goal at The State), and a column is what one person believes. (It particularly drives me nuts when innocents say they’ve contributed “an editorial,” when they mean a letter or an op-ed. It’s all I can do to keep myself from telling them, “That’s impossible, because you do not belong to an editorial board.” Because, you know, I don’t think it would be taken well.)

This distinction also lies at the heart of my objection to the changes to the Catholic liturgy in English in this country a couple of years back. Well, my substantive objection, as opposed to my merely aesthetic ones. (I thought the words were more beautiful before.)

I only have my nose rubbed in this problem when I attend a Mass in English, which I usually don’t do, since I’m a Spanish lector. (The irony is that the Spanish version has many of the same flaws as the new English one, but it’s the only version I’ve known in Spanish, so I don’t have the sense of loss.)

Last night, I attended a Mass in English, because I had a personal conflict with my usual Mass time. When we got to the Creed, I couldn’t bring myself to say the new words, and muttered th old one under my breath. Here’s the new creed, the one that bothers me so much.

Here’s the old one. Or rather, a comparison of the two. The old one is on the left.

I have a number of objections, as I said, arising purely from my love of the language. If you care about words, “one in being with the Father” is greatly preferable to “consubstantial with the Father.” Or compare the old, “he suffered, died and was buried” to “he suffered death and was buried.” The latter minimizes both the suffering and the death, coming across almost as though “he suffered inconvenience.” The old stresses that he SUFFERED, and then he DIED. Whole different emphasis. Or rather, the old actually does emphasize, and the new does not.

But the BIG objection is that the old is about what “WE believe,” and the new one says “I believe.” And yeah, I know this gets us back to a literal translation of the Latin Credo, but that doesn’t legitimize it for me.

Here’s why: For me the creed works as an editorial (the old way), but not as a column (the new way). As with the Eban quote, the creed describes what we have agreed to believe collectively, not a single person’s conclusions about faith. Switching to “I” negates the communitarian nature of Catholicism, and moves us more toward the nonliturgical denominations, where they talk a lot about their own personal faith, and their personal relationship with Jesus. I prefer to stress, through our statement of faith, that we are all part of the Body of Christ, and that these statements reflect a 2,000-year-old process of discernment.

And for those of you who still don’t understand my communitarian leanings, this is NOT about subordinating my ability to think to a collective enterprise. As you know, I object deeply to that sort of thing; that objection lies at the heart of my critique of political parties.

I object because I DO think for myself. And if I were working out a personal, “I” sort of creed, it would be quite different from this one. I’m not a Christian and a Catholic because of the things stated in the creed. At no time would I attach great importance to the Virgin Birth, for instance. I’m OK with saying “WE” believe that; I don’t object to it. But it’s not core to my faith. The core of my faith, and I think, truly, the Catholic faith, is what Jesus stated as the Great Commandment, and the second commandment that is inextricably related to it, “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.”

Were I to write a creed, it would center around those things, not around a sort of religious cosmology or the description of a Trinity-based pantheon of versions of God. I’m happy to go along with (WE believe) what they came up with at Nicea, but it’s just not what I, personally (I believe) would have come up with.

Which reminds me. I have for years had this idea for a project — to draft a new creed, based in what Jesus actually taught, rather than in all the arguments that occurred after his death as to who he was. A creed that Jesus would actually recognize, that would make him say, “THAT’s what I was talking about.” I’ve just been intimidated by the scope of it, and I worry that trying to do such a thing would show abominable hubris on my part. Lacking a good grounding in theology or in deep study of the Bible, I fear that what I came up with would be woefully inadequate, and therefore it would be presumptuous of me to try.

But I really ought to try sometime… Maybe the difficulty of the task would make me appreciate the Nicene one better…

And maybe I shouldn’t be intimidated. After all, I think an atheist, Douglas Adams, did a great job of summing up the faith, even though he was being offhand and flippant about it:

And then, one Thursday, nearly two thousand years after one man had been nailed to a tree for saying how great it would be to be nice to people for a change…

Step One in becoming a communications firm: Proof the release, immidiately

And from our Schadenfreude department…

Yeah, I know this could happen to anybody, including me. But that doesn’t keep me from enjoying this…

COMMUNICATIONS AND DIGITAL STRATEGY FIRM OPENS DOORS INSIDE BELTWAY
surgeRED Brings Together Experience And Talent In New Venture
FOR IMMIDIATE RELEASE
Friday, December 5th 2014
Alexandria, VA – Today, the new communications and digital strategy firm, surgeRED, launched with a focus on a suite of services geared toward electing conservatives to public office. The firm offers a variety of capabilities to its clients: general consulting, communications strategy, digital strategy and design, and a full data analytics service.“We’ve brought together a great team with immense talent,” commented founder and CEO, David Denehy. “We have partners with decades of experience working with some of the brightest up-and-coming consulting talent in the D.C. area, and we expect to see something special.”

With nearly 40 years of experience, surgeRed’s leadership and expert staff offer a deep experience and real commitment to electing Republicans.

So you can go ahead and publish this, since it’s “FOR IMMIDIATE RELEASE”…

How did LinkedIn manage THIS?

linkedin

Yesterday, I received an email urging me to “ADD PERSONALITY TO YOUR PROFILE:”

Now you can make your profile pop by adding a custom background. Just upload an image that reflects your passions, projects, or inspiration and show people what you’re about.

But that’s not the amazing part. The amazing part is that LinkedIn provided the above suggestion for how such a new custom background might look.side

And the coffee cup in the picture is a dead-ringer for one of our branded ADCO coffee mugs. Not only that, but the notepad in the shot looks for all the world like one of our ADCO-branded notepads. OK, it’s a little bigger, but that’s about the only difference.

Below is a shot I staged using our own official ADCO items.

How weird is that?

It was like an invitation to the Twilight Zone. Cue the weird music: Doo-doo-DOO-doo, Doo-doo-DOO-doo, Doo-doo-DOO-doo

top

How much weight should we give to bad jobs news in SC?

tumblr_inline_ne0b8ni5Iw1r3abgt

The state Democratic Party has been sending out a steady stream of bad SC jobs news as a way of undercutting Nikki Haley’s big strength — the narrative that, whatever else you think of her, she’s done a good job of recruiting jobs for the state.

I’ve been inclined to ignore these, because, let’s face it — companies are always going as well as coming, or shrinking as well as growing, and you can’t disprove a trend with anecdotal evidence.

Also, you have to wonder how seriously the party takes these bad-news announcements, since on the “Haley’s Smoke and Mirrors” website, they accompany each one with a cutesy GIF, like the one above. As a guy who’s spent a good bit of time unemployed after being laid off, I find myself wondering what’s so funny about these situations. Even if the overall trend in SC is good, each of these items is very bad news for some individual South Carolinians.

But in the last few days, the sheer volume of these news items has worn away my doubts to the point that I’m wondering whether this is an unusually bad streak of developments.

I don’t know. But you can peruse them at the website. And here are the headlines of the last 11 such releases I’ve received, over just the second half of this month:

  1. PTR Announces Layoffs One Week After Haley Visit
  2. SC’s economy slows, jobless rate jumps
  3. S.C. foreclosure filings above national average despite 11% decrease
  4. Jobless rate now highest in state
  5. S.C.jobless rate up to 6.6 percent in September
  6. Bi-Lo to cut jobs at former Mauldin headquarters
  7. Heinz to close Florence facility employing 200 workers
  8. Truth Check: Is SC’s economy ‘one of fastest growing on East Coast’?
  9. 200 to lose jobs as Orangeburg plant closes
  10. Major Upstate employer announces relocation to NC
  11. GE Prepares Global Layoffs, Some Greenville Jobs Affected

OK, one of those is out of place — Jobless rate now highest in state — since some part of the state will always be the highest in the state, regardless of how good things are. But the other 10 provide a fairly steady drumbeat of actual bad news.

Now, here’s a HUGE grain of salt: These were not real-time announcements. They were from over a much-longer period of time than the dates of the releases would indicate. Some weren’t even from this year. So consider that.

By the way, did you make the connection on that first one? That’s the gun manufacturer that caused our governor’s eyes to light up so…

Nikki gun

Hutchins highlights Dudley’s role in bringing down Harrell

On a previous post, Doug Ross and Lynn T. both said that Renee Dudley, formerly of The Post and Courier, deserved a lot of credit for bringing Harrell down. I had to confess that I wasn’t that familiar with her work (the last one of their reporters I knew at all was Yvonne Wenger) and had little to add on the subject. I knew that a lot of the initial spadework on the case had been done by the Charleston paper, but that was about it.

Well, today, Corey Hutchins brings to my attention to this piece he wrote in Columbia Journalism Review, praising Ms. Dudley along those lines:

ReneeDudley295

Renee Dudley

It is a case study in why local accountability reporting matters. It took the reporting of Renee Dudley, a young, aggressive reporter for the Charleston Post and Courier, to break the news of the longtime politician’s wrongdoing and force the issue to the forefront of public debate.

Harrell had been in the House since 1993, and had been Speaker since 2005. Before Dudley took him on, no other reporter had so thoroughly researched and scrutinized his behavior in office, not at papers around the state capitol nor in his home district of Charleston.

But Dudley, a Boston native, had started to make a name for herself with investigative features after joining The Post and Courier in 2010 to cover health stories. As a reporter covering politics at the capital for the Columbia, SC-based alt-weekly Free Times, I first noticed her work when she dropped a September 2011 story on Gov. Nikki Haley’s trip to Europe.

By the time I read her pieces on Harrell the next year, I was jealous. In the spring of 2012, Dudley, then 26, penned her first big report on Bobby’s world. The story was an investigative report about a big-money political action committee linked to the Speaker, and how he used it to consolidate and wield power in the House. Her piece raised questions about conflicts of interest, including whether it was proper for one lawmaker to accept $123,000 in payment to his communications firm from “the Speaker’s PAC.”

The bombshell that eventually put the Speaker in legal crosshairs, and later led to his guilty plea, came that September. Its title: “Harrell offers no details on self-reimbursement of $325,000 from campaign funds.”…

Video: Sheheen’s and Ervin’s meetings with The State’s editorial board

I was looking for something else, and happened to run across these videos posted by SCETV, obviously with the cooperation of my friends at The State.

These are a considerable improvement over the low-res, 3-minute clips I used to post from my little personal Canon camera — which could not shoot any video longer than 3 minutes, and which I also used for still shots, so the video record was far from complete. And I was doing it all while running a sound recorder, taking notes and presiding over the meeting. But hey, before I started blogging, you didn’t get any pictures or video from these meetings. So get outta my face.

Anyway. I’m happy to note the progress. And as a connoisseur of these things, it’s fun for me to note the way things are the same and how they differ. For instance, I notice Cindi used the usual “give us your stump speech” opener with Sheheen, but asked a slightly different opening question of Ervin. The Sheheen approach was always our standard. I would do that because I liked to start with the candidate making his or her case in his or her own words, rather than just responding to our questions. I felt that was the fairest way to start, to lay a base, before we started asking what we wanted to know. And even if the spiel was a bunch of baloney, the fact that the candidate freely chose such a pose told me a lot. It was boring for the reporters who would sit in, because they had heard the speech out on the hustings. But these meetings weren’t held for their purposes; they were for those of us trying to make an endorsement decision.

You’ll hear me starting things off that way in this meeting with Barack Obama, just as I did with hundreds of others.

You might notice another, subtler thing. You can sort of tell at the start of the Obama clip that something has gone before — some small talk, some joshing around, before we got down to business. I always did that. You’ll note that Cindi, far more task oriented than I, and nobody’s idea of a social butterfly, doesn’t fool with that. She doesn’t schmooze. An interview is an opportunity to get answers to X, Y and Z, and that’s what she’s there for.

She always knows just what information she needs. I took more of a zen approach. I was always curious to see where an interview would go if I let it have its head. I was looking for column inspiration; I had Cindi and Warren and, in the good times, a couple of other associate editors to make sure all the essential bases were covered.

Oh, you’re wondering where the Nikki Haley meeting is, right? There wasn’t one. My understanding is that her campaign did not accept the board’s invitations to meet. So if you ever wondered what, if anything, Nikki Haley and Hillary Clinton have in common, now you know.

Why don’t I write like that any more?

hemingway-writing

For my entire career, whenever I look back at what I wrote a year or two in the past, I think, “Why don’t I write like that anymore?”

This is, I hope, a twist on the “grass is always greener” phenomenon. Either that, or my powers as a writer have been declining for four decades, which means that by this time, I should be incapable of putting a noun and a verb together in an intelligible order.

Anyway, I had that experience again today. I accidentally ran across this post from four years ago, in which I had a little fun mocking the way Republicans talk in South Carolina:

As I’ve said from Day One I’m a conservative a true conservative my daddy was a conservative daddy my mama was a conservative mama I’m a bidnessman meet a payroll don’t take bailouts lazy shiftless welfare takers the key is to starve ‘em before they reproduce 100 percent rating from conservative conservatives of America my dog is a conservative dog I don’t have a cat because cats are effete I eat conservative I sleep conservative I excrete conservative I got conservative principles a conservative house and conservative clothes take back our government from the socialists even though we don’t really want it because who needs government anyway they don’t have government in Somalia and they’re doing alright aren’t they National Rifle Association Charlton Heston is my president and Ronald Reagan is my God I will have no gods before him I go Arizona-style all the way that’s the way I roll I will keep their cold dead government hands off your Medicare so help me Ronald Reagan…

That was prompted, of course, by my being fed up at hearing Republicans who are unable to complete a sentence without using the word “conservative” at least once, and preferably multiple times. In case, you know, you missed it the first time. It is mind-numbingly monotonous, and I needed a little comic relief. I thought we all did.

That got me sufficiently charged up that I turned and made fun of Democrats, saying that just once, I’d like to hear a candidate for office in South Carolina say the following:

Actually, I’m a liberal. A liberal all the way. I drive a Prius, I love wine and cheese parties with the faculty, I think America is a big bully in the world and no wonder people hate us (I’d be a terrorist, too, if I didn’t abhor violence so), and I never saw an abortion I didn’t like. My spouse and I have an open marriage, so scandal can’t touch us, because to each his or her own. I’m a white, male heterosexual and the guilt just eats me alive; I wish I belonged to a group that was more GENUINE, you know? The first thing I’d do if elected is raise taxes through the roof, and spend every penny on public education, except for a portion set aside for re-education camps for people who now home-school their kids. Then, if we needed more money for excessive regulation of business and other essential government services, we’d raise taxes again, but only on the rich, which is defined as YOU or anybody who makes more than you. Probably the best word to describe my overall tax plan would be “confiscatory.” And my spending (OH, my spending! You’ve never seen spending until you see my spending!) would best be termed “redistributive.” If elected, my inaugural party will have music by the Dixie Chicks and the Indigo Girls, and then we’ll all bow down to a gigantic image of Barack (did you know it means “blessed”?) Obama, the savior of us all, and chant in some language other than the ultimate oppressor language, English. French, perhaps. Or Kiswahili….

I had fun reading that. Why don’t I write like that anymore?…

Applicants must, however, be able to snatch the pebble from the master’s hand

kung-fu_tv-master_po-young_grasshopper

Here’s an exciting opportunity for us Twitterati:

BEIJING (AP) — Help wanted: Ancient Buddhist temple famed for its kung fu monks seeks media directors to build brand. English and social media skills required. Not necessary to be a monk, practice martial arts or eat vegetarian.

That online ad placed by China‘s 1,500-year-old Shaolin temple already has drawn a brisk response, reflecting the institution’s exalted place in Chinese history and popular culture.

Chinese state media reported Friday that 300 people have already applied for the two positions available, including business executives, media professionals and recent graduates of top overseas universities. Although the temple’s monks are all male, men and women are both invited to send in their resumes, the reports said….

The move is the latest attempt by the enterprising abbot Shi Yongxin to exploit the temple’s fame in the name of propagating Buddhist thinking and culture….

True wisdom, grasshopper, is knowing you need help with your social media.

 

This job sounds even more vulnerable to layoff than ‘editorial page editor’

Hey, I’ve been known to yell “stop the presses” a few times. Well, not yell, really. More like run down to the press room or call the foreman on the phone and say it in an urgent tone.

But I’ve given the order a few times, back in my newsroom days, before I moved to the more sedate world of editorial.

However, it never occurred to me that there might be a guy whose whole job was just stopping the presses. Which appears to be the case with this job posting I saw today:

Press Brake Operator needed in Columbia, SC

Working Hours: Monday-Friday 6:30am-4:00pm
Location: NE Columbia, SC
Pay: $10.00 / DOE

1-2 years experience in Punch Press, Lasers, and/ or Turret Punch.

Looking for hard working employees with reliable transportation.
Steel toed boots required
Drug testing required
Background screening required

NEED ASAP!!!!!!

Hey, that last line was uttered with a certain urgency, don’t you think? Must be an editor somewhere who really, really needs those presses stopped.

But it seems to me that a job that consisted entirely of stopping the presses sounds a tad, well, specialized. Makes you wonder why someone else, with other duties, can’t just step over and put the brakes on at the appropriate moment. Seems like, if that were my whole job, just stopping the presses, I’d really be looking over my shoulder worried that the bosses might figure out that someone else could do the job cheaper.

But I’m being facetious. This job title is probably a little misleading; the person who fills the position no doubt has other stuff to do the rest of the time when he or she isn’t stopping the presses. I was never in charge of the production division, so the intricacies of titles in that department may be going over my head.

But I just got a smile out of it, reminiscing…

Burl Burlingame’s awesome second career

Actually, it’s not so much a second career as it is a continuation and expansion of one that he had always pursued.

Even in high school, Burl Burlingame was a Renaissance Man. He was a photographer, a musician, an actor, a cartoonist, a writer, an editor and a publisher, putting out his own underground newspaper at Radford High School, from which he and I graduated in 1971.

He was also really into airplanes and their history.

So while he was spending 35 years working for newspapers, he had a parallel career as a military historian specializing in the Pacific. He published on the subject, and became the leading expert on Japanese midget submarines. While working at the paper, he was a volunteer at a local aviation museum there in Honolulu.

Who could have predicted, in 1971, that among his many enthusiasms, the one that would be employing him in 2014 was his passion for building model airplanes?

But that’s the way it worked out, as Burl is now curator of the Pacific Aviation Museum on Ford Island in the middle of Pearl Harbor.

(By contrast, I was spending my 35 years in newspapers working 12-hour days so I had no time or energy for a outside pursuits, becoming expert in every aspect of the trade, innovating at every opportunity, leading the way on new technology, pioneering in blogging, leading other journalists, climbing the ladder to senior management — which led to nothing in the end. So let that be an object lesson to you, children.)

Anyway, since Burl is a regular here, I thought y’all might be interested in these video features about what he does, which seems to me like too much fun to get paid for. Above is an overall feature about his job and how he does it, while the clip below is Burl’s bio.

Watch, and envy him…

What?!? You don’t think people got THIRSTY in 1924?

la-et-st-downton-abbey-reveals-new-season-phot-001

ADCO‘s clients sometimes wonder why we want to make sure to have our own Brian Murrell present on photo or video shoots to direct the proceedings.

This is why. Even the best photographers and videographers, sticklers for detail, can make a mistake. It helps to have an independent (and skilled) eye overseeing the proceedings.

This mistake is painful. You know that everybody concerned strained to get every tiny detail exactly right — the costumes, the hairstyles, the fireplace, the vases, the clock.

And they almost succeeded. But then later had to remove this photo, taken with such loving care to promote the upcoming fifth season, from “Downton Abbey’s” Facebook page.

All because somebody involved was thirsty…

Remembering Lamar Alexander’s walk across Tennessee

Lamar Hand Shaking_Display

I got this email yesterday…

Hi Brad,

I am a staff writer for Governing Magazine and came across your blog while doing some Googling about Lamar Alexander’s walk across Tennessee. (Governing covers state and local governments across the country and our audience is largely elected officials/public employees.) I’m working on a fun piece for one of our upcoming issues about the political stunt of walking and was wondering if you were available this week to chat about the topic as you covered Alexander’s campaign in ‘78. The piece will take an overall look at some of the more famous “walks” by pols – from Missouri’s Walkin’ Joe Teasdale to Illinois’ (aptly named) Dan Walker, the public stroll has been a popular political tool. More recently, Adam O’Neal, mayor of the small town of Belhaven, N.C., took a 273-mile trek to Washington, D.C. to protest the closing of his local hospital. President Obama this spring took an impromptu stroll to the Dept. of the Interior for a meeting.

I’d love to hear your take on the effectiveness of Alexander’s 1,000-mile walk and how it resonated with people. And I’m also curious about your broader thoughts on the gimmick as a whole. How effective has this type of stunt been? Who’s done it right and are there pitfalls?

Are you available Wednesday or Thursday for a phone call? Or you can always reach me directly at the number below.

Thanks,

Liz

# # # # # # # # # # # # #

Liz Farmer | Staff Writer
Governing Magazine

… and I talked with Liz for about 20 minutes this morning.

I didn’t have anything really profound to say. Here are some of the points I hit on:

  • First, I wasn’t on the actual, full walk across Tennessee (which, if you follow I-40, is about 450 miles). I was covering him during the last weeks of the general election campaign, and he had completed the walk (if I remember correctly) well before the primary. His walk was a campaign trope in the past tense: “On my walk across the state, I found yadda-yadda…” BUT I got the general flavor of it, because everywhere he went, he’d get out and walk a mile or so along the side of the road in his trademark red-and-black checked flannel shirt, khakis and hiking boots, waving at the cars. I got some photos of him doing that along a busy thoroughfare in Nashville. The brand was working for him, so he kept it going through to the end.
  • Lamar was trying to set himself apart at a time when politicians-as-usual had a particularly seedy reputation. The state had endured four years of astoundingly bold corruption under Democrat Ray Blanton. And Lamar himself had worked in the Nixon White House, a fact that might have figured in his failure to get elected four years earlier. Nixon was the master of limited access and staged availabilities, since he was so socially awkward. This walk was the opposite, and allowed him to project as an outdoorsy, clean-cut kind of guy — he looked and sounded like Pat Boone (Boone did some PSAs that were airing on the radio at about that time, and whenever he came on, I thought it was Alexander).
  • Since she was looking for examples of politicians talking long walks for political purposes, I urged her to look into Joe Riley’s march from Charleston to Columbia in 2000 to demand that the Confederate flag come off the dome. That had an impact at the time — and was mentioned recently in a nationally syndicated column, so it should be easy to look up.
  • Even though we’re far more cynical and suspicious these days, I think Tennesseans who remember Alexander’s walk still have positive connotations connected to it, largely because he wasn’t a disappointment to them. He was open and aboveboard in his dealings as governor. He worked VERY well across the aisle, persuading Speaker Ned Ray McWherter and the other Democratic leaders to go for the kinds of education reform that were usually anathema to Dems. He harks back to a better time, when Republicans like him and his mentor Howard Baker disagreed with Democrats, but didn’t see them as the enemy, but as people to work with for the betterment of the state and country.
  • That, of course, is why Alexander has Tea-Party opposition in this Thursday’s primary (Tennessee has primaries at a much more rational and voter-friendly time than we do; our June primaries mean there’s plenty of time for mischief in the Legislature after filing deadlines). Here’s hoping his opponent does no better than his counterpart in Kansas, the president’s distant cousin. Lamar Alexander is exactly the kind of senator this country needs in Washington, and there too few like him left. (See “In Tennessee, consensus politics makes a last stand” by Dan Balz in the WashPost.)

I wished I could have put my hands on one story I wrote, right after Alexander won the 1978 election, which ran on the front page of The Jackson Sun. It was an exclusive, and one of the best stories I wrote during my brief time as a reporter. It was Alexander’s own account of how he had come back after defeat four years earlier. A week or two before Election Day, at the end of a long day of campaigning, Alexander and a reporter from the Tennessean were relaxing over a drink on the campaign plane on the way back from an event at one of the far ends of the state. (We had access to candidates in those days that reporters only dream of now, and our papers thought nothing about paying a pro-rata share of the plane rides.) Alexander just started talking about how he come to that point, and the Tennessean guy just listened and enjoyed his drink, and I took notes like mad. Even John Parish, the gruff dean of Tennessee political writers, praised the piece I got from that eavesdropping.

That probably would have provided Liz with some insights, but this was years before electronic archiving. That clip is probably moldering in a box in my attic somewhere…