Tuesday, November 5, 2013


It's election day in South Texas. Granted, it isn't a huge election with any statewide offices or really any significant local offices at stake. What it is, though, is the first election in 44 years that I won't be in a newspaper newsroom.

Throughout my 44 year newspaper career, that ended with my retirement in May, I always publically professed to hate newsroom election nights, declaring them the best argument I could think of in favor of benevolent dictatorship.  The truth, however, is that I really enjoyed them because of the adrenalin rush they almost always produced and because they are the best examples I can think of of democracy in action. And, of course, they also provide a great justification for gorging yourself with pizza.

In a newsroom, election nights are the stuff that memories are made of.

For me, one of those memories that always stands out is election night 1978, when I was metro editor at The Clarion-Ledger in Jackson, Miss.

The big race that night was for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Democrat (Dixiecrat) Sen. James O. Eastland, chairman of the powerful Senate Judiciary Committee. It was also a significant race in that it marked the beginning of the end of Democratic Party control of politics in Mississippi.

Although it was never stated as a reason, I still believe that Eastland -- then one of the nation's most powerful senators -- decided to step down because he saw the handwriting on the wall and feared he might lose his reelection bid. Eastland was an astute politician and always a gritty campaigner who would not have been able handle a tough campaign and a possible head-to-head defeat well or graciously at his advancing age. He was also an inveterate racist who after meeting and having a long visit with Egyptian President and Noble Peace Prize winner Anwar Sadat, summed the highly respected world leader up to an aide by saying only: "I never realized before that that man was a (N word)."

 So, the race to assume Eastland's Senate seat ended up as a battle between Republican U.S. Rep. Thad Cochran and Democrat Maurice Dantin, a former district attorney, who had Eastland's blessing and backing. To get the Republican nomination, Cochran defeated State Sen. Charles W. Pickering in the GOP primary. For the Democratic nomination, Dantin defeated, among others, Gov. Cliff Finch, a somewhat goofy Democrat populist of the Huey Long variety who even then was giving off rumblings of possibly challenging President Jimmy Carter for the 1980 Democratic presidential nomination, which he did and lost horribly.

That election night in the Clarion-Ledger newsroom turned into a memory for me for two big reasons, both major screw ups.

First, the paper had just the day before finished installing a brand new ATEX system, then the premiere variety of newsroom computer system. It was in place along side our old computer system that included scanners that transformed typewriter written and coded paper copy into words on a computer screen. It was never very efficient, but it at least did work. Although the weeks-long installation of the new, much more sophisticated ATEX system, on which copy was generated directly into the computer, was complete, staffers had only had a few hours of training on it the day before the election. The new system, however, had never been tested in actual production of the newspaper.

Although I pleaded with him not to do it, Managing Editor Bill Seymour decided that come hell or high water, we would be using the ATEX system on election night and ordered the old system shut down and removed from the newsroom so it could not even be used for back up.

As everyone, even the ATEX installation technicians who were still on site, feared, Seymour's decision turned out the be a disaster. Fortunately, the copy desk was able to use the new system to put out all of the newspaper but the front page, some inside election news jump pages and the election special section, getting it all in early, to clear the decks for the election copy.

However, before the election results even started coming in the new system locked up and crashed. The ATEX technicians swung immediately into action, but were unable to figure out what had gone wrong. Try though the did, they were able to get only one of the copy desk terminals, but none of the reporter terminals, up and running that night.

Fortunately, even though he had ordered the old computer system shut down and removed from the newsroom, Seymour did not order the IBM electric typewriters removed. So, to produce our election pages, including all of Page 1, reporters had to type their stories on their typewriters. The paper copy was then edited and given to a our one copy editor who was also a pretty nearly impeccable typist to enter into the only operating ATEX terminal. When he finished entering the text, he wrote a headline. Then, the news editor sat down, gave the story and head a final read and hit send and we all prayed that it would go through to the typesetters that produced the cold type strips that went to the page paste-up folks in the back shop. Fortunately, that one operating terminal performed like a  champ and we able to get the paper out -- out late, yes, but out.

All of this served as a backdrop for the second memorable screw up that night.

Although there were other races being covered, the main story for that evening was the Senate race between Cochran and Dantin. Because this was to be our main story -- and involved results coming in from all over the state, including many precincts that still operated on paper ballots -- I had assigned it the latest deadline. Coverage of the race had been assigned to David Bates, one of our statehouse political reporters.

Despite the fact that I spent a good part of the evening fretting over the computer crash -- and secretly gloating over the fact that I was right and we should not have done the ATEX switch over for that night -- I made my usual desk-to-desk rounds to see how reporter were coming with their stories and prodding them to get their copy out ASAP because of our computer woes.

I didn't pay much attention to where Bates was or what he was doing since his copy was scheduled to come in late and last. When Bates did show up in the newsroom, he immediately went to work writing. When I at last checked on him, he had a couple of paragraphs written and told me he was waiting on one more interview to have everything he needed. I wasn't quite sure what interview that was, but a few minutes later he got a phone call granting it, but it had to be done in person because all of the background noise coming from the campaign headquarters made it impossible to hear over the phone. Bates dashed out the door and I went back to worrying about the rest of the reporters and their stories.

Finally, with nearly all the rest of the copy done or nearing completion, I got around to checking with Bates again and found him frantically sifting through the rubble on top of his desk. That's when I noticed that, despite the fact that his deadline was fast approaching, the paper in his typewriter still had just the few paragraphs that he'd written before charging out for that last interview.

As Bates rummaged through his desk, I finally asked him what the hell he was doing.

"I'm looking for something," he replied and then began an equally frantic search of all the pockets in his both his sports coat and trench coat.

"You need to be getting your story finished," I said emphatically and then demanded, "What the hell are you looking for?"

He hemmed and hawed and finally told me that he was looking for his notebook. My jaw dropped and temper flared.

"You can't find your fucking notebook," I yelled at him. "You mean your notebook with all your election stuff?"

He sheepishly nodded acknowledgement and said, "I had it but then I don't know what happened to it."

It turned out that he last had it at the headquarters of the victorious Cochran, where he conducted the final interview. However, before coming back to the office, he'd also stopped off at a Krystal and gotten a sack of burgers and a cup of coffee, all of which was sitting on top of his desk.

I went into a tirade that would probably cause any of today's uptight, apoplectic newspaper HR people to have a massive stroke and sent Bates back to both the Cochran HQ and the Krystal in search of his notebook. About an hour later and with no luck, Bates returned and struggled well past his deadline to construct a story based on his memory. Bates was a good reporter and a good writer and apparently had a pretty good memory (except, perhaps, for where he put notebooks) because the story he finally pulled together didn't garner any misquote complaints the next day.

But, even though in the end everything turned out OK, I wasn't about to let Bates forget or get away with losing his notebook on election night.

That next morning, I called him to my desk and handed him a reporter's notebook with a string attached to its spirals and ordered him to tie the other end around his wrist.

"For the rest of this week, I'd better not to see you without that notebook attached to your wrist," I growled. He dutifully obeyed and, to the best of my knowledge, never again lost track of a notebook.


Blog Readers: If you enjoy reading my postings here on The Ancient Newspaper Editor, I sure would appreciate if you'd consider subscribing to or following the blog. It's easy to do and there are several options for doing so. If you look on the right side rail, you'll see the "Subscribe to" buttons and a "Subscribe by email" button. Just click any of those and follow the instructions. If you are a Google+ user you can click on the "Follow" button right under my profile picture and follow the instructions. Or, you can click on the "Google+ Add to Circles" button next to my photo and add me to your circles and get notifications of new blog entries when I post them. Also, please share the blog with your friends and colleagues.  Thanks for giving this consideration.
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Wednesday, September 25, 2013


For decades, the most commonly heard buzzword in newsroom staffing has been "diversity." Over the years the scope of what that term means has changed, slowly becoming more inclusive.

When I started in the newspaper business more than 44 years ago, newsrooms were, as they still sadly are today, primarily male dominated from management to worker bee level. Many newspapers began to officially recognize this as a problem in the early '70s and started talking about "diversity" in terms of trying more aggressively to hire female news staffers, a drive that seemed to reach its apex when Geneva Overholser was named the first female editor of The Des Moines Register in 1988. During her seven years in that post, Overholser led the paper to a public service Pulitzer and helped solidify its standing as one of the top 10 newspapers in the United States. Her success helped, in particular, to open more newspaper management doors for women across the country.

Meanwhile, although most newspapers still remain conscious of the need to hire and retain female staffers, the primary focus of newsroom diversity efforts slowly shifted from gender to race following the passage of the Equal Opportunity Employment Act in 1972. At some point, editors began looking around their newsrooms and realized that they saw very few black faces even at papers in cities where a substantial percentage of the residents were African Americans. Slowly, the nation's newspapers began the push to hire more black staffers, an effort which -- despite an extreme commitment on the part of many papers -- has met with what I believe is only limited success, but still continues.

Today, the primary drive for newsroom diversity has again shifted as newspapers push to become more ethnically diverse. Although newspapers have grown more conscious of the need to hire staffers of all sort of ethic backgrounds, the effort seems to be mainly focused on recruiting staffers of Hispanic origin, in large part because Hispanics have become nationally and in nearly every state the fastest growing minority population.

As an editor, I was -- and still am -- a strong supporter of every effort to make newsrooms more diverse in gender, race, ethnicity and sexual preference. I firmly believe that if a newspaper is going to effectively serve its community, it must strive to reflect that community's demographic make up. Yes, it's a difficult task, made even more so in recent years as newspapers have slipped into their financial morass that has led to staff reductions and frozen or reduced salaries, making it more difficult to recruit staffers of all sorts.

Nonetheless, the efforts must continue and, in fact, should be expanded beyond just cold demographics into an area of diversity that I am not sure has really been given anywhere near enough consideration to this point.

For lack of a better term, I will call it "experiential" diversity.

To date, the common thread throughout the various diversity drives has been the idea that gender, racial and ethic staff gaps must be filled by "qualified graduates" of college journalism programs. A mantra that ignores the fact that many of the best journalists this country has ever known never even went to college, much less graduated with degrees in journalism. Once upon a time -- including during the "heydays" of American newspaper in the '20s and '30s when nearly every major city had two, three, four or even more daily newspapers competing for dominance -- a large number of staffers started out as copy clerks who, in many instances, weren't even high school graduates. They learned the journalism craft from the ground up. They understood the news interests of the ordinary citizens of the communities their newspapers served because they were products of those communities and reflected them well.

I am not saying that newspapers need return to the days of hiring non-college grads and training them from the ground up. However, I do believe that to fully reflect and understand their communities, newspapers do need to give greater consideration to hiring staffers who didn't merely graduate from high school, go off to college to major in journalism and then offer themselves on the job market. Newspapers need to give greater consideration in hiring to a job candidate's background of life and educational experience.

Here's a for instance. If you are an editor, take a look around your newsroom. How many military veterans do you see, particularly among those staffers who are not creeping close to retirement and keeping in mind that after a decade of war in two countries we have more vets now than at anytime since the end of the Vietnam War?

When I retired as editor of The Monitor in McAllen, Texas, a few months ago, one of the things that worried the bejesus out of me was that fact that when I departed the staff, there wouldn't be a single person left who had ever served in the military. This worried me for a number of reasons, one of the most significant being that the area of deep South Texas The Monitor serves has one of the highest per capita population percentages of veterans in the nation and a substantial portion of them are subscribers. I can't even count the numbers of times over my nearly 12 years as editor that I caught potentially embarrassing mistakes regarding the military before they got into print. Granted some of them might seem, particularly to non-veterans, fairly inconsequential -- like referring to a former Marine as a soldier -- but to the many former Marines in our community, such a reference would be considered the sort of slap in the face that could shake their faith in the paper at a time when we can ill-afford to lose public confidence on any level.

My concern over the presence of veterans in newsrooms was brought home to me again this morning as I watched a news report on one of our local TV stations. A teenage Mexican national was arrested before crossing one of the local border bridges after apparently getting cold feet on a attempt to smuggle a hand grenade back into Mexico. He was seen tossing the device into a dumpster at a Whataburger just this side of the border and was arrested. In her report, the TV reporter referred to the grenade as "a dud." Which to me, as a veteran, would suggest that the suspect pulled the pin, tossed the grenade into the dumpster and it failed to go off. Most veterans know that a "dud," by definition, is an explosive device that fails to detonate. My guess is that the grenade was a "dummy," not a dud. A dummy grenade has no explosive charge. It is typically filled with sand instead of gunpowder and is used as training device to teach GI's how to throw a grenade without the risk of  doing something stupid and blowing their hand off. Consequently, I concluded that not only was the grenade a dummy, but so, too, was the TV reporter, who might have known better had she ever served in the military. What's more, she might have been saved the embarrassment had someone at her station been able to point out the difference between a dud and a dummy grenade.

The problem with life experience among today's news staffers, however, goes beyond merely how many have been in the military. How many have ever worked in a factory? How many have ever worked on a farm? How many have a physical handicap that does not impede their ability to gather information and write or edit copy and design pages? How many have ever had experience in any of the multitude of occupations filled by the people we expect to read our papers and trust us to understand what makes them tick and what is important news to them?

Unfortunately, many of the people who are involved in the employment process for America's newsrooms engage in a form of hiring snobbery. They are unwilling to "take a chance" on candidates who didn't have the right type of internships or no internships in college, or who didn't go to a "quality" journalism school, or who didn't even graduate from college but have been working perhaps for a couple of years on a weekly, or who got their training through one of the military's journalist training programs rather than from a college or university, or who display a strong desire for an opportunity to become a newspaper staffer despite having no training of any sort in the craft but, nonetheless, possess an ability to write and gather information.

For example, about a month or so before I retired, we posted a job opening for a copy editor/page designer, one of the toughest positions to fill at any newspaper.  Among the applications we received was one from a woman who was in the military. She had been trained in one of the military's journalist programs and had been working for several years as a copy editor/page designer for a military base newspaper. I wanted us to give her a serious look, but met resistance from some of my newsroom managers who felt that the military journalist training and the years of working for a base newspaper were not adequate. While we wrangled over that, she was hired by another newspaper that was more willing to take a chance and where, I am reasonably sure, she likely is performing up to expectations and preventing stupid mistakes regarding the military from getting into print.

Of course, there have been some noble efforts aimed at bringing people with possibilities but no formal journalism training into the newspaper business.

One of those was undertaken by Thomson Newspapers as part of it's broader Readership Inc. project that died when Thomson Corp. sold off its U.S. newspaper holdings in 2000. As part of the project, the company established a training program under which the newspapers would identify potential journalist candidates from among ordinary people in their communities who had a strong interest in becoming journalists and possessed decent spelling and grammar skills and displayed some rudimentary skills in information gathering and writing. The candidates could have been housewives, hair dresser, carpenters, bus drivers, teachers or factory workers. Those selected were to be sent to a training site where they would undergo an intensive, crash course of journalism training. Upon successful completion of that course, they were to be sent back to the newspaper that selected them where their training would continue under the watchful eyes of trained staff mentors. It was an innovative idea that could have yielded some potentially outstanding journalists who possessed a background of life experience and understanding outside the newspaper business.

Unfortunately, the Thomson training program concept didn't have a life beyond the sale of the papers and, considering the financial condition of most newspaper groups today, it is not too likely that anyone else will pickup on the idea and run with it.

That, however, does not mean newspapers should just ignore experiential diversity. Instead, if they hope to continue to be as relevant as possible to the communities they serve, they need to embrace the concept and value of experiential diversity as much as they do diversity in gender, race and ethnicity.

Blog Readers: If you enjoy reading my postings here on The Ancient Newspaper Editor, I sure would appreciate if you'd consider subscribing to or following the blog. It's easy to do and there are several options for doing so. If you look on the right side rail, you'll see the "Subscribe to" buttons and a "Subscribe by email" button. Just click any of those and follow the instructions. If you are a Google+ user you can click on the "Follow" button right under my profile picture and follow the instructions. Or, you can click on the "Google+ Add to Circles" button next to my photo and add me to your circles and get notifications of new blog entries when I post them. Also, please share the blog with your friends and colleagues.  Thanks for giving this consideration.

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Tuesday, September 17, 2013


Probably since the first American newspaper began publishing them, obituaries have been among the most popular items with readers. I sometimes think that people open up the paper and immediately go to the obits to make sure their name isn't listed and, if not for that reason, they at least check the deaths to see if anyone they know has passed away.

But, for whatever reason, scientific readership surveys keep showing that obits are immensely popular with readers. Which makes me wonder why newspaper don't try to do more with them these days.

Once upon a time, newspapers who's managers understood the appeal of the obituary page actually strove to put some life into the final notices -- and readers seemed to love it.

When I worked at The Louisville Times in Louisville, Ky., from the early to the mid 70s, we and our sister paper, The Courier-Journal, had a policy that every day's obit page would be led with a well-written "feature obit" -- a piece that expanded on the life and times of one of those who had passed away. Sometimes it was a well known local person, but most of the time it was just an Average Joe Sixpack who was being awarded his 15 minutes of fame after already having shuffled off the mortal coil.

At The Times, we had a master obit writer named Kenny Taylor, a former reporter and city editor who had gotten enough up in years that he no longer desired the stress of the city desk, but was not ready to retire. Kenny was about as old school as you could find in those days, right down to regularly wearing one of those green eyeshades that used to be so omnipresent in old-time newsrooms.

Kenny was a wonderful writer who would carefully select his feature obit subject after reading all of the incoming obits and then get on the phone and work magic with a whirlwind of pre-Google fact and information gathering and checking. His subjects included former mayors and congressmen, doctors, lawyers, teachers, auto mechanics, career criminals and janitors -- anyone whose basic obit information piqued his interest. He would make calls to family members, friends, co-worker, enemies, bosses, anyone who could provide a picture of what the deceased's life had been like and what sort of person they had been. Then -- sometimes after conducting almost as many interviews (albeit, brief interviews) as some reporters would do for an investigative story -- Taylor would craft a daily masterpiece that could make you laugh or cry or shake your head in disbelief, but would always leave you feeling that you had personally known the deceased. It was, for sure, an art form with him, it made him every readers' favorite Louisville Time writer. In fact, among our subscribers, Kenny may have had best known name on staff.

Today, that art form has become largely lost from newspapers in which obituaries are no longer a final tribute to the lives of people in the community, but just one more potential revenue source. Obits once were entirely free and now they are almost entirely paid and often are little more than essentially a category of classified ads that readers still turn to despite the fact that they are dull, dry and lifeless and all too often written by funeral directors who have no writing skills or understanding of grammar and newspaper style.

So, needless to say, I was thrilled last week when a recent obituary from The Savannah Morning News started making the social media rounds. I became acquainted with it when a local friend who is a funeral director posted it on his Facebook page, urging all of us to take the time to read it from beginning to end. I did, and found it to be a masterwork that is well-written, humorous and a real tribute and memorial to the dearly departed William Freddie McCullough. Even though it does have a tendency to be more than slightly sexist, it is still a wonderful read. For those of you who haven't seen it, here it is in its entirety, just as it appeared on the Savannah paper's website:

                                                                                                                                                            William Freddie McCullough - BLOOMINGDALE - The man. The myth. The legend. Men wanted to be him and women wanted to be with him. William Freddie McCullough died on September 11, 2013. Freddie loved deep fried Southern food smothered in Cane Syrup, fishing at Santee Cooper Lake, Little Debbie Cakes, Two and a Half Men, beautiful women, Reeses Cups and Jim Beam. Not necessarily in that order. He hated vegetables and hypocrites. Not necessarily in that order. He was a master craftsman who single -handedly built his beautiful house from the ground up. Freddie was also great at growing fruit trees, grilling chicken and ribs, popping wheelies on his Harley at 50 mph, making everyone feel appreciated and hitting Coke bottles at thirty yards with his 45. When it came to floor covering, Freddie was one of the best in the business. And he loved doing it. Freddie loved to tell stories. And you could be sure 50% of every story was true. You just never knew which 50%. Marshall Matt Dillon, Ben Cartwright and Charlie Harper were his TV heroes. And he was the hero for his six children: Mark, Shain, Clint, Brandice, Ashley and Thomas. Freddie adored the ladies. And they adored him. There isn't enough space here to list all of the women from Freddie's past. There isn't enough space in the Bloomingdale phone book. A few of the more colorful ones were Momma Margie, Crazy Pam, Big Tittie Wanda, Spacy Stacy and Sweet Melissa (he explained that nickname had nothing to do with her attitude). He attracted more women than a shoe sale at Macy's. He got married when he was 18, but it didn't last. Freddie was no quitter, however, so he gave it a shot two more times. It didn't work out with any of the wives, but he managed to stay friends with them and their parents. In between his many adventures, Freddie appeared in several films including The Ordeal of Dr. Mudd, A Time for Miracles, The Conspirator, Double Wide Blues and Pretty Fishes. When Freddie took off for that pool party in the sky, he left behind his sons Mark McCullough, Shain McCullough and his wife Amy, Clint McCullough and his wife Desiree, and Thomas McCullough and his wife Candice; and his daughters Brandice Chambers and her husband Michael, Ashley Cooler and her husband Justin; his brothers Jimmie and Eddie McCullough; and his girlfriend Lisa Hopkins; and seven delightful grandkids. Freddie was killed when he rushed into a burning orphanage to save a group of adorable children. Or maybe not. We all know how he liked to tell stories.

I don't know this for sure, but I'd be willing to bet that the McCullough obit may have been the single best read thing in that day's edition of The Savannah Morning News. And, as far as I can tell, it likely is the only thing from the Savannah daily, at least in recent years, that has gone virtually viral on social media where I have seen it now posted by numerous people on Facebook and tweeted and retweeted many times on Twitter, making William Freddie McCullough -- once just an Extraordinary Joe Sixpack to his friends in tiny Bloomingdale, Ga. -- a national and maybe even international celebrity.

To my way of thinking, at a time when even "community" newspapers are struggling to maintain the hearts and minds of their readers, wonderfully written feature obits -- like William Freddie McCullough's or those once produced by Kenny Taylor for The Louisville Times -- could be a powerful draw. They can be a wonderful tribute to an interesting, though perhaps virtually unknown, person and can go a long way to saying we understand the people and communities we serve.

Of course, I would not feel comfortable recommending the concept of putting life back into obits if I did not also offer a word of caution. There is such a thing as being overly eager.

When I was a reporter for the now long defunct Bloomington (Ind.) Tribune during my last semester of college at Indiana University, we entrusted the obits to high school part-timer who wanted desperately to become a reporter someday. That desire drove him to constantly strive to put some life into the obits, especially if he could give them a news edge. Unfortunately, his work was none to closely supervised or edited. After all, how big a problem could an obit be, right?

Well, one morning a Ford Mustang crashed into a ditch in front of our building on the outskirts of town and flipped over, killing the teenage girl driver. Our obit writer dashed outside to watch the rescue operation and after the girl's body had been pulled from the wreckage, he reached inside the car and got the registration from the where it was contained in a case clipped onto the visor. He took down the owner's name and address, replaced the registration and then dashed inside to check the Criss-Cross directory. He quickly discovered that the owner -- the dead girl's father -- worked in management at the factory just across the street and made a fast phone call, getting to the dad before he had been contacted by police or his wife. The obit writer then hurriedly wrote the obit and got it in in time for that afternoon's edition. Unfortunately, no one but him read the obit before it was published and this paragraph appeared high up in the final notice:

"When informed of his daughter's death Mr. Smith (not the real name) said, 'You've got to be joking.' The joke, however, was on him." Needless to say, the paper made quick and quiet cash restitution to the grieving family.


Blog Readers: If you enjoy reading my postings here on The Ancient Newspaper Editor, I sure would appreciate if you'd consider subscribing to or following the blog. It's easy to do and there are several options for doing so. If you look on the right side rail, you'll see the "Subscribe to" buttons and a "Subscribe by email" button. Just click any of those and follow the instructions. If you are a Google+ user you can click on the "Follow" button right under my profile picture and follow the instructions. Or, you can click on the "Google+ Add to Circles" button next to my photo and add me to your circles and get notifications of new blog entries when I post them. Also, please share the blog with your friends and colleagues.  Thanks for giving this consideration.

Your thoughts and/or comments are welcomed.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013


A friend of mine, Matt Robertson -- who, among his numerous other duties is the web and, I assume, social media, editor for The Morning News in Florence, S.C. -- posted this on his Facebook page yesterday:

"I'm taking an informal poll here. George Zimmerman's marital status and woes -- news or drek. You tell me."

He didn't exactly get a slew of responses, but more than 60 percent of those he did get leaned toward "drek." One of the more interesting responses came from Bernie Elliott who wrote: "Drek, unless she shoots him, then its karma."

My response at the time (with the profanity deleted) was: "Considering that these are keys to what may have caused him to kill Trayvon Martin...I vote news (as well as drek)."

Twenty-four hours later, and with more of a swirl developing today over his latest defense for allegedly violent behavior -- in this case against his now estranged wife and her father -- which essentially is "I was in fear of my life; she pulled and iPad on me," I stand by that statement.

Following his controversial arrest and trial for the slaying of Trayvon Martin -- an African-American Florida teenager with no serious record of violent behavior -- Zimmerman has managed to stay in the public spotlight thanks to his part in the rescue of a motorist following a traffic accident and then a couple of traffic citations, his wife's decision to possibly seek a divorce and, now, his alleged threats of violence against his wife and her father.

One would think that after his acquittal in the Trayvon Martin trial, Zimmerman would be trying very hard to stay out of the public spotlight. If that, in fact, is the case, you must admit that he hasn't done a very good job of it.

Frankly, it appears to me that Zimmerman has a strong propensity for finding trouble, or maybe he's simply a natural-born screwup. Either way, he just keeps on attracting trouble and media attention.

Naturally, the argument can be made that he is showing up in the news more simply because he is getting more attention from the media than some other Average Joe Sixpack. Of course, as is often the case with "celebrities," Zimmerman's antics since the trial are getting far more prominent play on television and on the Internet than in the print media, where the latest stories about him are largely being relegated to inside pages except in some papers in Florida, where his latest alleged offense occurred.

But, is all of this, in the classic sense, news? Well, yes...and no.

I am not sure that the fact that he got a couple of traffic tickets is earth shattering. Any of us could get picked up for driving too fast and the police dash-cam video most likely won't show up on the network evening news programs, and I am not at all sure that Zimmerman's traffic stops should have unless he had led police on a high-speed chase or if significant road rage had been involved. That was not the case and, in my opinion, the news coverage those incidents got was not warranted.

However, I do believe this latest incident, in which he allegedly threatened violence against his estranged wife and her father, is news.

For the sake of transparency (excuse me for employing that buzzword), I will admit that I was among those who did not feel justice was in anyway served by Zimmerman's acquittal in the Trayvon Martin slaying. The way I see it, a kid is dead for no really good reason and the person who killed him got off Scot free based on Florida's ludicrous "stand your ground" law that is little more than a license to kill. I blame the law in this case and, to a degree, the prosecutors, not the jury.

Clearly, at least to me, Zimmerman armed himself and went out looking for trouble on the night of Feb. 26, 2012, in Stanford, Fla.  He found it when he accosted the 17-year-old Martin, who's only discernible offense before getting into the scuffle with Zimmerman was that he was a black kid walking through a largely white neighbor wearing a hoodie after dark. At the time, Martin was armed only with Skittles and a soda. If Zimmerman had minded his own business, Martin would be alive today and Zimmerman would not keep finding himself on television in the public eye.

And now, with this latest incident, he's done it again. The argument certainly can be made that Zimmerman was courting -- if not outright looking for -- trouble Monday when he showed up at the house in Lake Mary, Fla., where he and his wife, Shellie, lived during the trial. His estranged wife and her father -- who, together, own the house -- were there when Zimmerman and several friends arrived. Apparently, George, Shellie and her father had some sort of heated exchange that prompted her to call 911 and allege that he had threatened her and her father.

Apparently, at some point during the confrontation, Shellie Zimmerman started filming with her iPad, which ended up getting smashed, allegedly by Zimmerman, who apparently is contending that Shellie assaulted him with the device.

Police are trying to sort the whole mess out and could end up charging someone with domestic violence.

Granted, all this is still quite convoluted, but I, nonetheless, believe this incident IS newsworthy because it does show that Zimmerman apparently has a knack for placing himself in tense situations that have a potential for turning violent and then may let anger -- or fear -- get the better of him. These factors, which if better known about him before or during the trial, might have made a difference in the way the jurors viewed his behavior on the night of Feb. 29, 2012.

In her initial 911 call, Shellie Zimmerman alleged that George threatened her and her father with a gun. Police did not find a gun and Shellie later recanted the gun allegation. However, there apparently was a tussle of some sort between George and her father which may have resulted in the father getting punched in the nose -- more violent behavior on Zimmerman's part.

All things considered, Shellie Zimmerman and her father may have been quite fortunate that George did not have a weapon. After all, under Florida law, he could have contended that he was "standing his ground" against a woman armed with an iPad.

Blog Readers: If you enjoy reading my postings here on The Ancient Newspaper Editor, I sure would appreciate if you'd consider subscribing to or following the blog. It's easy to do and there are several options for doing so. If you look on the right side rail, you'll see the "Subscribe to" buttons and a "Subscribe by email" button. Just click any of those and follow the instructions. If you are a Google+ user you can click on the "Follow" button right under my profile picture and follow the instructions. Or, you can click on the "Google+ Add to Circles" button next to my photo and add me to your circles and get notifications of new blog entries when I post them. Also, please share the blog with your friends for colleagues.  Thanks for giving this consideration.

Your thoughts and/or comments are welcomed.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013


I always become a little unnerved every time I read about another newspaper or newspaper group being sold, and with good reason. Sometimes those sales can make things better for the papers changing hands, but sometimes they make matters worse -- anywhere from marginally to much worse.

I know whereof I speak. Seven of the nine newspapers I worked for during my career have been sold at least once since I started there -- and almost none of those puts out as good a news product as it did when I was working there. This, at least to me, seems to be the case particularly when newspapers end up -- for whatever reason -- being acquired by investment banking groups which don't care about the news product so much as they do the money they can make or, in the case of bankruptcy acquisitions, recover.

However, declines in news product quality are not always the direct fault of new owners. Often, it seems to have more to do with the deterioration of newspaper economics in general and the quality and/or dedication to the business and the craft of the talent that has come into the business in the years since I became a newspaper person. Those things, at least in my opinion, are to some to certain degree related.

With the erosion of newspaper economics since newspaper employment peaked in 1990, we've witnessed significant staff reductions and frozen or, in many cases, reduced salaries, all of which have had a chilling impact on talented news people who were already in the business and have served to deter many who might have been talented news staffers from getting into the business. To put it bluntly, dedication is sometimes pretty hard to engender and/or keep when talented people are getting paid wages that continue in relative decline every time the cost of living inches up even marginally. It also keeps getting more and more difficult to attract quality talent at the salaries being offered. To look at it another way, you get what you pay for.

Today we have word of yet another newspaper sell off. According to the Wall Street Journal, News Corp. announced that it has sold Dow Jones Local Media Group -- consisting of 33 largely east coast papers formerly known as the Ottaway community newspapers -- to an affiliate of Fortress Investment Group. News Corp., as you probably know, is those friendly folks who bring you the always "fair and balanced" Fox News Channel and, among other publications, The Wall Street Journal, where the sale announcement appeared. Among the larger or better known newspapers included in the sale are the Times Herald-Record in Middletown, N.Y.; the Cape Cod Times in Hyannis, Mass.; and The Record in Stockton, Calif.

On behalf of the new owners, the group of sold newspapers will be managed by Gatehouse Media, which the WSJ story describes as "one of the largest publishers of locally-based print and online media in the U.S."

According to the WSJ story, "News Corp. acquired the papers when it bought Dow Jones & Co. in 2007. It tried briefly to sell the papers at that time but pulled them off the market in 2008. In fiscal 2012, the papers' average daily circulation was more than 188,000 and the Sunday circulation was over 238,000."

What this will mean for the 33 sold newspapers and their staffs remains to be seen, but there is one potentially encouraging aspect to this sale. Although the papers are being acquired by an investment group -- which likely knows zip about running newspapers -- the management of the newly acquired properties is at least being turned over to a company that DOES know something about running newspapers, Gatehouse Media.

Even though Gatehouse several years ago acquired one of my former papers, The State Journal-Register in Springfield, Ill., I really don't know a lot about them and what I have heard is sort of mixed reviews. I will say, however, that I have not really noticed any appreciable decline in the SJ-R -- which I still follow online --  beyond what it experienced toward the end of its ownership by the now defunct Copley Newspapers. And I know of at least one important change for the better.

Under Gatehouse, the editor of The State Journal-Register is no longer required to endorse ONLY Republican candidates for political office as I was forced to do under the rigidly enforced policies in place when the paper was owned by Copley. Because of that policy, I was at one point obliged to endorse for election to the Lincoln Land Community College board of trustees a Republican candidate who was under federal indictment -- and later convicted -- for misdirecting hundreds of thousand of dollar from the state agency he was an assistant director of to a company owned by his wife. My argument that the Democratic candidate was better qualified, more honest and free of any background scandal fell on deaf Copley corporate ears.

My hope for these 33 newly sold newspapers is that they will be part of what I think is becoming an encouraging recent trend in newspaper sales -- acquisition by new owners who are, or who at least say they are, committed to maintaining and/or upgrading the quality of the editorial product.

This has been the case with recent sales of such papers as The Washington Post and The Boston Globe and the earlier sales of Richmond, Va., based Media General's newspapers to billionaire businessman Warren Buffett and the sale some of the properties formerly owned by Irvine, Calif., based Freedom Newspapers -- most notably the Orange County Register and Colorado Springs Gazette and the paper from which I retired as editor four months ago, The Monitor in McAllen Texas.

The Monitor, along with Freedom's other Texas properties -- The Valley Morning Star in Harlingen, The Brownsville Herald, The Odessa American, the Mid-Valley Town Crier in Weslaco, and Coast Currents at South Padre Island -- were acquired a little over a year ago by a new company, AIM Media Texas, headquartered in McAllen. AIM quite literally rescued the Texas papers from the investment bankers who took over Freedom after its bankruptcy and nearly gutted all of its properties as they sought to recover their investment made in the company while it was still owned by the Hoiles family. AIM's top principals are skilled, highly experienced, professional newspaper executives who understand that news content is just as important to the future of a local newspaper as advertising revenues.

Although some of those, like Buffett, who've made some of the recent newspaper acquisitions are not as experienced in newspaper management as AIM's top execs, they have all talked about maintaining and/or upgrading the news product as opposed to engaging in further cuts at their new properties.

Only time will tell whether they are really going to live up to their words, but the talk is sufficiently encouraging that I am slowly growing less unnerved when I hear about yet another newspaper sale.


Blog Readers: If you enjoy reading my postings here on The Ancient Newspaper Editor, I sure would appreciate if you'd consider subscribing to or following the blog. It's easy to do and there are several options for doing so. If you look on the right side rail, you'll see the "Subscribe to" buttons and a "Subscribe by email" button. Just click any of those and follow the instructions. If you are a Google+ user you can click on the "Follow" button right under my profile picture and follow the instructions. Or, you can click on the "Google+ Add to Circles" button next to my photo and add me to your circles and get notifications of new blog entries when I post them. Also, please share the blog with your friends for colleagues.  Thanks for giving this consideration.

Your thoughts and comments are welcomed.

Friday, August 30, 2013


Lest we forget

Mary Tyler (Molly) Ivins
Aug. 30, 1944, to Jan. 31, 2007

Today is Molly Ivins' birthday. Born August 30, 1944, she would have been 69 today if she hadn't left us way too soon.

They say that in this life, and in the newspaper business, no one is irreplaceable. However, whoever came up with that old saw obviously was not taking Molly Ivins into account. It's been nearly seven years since her death on Jan. 31, 2007, from breast cancer complications and, thus far, absolutely no newspaper columnist has come forward to replace her, much less even hold a candle to her in my estimation.

What can I say? Molly was one of a kind. Sometimes I think that her picture should be next to the word "unique" in the Webster's Dictionary.

For those of you who are not as familiar as I think you really should be with Molly, Wikipedia has an awfully good bio of her --better than their usual -- that I would recommend you read. Here is the link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Molly_Ivins.

In my life, I have met only a few people who I have felt had Molly's intelligence and almost none who possessed her level-headed, rapier-sharp wit that allowed her, through her columns, to absolutely eviscerate some of Texas' and the nations' most pompous, idiotic and/or corrupt politicians in what can only be described as a good-natured fashion. No other columnist I have ever read has displayed greater skill at revealing that the emperor has no clothes.

I was honored to have had her as a friend.

Molly and I first met in early 1983, just days after I was promoted from business editor to assistant managing editor for news and projects at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. At the time, she was still with the now-defunct Dallas Times-Herald. A mutual editor friend there knew how much I admired her work, how closely our political views meshed and that I was making a trip to Austin for a first visit to the Star-Telegram's bureau. So, after getting a cross-my-heart-and-hope-to-die promise from me that I would do or say absolutely NOTHING  that could be construed as trying to recruit her, he arranged for me to meet her for lunch -- Dutch treat, of course.

I think we hit it off almost immediately. Of course, not before I became something of a victim of Molly's wit and ability to cut right to the core of almost any issue at hand. Moments after we met, she took the opportunity to graciously congratulate me on my promotion to the assistant managing editor's job.

"You should be very proud," she said, staring at me with her eyes that always seemed to be chuckling on the inside. "You are now one of the top editors at the best paper in Texas that nobody of any real consequence reads."

By that time, I'd been with the paper about a year and realized immediately that she had hit the nail squarely on the head. In fact, I am not sure that anyone of any real consequence in the state of Texas ever did read The Star-Telegram until Molly joined the staff in 1992, seven years after I had moved on. One of my great regrets is that I never got to work directly with her.

From that point on, the lunch became a matter of friends sharing war stories, with Molly particularly interested in my years in Mississippi at The Clarion-Ledger in Jackson, where I began my employment as the leader of the investigative team and left five years later as managing editor. She was particularly interested in my numerous run ins with Mississippi politicians, particularly with  U.S. Sens. John C. Stennis and James O. Eastland -- two stereotypical deep South politicians for whom she had zero respect.

My story that she seemed to take the most delight in involved Eastland, chairman of powerful and influential Senate Judiciary Committee. A reporter friend, who had become Eastland's press agent, arranged for the senator to meet with Egyptian President Anwar Sadat while Sadat was on a trip to Washington shortly after winning the 1978 Nobel Peace Prize. My friend told me that he ushered Sedat into the senator's office and that Eastland greeted him warmly. Sadat was an incredibly brave man who withstood the enmity of most of the Arab world by making an enduring peace with Israel, the feat that won him and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin the Nobel Prize.

The two men chatted amiably for over an hour and when Sadat left, my friend went into the senator's office to ask him what he thought about the Egyptian leader. Eastland's response in its entirety, according to my friend: "You know, I never realized that he was a (n-word)."

Molly just smiled and shook her head.

From that lunch on, Molly and I remained friends and we chatted by phone many times in the intervening years between my departure from Fort Worth and my return to Texas as editor of The Monitor in McAllen. She even consulted with me by phone before accepting the offer to join The Star-Telegram Austin Bureau staff, asking me what I thought. My advice to her: "Do it. It may make the Starlegram the best paper in Texas that everybody of any consequence reads." She got a chuckle from that.

When I arrived at McAllen, one of my first calls was from Molly, who welcomed me back to the state and informed me: "You know, of course, that The Monitor is probably one of the best papers its size in the state that nobody of any real consequence reads." We talked of her perhaps paying a visit and conducting a seminar for my staff, but, unfortunately, that plan never came to fruition. Although, I am not quite sure why.

What I am sure of, however, is that the news of her untimely death hit me like a freight train. The day she died, American journalism lost one of its greatest-ever practitioners. I think that all of us who knew her will never get over missing her.

Happy Birthday, Molly.


P.S. My thanks to my friend Mary Lee Grant for her sharing of the Facebook post that reminded me that today is Molly's birthday.

Blog Readers: If you enjoy reading my postings here on The Ancient Newspaper Editor, I sure would appreciate if you'd consider subscribing to or following the blog. It's easy to do and there are several options for doing so. If you look on the right side rail, you'll see the "Subscribe to" buttons and a "Subscribe by email" button. Just click any of those and follow the instructions. If you are a Google+ user you can click on the "Follow" button right under my profile picture and follow the instructions. Or, you can click on the "Google+ Add to Circles" button next to my photo and add me to your circles and get notifications of new blog entries when I post them. Thanks for giving this consideration.

Monday, August 26, 2013


Wednesday, August 28, is the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s iconic "I Have a Dream" speech, which still, for me, stands a one of the most amazing, moving and meaningful speeches in U.S. history and possibly in the history of mankind, delivered during the 1963 Civil Rights March on Washington.

This morning, in advance of the anniversary, my friend Steve Buttry, digital transformation editor at Digital First Media, posed an interesting question on Facebook, along with the link to his blog, The Buttry Diary, where he poses the same question in greater detail.

In his Facebook post, Buttry wrote: "As Washington Post editor Robert G. Kaiser details how the Post nearly ignored Martin Luther's speech and his enduring "I Have a Dream" theme in its coverage of the march on Washington 50 years ago, I wonder what historic stories are journalists missing today?" And here is the link to his blog, where he cites a couple of examples of what he regards as blown historical coverage: http://stevebuttry.wordpress.com/2013/08/26/what-historic-stories-are-we-missing-today/.

I didn't have to ponder very long to come up with my answer. Journalists today are likely missing, or giving seriously short shrift, to scads of potentially historic stories.

Consider this, The Washington Post, nearly missed King's speech as a time when its newsroom was literally crawling with reporters and other staffers and the Civil Rights struggle had been some of the hottest ongoing news of the decade to that point.

Flash forward to today's newsrooms where, for the latter half of the last decade and all of this decade so far, staffing has been chopped nearly to the bone. I would venture to say that across the country, many newspapers today have reduced newsroom staffing by as much as one-third, and perhaps more, of what is was when newsroom employment peaked in 1990. And, like it or not, less staff -- particularly in the reporting ranks -- means less coverage.

Here is what the Pew Research Center's 2013 State of the Media report, prepared by its Project for Excellence in Journalism, has to say about the shrinkage in newsroom staffing at America's news outlets:

"The effects of a decade of newsroom cutbacks are real – and the public is taking notice. Nearly a third of U.S. adults, 31%, have stopped turning to a news outlet because it no longer provided them with the news they were accustomed to getting. Men have left at somewhat higher rates than women, as have the more highly educated and higher-income earners—many of those, in other words, that past Pew Research data have shown to be among the heavier news consumers. With reporting resources cut to the bone and fewer specialized beats, journalists’ level of expertise in any one area and the ability to go deep into a story are compromised.  Indeed, when people who had heard something about the financial struggles were asked which effect they noticed more, stories that were less complete or fewer stories over all, 48% named less complete stories while 31% mostly noticed fewer stories. Overall, awareness of the industry’s financial struggles is limited. Only 39% have heard a lot or some. But those with greater awareness are also more likely to be the ones who have abandoned a news outlet." (Here is the link to the full report: http://stateofthemedia.org/.)

Sure, there are instances where newsrooms can do more with less, as owners and/or shareholders keep demanding. But simple mathematics will tell you that it keeps getting more and more impossible to cover "Y" number of events or stories with a steadily shrinking "X" number of reporters. Eventually, you are going to reach the breakdown point. Personally, I think that many, if not most, of the nation's newsrooms may already be there and the law of diminishing returns is beginning to apply, as confirmed by the Pew report.

Across the nation, at newspapers large and small, editors today play a frantic daily chess game as they try to figure out how to get everything covered that is worthy of coverage and how they are going handle the coverage they can give to those thing they determine should be staffed.

Today, an editor trying to decide what to do about covering the March on Washington might say this about staffing the event:

"We've had a lot of Civil Rights coverage lately and I think readers get that it's important, but we can't afford to send somebody over there all day just to listen to a bunch of people making speeches about stuff we've heard and reported on before. So, let's send a reporter for a while to get some color and grab a couple of quotes from people and a fotog to shoot some quick pictures, you know, crowd shots and stuff. Maybe we can just handle this with a couple of photos and an extended cutline. The news hole is real tight for tomorrow anyway."

Frankly, I don't know how many times during the closing years of my nearly 44 years in the newspaper business before my retirement at the end of April I had to settle for asking for that sort of coverage of something that could have been an event of possibly historic proportions.

It's a sad commentary on the state of the industry.


Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivering his famous "I Have A Dream" Speech in Washington, D.C., on August 28, 1963.
Simply because I think it is one of the most important and eloquent speeches in U.S. history, here is a link to the full text of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have A Dream" speech. It is well worth reading again and thinking about how much of that dream has or has not been realized and whether current attempts to minimize the Voting Rights Act of 1965 will reverse progress: http://historywired.si.edu/detail.cfm?ID=501

Here, also, is a link to a video of the speech. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=smEqnnklfYs

If you enjoy reading this blog, please share it and its link with your friends and colleagues.
Blog Readers: If you enjoy reading my postings here on The Ancient Newspaper Editor, I sure would appreciate if you'd consider subscribing to or following the blog. It's easy to do and there are several options for doing so. If you look on the right side rail, you'll see the "Subscribe to" buttons and a "Subscribe by email" button. Just click any of those and follow the instructions. If you are a Google+ user you can click on the "Follow" button right under my profile picture and follow the instructions. Or, you can click on the "Google+ Add to Circles" button next to my photo and add me to your circles and get notifications of new blog entries when I post them. Thanks for giving this consideration.
As always, your thoughts and/or comments are welcomed.

Monday, August 19, 2013


During my nearly 44 years in the newspaper business I was asked many times by colleagues and friends why I became a journalist.

Those of us who have been, or are still, in the business were attracted to it for a variety of reasons, none of which included getting rich. For some, it was a deep sense of commitment to serving the public or, perhaps, some notion that newspapering is an adventurous or even romantic career. Others may have been drawn to the business because they like to write or have an insatiable curiosity.

For me, all of those things came into play. However, what pushed me over the edge -- the final major contributing factor in my decision to become a journalist -- was a dose of raw, jangling paranoia, brought on in large part by good, old-fashioned, galloping Cold War jitters.

I remember very distinctly when and where my irrevocable decision came about.

It was late in the summer of 1964 while I was in the Navy and then a 20-year-old 3rd Class Gunner's Mate petty officer aboard the destroyer U.S.S. Douglas H. Fox, DD779.  At the time, we were participating in a hastily called North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) blockade of the island nation of Cyprus in the Mediterranean Sea, where the trouble that had brewed for centuries between the divided country's ethnic Greek and Turkish residents was again at the near boiling point. It was our understanding, although we were never close enough to the island to see it, that we were on station off the northern coast and that, if necessary, we were to participate in the evacuation of U.S. personnel.

However, our access to solid, accurate information was highly restricted as all news incoming to the ship was tightly controlled and never released for consumption. To say the least, we were all edgy and apprehensive since there were rumors that the tension on the island could erupt into full-scale armed conflict at any moment.

To make matters even scarier, Cold War rivals the United States and the Soviet Union were backing different sides. We worried that if real fighting broke out on Cyprus, we might end up in serious confrontations with the Soviet ships that had been shadowing us around the Med on and off since we arrived there from our home port in Norfolk, Va., in July. In fact, in one incident two weeks earlier the Fox found itself playing "chicken" with a Soviet destroyer coming head on at us. At the last minute, one of the two ships, and we were never quite sure which one, veered ever so slightly allowing the two to pass in frightfully close proximity going in opposite directions. The ships were close enough that sailors on both vessels were able to run along the decks exchanging things like cigarettes, hats and, yes, a few taunts.

On top of all of this, there was an overlay of still more reason to be worried. At the time, the contentious U.S. presidential campaign battle between Democratic President Lyndon Baines Johnson and his Republican opponent, conservative Sen. Barry Goldwater of Arizona, was in full, ugly swing -- a mean-spirited duel in which both sides engaged in the ramping up of national nuclear war fears.

As part of the campaign, the implication was floated -- just before our news blackout -- that if Goldwater was elected, the nation could expect to possibly be at nuclear war with the Soviet Union in a matter of weeks.

Frankly, all of this scared the living bejesus out of me and, I am pretty sure, most of my shipmates, four of whom were with me sitting on a torpedo tube on the Fox's torpedo deck one sun-baked morning as we bobbed like a cork in the waters off the Cypriot coast. With me were 3rd Class Boatswain's Mate Petty Officer Harry Phillips, Gunner's Mate Seaman Dave Carter, 3rd Class Torpedoman Petty Officer George Post (who I heard was later killed in Vietnam while serving aboard a Mekong River patrol boat) and 3rd Class Fire Control Technician Petty Office Tim Stromm.

As the five of us stared southward toward where we suspected the unseen island nation was, we discussed our apprehensions and the possible worst case scenarios we might be facing. We all complained bitterly, as only G.I.s facing future uncertainty can do. The questions on all of our minds: What the hell do you think is going on and how likely is it that we are going to be in a shooting war at any moment?

Finally, after about 30 minutes of discussion and debate, I decided to make the announcement of what I would do with my future -- if I had one.

"This is bullshit," I declared. "When, and if, I get out of this man's Navy, I am never going to be this far out of the know again as long as I live. I'm going back to school to study journalism and become a newspaper reporter. That way, I'll always be right there to know what the hell is going on."

From that point on, I dedicated myself to the idea of becoming a newsman. It was a decision I've never regretted.

Much of the nuclear war paranoia that gripped the nation during the 1964 presidential election campaign was engendered by a now famous (or should I say infamous) television commercial placed by the Johnson campaign. It has become a classic, known as the "Daisy Ad," and stands as what may have been the genesis of today's high level of underhanded, mean-spirited political campaigning. For those of you who remember it and for those of you who've never seen it, here is the hulu.com link to the commercial: http://www.hulu.com/watch/40606. For historical and journalistic purposes, it is well worth viewing even if you have to copy the link and paste it into your browser.


If you enjoy reading the posts on this blog, please share it and it's link with your friends and colleagues.

Your comments are welcomed. In fact, it would be interesting if you would use the comments section to share your reasons for becoming a journalist. Thank you.

Blog Readers: If you enjoy reading my postings here on The Ancient Newspaper Editor, I sure would appreciate if you'd consider subscribing to or following the blog. It's easy to do and there are several options for doing so. If you look on the right side rail, you'll see the "Subscribe to" buttons and a "Subscribe by email" button. Just click any of those and follow the instructions. If you are a Google+ user you can click on the "Follow" button right under my profile picture and follow the instructions. Or, you can click on the "Google+ Add to Circles" button next to my photo and add me to your circles and get notifications of new blog entries when I post them. Thanks for giving this consideration.

Thursday, August 15, 2013


One of my earliest posts on this blog was headlined: "MOBILE: THE NEW PROPHECY NEWSPAPERS CAN'T AFFORD TO IGNORE."

And -- the possibility of brainwashing by my friend Steve Buttry, Digital Transformation Editor for Digital First Media and Journal Register Co., notwithstanding -- I am beginning to see what I consider to be proof positive (albeit on a microcosmic scale) of that on my blog dashboard.

Since starting The Ancient Newspaper Editor in April, I have been seeing steady growth in the percentage of page views I get from the various mobile platforms such as iPhone, iPad, Android, Linux and even Blackberry.

At the outset, about 12 percent of my page views were from mobile. When I checked today, I noticed that of the thousand of page views I've had since the blog began, a cumulative 28 percent have come via mobile. That is second only to the page views I have gotten over all from the Windows platform and it appears that the percentage of mobile views is growing almost daily.

Over the past month, the percent of mobile page view reached just over 30 percent. Last week it climbed to just over 32 percent. And in the last 24 hours it climbed to nearly 44 percent, eclipsing even Windows, which accounted for 38 percent of The Ancient Newspaper Editor's page views during the period.

I could be wrong, but it seems to me that this is growing affirmation of the validity and urgency of message that newspaper industry's mobile gurus like Buttry are trying to get across.

I continue to worry, however, that newspapers are still moving far too slowly to devise and implement their mobile strategies while they become more deeply mired in the continuing pay wall/no pay wall debate.

Wake up newspaper owners, publishers and editors this is a boat you can ill afford to miss and it's just about to leave port.

Of course, since I am now retired, I have no further personal stake in this, other than the fact that I spent nearly 44 years in the newspaper industry and still love it and see it as vitally important the public good.

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Your thoughts and comments are welcomed