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:

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.

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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:

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:

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:

Here, also, is a link to a video of the speech.

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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 link to the commercial: For historical and journalistic purposes, it is well worth viewing even if you have to copy the link and paste it into your browser.


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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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Wednesday, August 14, 2013


There is a very wise rule of thumb in the newspaper business that I suspect has an electronic media equivalent. It goes something like this: Never use dummy copy as a filler or write something inappropriate in copy that you expect someone else to catch and fix or remove before it ends up being published in the paper. Or, more simply put: If you don't want it to "accidently" get into the paper, don't do it.

Unfortunately, that rule is too often violated and the result is sometimes a major public embarrassment.

Currently, this screw up -- brought to us via -- is making the social media rounds among journalists:

 15 Times "Filler Text" Become a Journalist's Worst Enemy

This is just one of the rule-of-thumb-violation debacles featured. If you are interested in the full horror show, here is the link:

During my nearly 44 years in the newspaper business, I witnessed numerous such embarrassing occurrences in both my own and other newspapers.

The personally most embarrassing occurred came while I was managing editor of The Clarion-Ledger in Jackson, Miss., in the late 1970s, destroying the impact of what was an otherwise incredible piece of investigative reporting.

At the time, U.S. Sen. John Stennis, D-Miss., was pressing hard to have Congress approve final funding and design for the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway, a man-made waterway that would link the Tennessee River near Corinth, Miss., and the Tombigbee River in Alabama. A large portion of the waterway was to pass through eastern Mississippi, to create a water transportation link to the Gulf of Mexico.

Wikipedia succinctly describes the Tenn-Tom this way:

"The Tennessee–Tombigbee Waterway (popularly known as the Tenn-Tom) is a 234-mile (377-kilometer) man-made waterway that extends from the Tennessee River to the junction of the Black Warrior-Tombigbee River system near Demopolis, Alabama, United States. The Tennessee–Tombigbee Waterway links commercial navigation from the nation’s midsection to the Gulf of Mexico. The major features of the waterway are 10 locks and dams, a 175-foot (53 m) deep cut between the Tombigbee River watershed and the Tennessee River watershed, and 234 miles (377 km) of navigation channels.[1] The ten locks are 9 feet (2.7 m) x 110 feet (34 m) x 300 feet (91 m) the same dimension as the locks on the Mississippi.[2][3] Under construction for twelve years by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Tennessee–Tombigbee Waterway was completed in December 1984 at a total cost of nearly $2 billion."

Opponents of the project, primarily northern Democrat senators, decried it as a prime example of wasteful spending.

Nonetheless, Stennis -- a long tenured and powerful force in the Senate -- was undeterred in his support and kept pushing to have the project finished. As part of that push, he proposed a slight routing change, which he contended would shorten the construction mileage and, thereby, save money.

We received at tip that the rerouting would take the waterway through some rather large parcels of land that Stennis had been purchasing through "straw men" who were listed on land sales records as the buyers.

Our investigation of the tip took nearly two months to complete and involved the examination of hundreds of pages of land records, scores of interviews and weeks of fact checking. In the end, we had developed what we felt was ironclad proof of the allegation.

The reporter on the project managed to wangle an extensive interview with Stennis -- not a man given to freely talking under pressure to the press -- in which he finally acknowledged that some, but not all, of the land purchases had been made by others on his behalf. Stennis, however, contended that he didn't realize that the land purchased rather cheaply was along the path of the proposed route -- land the right of way though which would have to be bought at a considerably higher price by the government to complete the waterway and the balance of which could vastly increase in value because it would border the Tenn-Tom when completed.

Knowing that we would have to employ extreme caution in publishing this bombshell, I personally handled the first edit on the long and highly detailed story, then passed it along to the city editor for a second edit and took it back for a personal final edit. In the process, we exercised great care to make certain that a quick synopsis of Stennis' response appeared high in the story. After my final edit, I passed the story on to our best copy editor to read it, prepare it for publication and write a headline.

While doing his read, the copy editor inserted an inappropriate, sarcastic note in bold, highlighted italics and then passed it along to the news editor with the assumption that he would get a chuckle out of the insertion and then remove it before sending the story to typesetting. Well, you know what the say about the word "assume."

For whatever reason -- likely a brain burp brought on by deadline pressures -- the news editor failed to remove the note.

So, when the story was published, the high-up paragraph containing the synopsis of Stennis' response read like this:

"The senator acknowledged that some, but not all, of the more recent land purchases made along the proposed path of the waterway had been made by others on his behalf. However, he said he was 'totally unaware' that the land being bought was along the proposed route. (Can you believe this lying sack of shit.)"



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Your comments are welcomed. Thank you.

(Please note that I have made a correction in this post. Initially I identified Sen. John Stennis as "R-Miss." Actually he was one of the southern senators who never switched parties, I had forgotten that. He should have been and now is identified as D-Miss. My apologies.)

Monday, August 12, 2013


In our lives, we all have "firsts" that we look back on fondly across the haze of time. Maybe it's a first car, or maybe a first love. For me, one of those is my first newsroom job, although it is a position that I am not sure I have ever even listed on any professional resume, especially since it lasted such a short time and ended so abruptly. But, if it hadn't been for that job, my life might have headed in a different direction and I might not have had the nearly 44 years worth of newspaper jobs that I do list on my resume.

My first newspaper job, which I sort of fell into a couple of months after my discharge from the U.S. Navy in 1966, was at the New Albany Tribune in New Albany, Ind., the city just to the west of Clarksville, Ind., where I spent part of my younger life.

I didn't start at the Tribune, then an about 8,000 circulation daily, immediately after the Navy even though by the time I was discharged, I knew I wanted to go back to college and become a newsman.

I joined the Navy to escape my father's wrath after managing to amass a 0.4 average during the first semester of my freshman year at Indiana University. I failed out not because I was all that stupid, but because I had no desire to go immediately from high school to college. I actually wanted to enlist in the service and see something of the world before tackling another four years of schooling, but my parents wouldn't hear of it. Since I was only 17 when I graduate high school, I needed their signed permission to enlist.

So, instead, I went off to IU and found that I enjoyed playing euchre at the Student Union building more than I liked going to class. Consequently, failing out was not that difficult a chore. What WAS a chore was gaining readmission to the university after my discharge from the Navy. I was granted "conditional" readmission. The condition being that before I could return to IU's main campus in Bloomington, I had to take classes at Indiana University Southeast, then in Jeffersonville, and bring my GPA up to at least 2.0. This I did in one summer and one fall semester by getting all "A"s in 16 hours of course work at nights.

To support myself during those semesters, I had to find a job. The first one I took was as a collector for a loan company. However, I quickly tired of repossessing cars and pressuring payments from people who'd been duped into taking loans at interest rates bordering on usury.

I quit that repugnant post when an old high school friend told me about a job at the Tribune, then owned by Thomson Newspapers. I applied and got the job. That position, however, was in the advertising department, but it got my foot in the door.  I almost immediately began bugging (maybe I should say begging) the editor, John Anderson, to give me a shot as a reporter, which he finally did.

Anderson was one of those old-time editors who could sit at his desk typing faster with two fingers on an old upright Royal typewriter faster than most people can touch type with all the fingers on both hands on a computer keyboard. And, yeah, he had the omnipresent cigarette butt with a two inch ash that steadfastly refused to fall off until he was ready to dump it in his always overflowing ashtray. He also kept a bottle of Rebel Yell bourbon in his bottom desk drawer and nipped on it regularly during the day.

Anderson had been around the block a couple of times and even though he was then the editor of a small community daily, he had worked for some much larger papers in some big cities. In his early 40s, Anderson was a World War II Army combat veteran who'd been wounded twice, once at Anzio and once while making the mad dash across France with Patton's army. When he was discharged, he took advantage of the GI bill and went to college after becoming enthralled with a newspaper war correspondent he'd met in a foxhole on the Anzio beachhead.

Once I took a desk in the newsroom, I was off and running and Anderson liked what I was doing as much as I liked doing it and compared to what I had been making as a 2nd class gunner's mate petty officer in the Navy, the $65-a-week paycheck seemed like a fortune.

Maybe because I was a fellow veteran and maybe because of my charming personality, Anderson seemed to take a liking to me and took it upon himself to tutor me in newspapering. I actually learned a lot from him and much of what he taught me I spent years as an editor passing along to the young reporters who worked for me at various newspapers.

One of the things I learned from him was how to write a grabber lead.

"Look," he told me, "if you don't craft a lead that grabs the reader's attention right off, you're gonna lose 'em. A good lead should grab the reader by the lapels and give him a good shaking. If you do that, it almost doesn't matter what comes next because they'll follow it whatever it is. That's even more true if you write a great lead followed by three or four more strong paragraphs." Over the years, I found that to be unerringly great advice.

He also taught me that if a great lead didn't pop immediately into my head,  go on and write the rest of the story because in doing so, "the right lead will eventually reveal itself." He was right.

He also insisted that every good news story has a beat and a rhythm, just like a good song.

"Your job is to discover that beat and that rhythm and then write the lyrics," he told me.

He also instructed me in the now seemingly lost art of calling in and dictating a story off the top of my head. After my first pathetic attempt to do that while providing updated coverage of a trial, Anderson pulled me aside, got up in my face with a waggling index finger and growled:

"I have neither the time, nor the inclination to write your fucking stories for you. From now on, when you call in, you'd better be ready to dictate a real story and not that notes bullshit you hit me with today."

All were lessons that served me well throughout my long newspaper career.

But my career as a reporter at the Tribune ended rather abruptly after five months when I told Anderson that I'd decided that rather than going back to school in Bloomington, I would as soon just continue reporting for him.

"Look, kid," he told me, "you're good, but you'll be a lot better if you go back to school and get an education. Your fired. But, if you really want to come back to work here after you graduate, you can have your job back. Now, get the hell out of my office and go back to school."

A week later, I was standing in the registration line at IU's main campus in Bloomington, taking advantage of the GI Bill's education benefits, just like John Anderson had done 21 years earlier.


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