journalism


14
Jan 22

Give me a three-day weekend

On Wednesday I overslept because my phone’s battery died and there was no alarm. I was on time to my first scheduled part of the day but, nevertheless, it’s always difficult to shake that feeling. So, this morning I managed to overcompensate the other way. My brain insisted on waking me up several times throughout the night.

At some point, when that happens, I’d rather just stay awake all night. But despite the fitful sleep I woke up on time this morning. Good thing, too! I had a meeting first-thing. I actually had two of them scheduled at the same time. One of them was a meeting I was running, so I chose that one. It was the right choice.

It looked like this today.

That’s just the way of things.

On the plus side, I got everything off my card for the day. Each day I prepare an index card for the following day. One side has all of the known and planned tasks. On the back are things coming up on the radar, and things that could be cause for trouble, worry or concern. It’s a helpful and effective system. And, today, I got to it all.

I even had enough time to write a card for next Tuesday, but I never write them on Friday evenings. There’s no reason to unnecessarily clutter the mind over a weekend. So, instead, I left on time. I think that made twice this week.

Amy Ray sent me a guitar pick.

I guess that’s what you get when you complete the catalog. I recently purchased her live show, The Tender Hour. It’s a live show, featuring a:

treasure of a night with a top notch country band and her “home away from home,” hometown crowd! With local hero Jeff Fielder heading up the band on guitar, dobro, banjo, mandolin and vocals, this record features all the songs from Goodnight Tender, as well as songs from her previous 4 studio records, plus a ripping rendition of the Bob Seger classic, “Night Moves.” Seattle’s Eric Eagle and Keith Lowe joined in on drums and bass with the rest of her core band, Adrian Carter on fiddle, vocals, and guitar; Matt Smith on pedal steel and banjo; and special guest Phil Cook on keys, banjo and vocals. The Tender Hour does what any satisfying live record should do-it puts the listener in the room and immerses them in the humanity of the show-complete with stories, blunders, an incredible band, and a energetic heartfelt night of music!

Haven’t listened to it yet. It seems a bit weird, but I feel like I have to wait, or at least I want to wait. I’m going to have to listen to it, eventually. When the weather turns I’ll certainly want to. How could I not? But Amy Ray is just not winter music. There’s too much passion and hope and nostalgia, too many breezes and sweaty, sticky nights in her sound and lyrics. Call it, I dunno, March through November. There’s too many places in her music I’d rather be, and you can’t get to any of them from here, particularly in January.

And, also, “Night Moves?”

But I appreciate the pick. Thanks, Amy! Now I need to pick up an instrument that needs a pick, I guess. Or, what else can you do with a single guitar pick?

Skimming my way through newspapers.com this evening and I found a page deep in a 1929 issue of a small town paper that had a lot of wire copy filler.

As I tried to find out more about Sparkes and Morehead, I discovered that this same copy was publisehd in an upstate New York paper…four years later. There’s evergreen, and then there’s evergreen.

King Zog? He was born into a bit of nobility, fought in the Great War, took some government jobs, became Albania’s youngest prime minister, and was then forced into exile. He went back, became president, and then, after this 1927 copy was written, he made himself a dictator-king. That lasted for about 11 years. Wikipedia suggests he might not have been well liked. “About 600 blood feuds reportedly existed against Zog, and during his reign he reputedly survived more than 55 assassination attempts.” But he held the proverbial crown until Italy invaded in 1939. He lived in England, Egypt, and then France, where he died in exile…in 1961.

His wife, Geraldine, was half-American. She lived until 2002. After the smokey Zog died, she lived in Spain, Rhodesia and then South Africa. Here she is 1999.

In her last months, she was allowed to go back to Albania:

On 5 April 2004 her grandson, Leka, Crown Prince of Albania, accepted the Mother Teresa Medal awarded to her posthumously by the Albanian government in recognition of her charitable efforts for the people of Albania. Leka’s daughter Geraldine (born 22 October 2020 at Queen Geraldine Maternity Hospital in Tirana, on the 18th death anniversary of queen Geraldine) was named in her honour.

Most readers probably didn’t know that much about Albania. Some would struggle to find it on Europe’s Balkan Peninsula. You could hardly be faulted if this is all you knew about the people known as the Children of the Eagles.

I wonder what the reaction was, in 1927, when they read that little clip about the king of this sleepy little place half-a-world away. That’s a lot of cigarettes! Maybe it was a bit less imposing 95 years ago. Do you think anyone, back then, went to Wikipedia to look that guy up?

That last brief? I’m pretty sure that last one was optioned to HBO Max.


12
Jan 22

Let’s read century-old newsprint

I woke up, because a bit of daylight was peering through the blackout curtains, 73 minutes later than I’d intended. My phone battery died overnight. No phone, no alarm. And despite making it out of the house — showered and shaved, in 15 minutes, and on time for my first appointment of the day — I could not shake that unsettled feeling. Despite that, it was a lovely day.

It got into the mid-40s here today. Positively chamber of commerce stuff.

I gave a tour this morning, reasserting once again that I would have never enjoyed being a tour guide. And yet. Then I did a little text work, then a little video work. That was the day, flying by as they do, except for the slow parts.

He said, after rethinking the parts of the day not worth writing about here.

Let’s look at some newspapers. This is what was was going on 100 years ago in the town where all of my family lives. Not my hometown, mind you. I’m not sure, anymore, if I have one of those. People talk about a hometown as the place where you were born, or where you grew up or where you live. I’m not in the one I’d prefer, and the rest hardly apply. And though I never lived in this part of north Alabama, all of my family is from around this area. And most of our ancestors were there when this paper was published a century ago.

Ain’t that something?

Read this over breakfast.

You wonder what led up to that over the previous year.

Earl Dean was convicted in April, and sentenced to life. He was paroled a decade later. Dean died in 1951. His sister, the wife of the well-known William McCarley, died at 81, in 1966. She never remarried. The McCarleys had five kids, the last born just after the murder. He passed away, aged 75, in 1996.

There’s still a Wofford Oil Company, but I believe it is a different concern. As for that gas station?

Long gone.

Also, why is the paper telling me about yesterday’s weather? Sure, it was cold and wet yesterday. We lived it.

Will build new church.

The First Methodist Church opened in a log house in 1822. Their third church got them to their current site, in 1827. Two versions later they had a brick building, which burned in 1920, so just before this newspaper. The new church went up on the same spot in 1924 and was renovated a few decades later. No one calls it the new church anymore.

I just wrote about the dam in this space recently. I told you the river and the dam and the TVA figured into everything. In the 1921 paper the writers were discussing its future. ‘Would the government keep the dam project up? And just look at how this dam thing has insulated us from the doldrums some other parts of the country are experiencing. We sure would like it if this continued.’ It’s easy to get the sense that they knew this was their path to prosperity and maybe a touch of that modernization that people talked about, the better parts of it, anyway. Also, there were sad tales like this.

He was one of 56 people who died during the dam’s construction. I know many of the family names on that plaque.

Finally, my grandfather smoked Camels, right up until the day the doctors told him another cigarette would kill him. So my grandmother made him quit. I can still picture, though, the coloring of the package, and the crinkling of the cellophane. No matter what this ad copy says, I can still imagine that god awful “cigaretty odor.”

After my grandfather stopped, my grandmother would go outside and sneak a Raleigh every now and then. That was her brand, and I never understood the distinction. They both smelled terrible to me. And there was a lot of that in their house.

My grandmother was a lovely hostess, though, the archetype grandmother. She always made sure to send me home with food or a plant or a toy, and a suitcase full of clean clothes.

The first thing we did when I got home was put all of those clean clothes go in the washer again. The smoke smells were baked in. It’s hard to imagine these days how ubiquitous that was, and not so long ago. How we were just … used to it. Sorta like cigarette ads in a newspaper.

We had lunch today at Chick-fil-A, which is to say we ordered it via the app and got the parking lot delivery and drove to a neighboring parking lot to enjoy our sandwiches. We parked in the lot of the now defunct K-Mart. It closed in 2016 and is presently being demolished to make way for apartments. The view from that parking lot is the Target parking lot just across the street. There were perhaps fewer cars there today than at any time during the pandemic. (Both locally, and across this state, we’re setting all sorts of pandemic records right now.)

This is our usual lunch date, once a week. While we’re there, I like to imagine we’re sitting over a broad, lazy creek. Today the mental image was enough to make me overlook this little message on the back of the cup.

And that’s true enough. So keep it up, won’t you please?


15
Dec 21

1,400 words for a Tuesday

The Yankee’s car is in the shop. It’s a radiator issue. Easily fixed, after a time. Which means she has my car. Meaning I have no car. Her car needs repairs and I need a ride. Weird how that works.

So she’s taking me back and forth to work, which is what I do, while she goes to physical therapy or athletic massage or to a dive meet or to buy a present or get the groceries. I’m not sure how I can get any present shopping done this way. But at least I didn’t have to get the groceries.

Tomorrow, on the way into the office, I’ll go to the grocery store for the third time this week anyway, just to stare at the empty shelves. It’s a hobby, I guess.

I was going to take part in some binge watching of television this evening, just to clean some things off the DVR. There’s a little meter on the side of the screen that shows the percentage of the DVR’s space still available, and I pay far too much attention to things like that. We were down to 28 percent, which is pretty low since the memory is large enough to store all of the images we’ve ever captured of space and every movie that’s ever been set in space and every television show that’s used the word “space” in any context.

But I was able to delete some accidental recordings instead. A few buttons on the remote control and 36 hours of content no one wanted disappeared, never to be seen again, or for the first time. Thirty-six hours. After that, the DVR’s little meter told me 46 percent of its memory was now available. That oughta hold through the holidays!

Speaking of things to watch, I just discovered some early 1990s television programs are on NBC’s streaming app, Peacock. It’s made for good doing-other-stuff listening, because a lot of the early episodes are of the “Why did I watch this again?” genre.

It’s Highlander. I’m talking about Highlander. The universe that’s so poorly conceived that there are two different universes. The universe so poorly conceived that in the third movie (of the first universe) they retconned the second movie and called it a dream. And the bad guy in that third movie, to bring a little gravitas to the franchise, was Mario Van Peebles. And, for the fourth movie, they started making movies in the second universe, where the first universe intervened, sort of. Which brings us to the fifth movie. It was supposed to be the first installment in a trilogy, but the movie was so bad they released it not in theaters, but on the SciFi channel.

On iMDB, which frequently has a very forgiving scoring system, that last movie earned 3.1 out of 10.

The movies are a mess, is what I’m saying. They always will be. The series, though, was better. Well, it gets better. Skimming through a few of the first season’s episodes … woof.

What’s better? Dopesick.

Recently finished this show, which I tried after a few random suggestions. Michael Keaton stars as a country doctor in the middle of the OxyContin epidemic. You know where this is going, even if you only vaguely know and you’re guessing. And then this show, based on Beth Macy’s best-selling book of the same name, comes along. It’s an eight-part series, filled with great character actors and a slow, tense build.

It’s something of a composite of recent history, and so you have the gift of hindsight. You know what’s happening, so you find yourself saying “Use your brain!” But scruples and good sense are sometimes thwarted by trust. And you want to have a word with the intransigent people at Purdue Pharma. But sometimes deserve doesn’t have anything to do with it.

That’s what the show is ultimately about, trust, searching for a way out of a hopeless situation and, now, how the people at the top of the food chain at Purdue Pharma are squirming out of this in perhaps the most frustrating way possible. It isn’t a happy show, but it is an important one. And while the show ends just before all of these please and settlements and immunities, if you watch this those recent stories will play a bit differently.

Also today, I updated some of the images on the blog. There are now 113 new images for the top and bottom of the page. Click refresh a bunch and you’ll see them all. Buried on the back of the site is a page with all of those banners, now loading 226 images. Each has a little cutline, just so I can keep all of the memories and locations straight. So I had to update that page. Then I went through that whole page updating changes to the style. Because, every so often, the Associated Press makes updates and, yes, I have to make corrections on a page no one will ever see.

Ed Williams would be proud.

Williams was our Journalism 101 professor. He called the class Newspaper Style and that class was the weed out course in our curriculum. Four exams. Score below an 86 on any of them and you failed the class. A lot of people failed the class. He drilled us for an entire quarter on the “AP Stylebook” and Strunk and White’s “Elements of Style” …

… which, as you can tell, is still an influential text. I paid $5.95 for that book. It was the least expensive, and most important, textbook in the entirety of my college career.

People that survived Williams’s class could still complete this Strunk and White quote: Vigorous writing is concise.

He was also the adviser of the campus newspaper. We were all required to spend a semester there as a part of the formal curriculum. That one credit hour requirement worked it’s magic, as it was intended, and I stayed at the paper for a few years. We won two Pacemakers — essentially the collegiate Pulitzer — while I was there. And somewhere along the way Williams told us his first name, King. He disliked that and we were sworn to secrecy, or to never use it, or both, under pain of newsprint paper cuts.

I had his class almost halfway through his 30-year teaching career, and I saw him in the newsroom thereafter, of course. He always wore a tight, closed-up smile, and an air of knowing things we weren’t allowed to understand yet. Eight years or so into my career I started thinking a lot about all of that, and my student media experience and the impact all of it had on my own career. It’d be gratifying to be a small part of doing that for others one day, I thought. Soon after I had the opportunity to do that same sort of work, and now I’ve been doing that for going on 14 years.

The last time I saw him he still had that same expression. It was heartening. I was a decade or so into my career and there was still much to learn. There always is.

And a quarter of a century (good grief) or so after his class, I’m still thinking about Associated Press style.

Thanks for that, Ed.

When I was advising a campus newspaper I told students that, at the very very least, we were going to change the way they read everything, but it was likely they were going to get much more out of it. And today, at the TV station, I say the same thing. We’re going to reshape the way you consume video as you learn how to produce works of your own. We’re making critical observers. That’s the lesson and the gift.

Ed retired a few years back, and established a scholarship to honor his former students. It fits him.

Which is what I was thinking about while updating the style on a page that even the search engine spiders don’t crawl. Which is what I was doing while waiting for my lovely bride to pick me up. In my own car. While her’s is in the shop.

Maybe we’ll get it back tomorrow.

We better. I’ll soon run out of basic things to clean or update on the website while I wait to be taken from the house to the office and back, over and over.


14
Sep 21

We count our Olympians on this site

Another Tuesday, another Olympian comes into the studio to take part in an IUSTV shoot. Just another day at the office.

That’s Andrew Capobianco, who won the silver in the 3-meter synchronized diving in Tokyo, and he goes to school at IU.

Capobianco tells us about a cool tradition you don’t hear about all that often.

He’s talking about his Olympic diver partner Michael Hixon, and Hixon’s former dive partner Sam Dorman.

The full interview will be in a program you can see online a bit later this week.

The daily duds: Pictures of clothes I put here to, hopefully, help avoid embarrassing scheme repeats.

Today’s pocket square combo:

Also, here are a pair of my new, bespoke cufflinks I made this summer.

Pretty snazy, huh?

More videos and fashion and such tomorrow.

If you have some more time to kill right now, though, there’s always more on Twitter and check me out on Instagram, too. Speaking of On Topic with IU podcasts, and, oh hey, did you know that Phoebe and Poseidon have an Instagram account? They do. Check them out.


26
Aug 21

Back to the year 1921

Let us once again go back in time, to see if anything interesting was in the paper 100 years ago today. And there’s … not a lot … that captures our eye these years hence. Sometimes a slow news day here is matched by a slow news day then. It isn’t exactly the planets aligning, but it could seem close enough if you wanted to think that way. The better read is that probably no one feels like doing more than necessary in the middle of an August heat wave.

So to quickly gloss over the day’s lead story from the August 26, 1921 edition of The Birmingham News

That’s the West Virginia Mine Wars, a series of strikes, skirmishes, kerfuffles and outright battles that ranged through the 1910s and early 1920s. At the first of August a police chief and his deputy were killed by hired gun thugs when they were going to trial for a violent shootout earlier in the year. That was a tipping point. For weeks miners started arming themselves, and moved to just outside the state capitol. The firing was just starting again when they put this paper together. Thousands of union miners and another few thousand police offers, militia and others were clashing. President Harding was tinkering with the idea of martial law. National Guard were standing ready to be shipped in. Today they call it the Battle of Blair Mountain, which ended on September 2nd, and it claimed about 130 lives. It wound up being a defeat for the miners, and union membership plummeted. Ultimately, the mine owners success helped lead to a larger, stronger movement in many other industries. This was nearing the end of the West Virginia violence. Within the next decade, though, the unrest and violence spilled over into eastern Kentucky.

Anyway, inside the paper … a very vague ad on page three.

This makes sense if you are of the time. Lots of ads, across the country. You’re meant to see it as a seal of approval.

Text of another ad, from elsewhere at about that same time reads, “Like all thoroughbreds the Pup is inclined to be exclusive. He will talk for only one clothing store in each city. And that’s got to be a good one. He symbolizes the live successful merchant — and he is always on the job.”

That we don’t have more in this ad is likely a teaser. Maybe the Pup was just coming into the market.

Knowing, as we do, what was to come in just a generation, this was probably a good idea.

That was page four. She was launched on the first of September. The next month a new treaty went into effect, so the battleship was never actually completed. The Washington was sunk in late 1924 as gunnery practice. It took several days to sink her, and the analysts decided the armor was inadequate.

This standalone photograph is on page 10.

You won’t be surprised to learn that there are people who track presidential pets.

This advertisement really strikes a tone, doesn’t it?

MOTHER!

This is an interesting ad during Prohibition.

These days that address is a parking lot.

I’m not saying these jokes are funny, but on a full page of comics, these are perhaps the best two for modern eyes.

This was a great downtown store. A.B. Loveman’s Dry Goods Emporium was founded in 1887 and soon became the Loveman, Joseph & Loeb when Moses Joseph and Emil Loeb came on board.

When you saw this ad in your 1921 paper, you were reading about the largest, most magnificent department store south of the Ohio River. Most of the store destroyed by fire in 1934, but they rebuilt on the same location. They expanded across town and the state, until they went bankrupt in 1979 and closed the next year.

Today, the beautiful old store is still for kids, even those bursting through the roof. The Loveman’s building is home to the state-of-the-art McWane Center.

It is a terrific museum.

And that’s it for today, and a century ago. Come back tomorrow, for more tomorrow, and probably some history that’s a bit more recent.