Frontier Former Editor

January 11, 2009

Nothing like conflicting emotions.

Filed under: journalism, newspapers, observations, old times — Tags: , — Frontier Former Editor @ 6:24 pm

The first newspaper managing editor I ever worked for died last Friday (01-09-09). After two years in his newsroom, I found myself with little respect for him as a manager or a journalist. I can’t speak for him as a family man, but I do remember several incidents concerning him that still leave a bad taste in my mouth 17 years later.

One that still galls me is when I covered the Southmountain Mine underground explosion in 1992.

After two days of waiting in barely above-zero weather to see if men had died, and of watching certain people parade around for publicity, I returned to Bluefield. The managing editor had saved a copy of an Associated Press wire photo from  the site where I was in the background. He dressed me down because I wasn’t wearing a tie.

That was one of the minor episodes.

The man, in my estimation, worried more about making his community look good (and, by extension, making himself look good to the community) than doing good for the community. I know of one example where he suppressed a story because it would have exposed a family member to public questions of why that family member might have, at best, ignored a criminal financial transaction.

The reporter writing his obituary (not the link above) was also a personal acquaintance from the period. His effort lived down to my expectations of him. Perhaps he’s expecting either that the man will be coming back from the dead, or that he’ll get the job.

I’m sorry for the man’s family.

I can say that he did inspire me by his example . . . to avoid following his example at all costs.

October 11, 2008

Bobby May

After two years away from covering Southwest Virginia politics, it warms my heart to watch a late season election train wreck.

Except when you know some of the principals in the wreck. Then it’s a combination of laughter, cringing, headshaking, disgust, incomprehension, pity, anger, bemusement, lather, rinse, repeat.

Any of you who read the Los Angeles Times or watch MSNBC may already have digested the story of Bobby May from Hurley, Va..

I know Bobby May. I also know Earl Cole, the newspaper entrepreneur who printed Bobby’s discourse on Barack Obama.

The Los Angeles Times apparently broke the story, so go get a gander at it here.

Bobby is (and quite possibly was, if this little tempest runs its course) an entrepreneur whose stock in trade is political paraphernalia: buttons, signs, banners, stickers, key rings, change purses, pocket knives and just about any other promotional paraphernalia with political slogans or commercial advertising.

Covering politics, I got acquainted with Bobby and, I have to say, he was pretty entertaining and not all that bad a dinner guest. Of course he was a raging Reagan Republican but he came by it honest, unlike folks like Edwin Meese, Donald Regan, Newt Gingrich, Lee Atwater and a whole host of national Republicans in the Reagan, Bush pere’ and Bush fils administrations.

Bobby treated me relatively fairly, even if I was part of that mainstream media. But Bobby decided more than a few years ago that the mainstream media just didn’t get it, like many Republicans decided long before him.

And a few years ago, May got his crack at being mainstream media when Earl Cole started a little newspaper called ‘The Voice’ as his own way of being a gadfly to the political establishment of Buchanan County.

Especially the Democratic establishment.

I still enjoyed Bobby’s cracks at Democrats, if only because I knew Bobby was just being Bobby. But when someone called me over to their computer to show Keith Olberman’s meanest person in the world for Wednesday night, I – to crib a line from Charlie Daniels’ ‘Uneasy Rider’ – damn near died.

There was Bobby May of Hurley, Virginia with an honor typically reserved for Bill O’Reilly, Ann Coulter or some idiot congressman or Bush Administration figure.

Bobby had written his op-ed de grace. A sample:

The (clarified) platform of Barack Hussein Obama
The Voice
by Bobby May, bobbyleemay@yahoo.com

In response to criticism that I favor John McCain for president and only present “one side of the issues,” I am listing for your consideration the platform of Barack Hussein Obama as best as I can figure it out after venting all of the hot air, straining out the honey and removing the smelly substance similar to what the old bull left behind.

I think I’ve did (sic) a pretty good job of boiling his positions down to their very essence for the sake of clarity. . . .

REPARATIONS TO BLACK COMMUNITY:  Opposes before Election Day and supports after Election Day.

FREEDOM OF RELIGION: Mandatory Black Liberation Theology courses taught in all churches–raise taxes to pay for this mandate.  Put Rev. Jeremiah Wright in charge.  Condemnation of homosexuality from the pulpit will become a Class 1 Felony.

HOMOSEXUAL MARRIAGE:  Raise taxes.  And coddle sexual perverts.  Give tax breaks for NAMBLA membership fees. . . .

DRUG CRISIS:  Raise taxes to pay for free drugs for Obama’s inner-city political base. . . .

2ND AMENDMENT:  Under Obama will only apply to gang-bangers, illegal aliens, Islamo-Fascist terrorists, and Senator Jim Webb’s aide. . . .

FOREIGN RELATIONS:  Appoint Rev. Al Sharpton as Secretary of State, Jesse Jackson as UN Representative and let Bill Clinton handle all other “foreign relations” … as long as Hillary doesn’t find out!  And raise taxes.

THE WHITE HOUSE:  Hire rapper Ludacris to “paint it black.”  Taxes to be increased to buy enough paint to do the job plus spray-paint for graffiti.

THIRD WORLD COUNTRIES:  Raise taxes to send $845 billion, send most to Africa so the Obama family there can skim off enough to allow them to free their goats and live the American Dream. . . .

NATIONAL ANTHEM:  Change to the “Black National Anthem” by James Weldon Johnson.  And raise taxes. . . .

U.S. CURRENCY:  Updatephotos to reflect U.S. diversity; include pictures of “great Americans” such as Oprah Winfrey, Ludacris, Sheila Jackson-Lee, Paris Hilton, Britney Spears and Louisiana Congressman William Jefferson(Obama’s new Secretary of the Treasury–50 Cent refused position after learning that he would lose his crazy check if he accepted the nomination).  And raise taxes. . . .

U.S. MILITARY:  Confiscate all weapons, substitute water pistols, pea shooters, and bows with suction cup arrows.  Replace U.S. flag on uniforms with peace symbols changing uniform color grom green to pink and abolishing the “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, replacing it with “A queer in every foxhole and a camouflage sex toy in every backpack” requirement.  Condoms will be issued instead of bullets and brotherly love encouraged.  Barney Frank will be the new Secretary of Defence (renamed Secretary of Peace and Love) and Rosie O’Donnell, Ellen DeGeneres, Lindsay Lohan and Rick Boucher will be made 5-star generals.  And raise taxes. . . .

Whilst one part of me read it and thought, “Yep, that’s typical Bobby May,” another part of me thought of the four most dangerous words one can hear in the South: “Hey y’all, watch this!”

(Editor’s note, 11-12-08: The site where a facsimile of Bobby’s article resides, it should be noted, failed to include what accompanied it: a counterpoint piece by Ron Coleman supporting Obama’s campaign. Not that it necessarily makes Bobby’s piece any more palatable, but it should be included if only to put its appearance in context of what ‘The Voice’ was trying to present.)

If this had been all there was to the story, Bobby’s little essay might have passed relatively unnoticed. But that wasn’t all. Remember how Bobby was a diehard Republican? Well, Bobby’s beliefs not only complemented his business. They extended into his extracurricular life as the treasurer of the Buchanan County Republican Party and as the local organizer of Team McCain-Palin activities.

And the special sauce on this political hoagie? The Los Angeles Times happened to send a reporter to Buchanan County to sample the red state-blue state dynamic in Virginia last week – including the availability of a certain publication titled, ‘The Voice.’

And “watch this” the ‘mainstream media’ did. And, to Bobby May’s enduring discomfort, they did ‘get it.’ So did the McCain campaign machine, which officially dropped Bobby May from Team McCain-Palin.

Given the McCain machine’s rational for zapping Bobby May, however, I have to wonder why Palin is still on the ticket.

Does this mean that Southwest Virginia is a bunch of racist, stereotype-spouting idiots? No more so than any other geographic region of the Unites States. I certainly have my misgivings about Barack Obama, but they in no way are reflected in the satirical foray made by Bobby May.

But I have plenty of misgivings about John McCain, and I saw a glimmer of reflection of those in the story of Bobby May. How is what Bobby wrote fundamentally different from the stuff that has been spewed from the McCain campaign since the Labor Day weekend?

Bobby May might have been trying to be Jonathan Swift in his modest view of Obama’s political stances. He has a lot to be modest about now.

July 12, 2008

To the tall comely redhead of Irish descent with fierce hands and a huge heart (not to mention three cats).

Filed under: blogging, fake journalism, journalism, newspapers, politics — Tags: , , , , — Frontier Former Editor @ 9:39 pm

Stiletto suggested that I try and convince you to start a blog.

Seeing that you have some appreciation for reporters, yes, you should start a blog and for some very good reasons, such as:

  • Lou Dobbs. Express your disgust for pandering, middle-age, modern-day Know-Nothings and mugwumps who cite thinly-veiled racism as a justification for a Father Knows Best smugness and self-serving garbage. And not all of them are white, middle aged or male, either.
  • ‘New Journalism.’ What was wrong with ‘old journalism,’ where you went out and reported fairly, factually and in context about what mattered in one’s community and country, regardless of how uncomfortable and infuriated it made the subjects or the readers, and where good reporters and editors knew how to keep their beats at the proper arm’s length while getting to know everyone who had a stake in knowing just what in hell was going on behind government and business doors?
  • Entertainment journalism. The biggest f’in oxymoron since Bush’s ‘compassionate conservatism’ and ‘military intelligence.’
  • Ambrose Bierce. Sometimes a reporter needs to stand up during an interview and tell the subject – especially a politician, policeman, lawyer, judge or other appointed official – ‘bullshit’ and have the education and background to make it stick.
  • Reading. Reading anything – especially anything other than a journalism or web design textbook – can broaden a young reporter’s mind. Read up on how sewer and water treatment works. Snag a copy of your local school system’s curriculum to seem just what in hell they are teaching. Read that piece of legislation to see just what’s tucked in among ‘the good this bill will bring to our constituents.’ Read anything about the nuts and bolts of your particular beat. Read some damn history. Read a probability and statistics textbook so you can start to understand some of the statistical BS flowing from your local, state and federal government.
  • History. Again, read lots and lots of history. Read about Jesse Jackson standing on the balcony of a Memphis hotel and see what kind of perspective it puts around him wanting to see Barack Obama’s nuts cut off. Read about Nixon – that alone is a textbook on the last 40 years of American politics.
  • Faith. Learn to discern between faith and pseudo-religious bullshit. Go back and read some theology (and not the damn tracts and free inspirational scripture you find laying around these days.) Read about Martin Luther, Francis of Assisi, the Popes, the Protestant movement in all its guises, Islam, Judaism, Orthodoxy, atheism, agnosticism, Shintoism, Buddhism, religious reformations and counter reformations, and then realize just how little you and we all know. Then go back and read more.
  • The world. If you’ve done any of the above, you may have noticed that the world is a cruel, faddish and nasty place tolerable only because people still manage to show some humanity. Do what you can and don’t get discouraged because the cruelty and stupidity seem endless. The capacity for humanity is pretty endless too.
  • Humor. You gotta laugh at some of the crap that goes on, and sometimes humor is the best way to corner and kill it.

Besides, maybe Stiletto will let you run some pictures of her all oiled up and wearing nothing but a towel.

Oh yeah, and there’s Krispy Kreme donuts too . . .

March 23, 2008

Sunday entertainment . . . .

One of the few things I miss about living in Northern Virginia 20 years ago (aside from the fantastic French bakery run by the Vietnamese couple just up the road from my apartment; being able to get Chinese food at 2 a.m.; two great family-owned hobby shops within less than a half-hour’s drive, and; riding the Metro) was getting a Washington Post on Sunday and spending the whole day wading through it. The crossword puzzle and the Post Magazine could take up half the day alone.

These days, I can still get a hard copy of the Post – three days late – but surfing and blogging are a fair substitute.

Something to share while I got do a crossword (online, since my local Sunday paper hasn’t made it here yet) is this little tidbit from Your Three Cents (via that radio babe who definitely doesn’t have a face for radio, Miss Cellania)

 And to be fair to our president (I still refuse to capitalize the title while that f**kwit’s in office), our own former governor Jim Gilmore showed his own continuing fiscal prudence in the news last week.

Who’da thunk that, after running Virginia’s transportation system into the ground and adding another $100 million annual burden to our state budget, that Gilmore would have been given a chance to preside over another good financial screwing?

(fom Associated Press, via Yahoo News)

RICHMOND, Va. – Former Gov. Jim Gilmore, who was criticized for his handling of state finances, was chairman of a Bear Stearns subsidiary set up to market some of its highest-risk securities tied to the home mortgage industry meltdown.

One money manager said Gilmore’s involvement in Everquest Financial Ltd. reflected his “naivete” in finance. Gilmore, a Republican, is now running for U.S. Senate.

Two troubled hedge funds managed by Bear Stearns owned a 60 percent share of Everquest when it was created in 2006. Everquest withdrew its bid for an initial public offering last June amid criticism of the hedge funds — which saw the mortgages underlying the bonds in some of their holdings fall sharply in value because of increased mortgage defaults.

I can’t wait to see the vote tally in our senatorial election.

Stilletto can appreciate this little side story. I got to watch one of the final public appearances of Jim Gilmore in our fine corner of Virginia before that idiot sailed off into hopefully permanent public oblivion. After presenting a big foam core check for some funding with which he had essentially noting to do with obtaining, Gilmore stood around for an hour in a chapel at what was then Clinch Valley College. He and his aides picked at the table of refreshments, half-heartedly nibbling at mini-muffins or cookies and drinking canned soda while waiting for the fog to lift so they could catch a plane out of town.

Several lawmakers who attended the event didn’t stay to talk with the governor – they beat it as soon as the presentation was over. After a few folks who just wanted to be able to say they shook hands with the governor did so, the chapel emptied in about 5 minutes.

Hemingway might have written; “His party stood alone. In the chapel. In the fog.”

I would have written; “What goes around comes around, with an extra 200 knots.”

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