Friday, October 31, 2008

Goode Going Down?

It's looking increasingly like 5th District Congressman Virgil Goode is going down Tuesday. Goode's margins of victory in recent years have dwindled, though they still hovered at 59.1 percent in the 2006 win over Al Weed. Democrat Tom Perriello had raised more than $1.3 million for the race-same as Goode-through September and when I was in Rocky Mount for a photo shoot the other day, I saw what I considered at the time to be the unthinkable: a pickup truck covered with anti-Goode sentiment. A large sign on the tailgate said, "Virgil Goode-Unpatriotic."

A early October poll from WDBJ7 had Goode leading 55% to Perriello's 42%, a net gain of more than 20 points for Perriello since this poll was last conducted in August (64-30 in Goode's favor). Perriello's campaign estimates the difference is actually closer to 51-46 and shrinking.

A story in today's Salon online magazine lists Goode as one of nine congressman whose seat could hinge on a large turnout of African American voters. The 5th District is more than 22 percent Black. I think there's more to it than that, though. Goode's frantic, reactive ad campaign has been overwhelmingly negative and the truth of many of his claims is so obviously in question that his ads border on comedy. His latest suggests that the "New York lawyer" he's running against (Perriello worked as a lawyer helping the inner city poor for a couple of years, but he is a native Virginian) has ties to rag head A-rab factions that want to blow us up. Perriello has a scruffy beard in the accompanying picture. Perriello, who has worked exhaustively on religious missions in Africa (where one has little chance to shave), is presented as a gay-marriage-promoting, commie insurgent who'll send us all to hell soon as he gets to Washington.

Goode, whom the Washington Post once called "colossally stupid," has no real accomplishments in Congress and now the chickens may well have come home to roost.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

The Right Pick at the Chamber

About two weeks ago, I asked Roanoke Regional Chamber of Commerce board member Bart Wilner how the selection process for its new CEO was going and he paused before answering, knowing my intent was to determine if Joyce Waugh was going to be picked. She was serving as the interim director and had been a public face of the chamber since 2000. I had written six months ago that the chamber should just go ahead and anoint her because it couldn't possibly find anybody any better. At any price.

Bart finally said, "We have a lot of really good prospects." That's generally code for "forget it, Jack. Your pick's out." But it didn't happen that way and I'm tickled to death the good gal won this time. Joyce is perfect for the job, a glad-handing intellectual diplomat who is firm, assertive, generous thoughtful and smart.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

More Times Jobs on the Block?

You gotta feel something for those poor souls at The Roanoke Times and attending properties who have been waiting anxiously and not altogether patiently for these last few months to find a new boss. Today Landmark Media Enterprises, screaming “credit crisis!” announced there wouldn't be any sale, for the time being. The various properties, save for the Virginian Pilot in Norfolk, which is talking to "an interested buyer," have been pulled from the market.

While Times Publisher Debbie Meade (pictured) hailed that as great news, she planned to announce in her own paper tomorrow that the job trimming process in Roanoke is likely not over.

Landmark Vice Chairman Richard Barry III is reported by the Virginian Pilot in Norfolk to have said the company is still talking to potential buyers for two other properties. He would not identify the businesses, but said neither is in Hampton Roads. “We had strong interest from buyers for all of our properties,” he said, “but the credit markets impeded their getting financing.” Landmark had been marketing The Times, Greensboro News & Record, a number of community newspapers and two TV stations.

Chairman/CEO Frank Batten Jr. said, “The credit crisis has made it virtually impossible for companies to obtain bank commitments to help finance acquisitions. And the recession has reduced revenue and earnings and made it very difficult to value a business. He said the company has no intention to sell properties "at a time of uncertainty at depressed values.”

The Times has put a lot of effort into prettying itself up for sale, including dramatic staff cuts that have left the newspaper a shell of its former self. One insider estimates the newsroom is half the size it was a little more than two years ago. The business pages are down to three writers and a part-time editor. The Blue Ridge Business Journal is being produced with a part-time editor.

Morale, rarely high in newsrooms which are often peopled with chronic malcontents, is at a dismal level, reports our insider. Publisher Meade, quoted in The Times' piece on the pullback, said, "We may have to slim down some more. We will do our best to do it very gradually and carefully and primarily through attrition."

Batten said Landmark will continue to operate most of its businesses “for several years before reinstituting the sales process,” but it will consider offers in the interim. That means more anxiety, one would assume, especially in the upper executive ranks, which traditionally get cleaned out in an ownership change.

“The market is awash in sellers and no buyers,” media analyst John Morton is reported to have said. “Right now it’s the credit, but it wasn’t happening before the credit tied up. People are very leery. They’re not sure what they should pay or how well the newspapers are going to come out of the recession they’ve been in.”

Landmark’s businesses, minus The Weather Channel Cos., have combined revenues exceeding $1 billion a year, Barry said.

Landmark has announced the retirements of three executives, including Bruce Bradley, the president of the Landmark Publishing Group, which has to mean something. I'm just not sure what.

Elizabeth the Fat

I heard from my old pal John Hudson today and his note brought back a lot of memories, some of them pretty dang good. We worked together in the features department of The Roanoke Times some years ago and on slow days, we'd match wit(icism)s. One back and forth that still sticks with me was the Elizabeth Taylor fat movies we played off each other on a late afternoon. She was Virginia Sen. John Warner's wife at the time and weighed about twice what she should have. Poor Liz was prone to heft and we were prone to make fun of it. Examples of some of her movies:

Fat on a Hot Tin Roof
National Velveta
Who's Afraid of Virginia Ham
Butterball 8
Night of the Baked Iguana
The Sandporker
Sweet Roll of Youth
A Plate in the Sun
Lassie, Come to Supper
Reflections in a Golden Pie
The Taming of the Stew
Suddenly, Last Supper

Poor Liz. She always had more class than we did.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Goode Pointe

Virgil Goode, the Fifth District Virginia Congressman running for his political life against first-timer Tom Perriello, is either ignorant of the difference between "corporate sponsor" and Democratic National Committee or he's lying. I wouldn't place a bet on either because it's a 50-50 proposition.

His latest TV ad takes Perriello's assertion that Perriello won't take money from corporate donors and tells you that he has taken money from high-profile individuals in business (named), a "special interest" (not named, but probably the DNC) and others. The ad does not say which "corporate sponsor" might be involved, as if ...

Fact is, unless you're paying close attention--and who does at this point?--the truth gets lost in the blather. One truth: $1.4 million to Goode from corporate interests, who, no doubt, expect something substantial in return.

The Journalist

On a recruiting trip to Lexington yesterday, I ran into a truly interesting former journalist and current professor at Washington & Lee University, a school known for its journalism. Doug Cumming, with whom I'm negotiating about writing a column of media criticism for the FRONT, has had working journalism stops in Raleigh, Providence and Atlanta and at one point was the co-founder of an ambitious magazine called Southpoint. (You'll note from the photo that he bears a striking resemblance to actor Bob Balaban, "Waiting for Guffman," "Seinfeld," "Close Encounters of the Third Kind.")

It was a magazine whose intent and style were not unlike that of FRONT, though on a much larger scale. Doug says The South was the circulation goal and the breadth of that area caused all kinds of logistical, social and journalistic problems.

Southpoint was a business magazine with the heart of a general circulation publication--much as we are at the FRONT. Doug was the features editor and he worked with people like Roy Blount Jr. (paying about $5,000 an article, an absurdly high amount then--and now--for medium length articles), who wrote a story on the second coming of secession to our region in February 1990. This was nearly 20 years before Sarah Palin and the Alaska secession movement, but it was a shop-worn Southernist theme that I grew up with ("Forget, Hell!").

Time warner finally shut down Southpoint after nine issues and the sifting of many millions of dollars. But, as Doug says, it was a fun gig while it lasted. Journalism experiments tend to be that way, both in failure and having fun doing it.

The Case

Gary Kamiya, writing today in Salon, makes the case--more against today's Republican Party than for the opposition--succinctly at the end of a long argument: "The GOP stands at a crossroads. Republicans can pretend that nothing has really changed, that this is still a 'center-right' nation, and that only an ill-timed economic meltdown cost them the White House. This means leaving their party in the hands of the 'movement conservatives' who have dominated the GOP for decades: the demagogues of reaction and resentment, the Christian rightists, the 'values' voters, the anti-tax, anti-government zealots, the nativists, anti-rationalists and anti-secularists. The culmination of this approach would be to nominate Sarah Palin as their presidential candidate in 2016. Or they can move to the center, accept that progressive taxation is not just necessary to run a country but that it is a legitimate part of the social contract, accept that markets need some regulation, and try to reach out to all Americans, not just their base."

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Thoughtful Pols

Timothy Egan argues this morning in a New York Times op-ed ( that "It would be nice, just to keep the philosophical debate sharp, if there were a few thoughtful Republicans around." He had just built a nice case that led to that conclusion, which is wrong. There are a lot of thoughtful Republicans around. They're just not in control of anything and aren't likely to be, so long as the Party of Lincoln and TR is the party of Limbaugh, Hannity, Gingrich, McConnell, Palin, et. al.

Virginia has had thoughtful Republican leadership: former Gov. Linwood Holton being a marvelous example. Steve Agee of Salem, now a federal judge, was steamrolled by Jim Gilmore and the Christian right in their gubernatorial primary--Gilmore using abhorrent tactics. Steve would have made a thoughtful governor. Gilmore, who's running for John Warner's senate seat against Mark Warner, was simply awful as governor.

The Republican leadership in Virginia's Senate in recent years (John Chichester, most notably) has battled for fiscal responsibility against the distant right wing of the party. Those Republican leaders, you'll note, have endorsed Mark Warner. That's thoughtful. The House even had the "gang of 14" two years ago (William Fralin of Roanoke among them) who put their seats in peril in order to vote for good sense in the budget process. They blunted the Morgan Griffith (Salem) Faction, but didn't kill it.

With the shift in power throughout the United States, I suspect the Repubs will see a move to the left overall--though not a dramatic one, much as the Dems experienced a move rightward after Jimmy Carter. Even with a Senate, House and presidency in Democratic hands in a couple of weeks, don't discount the effects of legislators like Virginia's Warner and Jim Webb--both conservative Democrats--on the overall mood of the party. Democrats are more liberal in many things than Repubs, but not all Dems are more liberal than all Repubs and the natural settling place for this debate is somewhere in the center, whether that center is slightly tilted one way or the other.

The right had its way for a long time, following a domination by the left. Neither proved effective, though you can make a good argument that the right of recent Republican rule was a good bit more than ineffective.

Anyhow, let's urge caution in expectation. Radical is a fringe philosophy that isn't likely to gain a foothold with the new boys on the block.

Friday, October 24, 2008


I went out to Craig County this a.m. for a Valley Business FRONT photoshoot of Joe's Christmas Tree Farm (click on the pix and make it bigger for a good look) and it was simply a lovely drive. Peak season. Full color. Bucolic drive. Refreshing and relaxing. Didn't feel like work. Didn't look like work, either. God, I love this job.


Because Valley Business FRONT's publication schedule is mid-month (something we hadn't anticipated until the first issue grew to such proportions that we had to push back the publication date by two weeks), endorsements in this year's elections became problematic. That, of course, is solved beautifully by the Internet.

So, in the interest of anybody who gives a flying flip, here's the column I wrote for the November issue, which will not appear in print because the issue will show up more than a week after the election. The endorsements are mine alone.


At the most basic level—the understanding of the bottom line—former Gov. Mark Warner is the no-brainer choice to succeed the noble and esteemed John Warner as Virginia’s junior U.S. Senator.

Mark Warner’s background is as a successful business professional in the technology/investment sector and that success was apparent during his term as governor when he turned a $6 billion budget deficit (left by predecessor and current opponent Jim Gilmore) into a $1 billion surplus in four years. He did that by creating unity, dialogue and compromise—the way politics has been run most successfully.

Warner’s plan is to take control of our energy needs, to confront a sticky and difficult health care/insurance problem, to stabilize a corrupt and faltering Wall Street, to educate our children, to bring crucial broadband to all corners of our nation and create international competitiveness. His is like a solid business plan.

Perhaps most important, Warner will ask Americans to help him, to sacrifice for the future of our country, to join him in formulating solutions, to be Americans. We have, sadly, been without that request for many, many years, wasting one of the most valuable assets any political person can have: the backing of his constituency through shared sacrifice. Warner wants us to be a team again. We could go undefeated.


As with Virginia’s senate race, the national election gives us two wildly different choices. We can fall all over ourselves with fear mongering, racism, sexism, moose-hunting-ism, lipstick pig-ism, but we’re voting here on four more years or the good sense to try something different. Alcoholics Anonymous, a group that is salted with sensible philosophy, defines “insanity” as “doing the same thing over and over, expecting different results.”

Electing John McCain and his wildly radical, almost completely clueless VP candidate, whose selection is, in itself, reckless and insulting, would be the continuation of a disaster. Historically, she would have a 30 percent chance of becoming the top bulldog and that’s an unacceptably dangerous folly. Even if he stayed healthy for his entire term, his policies would continue the sinking of the USS Titanic.

Barack Obama is not a perfect candidate (Al Gore is), but he is smart, analytical, reasonable and a coalition builder—not a self-styled “maverick.” McCain has traded away his hard-earned honor and dignity by pandering to the unprincipled elements of the far right and, frankly, he never had much of a program or a chance anyway.


The three U.S. Congressmen from the Roanoke and New River Valleys—Bob Goodlatte, Rick Boucher and Virgil Goode—provide marked contrast beyond their mixture of Republican (2) and Democratic Party affiliations.

Goodlatte and Boucher, conservatives from different parties (Goodlatte the Republican), have been productive, effective (especially in technology legislation), respected members of a congress that has an approval rating in the teens. Goode is one of the reasons for the dismal rating.

Boucher is running without opposition and Goodlatte’s opponent is more token than real, an inexperienced young man with little chance. I rarely agree with Goodlatte and his 0 (that's zero) environmental rating is outrageous, but he's a good man and an honest man who has a great deal of valuable experience.

Goode, meanwhile, has become so frazzled by the carefully and brilliantly executed campaign of young Tom Perriello (“No matter how you pronounce it …”) that he has taken to the lowest form of racially-tinged, provincial (“You ain’t from around here, are you?”) fear-mongering.

Goode's campaign is a clinic in baseless, careless Rovian bloviation, ignorance and pandering to the lowest common denominator in the electorate, but he deserves to be fired because he's an ineffective congressman from a district that's in deep trouble. Goode was never a worthy Congressman and at this stage, it doesn’t look like he ever will be. He’s a cliché of worn-out catch phrases (“New York lawyer,” “marriage amendment,” “drill now”) and almost total inaction.

Perriello, meanwhile, is a breath of fresh air, another Charlottesville area opponent for Goode who is a far better choice for the job. His background in helping overthrow a dictator (Charles Taylor of Liberia), serving on faith missions, working for the poor and being a fine, fine American make him a role model. We could use one or two of those in congress.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Journalism Reality

Because we have the experience of one Roanoke Regional Writers Conference behind us, I fully expected that of the 25 writers we recruited to talk at this Jan. 23-24 conference at Hollins University, almost all would make it. There would be one or two losses, as there were last year, but no more. Everybody gets pumped for these things.

But today, I got word that keynote speaker and Southern Living Editor Cassandra Vanhooser has been laid off and her status with is was uncertain. Sure it is. I'll bet Cassandra thinks more than her status with us is uncertain. It's scary to lose a good job in mid-career and I don't imagine she's given a lot of thought to writers conferences.

We have some good alternatives for substitutes, but as I noted to my friend Catherine Mosley--Cassandra's old pal and the person who relayed the news to me--Cassandra might be a better keynote speaker now than she was before. It's an uncertain market for writers (hell, it's always an uncertain market for writers, especially freelancers) and tell me who would be better to talk about that uncertainty than somebody who lost her job?

I'll propose it. Hope she accepts.

Here's the connection for the conference:

Register just above Sharyn McCrumb's picture.

Great Clothes

There's a fascinating piece in the NYTimes this a.m., "Fashion Report 1920," about clothes that last, clothes that are never out of style and clothes that defy logic in their fashionability. Says a fashion magazine editor, "Here are all these great standbys that don’t really have anything to do with the lifestyle we lead here in New York" or almost anywhere else outside the Great Rural Landscape.

My favorite from this collection (Filson, Levi's, Barbour, basic T-shirts, Topsider, Woolrich, Alden)is the Pendleton wool shirt (inset photo of my favorite), a $108 item that I can't afford. I have 15 of them. OK, so I bought them used, mostly on E-Bay, about $20 each, plus shipping. Some date to the early 1960s and all are simply marvelous examples of textile potential: strong, colorful, stylish and comfortable.

The shirts range from the "loop" botton hole style from about 1964 to the Sir Pendleton with the button collar that is more recent, a little losser around the middle, but still thinning, even in big-panel plaid. When I started buying these shirts a year or so ago, I was immediately given a lesson in American sizing, Pendleton version, especially the simple fact that we are bigger than we were 40 years ago. Large isn't large any more. It's a medium, about a 38 to 40 inch chest. Even the extra large is a bit on the snug side for me--and that's what I wear in most shirts and jackets.

Tight or loose, though, the Pendleton is the gold standard. I was shooting a photo of a prominent Roanoke men's clothier for our magazine the other day--dressed in a Pendleton and jeans--and mentioned that I felt like a lumberjack in his fine men's shop. "That's a Pendleton shirt you're wearing," he said. "Lumberjacks can't afford those." Point taken.

(The photo is by my favorite wife, Christina, who interrupted her toilette to shoot it, which I appreciate.)

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Just Words

Oh, my word. Maureen Dowd, who is often wrong-headed, churlish, spiteful, bitchy and, well, embarrassingly and inappropriately funny, called George Bush a "bumptious Texas dauphin" in her New York Times column this a.m. All is forgiven.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Not So Goode

Tom Perriello would do well to send Al Weed a "thank you" note. That'd indicate good Southern breeding. And reality. Perriello's sometimes-funny, often aggressive campaign against entrenched Republican bozo Virgil Goode owes a lot to Weed's groundwork in 2002 and 2006, both losing--but softening-up--efforts by a candidate who would have made an outstanding congressman from the 5th District.

Weed ran hard each time, even living in Danville--the Old South heartbeat of this 19th Century district--for six months at one point to meet the voters. Everybody liked Al, but not enough, by a lot, voted for him.

Perriello is probably a better candidate than the southern reaches of the 5th District could expect if Charlottesville weren't on the top end: He's an internationalist who fought Liberian dictator Charles Taylor, helped Sierra Leone find peace and founded a couple of faith-based, humanitarian organization.

Perriello, who went to Yale and spent a summer in New York organizing a faith-based organization to help the poor (he's done a lot of that) is called by the bigoted, oafish Goode "a New York lawyer" meaning, I suppose, "You ain't from around here, are you?" Well, yes, he is. He's from Albemarle County, part of the 5th District. Perhaps, paired with a distorted picture of Periello, it's a racial, ethnic and xenophobic statement--not a pretty picture of Goode.

Looks like Al softened up Goode (not to be confused with Good) and may have set him up for retirement.


A small indulgence, if you please: I'll read an essay Thursday, Oct. 23 on WVTF-Public Radio's (89.1 FM) "Studio Virginia" program. Been doing this for about 20 years and thoroughly enjoy it. Nice outlet for somebody who loves talking.

Monday, October 20, 2008


Tom Field (right in the above photo) and I take a look at some of the sheets for our very first Valley Business FRONT at Select Printing last week. The magazine has not even been mailed yet and we're already getting a flood of commentary and congratulation. Tom's the co-owner and the design guru.


OK, so I'm an inveterate eavesdropper. Not so much nosey as curious about the human condition. That's attainable from random conversations that don't include me--especially at flea markets. Here's one from Sunday.

Tall guy about 50, bluejeans jacket and overalls, two-inch salt and paprika beard, probably 6'3" tall, leans over the counter at the keymaker's booth, examines a gold-tone key and says, "Did I tell you I got married this morning, Frank?"

Frank looks up. "You gonna buy that key?"

"Uh, hadn't thought about it."

"Well put it down. Might scratch it. Don't want to sell damaged merchandise."

A man with ethics. Not much human warmth or concern, but plenty of ethics.

Sunday, October 19, 2008


I was slogging through the Business Journal GM’s column over the weekend (God! If her stuff were any duller, I’d have to have a caffeine drip) when I fell over the word “ethics” and wondered what she might know about it. She asked—rhetorically, I suppose—“at what point can we expect ethics to return to this society’s vocabulary as a meaningful, actively understood word?”

Now, wait a minute here. Ethics. That would imply being fair, being open and accommodating, being generous of spirit and forever moral. How does that square with telling freelance writers they can’t write for certain competing publications if they are to be given assignments by the Business Journal or The Roanoke Times (which owns the BJ)? Seems to me this has happened several times in recent weeks, both publications telling writers who write for us (or who wanted to) or another publication (Star Sentinel) that they had to choose.

As far as I know, the RT and the BJ are the only publications in this region making those demands. Most of the people who write for us have told them to stick their ultimatums up their collective butts. One writer, who would only occasionally write for us because she lives in Lynchburg, said that if she must make the choice, she will join the “take your ultimatum and stick it up your ass” crowd. Frankly, I know of only one who was intimidated and that was a case of truly needing the money. Kids in college help make tough choices easier--though not necessarily more digestible.

I’m not sure whether the demand is legal—and our company’s lawyer says he’s not sure, either—but I know it is less than generous of spirit and I don’t like what it says about the obsessive need to control people who don’t want to be controlled. Which is why they are freelancers.

We give our writers—who can write for any publication they want to—specific, researched, well-planned assignments as part of a magazine that has a plan and a direction. Some written assignments (which include contacts and their phone numbers and e-mail addresses) are longer than the stories we get back. Other publications don’t do that. They ask the freelancers to submit ideas, then assign those stories—to the submitting writer, one would hope.

Some ask for those ideas, assign them, accept the stories, then decide not to use them, based on something other than quality. That happened to me recently when Bella, a woman's magazine in Roanoke, assigned me three stories (I was slumming between gigs and wanted to be busy). Six weeks later, I got an e-mail (not even a phone call) telling me the stories wouldn’t be used because the special section, Eco Bella, had become Eco Fashion Bella. And, no, Bella doesn’t pay for stories it doesn’t use, I was told, even if it assigns them. Bet it pays the plumber who fixes the toilet, even if the toilet is replaced two weeks later.

Anyhow, “ethics” is more than just a word to toss around in a puffed up column by an ad-ops middle manager masquerading as a journalist. Ethics is a lifestyle, first needing some development, then constant attention to detail, lest it become rusty and unsuitable for use.

Saturday, October 18, 2008


A few years ago, in the French movie “Chocolat,” the actress Juliette Binoche achieved a level of beauty I hadn’t seen in a woman in decades, not since my favorite ex-wife took off. A lot of it had to do with the 1950s period dress--meaning, literally, dresses, which were not quite formal, but far removed from the kind of shabby chic or casual sloppiness born, I suppose, of the hippie movement 10 years following the movie’s period and running up until now.

Our new magazine’s fashion columnist, Kathy Surace, made reference the other day to a resurgence of that kind of relaxed and natural elegance in women’s fashion. Larry Davidson of the high-end men’s clothing store, Davidson’s in Roanoke, said pretty much the same about men’s fashion--for young and old men.

More evidence appeared on the Hollins campus recently as I crossed the quad for a meeting: young women in sun dresses, shirt waists, skirts and sweaters. Then, the crowning touch occurred this past weekend at Washington & Lee University where my son and I went to a football game. I photograph college football games for publications in the fall, so we were on the field together, long lens affixed. Evan was peering through the lens into the student section.
“See something interesting?” I asked.

“Yeah,” he said, smiling. “Some really good looking babes.” I took a turn at the lens. Sun dresses. Well-groomed young women. Shoes with heels. Pearls. I thought I saw white gloves. Maybe not. But, yeah, I said, “Really good looking babes.” And the guys were handsome, as well, in shirt and tie, pressed pants, shoes that weren’t made of rubber. I wish I could show you the photo I took, but you can see it for yourself at a Web site I occasionally write for Go take a look. It conjures all kinds cultural values and shows kids being about as pretty as they can be—which is considerable.

Elegance. Ah, thy name is fashion and fashion seems to be back.


October 18, 2008

The debut issue of Valley Business FRONT is officially out today and the buzz is already getting loud. We put it online Wednesday ( and have already had a good bit of comment, but the interest seems to be intensifying. WDBJ-TV did a nice piece on us Thursday and The Roanoke Times had coverage--a little grudging, I suspect--this a.m.

Duncan Adams, an old pal and The Times reporter doing this story, asked me why I thought the region needed another business publication and I said, "It needs a good one, which it hasn't had since August" when Tom Field and I left the Business Journal. The Journal, of course, is owned by The Times. Dunc didn't use the quote.

Tom and I had a critical session on FRONT yesterday and I thought it was truly productive. He's open to criticism and that will benefit both of us. As good as the debut issue is, there were some glaring flaws, which we will fix. No. 2 will be better than No. 1. Football coaches always insist their most improvement in any given year comes between games 1 and 2 and I hope that happens with us.


Oct. 16, 2008

The Rustics in Charge

As the bus pulled into the Hotel Roanoke parking lot, ending a tour of the Blue Ridge Parkway for a group of environmental journalists, one of the organizers of the seminar sidled over to me and said, “You know what I really liked is that your accents made this so authentic. Great stuff!”

Great, indeed. Quaint. Rustic. Maybe even a little on the provincial side. Big city journalists come to the wilds of Virginia to study the natives at work. This whole seminar thing, which I was pulled into as a “leader”, never did work out for me. I had a lot of trouble dealing with anal retentive organizers who gave instructions with one hand and pulled back the authority to carry them out with the other. They actually told me at one point that the three highly-qualified women helping me—all of them in PR for one organization or another—were “forbidden” to talk to environmental journalists in the organization. “For-freakin-bidden!” You have to know how I reacted to that.

Still, I got through it and when this rube made his accents remark, I reminded him that among our speakers Rupert Cutler is from Wisconsin, Tommy Denton from West Texas, Mary Bishop—though rustic—has a Pulitzer Prize, David Hill and Tom Cain are respected architects, Nancy McGhee is a PhD at Tech, David Radford could buy every journalist on the bus—even those from big cities—and that I had already won a career award in journalism while he was still being house broken.

You’d think somebody as worldly as this guy would understand that you’d better be careful who you’re condescending to. Could bite back.