Tuesday, October 28, 2008

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.

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