Hooray… for me!

I received a nice surprise from an editor in my morning email today. My story on the Dallas Cowboys’ new football stadium won a gold “Tabbie Award” for best profile. The award is from a trade magazine organization called the Trade Association Business Publications International.


Here’s the story.

Remembering two great journalists

In January, Bay Area journalism lost Dan Reed. And today, we lost Bill Brand, a longtime Oakland Tribune reporter who penned a popular beer blog in his retirement. I’m saddened by their deaths and as I read their obituaries and online guest books, I’m reminded of the impact they had on local journalism and what great people they were.

Journalism is a small world, and in the mid-1990s, when I was a young, impressionable, sometimes naive journalist, I was fortunate enough to cross paths with them. They didn’t know me very well, but nonetheless, they took time to help and mentor me, and for that, I’m forever grateful to them.

I first met Brand in 1996 when I was a reporter for the West County Times, in Richmond, Calif. At the time, my newspaper chain was trying to make inroads into Berkeley, and was offering a crazy deal – $10 for a year’s subscription – to drive readers and compete against the Oakland Tribune. Brand was a grizzled newspaper vet who covered Berkeley for the Tribune, and one afternoon, he and I were stuck at City Hall, waiting for a city official to emerge from a locked office to give us additional details for a story.

He knew I was on deadline before a Berkeley City Council meeting, and that I was angsting. I hadn’t yet developed the skill to pump out a 12-inch story in mere minutes. I needed time – at least a good hour – to write the story, and needed to rush home to file the story before the meeting, or I was hosed. This was before Wi-Fi, back in the day when we needed phone lines to dial into the newsroom computer system. Brand took pity on me and said something like: “You go home and write your story. I’ll wait here and when I get the information, I will call you and share it with you.”

I was surprised. I was taught in journalism school that you simply don’t share information with your competitors. I didn’t trust him. But I was also relieved that he gave me an out. So I took it. An hour later, he did call. He shared all the information he had. He saved my ass.

I’ve never forgotten his kind act. We were competitors and he didn’t care. He taught me a good lesson in journalism: the difference between competition for scoops, which this was not, and being a nice guy to a fellow colleague. (more…)

Year-in-Review Overload

Editors and news directors of the world, please stop the madness. We consumers of mass media can’t open a newspaper, turn on the TV or click on a Web site this week without a year-in-review story. 2007’s Best and Worst Movies! The Top Sports Moments of the Year! A headline on the San Francisco Giants’ Web site reads: “Memories aplenty for Giants in 2007.” (Yes, and they all sucked because the team sucked! I don’t need to see a month-by-month, blow-by-blow account of the team’s worst season in 12 years).

Every section in a newspaper feels a need to do a year-ender. The San Jose Mercury News’ restaurant reviewer even chimes in with “my 10 most memorable meals of the year.” And the Arizona Republic this week felt compelled to remind us that the year’s top local business stories include the lousy housing market and the opening of new shopping centers across the Phoenix metro area. (Why state the obvious? I mean: it’s all still happening and we see it with our own eyes every day. “For Sale” signs litter every neighborhood and houses sit empty for months on end. And, you don’t think we notice that the hundreds of acres of farmland along the freeway are suddenly replaced by a huge Best Buy or Target store?)

At least some enterprising publications are not just regurgitating old news and are trying to put a new spin in their stories. But they, too, have varying degrees of success. (more…)

Art of the Interview

My San Francisco Giants book was recently republished in paperback, so the publisher had me do a few radio interviews this month to publicize it. Last Sunday night, while being interviewed live on a sports radio show, everything was going well until the host asked me a question I couldn’t possibly answer. The question was something like: “How would you compare Juan Marichal’s pitching style with other Hall of Famers like Sandy Koufax?”

I had one or two seconds to comprehend the question, realize I had no answer, and to come up with an answer. My insides churned. So what did I do? I told him the truth. I recall laughing into the phone and saying, “Well, I wish I could answer that, but I can’t because I wasn’t alive when they pitched. Maybe you would be a better person to answer that for me?”

He had to answer his own question. The guy threw me a curveball and I hit it right back at him!

Media’s use (or mis-use) of “troops”

Since when did the word, “troop,” mean one person? Print and TV journalists are using it that way everyday. “Bush is deploying 21,500 new troops to Iraq” or “15 troops died in a Baghdad car bombing.”

Don’t we in the media really mean, “soldiers” or “troop members?” My old trusty Associated Press Stylebook defines a troop as a “group of persons or animals.” My paperback American Heritage dictionary and Dictionary.com give similar definitions.

Since when did the definition change? I mean: we wouldn’t call a lone Boy Scout a troop, but we’d say a Boy Scout troop is made up of a number of Boy Scouts.

Anyway, it’s annoying.