Here's Johnny - A new (editor) gig
Last week, Sun publisher Whit Chandler named me “news editor” of this paper.
I’ve been called worse.
The title of “news editor” was chosen in part because interim editor Marla Carroll will continue to design our pages and because I’ll continue most of my previous duties and would get very cranky if I had to do it all. To paraphrase the protagonist in a 1970s television series, you wouldn’t like me when I’m cranky.
Since the departure of longtime editor Steve Peterson last November, we’ve all worked a little harder in order to try and fill his shoes. I began to review senior reporter Bob Vlach’s stories before they were sent upstairs, he did the same for me, and the ladies up front looked at all of it. It’s called copy-editing, and it’s probably the least fun portion of the otherwise completely glamorous newspaper business.
I’ll be doing more of that now, and earlier in the process.
I’ll also, with the assistance of Marla and Bob, decide what goes in the paper and where to put it. We can’t be expected to overtake the New York Times in terms of Pulitzer Prizes and number of subscriptions without compelling stories and photos, especially on the front page.
I’ll also make community appearances to briefly explain what we do, how we do it, how Dear Readers can help us do it better, and why we weren’t able to cover Aunt Mabel’s family reunion last weekend. There’ll be no speeches, I promise – mostly I’ll listen, answer questions, and duck when rotten produce is tossed my way.
I’ll have lots of help in my new job, which is good, because I’ll need it, and because, if something goes wrong – and it will – I’ll have other people to blame.
That was a joke.
I’m probably biased, but I happen to believe we have a pretty darn good newspaper here, and I aim to make it better.
After the promotion, I told a former TV colleague about the new gig and acknowledged that I would probably need to grow up a little. He responded, “Please don’t grow up. That’s no fun.”
We shall see.
I’m reminded of the motivational slogan the Brits relied on during World War II: “Keep calm and carry on.”
Good advice, that.
We tried to tell the story of Vice President Mike Pence’s visit to Versailles last week (see story on front page) in several ways.
We spoke to a few of the many people who came to see him, including Isabel Brinegar, a college student who came home to cover it. (She has her own story this week, and I must say that watching her obvious enthusiasm during the event was rather inspiring.)
We took pictures of attendees and participants, using a photo of Pence and Gov. Matt Bevin taken by Brinegar that was better than anything I shot. (I hope to persuade her to do a bit of work for us this summer – and that paychecks are overrated.)
We listened to what Pence and other participants had to say and tried to focus on a few of their most important points, which is no easy task when you’ve got nearly two hours of points to choose from.
As I wrote the main Pence article, I had to decide whether to explain to readers that some of the things that were said weren’t accurate or only told a portion of the story. (Politicians of all stripes do that, you know.) I also had to decide whether to add background material. One example in which I did the latter was pointing out that Pence’s comments on trade didn’t mention that countries may retaliate against increased U.S. steel and aluminum tariffs by raising tariffs on bourbon. I’ll say this about what Mr. Pence had to say and how he said it: Unlike his boss, his comments didn’t lead audience members to shake their fists at and say rotten things to members of the media, one of whom was yours truly, and another, a fresh-faced college student named Isabel. I may have deserved a bit of that, but she certainly didn’t.
So … let’s keep calm and carry on, shall we?