Thanks, 524 Times And Counting
April 3rd, 2020
(published in the Daily Memphian)
Last Wednesday evening, I had a small celebration – just me on the screened porch at least six feet away from everybody else in the world.
Part of it was my annual spring ritual of switching from Scotch to gin – what my late college roommate, Bob Alley, called, “brown drinks when it’s cold, see-throughs when it’s warm.” I make my first gin and tonic of the year on April 1, and I’ll switch back to Scotch on my birthday, October 10. I always think of Bob on these occasions.
And this time, part of it was recognition of an anniversary. So, as always, I raised my glass to spring and renewal, to Bob, and this year, to you.
Ten years ago, I had lunch with James Overstreet – then Editor of The Daily News and now Editor-in-Chief of the Daily Memphian.
It was my invitation and I was doing what I did a lot of in those days – pitching a story or an idea to the press on behalf of a client. This time, I was asking James if he was interested in one of my clients authoring a guest column.
“Not really,” he said, “but why don’t you write one?”
I was complimented. And ten years later, I still am. Like many of us, I’ve always had plenty to say, especially stories about my hometown – and everything is a story – but I thought no one was particularly interested.
You were. And I’m enormously grateful.
So, I stare at a blinking cursor every week, my fingers hovering over a keyboard waiting for the muse, because I owe you a column. I can’t just phone it in because that shows, and you wouldn’t read it next week, or comment on it, or share it. Worse, you wouldn’t care because I didn’t. I can’t fake it because you’d see right through that, knowing I didn’t mean it, knowing my heart wasn’t in it. Worse, you wouldn’t believe it because I didn’t.
So, thank you. You keep me going.
Even the reader who called me an idiot a couple of weeks ago, or all the readers who’ve called me worse. Even the reader who called a recent column “a load of horsehockey,” and all those who’ve been more direct, not bothering with the euphemism of horsehockey.
My father once cynically told me that, as a matter of balance, an editorial should piss off about half the readers. Dad was an engineer, not a journalist, but he was pretty good at math.
The keyword is readers. I’m thankful for every one of you, and when I write, I try to talk to one of you at a time – to look you in the eye and tell you the truth as I see it. That’s my job, and it’s my privilege to have the opportunity.
A couple of years ago, I met Eric Barnes, now Daily Memphian CEO, and Andy Cates, founding chair of Memphis Fourth Estate, for a cup of coffee in Crosstown Concourse. I was invited to be part of something truly new – a digital not-for-profit media platform with old school journalism values – a comprehensive news source owned and staffed by Memphians and dedicated to telling the city’s story every day from every perspective. I was asked to not only name and brand this new adventure, but to write for it as well.
It was and remains a career high point. And I’m enormously grateful.
And I had to change career direction anyway because most of the journalists I knew and respected – the ones I used to pitch those story ideas to – were about to become colleagues.
The Daily Memphian was hiring all of them.
So, I mark ten years with this, my 524th column, curiously happy in a time of plague. While we have time on our hands, I recommend focusing on people who have made you happy, especially those you’ve shared this difficult time with, and letting them know about it.
So, again, thank you. You’re one of those. And that’s no horsehockey.
I’m a Memphian, and stay well.
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