Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Hot Dang!

Ever have one of those days when you feel like you're water popping on the surface of a deep-fat fryer?

I mean, consider:

Circulation is in big trouble... The Sun in Baltimore just dropped 11.5 percent daily... just a litany of bad circulation figures... E&P called yesterday "Black Monday."

This morning we held our first serious meeting about the future of our online enterprise, and the boss formally endorsed my Spoleto blog plan. "We're doing it," he told the room. I went in to fill out the necessary forms and had the deputy managing editor for filling out forms tell me that I didn't have to fill out anything, that she'd handle it... YOW-SAH!!!

And by the time I'd come back out, I had an e-mail from Andy Rhinehart alerting me to the launch of Backfence, the new community journalism venture that wants to franchise itself like Starbucks.

I forwarded that link around to some of our web group and wound up getting back a link to John Robinson's blog from April 30, in which there is some fretting about inappropriate comments on newspaper blogs... and particularly anonymous posting... a major concern for the people here...

And so I'm reading along in the comments and who should wind up getting into a tussle but blog-hero Ed Cone and childhood journalism hero Jerry Bledsoe, a former News and Record star who went his own way years ago, reinventing himself as a book author. His "Death by Journalism" remains one of my favorite cautionary tales, but the book is reportedly not at all popular in certain corners of the N&R.

It looks like the fuss has something to do with the infamous Greensboro "Nazi-Klan shootout" of Nov. 3, 1979, which has become the city's proxy for race relations. I was a high school junior at Northeast Guilford High School, on Greensboro's northeast/mill village/tobacco farming blue-collar side.

But the shootout had a lot to do with my growing up: One of the men who died, Dr. Jim Waller, was the stepfather of a girl on whom I'd once had a crush. We'd met at Quaker school, which I attended for two years. Plus I was living in a Brown's Summit commune at the time, which meant that we'd had a variety of connections to the lefties who wound up being slaughtered on live TV in the projects.

Waller was a communist, a union organizer, and a committed figure. But 1979 was also the end of the On the Road era for us: the year that people STOPPED passing through, dropping in, staying on. It was the year FBI agents or SOMEBODY working undercover showed up at our door pretending to be traveling hipsters and then stuck around to ask ridiculous cop questions. And when I watched the tape of Waller and others being killed, I remember thinking that this was what it was all going to come down to, sooner or later. Either you stand and fight or you get shot in the head while you try to hide under a car.

I was just starting out as a journalist in those days, writing for the brand new high school paper. I wanted to attend the funeral and cover it. The advisor told me that if I went, I'd be suspended. That and other horseshit experiences convinced me that journalism was something best avoided, so I attended college originally as a biology major.

It's remarkable how things, on certain days, just turn into oroboros. You pull a thread and it seems like every little thing is connected.

Which is not something you can write about in newspapers, by the way.