Saturday, March 05, 2005

Guilt by Press Association

We made quite a night of it at the S.C. Press Association, where Janet and I drank more or less all night and I think I only had to buy one G&T. Not bad at all.

In truth, though, I don't enjoy Press Association get-togethers like I once did. When I was just starting out up in North Carolina, a great newspaper state, the annual awards dinner was a family reunion. There were feuds and subplots and scandals, plus an open bar and a lot of disreputable behavior. You wanted to win something just for the invitation.

South Carolina's press association is smaller and generally not so rowdy and eccentric, although the Charleston and Myrtle Beach papers give it the old college try. Some of the people who turn up for these things just don't even seem to be from our tribe at all. Probably it was ever thus, but it sure seems that the herd is being thinned. Once upon a time, being a newspaper reporter was like moving to the Island of Misfit Toys with a concealed carry permit. Today it's more like a job, and morale is just... lower.

I do wonder what the late, great Jim Shumaker would have made of all of this. I suspect he would hate all the hype and love the way people who don't wear ties are using new media to poke fingers in the eyes of big shots.

But that's just me indulging in phony nostalgia. Shu doesn't represent the "Old School:" he just represents Shu. He became a legend by being a cranky old guy that everyone loved, but he got there via a lot of erratic, hard living. He did what he had to do to pay off all those ex-wives and he went on about whatever it was he was doing. And if you met him once, you knew that man was nobody's stooge.

I'd like to be like that someday, even if the tribe gets smaller every year.