Thursday, June 19, 2008

Life Is Short

While newspapers are taking a hit and forcing me to ponder my future in this business, I have to take a moment to reflect and remember a man who whether he knew it or not helped contribute to my desire to be a sports writer. Gene Bryson was a downstate Delawarean through and through. He would get mighty offended when someone suggested the area of the state that fell below the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal was called "Slower Lower Delaware." Yet and still, his dry sense of humor along with his praise coming at just the right time while I was an intern on the Delaware State News sports desk was something I'll always remember. Imagine my surprise when I found out late last night that Gene suffered a fatal heart attack at the age of 51 at his home in Dover.

Before Gene was the night news editor at the State News, he covered my alma mater Delaware State University athletics for 18 years for Delaware's best-known paper, the Wilmington News Journal. As a child, I'd read Gene's musings and game stories about the wildly successful DSU football team and I always figured "hey, that'd be a cool job to have." Needless to say I was kinda star struck when I spent eight weeks of the 2005 summer at the old offices on Webbs Lane. When I got the chance to write some things, be it American Legion baseball or a feature story on a DSU alum who had a distinguished Arena Football League career, Gene was quick to tell me what he thought of my copy, and more often than not, it was of a positive nature. "Great lede Chris, I can tell you don't need help with those," was a serious compliment coming from a man who made a career out of snapping your attention up with the first couple of lines of a story in his Journal days.

What I'll most remember is me educating Gene to the finer points of arguably the 80s' best tragic hero, Tony Montana, played by Al Pacino in the thug/gangster classic, "Scarface." When Ryan Howard was a rookie, subbing for Jim Thome and clobbering 450 foot home runs for the Phillies, I would steal ESPN anchor Steve Berthiaume's dead-on impersonation of Montana and bellow "Say hello to my lil friend" at the State News TV screen. One night, after I must've plucked his nerves, Gene asked me, "Chris, what the hell is that about?" I reply matter of factly, not thinking for one second that he wasn't familiar with the flick, "it's just a line from 'Scarface.'"

"The hell is 'Scarface?'" From that point forward, Gene would ask me every time a Philly or a Baltimore Orioles slugger would go yard, "So is that saying hello to his lil friend?" His sense of humor was one of the many memories I have of my internship there and I really cherished his positive encouragement and feedback as I went back to school that fall.

Now he's gone and I never really got the thank him for his role in my long, winding journey to sports journalism. My most recent time seeing him was at the DSU spring game two years ago. He walked into the Alumni Stadium press box and said, "Chris Stevens, how's it going?" Told him how things were, that I would be out of school soon (so I thought) and he told me to stick with the business and keep up the good work. Now I hope Gene is up there needling folks with that sense of humor that will sure enough be missed among us mere mortals. Rest In Peace, Gene.

Posted by Chris at 5:45 PM | link | Tell us what you think [0]

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Cartoonin' it: The Future?

By Daryl Cagle,

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Posted by Aaron Morrison at 10:29 PM | link | Tell us what you think [0]

Anyone got a butter knife?

Right now, you could cut the tension in the newsroom with a hot butter knife.

Tomorrow, all eligible employees of Bay Area News Group-East Bay will vote on whether they would like the Writer's Guild to represent their interest and enter into collective bargaining over wage, hours and benefits.

To keep it short, I've never seen such outward expressions of bitterness, anger and fatigue within a newsroom. People are on edge, as it seems the future of the newsroom and its reporters will be decided by those who care to vote on it.

I'm the intern. So it's supposed to have little, if nothing to do with me.

But I can't help feeling that this is just another marker for how hard it is and will continue to be for new reporters to break into this market.

One thing I know: a writer's union never stopped anyone from being laid-off.

Side note: I'm neutral in my opinion about whether or not one is needed.

More developments are as they come. Stay tuned...

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Posted by Aaron Morrison at 6:59 PM | link | Tell us what you think [1]

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Never stand up a mayor


I feel terrible!

Last night before I left my desk for home, I realized I was not as satisfied with a story that was due the next morning.

I had to postpone or cancel a meeting I had scheduled for this morning with the mayor in the small Bay Area town I'm covering. Had I kept the meeting, I would have lost time to complete the story in a reasonable time.

So, what did I do?

I left a message on the mayor's voicemail and also sent an email.

She didn't get either and showed up to City Hall to meet me. (Her office is not at city hall.)

Twenty minutes past the time I'm supposed to have met with her, she calls the newsroom. I pick up the call and she's obviously annoyed. I try to explain to her why I couldn't keep the appointment and then also told her about my messages.

She seemed okay on the phone to schedule an over-the-phone interview for this afternoon. But she never called. Instead, her assistant called me about 15 minutes ago needing an address to snail-mail me some information from the mayor. She also highlighted that the mayor was sort-of upset that I "stood her up."


Totally not my intention. But I realize that in most cases intentions don't matter.

I'm going to call the mayor and apologize again, as I did when I spoke to her on the phone this morning.

But, Jesus. I hope I have not alienated a valuable source.

My editor says this type of thing can usually be smoothed over.

Let's pray he's right.

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Posted by Aaron Morrison at 5:59 PM | link | Tell us what you think [4]

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Budget story woes

I'm writing a city budget story and I'm overwhelmed. I have no idea how to approach it. And really, I've not begun to seriously attack it yet.

But while procrastinating I found this page, published in 1998.

"Dave Herzog: Twenty tips for covering and writing about budgets"

Hopefully the tips will help. I'm kinda embarassed to ask my editor, just yet.

Anyone else got any tips or site with tips about writing city budget stories?

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Posted by Aaron Morrison at 5:45 PM | link | Tell us what you think [1]

Love's in need of love, just not today...

(*queues the music)
Good morn or evening friends / Here's your friendly announcer / I have
serious news to pass on to every-body / What I'm about to say (won't) mean the world's disaster / (And won't) change your joy and laughter to tears and pain. - Stevie Wonder, Love's in Need of Love Today (Love-less Remix)

Aaron IS and has been just fine being single.


I know. It's hard to believe, right?

Somehow people around me think that romantic relationships are what validate your existence on this planet. And I'm sorry to report...I'm just not convinced of that.

Journalism. That's what validates me right now. (Cheesy, I know.) I've just recieved a degree in it. I've got to put every ounce of my energy into jump-starting my career (which I, too, take seriously, Vandy).

And when I go home, I don't down myself because of the extra space in my IKEA bed. In fact, I think I'm pretty damn lucky that nothing (and no one) is distracting from what I'm trying to do right now.

No. I don't need someone telling me I'm too busy for them. I don't need someone angry at me because I had to go out and cover something, unexpectedly. I don't need someone disappointed when I come home and I all want to do sleep and NOT talk, especially not on the phone.

In other words...GET OFF MY BACK ABOUT IT!

Is there something wrong with that? Should I desire cohabitation right now?

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Posted by Aaron Morrison at 2:07 PM | link | Tell us what you think [5]

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

3-2-1, 1-2-3, What the heck is bothering me?



If there is one thing I haven't been able to get a grasp of at my new job, it has been controlling my stress level.

Stress level?

Sounds pretty minor, but it's the major thing that flares up this baby so I really have to keep it under control.

When I was working and going to school full-time, I couldn't tell what was stressing me out more.

Was it the fact that I'm the manager of two channels and four blogs (Management = No Fun) or that pesky painting class that nearly stood in the way of graduation?

After discovering I'm no Picasso and managing to gradate from college, the only thing that remains is the j-o-b.

If you happen to know me, you probably know I take my professional career very seriously (OK, a little too seriously).

So you can imagine the sense of embarrassment and anger I felt on Monday night when my boss called and railed me for some mistakes on my part that I was called out on.

That anger carried over to the following day and the next thing I know, I'm in the fetal position in pain as I try to clear my thoughts of work.



Where's my spandex shorts at?

Yoga, here I come.

Posted by Vandy at 9:02 PM | link | Tell us what you think [1]

You're A Good Writer, Charlie Brown...

Much like DSands, my summer time work will consist of things that are considered "out of the norm" in the world of sports journalism. The blessing in all of this is that I've been granted column space once a week to fill with my thoughts on the world of sports and even subjects of a deeper nature. When one of my best friends called me a couple of weeks ago to informed me his diabetes had shut down his kidneys and that he would eventually need a transplant, obviously I took the news very hard. So I wrote a column detailing our friendship and how Diabetes is really irking my life right now because of what is happening to him.

I never really expect reader feedback (considering the small bit has come from a dude a few miles north of the office who clearly has too much time on his hands), but I received two e-mails in the past week from local mothers who are touched in some for or another by diabetes. One mom said that it was admirable of me to want to learn more and turned over the names of some doctors who I could talk to. The other talked about how she, her husband and her other children rally around their son who is afflicted with Type 1 Diabetes. She also said she enjoyed my writing and she would continue to read my columns from that point forward. Honestly, as a journalist or a writer of any sort, your work is all you really have, and when someone says "hey, great job," you get this sort of indescribable feeling that can either send a chill up your spine or warm your heart as if you just ingested 15 chili dogs without the benefit of water (kids, don't try that at home.). It's awesome all the same.

This afternoon, while working on a couple of stories from home for next week's paper, I rang a local high school coach who took the time to tell me what he really thought of my ability.

"Chris, I want to thank you for your coverage, I'm really impressed with what you give us. You really are a great reporter." Two short sentences, one HUGE smile from this Ten95er.

Along with being mentioned in Journal-isms post-Obamanation, I can honestly say that my faith in myself as a journalist, although it never wavered, is stronger than ever. I always knew I could do the job, but the fact that eyes are watching and reading what I do is a transcendent thrill that will only serve to motivate me and make me work harder to be the best sports writer I can be. Even if some people think I'm already there.

Posted by Chris at 6:23 PM | link | Tell us what you think [0]

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