Those nice letters in today’s paper

I’m loving me some letters to the editor today. I thank my (ex-)colleagues for running them. The thing I like about them aside from the nice things they say about me, is that they represent a nice cross-section of readers — or as good a sample as you can get with just one day’s letters. A brief overview:

  • Harriet Hutto remembers our friendship starting differently from the way I do. She says it started with an e-mail response she wrote to me. She’s probably right. But I particularly remember getting to know her when she became the most persistently loyal reader I know. She lives on a rural route in the Holly Hill area, and it was one of those routes that was so rural, and had so few subscribers on it, that the paper dropped it. She refused to do without her paper, and she began a quest that involved me, Kathy Moreland in the publisher’s department, and Eddie Roof in circulation, trying to find a creative way to get her paper to her. Here’s what we came up with at one point: A friend who lived several miles away was on a route we were keeping. Harriet got the friend to put up a second box, and Harriet’s paper was delivered there — and she drove over and got it every morning. Anyway, Harriet has over the years written some of the most fascinating e-mails chronicling life in rural South Carolina. She is a talented, and prolific, writer, and a dear lady. Oh, and FYI, she’s Sen. Brad Hutto’s mother.
  • The night of the first presidential debate, I hung around to meet the panel that the newsroom had put together to react. It had been another long day, and I was tired. Since it was a newsroom deal, I felt sort of like a fifth wheel. I sort of justified my being there by passing out a bunch of “State in ’08” coffee mugs. And now, I see this nice letter from James Frost, saying he was glad to meet me that night — that it was, in fact, an honor. Likewise, Mr. Frost. I’m glad I showed up.
  • Jim Stiver was an honors college adviser over at USC in the mid-90s when my oldest daughter started there. As I recall, he interviewed her for a scholarship. I learned that he was an ardent libertarian, and that he had mentioned to my daughter that he was familiar with my work. (She said he asked her a question — “What is the difference between anarchy and chaos?” I forget what my daughter said, but I remember what I told her I would have said: “About five seconds.”) Uh-oh, I thought. My poor child will never get that scholarship. But she did. And that testifies to what a fair-minded man Prof. Stiver is.
  • Milly Hough is the communications director at the SC Arts Commission. I don’t know what to say to someone who says I was the “conscience” of the paper. Feels like a heavy burden I’ve just put down. I do truly appreciate it, though.
  • When I read this proof on Friday, my red pen struck at Nancy Padgett saying, “I always knew that he was going to end up voting Republican.” But I let it go. Nancy meant it kindly. It’s SO demonstrably untrue (my count shows that we endorsed slightly more Democrats than Republicans in the years I headed the editorial board), and to me insulting (the idea that I would identify with either of those execrable factions appals me), that I was going to protest it to me colleagues. (Of course, they would have told me that I had no say, that I had to recuse myself, but I was going to protest it all the same.) But the thing is that I knew from years of correspondence with her that this was what she truly believed — she’s one of those Democrats who, if you endorse a Republican once at any point in time, you are a Republican, and incontrovertible evidence to the contrary has no effect — and that she was only saying it to dramatize her kind intentions toward me. And besides, the following letter was a nice counterpoint to it…
  • Once, early in my friendship with Bud Ferillo, I was a guest for dinner at his home, and I was pretty impressed by his study. Wall-to-wall, floor to ceiling, nothing but pictures of prominent Democrats, national and state, and remembrances of past Democratic campaigns. It was a shrine to his party. So I figured, if readers see that Bud Ferillo of all people, expresses his “deepest appreciation for the causes and hopes we have shared,” readers will probably take Nancy’s kindly-intended error with a grain of salt. So I left it alone, and did not protest.
  • I’m particularly pleased by Carole Holloway’s anecdote about my playing phone tag with her until I reached her at 8 p.m. on a Friday when she had a complaint. It pleased me because I know that in recent years — as my staff shrank, and it became harder and harder to get the simplest things done in the course of the day — there have been too many people I failed to get back to. At least, that’s how I remember it. We tend to remember our failings; or I do. I don’t remember everything about my conversation with her, but what I probably said is this: I appreciate that you care so much about what I do for a living that you don’t want less of it. But I ask you to consider, if you don’t like having fewer editorial pages being put out by fewer people, how do you think I like it? Do you think I would give you less if it were in my power to give you more? Just to be clear, I would not. My whole career has been about doing more, doing a better job than I did the day before. And now I can’t. I’m sorry, and touched, that you don’t like it. But I like it far less. Or something like that. I’ve said things like that a lot in recent years. I felt every cutback like it was coming out of my hide, but I also fully understood the horrific bind that my industry was in, with the advertising revenue base melting under our feet. And I understand it now that I’ve lost my job. Of course, understanding doesn’t make it any better. The awful thing is, there’s no one to blame — and no one who might put it to rights if only you complain passionately enough. It’s just the world changing.

3 thoughts on “Those nice letters in today’s paper

  1. Kathryn Fenner

    I just about can’t take any more. I have been close to tears, despair or flat-out panic several times since the announcement, and I feel so powerless. I just heard the end of a To the Best of Our Knowledge with Andrew Keene (sp?), bemoaning Web 2.0–the do-it-yourself information movement that is killing quality professional information dissemination, such as newspapers (well, he said that–we know there are other reasons as well). He says we needs to pay for our information instead of freeloading. I’m up for that. Brad–you looking for ads? I’ll click here every day to support you. Subscription–probably not sustainable yet….

    Anyway, I’m about to give up on The State, except what is the alternative? My mother used to read The Aiken Standard standing up, before tossing it in the recycling bin. The State is getting that slim.

  2. brad

    Well, I’m still a subscriber. Signed up just the other day, since it will no longer be deducted from my paycheck (instead, it will come from my debit card).

    You have to take your local paper. Me, I’m a big fan of The Wall Street Journal, The Economist and the NYT — all of which I will have to do without for awhile until I get the paychecks coming in. But you have to get your local paper, or you’re just not much of a citizen. Not getting the paper is cutting yourself off from the community in which you live, and I don’t hold with that.

  3. Greg Flowers

    But if that paper reflects less and less of the fabric of the community there reaches a point when it is just no longer worth the investment. Count the words of non-advertising text related to state and local issues in an average daily issue over the past several decades. I would guess that there would be a significant decline. What important, other than advertising can you get in the printed version that you cannot get on the internet. I am afraid that the day of the printed newspaper is drawing to a close. And no, it does not have anything to do with the political slant of the ownership, it is strictly a matter of technology and economics. There remains some market for the printed paper, I am not aware of any place that has lost its only daily, but that demand will shrink as the population raised on the printed daily ages and passes on. Its just a matter of people learning to prefer more immediate access to news and having more sources to look to for analysis (those who remain interested in analysis and not dittoheadism).

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