The Wisdom of Yogi Berra

By Jack Limpert

Five longtime journalists were sitting around a Washington lunch table yesterday when Wes asked if any of us had gone to the memorial service for a DC-area journalist and teacher. Mike said he knew the man but hadn’t gone to the service.

I said, “Remember the old saying from Chicago politics: ‘If you don’t go to other people’s funerals, they won’t come to yours.'”

To which Paul said, “That was Yogi Berra.”

Paul was right. Berra, among  his other great lines, said, “You should always go to other people’s funerals, otherwise, they won’t come to yours.”

A Janitor’s Remembrance of Dick Kleeman and the Great Days of Minneapolis Journalism

By Norman Sherman

Screen Shot 2014-12-17 at 10.35.49 AMBefore I went into politics, I was a Minnesota journalist—a janitor, night side, at the Minneapolis Star Tribune for two stints in the 1950s. I borrowed money from the newspaper credit union to go to my first Democratic national convention in 1956. Ten years after the second tour as janitor, I was Vice President Hubert Humphrey’s press secretary. I got to know journalists in both places.

As a janitor, I got my first by-line. Humor columnist Will Jones ended most columns with a paragraph labeled Day Spoiler or Day Brightener. I would leave pithy notes in his typewriter and they often appeared in his column as “The Night Janitor Says.” I put it in my resume.

Editors from Hell: Rules From Their Little Red Book

Screen Shot 2014-12-16 at 12.33.26 PM1. Be friendly with staff writers but let them know you don’t have time to talk about story ideas. Have them first clear all story ideas with at least two of your subordinates.

2. Let a junior editor handle all contact with freelancers—most submissions are from amateurs. If the query or submission is from an established writer, let as assistant editor handle it until you have to look at it.

3. Let your assistant handle unsolicited contact with outsiders. Avoid feedback from readers—it’s almost always negative and confusing.

Rolling Stone and the New Republic: Do the Numbers Tell You Anything?

By Jack Limpert

Editing a magazine you get a lot of feedback: “I hate that cover.” “The stories are too long.” “You never write about….”  I listened to all the comments but then looked at the numbers for something more definitive.

“How did the issue do on the newsstand?”

“What’s happening with the renewal rate?”

Do such numbers shed any light on what’s happening at Rolling Stone and the New Republic?

Is the Rolling Stone Gang Rape Story “the Worst Screwup” of Them All? Maybe Not.

By Jack Limpert

Screen Shot 2014-12-10 at 9.47.41 AMGene Weingarten, winner of two Pulitzers for the Washington Post, yesterday said:

“By now you are probably tired of hearing about the UVA Rape story and Rolling Stone. So I am going to make this short.

“I contend that this is the worst screwup in the history of modern American journalism. I don’t mean that it is the most damaging, though it is plenty damaging (Arguably, the media’s failure to warn the public about the bankruptcy of Bush’s case for war in Iraq was more grave). And it’s not the ‘worst’ in terms of the outright audacity of the sin. (Janet Cooke and Jayson Blair set out to deceive.) By ‘worst,’ I mean that it represents, more than anything I can think of, a profound, systemic example of journalistic incompetence in an organization with enough resources to have known better.”

Bulletin Board Notes About Sports That Sometimes Apply to Journalism

If people don’t want to come to the ballpark, nobody’s going to stop them. – Yogi Berra

You don’t learn from your wins. You learn from your losses.

You never have to apologize for showing people a fun time. – Bill Veeck

Larry Ringer on shooting 68 and 80 in the first two rounds of a golf tournament: “Some days you’re the dog and other days you’re the fire hydrant.”

Half of the players disliked Rick Barry. The other half hated him. – Billy Paultz

For Dennis Rodman, every night is a full moon.

“If I Can’t Smoke, I Can’t Write” and Other Notes About Cigarettes

By Jack Limpert

A post two days ago mentioned that an issue of the Washingtonian in 1979, when magazines were bigger and more prosperous, had nine full-page ads for cigarettes. It drew an angry e-mail: “All the pages of cigarette ads were nothing to be proud of, as many of us who have lost relatives and friends to lung cancer or heart ailments can attest.”

Agreed, but it also should be said that the Washingtonian ran lots of stories about the dangers of smoking. One 1980 story, “Hope All Things, Endure All Things,” about a thoracic surgeon dying of lung cancer, was a finalist for a National Magazine Award and thousands of reprints were distributed by the American Lung Association.

Cigarettes, Scotch on the Rocks, and Searching for Someone Special

By Jack Limpert

Screen Shot 2014-12-03 at 8.28.11 AM

When local magazines had lots of ads and plenty of money for writers.

With Jim Webb exploring a run for President in 2016, I went back to re-read his 1979 Washingtonian article about women in the military. The headline: “Women Can’t Fight.” The deck: “A Naval Academy graduate, a combat veteran of Vietnam, says the country’s fighting mission is being corrupted, with grave consequences to the national defense. One of the main problems, he says, is women.”

Webb got a lot of flak for the article—he had to explain it when he was confirmed as Secretary of the Navy in 1987 and elected to the U.S. Senate in 2008.

Do Newspapers Have Monday Morning Hangovers?

By Jack Limpert

Three ledes from page one of today’s Washington Post:

Mrs. Obama, You Can Take the Candy Bars Out of Our Vending Machines But…

By Jack Limpert

Jim Warren of the New York Daily News wrote today about “the Obama administration’s dramatic new rules on posting calorie counts on menus all over the place, from chain restaurants to movie theaters and vending machines.” He says the Food and Drug Administration has surprised even some health activists “with bold and sweeping rules to deal with our obesity epidemic.”

Included in the new FDA rules is the removal of candy bars from school vending machines. Over Thanksgiving dinner yesterday we heard an update on how the candy bar ban is working out in Prince George’s County, a DC-area school district about six miles from the White House: