Good Country Music Songs for the Jukebox in a DC Bar

Hey, Barnum and Bailey, can you use another clown?

I’m going to put a bar in my car and drive myself to drink.

There’s no use running if you’re on the wrong road.

You can’t make a heel toe the line.

I wouldn’t take you to a dog fight even if I thought you could win.

It wouldn’t be so bad if it hadn’t been so good.

I’ve closed my eyes to the cold hard truth I’m seeing.

You don’t have to go home but you can’t stay here.

When Easy Money Just for Talking Began to Change Journalism

In 1982 I asked a very good Washington newspaper journalist if he was interested in writing the Washingtonian’s back page column. He had written some lively center-of-the-book pieces for us and we always wanted that last page in the magazine to be the equivalent of a great dessert after a good meal. As a bonus, he had a wonderful sense of humor; people who can write funny are not easy to find in Washington.

The note I got back from him:

Will You Publish Tomorrow? “Hell, Yes,” He Said.

Ernest B. “Pat” Furgurson, longtime Baltimore Sun journalist and frequent contributor to the Washingtonian, writing in the American Scholar:

Hell, Yes

The long tradition of newspaper people doing their jobs in terrible circumstances

Learning to Love the Best Not Very Exciting Journalism

Despite starting in journalism with United Press International—competing with the Associated Press, hating t0 get beat by the AP, fighting for survival against the AP—and being in Washington for 50 years, avidly reading the Washington Post and New York Times, I’ve come around to starting the day by first looking at the AP News app, then checking it four or five times as the day goes on.

The AP site is not very exciting. It’s pretty much just a good, balanced look at the world, an alternative to the celebrity-driven, conflict-driven, clickbait-driven stories that dominate digital journalism and are changing print journalism.

Getting the Reader to Say Wow!

One of my favorite books is Schulz and Peanuts, by David Michaelis; it’s the life story of Charles Schulz, a shy kid from Minneapolis who created the nation’s most popular comic strip.

Here’s Schulz talking about how to attract readers:  “You must give the audience moments. You must give them laughter, you must give them a little poignancy…”

Getting laughter isn’t easy; some writers have the gift but not many. But a writer who does great reporting can create moments of poignancy, moments that get the reader to say wow.

Russell Baker: “Writing Has Always Been Work. But It’s the Kind of Work You Enjoy Having Done.”

From an Adrienne LaFrance interview in 2013 with reporter and columnist Russell Baker, who since 1985 has lived in Leesburg, Virginia, a town 30 miles west of Washington. Baker started his journalism career at the Baltimore Sun, moved to the New York Times, wrote the Pulitzer Prize-winning autobiography Growing Up, and for 12 years hosted the PBS show Masterpiece Theater.

What Journalism Can Learn From Hollywood

“Have someone. Get them into trouble. Get them out of trouble.”
– Alfred Hitchcock’s formula

“A man’s got to know his limitations.”
– Clint Eastwood in Magnum Force

“It’s such a fine line between stupid and clever.”
– This Is Spinal Tap

Wizard of Oz journalism: No heart, no brains, no courage.

“Real art is without irony. Irony distances the author from his material.”
– Robert Altman

“Lynch Was the Only Christian Among Us. But Six Christians Came Out of There.”

By Wesley G. Pippert

The rescue of a Thai soccer team stranded deep in a flooded cave brings back memories of writing about a West Virginia coal mine disaster—often called “The Miracle at Hominy Falls.”

A half century ago, in West Virginia, nearly a mile inside Saxsewell Mine No. 8,  coal miners inadvertently cut  through a wall into an underground lake. The gush of water quickly flooded the mine. Of the 25 trapped miners, 15 were hauled to safety relatively quickly. The bodies of four others were recovered, leaving the bodies of the other six  to be retrieved after  the water was pumped out.

Washington to the Trump People: “Get Out of Town. This Is Our City and We Don’t Want You Here” has posted a timely piece headlined “Trump advisers face taunts from hecklers around D.C.” The start of the story, by Paul Schwartzman and Josh Dawsey:

Just after arriving in Washington to work for President Trump, Kellyanne Conway found herself in a downtown supermarket, where a man rushing by with his shopping cart sneered, “You ought to be ashamed of yourself! Go look in the mirror!”

“Mirrors are in aisle 9 — I’ll go get one now,” Conway recalled replying. She brushed off the dart with the swagger of someone raised in the ever-attitudinal trenches of South Jersey.“What am I gonna do? Fall apart in the canned vegetable aisle?”

What’s a Dog’s Life Worth?

I still get requests for a story I wrote 18 years ago about deciding what to do when your dog—sometimes not an old one—may require so much vet care that you ask yourself: How much is too much? Is it time to say goodbye?

A Dog’s Life: How Do You Decide How Much Friendliness and Loyalty Are Worth?

When your dog or cat is old, the decision is easier. Your pet has had many happy years but now is sick and doesn’t have much quality of life left. So you and the veterinarian decide it’s time to put your faithful friend to sleep. If kids are involved, there can be protestations, tears, and explanations of life and death.