By Jack Cawthon|
As I become older, which seems to happen more every day, I am increasingly alarmed at the news I see, hear and read. I was exposed to journalism at a tender age, as well as to chicken pox, mumps, measles and a few other infectious diseases, but I recovered nicely from all of them except journalism, although chicken pox may return as shingles some day up the road.
I learned some things in journalism, although they may not be evident in anything that I write. We were dealing with print back then, although we had talkies, so don’t consider me too ancient. One way to get the reader’s attention was with a good headline, then make the opening paragraph carry as much punch as possible.
Stay with me, as I am ignoring good journalism and now down to the third paragraph without much punch, but you noble folks are patient or you wouldn’t be here to begin with. So, one day not long ago I picked up a newspaper, my favorite next to the Hur Herald, the Wall Street Journal, and the headline certainly caught my attention as it blared forth “Russia Invades Georgia.” Now that had punch!
I had been reading about General William Tecumseh Sherman’s march through Georgia to the sea and about how he laid waste and devastation in what some, mostly southerners, called the War of Northern Aggression and others have called the Civil War. And here the poor people of that state were again being invaded by another foreign power. Why, I wondered. Had the Russians learned, possibly from leaked intelligence from our own dependable CIA, that there were weapons of mass destruction in Atlanta aimed at Cuba?
So far, I hadn’t got past the headline. So the writer had me hooked but good. My next thought was even worse. One of my longtime readers and the one who has stood by me through many a column, beginning with the West Virginia Hillbilly and continuing up to the present, lives in Atlanta. John Gutermuth, the most loyal, and perhaps the only one who is best qualified to remind me to stay humble with all the great things I have written, just might be in harm’s way.
John is a former West Virginian who once called St. Albans home, although those of us with our roots fully grounded in the state pronounce it more correctly as “Snalbans.” John is a bit outspoken. In fact, he has let me know that he is impatient with my dropping out of writing from time to time as he thinks I only want attention and be told how much I’m missed. Well, he is absolutely right! All writers and wanna be writers are insecure, neurotic and vain. Why else put out words that we assume others will eagerly read? Otherwise, we should keep them to ourselves in a diary.
But I found out by recent whining and begging that I do have readers possibly numbering in the high single digits, and if John were taken out by the Russians I would lose a good 10 percent and the most loyal 10 percent at that. Knowing John, had he said something to tick off Putin and the Russians, and were they there to get him?
Still I hadn’t moved past the headline. That writer was good and knew how to get my attention. So, when I finally began reading the story I found out that it wasn’t our Georgia at all, but another one across the waters. John is safe, at least from the Russians, and I still have around 10 percent of my audience intact.
On a more serious note, if you will allow the invasion of Georgia none too serious, I do appreciate those of you who let me know that you read this column. Yeah, I’m insecure, neurotic, all those qualities. But I’m proud to be brought to you by the Hur Herald, which itself can be called unique. In all of my journalism classes I don’t recall ever hearing that a newspaper exists to make money, but without that primary purpose most wouldn’t last long. The Herald is a journalistic ideal. It is through contributions only that it meets basic expenses. If this were a PBS broadcast you would get a pledge break here, going into a long banter about how your support is desperately needed and all of the good things to be derived through it.
We all would miss the Herald if it should cease to exist. I read it daily for news, not only coverage of a part of the state I once called home, but for all the extras that go with it. I would never have known of a place called Beason were it not for Kathy’s lively reports from out there. Bob Weaver does top-notch writing that I keep hoping will someday appear in book form. And, of course, from a selfish standpoint, I wouldn’t be here vainly seeking attention and providing John Gutermuth and the other 90 percent of you with this cry for such. So folks, send that check or money order in today as I intend to do. Please say “Jack sent me,” as if enough of you respond I may be invited to one of those excellent meals that only Dianne Weaver can serve up. Call it a throw back to my days on The Payroll when I discovered that there really are free lunches out there.