August 15, 2008

Newspaper Wars

Category: News — Ira @ 7:01 pm


“One should fight……the temptation to think well
of editors. They are all, without exception – at
least some of the time, incompetent or crazy.”

—John Gardner

It’s no secret that I’ve had a rocky, hostile relationship with local newspaper editors for years. Scoundrels, the lot of them. Way too subservient to the very power structure they’re supposed to keep in check. Used to be I’d fire off a letter to the editor, raging about this or that. Mostly, they published the raging letters pretty much as I’d written them. It was a matter of pride to me.

But then one day they didn’t. One of my last letters, submitted about five years ago, was severely edited. One sentence was changed so that it stated almost the exact opposite of what I’d written. I was horrified. Fired off a nasty note to the editor and admonished him in fairly graphic terms. All in love, of course, for his own benefit. Unfortunately, this was not well received. And things only went downhill from there. Let’s just say that my letter writing to the local newspapers hit a brick wall. Stopped right there. A shame too, as I would’ve had lots of wisdom to impart since that time. Ah, well. Their loss.

And so I’ve maintained a glowering distance from all local newspapers, other than reading them daily. Until the Levi Stoltzfoos thing came down.

Because I felt so strongly about it, and the issue was so important to me, I decided to rewrite my June 27th blog and submit it as a guest op-ed. So I spent some time revising and editing, chopping a sentence here, adding an updated fact there. Didn’t take too long, as the main body pretty much stayed intact. But it was mighty long, about three pages.

Then I emailed it off to the Sunday News. Wrote a polite note. Asked them, if they couldn’t use it, to let me know, and I’d submit it somewhere else. Days passed. Then a full week. I chafed impatiently. Still nothing. Nobody ever responded. Par for the course.

I despaired. But decided to keep plugging. So the following weekend, I printed three hard copies, added a short cover letter and mailed one to each of the three local pap-ers. The Sunday News (moderate), the morning Intelligencer (Intel) Journal (liberal), and the afternoon New Era (conservative). My expectations dropped to zero. No one would publish it. Too hostile and critical of local and state government. Besides, they didn’t like me. I was on their black list.

But then, on the way home from work a few nights later, my cell phone rang. Unidenti-fied caller. I answered. The guy on the other end was the opinion page editor for the liberal Intel. He had just read my submission and seemed impressed. He wanted to discuss it.

His name was Earle Cornelius. He would publish it, he claimed, if I’d email him an elec-tronic copy. Sure, I said. When would he publish? Friday or Monday. Would he do ex-tensive editing? He didn’t think so. I thanked him and hung up. That evening I emailed him the op-ed.

And waited. I don’t trust editors. They think they’re God. And in a sense, I guess they are, as far as their papers are concerned. Friday came. No publication. I’ve been lied to before, so held only a glimmer of hope that Monday would be any different.

Early Monday morning. I parked Big Blue at Sheetz and stumbled in, bleary-eyed, to get my morning coffee. I flipped open a copy of the Intel and checked the Opinion page. Glanced through. And there it was. On the left side. At the top. The most prom-inent spot. Looked like it was all there pretty much as I’d written it. I scooped up five copies to take with me.

Earle had kept his word. Yeah, some minimal editing, dropped a few sentences here and there. Combined others to make the op-ed fit the allotted space. But overall, fan-tastic. I was psyched.

Later that morning, I thought about what must be happening in Lancaster in the halls of Leviathan. In the judges’ chambers, at the District Attorney’s office, at Leviathan’s offices all across the city. They had come to work this fine Monday morning. With per-haps nothing more on their minds than wondering which poor schmuck’s freedoms they could crush today. Sipping gourmet coffee. Sitting there in plush, soft chairs. All was as it should be. The citizenry cowed. The world under their heels. Then they open-ed the morning paper. And saw it staring up at them. A Wrongful Prosecution. They read the words. Couldn’t help themselves.

I hope a few of them choked on their doughnuts. Or spilled their Starbucks lattes.

Almost immediately that morning the reactions began. My home voice mail held sever-al messages of support the first night. Emails arrived at my work station, one from Levi’s defense attorney, who is appealing the case. And also from those who supported the government’s actions.

One man called me at work, greatly perturbed, and told me how Levi used to work for him and how violent he got when he was terminated. The man claimed to fear for his life, which I don’t doubt. He allowed that Levi’s troubles might be the result of his own victims crying out to the Lord against him. I chuckled and replied that if Levi committed real crimes, he should be prosecuted for those. I have no problem with that. But I never backed down from my original contention, that the intrusive government had no business taking his money merely because he deposited it in cash and didn’t report it.

Now, I have some small grudging respect for at least one local editor. Earle Cornelius. He did what he promised. As he promised. He denied one thing; my request to mention my blog site at the end of the op-ed. Would have been great to attract local reader-ship. Guess Earle didn’t want people to be distracted when they should be reading his newspaper.

Funny thing, the Sunday News and the New Era, the area’s two conservative news-papers, wouldn’t touch my op-ed with a ten foot pole. I had to depend on the liberal left, whose social policies are anathema to me, to reach the local populace. Sure, their motives were less than pure; I’m sure they loved the way I slapped at the Republican Attorney General and the local Republican establishment. But still, I respect the Intel for the temporary alliance. The enemy of my enemy is my friend.

A few weeks ago, I noticed a strong uptick in hits on my site in the middle of the week, which was highly unusual. Strange, I thought. Someone must have linked to me. Turns out that’s what it was. The editor of a popular cooking blog, Oasis Newsfeatures; The Amish Cook, (Lately the site has been down sporadically, for some reason.) had linked to my blog, The Road Not Taken. And commented very favorably. Scroll all the way down to the post entitled “Stalling, So Here’s An Interesting Read…”

The Amish Cook, I learned, is widely read in the northern Indiana area. Ah, northern Indiana, where men are known by such names as Jakie’s Alvin’s Sammy’s Joe’s John. That was twenty years ago. Probably have a few more names tagged on by now. How a guy deals with such a long moniker is beyond me. Always was.

So, welcome, you all, and thanks for checking out my site. I post every Friday. Make yourselves known, if you ever feel like it, by leaving a comment. And yep, I’m the guy who used to live in the area twenty years ago. In Topeka and Goshen. Goshen was the last place I ever was Amish.

A note about last week’s post. Many of you may have wondered what’s up with a guy who claims to have it all together one week, then posts a brooding, melancholy lament about his divorce the next. Don’t blame you. It does seem irrational. But both the posts were true.

What happened in the time frame between those two posts was the date of what would have been our eighth anniversary. I thought of it only briefly as the date approached. But on the actual day, it hit me like a sledgehammer. Deep gloom almost overwhelm-ed me. Inexplicably, I felt. I moped and brooded around the office all day. Talked about it with my co-workers, who were empathetic. But what could they say, really?

I was a bit surprised. Hadn’t expected anything like that. Last year our separation was still too close. And I was still mad. Not this time. Only sadness. But as the dark fog approached and settled, I embraced and absorbed it. All the way down, deep inside. The only way to deal with it, I’ve learned, is to deal with it as it comes. The sooner you do that, the sooner it’s gone.

That night I began to write it. That’s how I get it out of me. As the week passed, I wrote it out. And began to feel a lot better. By Friday, I was ready to post. And did. Despite the tone of the previous week.

Ultimately, that’s what the blog is for.

I’m OK now. Pretty much back to normal. Just wanted to let you know how and why it all came down.

Congratulations to Titus Aden Yutzy (my nephew) and Sheri Keupfer on their engage-ment. The big event is scheduled for Oct. 25th.

Finally, for all you who’ve been waiting, patiently or impatiently, the second Elmo Stoll installment should be ready to post by next week. One way or another. Unless some Leviathan-induced misfortune befalls me before then. (Just because I’m paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not out to get me.)



  1. Hey. Nice job getting into the newspaper there. The written word, on paper, is in a league of its own.

    Comment by Mervin — August 16, 2008 @ 11:00 pm

  2. Here’s why newspapers are losing to the web. A hoot (but not really), and why I’ll vote 3rd party (see baldwin08)

    I hope your article and contacts will lead to more involvement, and positive change.

    Comment by LeRoy Whitman — August 18, 2008 @ 6:50 pm

  3. Shucks! Wouldn’t you know that was a day I threw my paper out without reading it (due to time restrictions). Well, congrats on getting in anyway. And by the way, I had noticed the absence of your letters to the editor. Thanks for writing.

    Comment by sms — August 22, 2008 @ 12:47 pm

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