Sunday, October 04, 2009

Expression is the need of my soul

We went into the study later than usual the other night, and discovered the cats with InDesign open on the desktop. They did not see us, and we watched them for a while. The front page was actually in very good shape, given how hard it is to operate a mouse without opposable thumbs. They had the Tigers as a centerpiece and were ledeing with the Middle East.* But they were still arguing about the editorial, so I showed them one that a dog wrote for one of America's Newspapers:

Annie Poo Robinson, guest column: Putting a bite on the news
("You're not going to try writing a whole post in my voice, are you?" asked Bernie. "Because I am so peeing on your laptop two or three times tonight if you do. As soon as you go to sleep." Woodchuck was still working on the jump page and didn't look up.)

My name is Annie Poo.
Five years ago I arrived at Fuzzy Friends Rescue as a 6-week-old red poodle puppy weighing two pounds. I was as skinny as uncooked angel hair pasta, I barely knew that newspapers were for housebreaking, and I was just eager to become someone’s little love.

I was lucky. Someone I know as Miss Bow Wow took me home and introduced me to my prospective daddy. ("If you start calling Language Czarina 'Miss Bow Wow,' can we sell tickets? To, like, you sliding down the wall with a knife in your back?") It was love at first sight.

Daily, I sit in queenly fashion up in my daddy’s downtown Waco office building, greeting visitors with barks. I enjoy watching them dance about the room as I nip merrily at their shoes or attack their pants legs. That includes the postman, whom I attack as if I were a Doberman.

Lately, though, I’ve gotten to know the Tribune-Herald, the hometown newspaper that my daddy purchased this summer. ("Hey, why don't you buy a newspaper? I'll gnaw on the laboring classes, and Dreamsicle there can write the columns.") It’s a bustling place, full of vivid personalities and rich talents, all serving in different ways as — dare I say it? — the watchdogs of this community.

That’s something a pooch like me can respect and admire.

Call me crazy, but the Trib building spurs my extra-sensory qualities. (Woodchuck was puzzled. "Do dogs have extra-sensory qualities?" "Yeah, sorta. In lieu of 'clues'.") There are days when I see spirits of yesteryear roaming the place. One day I saw Harlon and Clara Fentress studying the new Trib, smiling upon seeing “In God We Trust” on the masthead of what used to be their newspaper. ("Why does that make them smile?" "I don't know. Maybe they think it makes the newspaper into a muneez.")

There was the spirit of Jinx Tucker, typing football stories on the old linotype back in the Trib museum. ("The sports editor's typing a gamer into a Linotype? That's one dumb ghost. Even for a sports ghost." "Well, consider the source.")

...But there’s also a lot of the here and now in the Trib newsroom, bustling with those who consist of flesh, blood and a passion for news. ... As hard-working as the Trib news staff is, a sense of down-home camaraderie pervades. Great smells waft through this newsroom after hard-hitting investigative reporter Cindy Culp drops off, for her colleagues, homemade cookies and cakes, or Tim Woods brings by a whole box of barbecue from Vitek’s or Mama & Papa B’s. ("Does that Dan Brown guy write for newspapers too?")

My most fun time is going to editorial board meetings each morning with publisher Dan Savage, editor Carlos Sanchez, senior editor Bill Whitaker and my daddy’s son, Gordon, president of Robinson Media and the one who often shows street smarts. (There's a special contribution insurance salesmen can bring to journalism!)

Animated doesn’t begin to describe these meetings. The fur flies. And, yes, my daddy gets carried away, more than anyone else, vigorously arguing some obscure point on one issue or another with his colleagues. I’ve seen him stomp on the floor and gesture wildly while telling a story that he only hopes and prays illustrates his point. (This really had the cats' attention, because nobody ever stomps on the floor and gestures wildly around here. Freedom of stomping around the boardroom is guaranteed to those who own one.)

During intense debate on CIA interrogation techniques, Mr. Savage actually challenged my daddy to get himself water-boarded. ("Is that something poodles do?" "No, that's got to be something insurance salesmen do. It's why we're all the time hiring more of them to do Middle East policy.")

Sometimes, my canine instincts bristle and I want to bite one of those arguing with my daddy, but he’s trained me better. Besides, he says, they might bite back. ("Aw, yeah! Prisoner without a name, THWACK! Poodle without a face!" "Bernie, no! It's not Annie Poo's fault! It's the Stockholm syndrome! She can't help it!")

Daddy says we have a good newspaper getting better by the day, and that the news media world is watching our “Waco Experiment” to see if former insurance salesmen like my daddy and Gordon; veteran publishers like Dan Savage; and a team of dedicated professionals can reverse a sad trend in the daily newspaper business. (Yes, because the "news media world" is so completely flummoxed by the idea that amateurs would buy their way into journalism with ... oh, you know, money, that we can't imagine someone trying it in the sunny uplands of 2009. Blew that one past us while we were looking for the breaking ball outside, Space Family Robinson!)

This much I know. If I have to wet on a newspaper nowadays, I think twice about doing it on the Trib. Daddy wouldn’t be happy. ("Hey, kid? Poodle? Word from the wise. If it's between the sofa and the Trib, pee on the Trib. Every time.")

The cats are trying to figure out what goes in the skybox and how to handle the playoff on Tuesday. I wish them luck. I mean, really. Nobody ever said journalism was going to be easy.

* Daddy's kitties!



Anonymous Anonymous said...

Emil anonymously said, "Don't know whether to laugh or cry."

9:10 AM, October 05, 2009  
Anonymous raYb said...

I hope they didn't spend all their money on the newspaper. They're gonna need something to live on when they run out of animals to write columns.

4:48 PM, October 05, 2009  

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