Thursday, June 28, 2007
MPA event extra special
I’ve only missed a couple of Mississippi Press Association summer conventions since I moved to the state in 1986.
They’re all a blast - one big, happy reunion of friends in the newspaper business.
But the convention last week at the Beau Rivage in Biloxi may rank as the best yet.
The highlight was the honor I had of inducting my mentor, Rubye Del Harden, into the MPA Hall of Fame.
She’s the one who brought me to Mississippi. I was hired 21 years ago at The Itawamba County Times, “The Only Newspaper In The World That Cares Anything About Itawamba County.”
Delmus Harden bought the newspaper, based in Fulton, in 1945. His daughter Rubye Del was then 1 year old.
He died in 1977, and Rubye Del left her position as an educator in Alabama to come home and take the key leadership role in the family business.
I met her about the same time – in 1978 – when I carried our high school newspaper, The Aggie Bark, across the state line from Hamilton, Ala., to Fulton to be printed.
A lot of people have tried to define community journalism over the years. I think Rubye Del and her 22 years at The Itawamba County Times, operating in the shadow of her dad, are the best example of community journalism anywhere. The family ended its association with The Times in 1999.
She worked extremely hard. She cared for her community. She cared for people. And she published a great newspaper.
I’m just one of several journalists she has influenced greatly. She has encouraged and impacted the lives of so many young people. She gave us the tools – paper, pen, camera – but more importantly she gave us responsibility. She pushed us to succeed.
Her focus and concern were always on our mission – and not on herself.
She pushed us to put out the best newspaper possible, but more importantly she pushed us to serve our community to the best of our ability.
She has truly been an inspiration in my life – really a second mom – and the presentation Friday night was an emotional one for me.
This year’s convention was also special to Pam and I for another reason. We celebrated our oldest daughter Emma’s 16th birthday.
I drove over to church camp, Camp Tahkodah, in Floral, Ark. (near Bald Knob and Pleasant Plains) and picked her up a bit earlier than usual so she could accompany us to the coast. She brought along a good friend, Kayla Kotowicz. And at the last minute, our son Andy decided to come, too (Erin got spoiled some more while staying with my family in Alabama).
It was great for me and Rubye Del having them all there for the Hall of Fame ceremony and the editorial awards luncheon on Saturday. See the story elsewhere in this edition about the accomplishments of your community newspaper staff.
Pam and I talked often over the weekend about it doesn’t seem possible that we have a child reaching “Sweet 16” with a driver’s license and a car.
Just yesterday, it seems, I was rocking her on my shoulder in the recliner.
Just yesterday, it seems, I was dropping her off at daycare.
Just yesterday, it seems, I was driving more than 100 miles a couple of nights before Christmas to get that big doll house that she just had to have.
She will be a junior this next school year, and she even has a part-time job. At this stage in her life, we’re talking about classes, colleges, ACT scores, scholarships and possible professions.
“They grow up fast,” I heard more than once over the weekend when discussing Emma’s 16th birthday with my newspaper colleagues.
Indeed they do.
Last weekend my daughter and I did something we don’t do often enough — we snuck out of the house without the baby girls and went to see a movie.
We are big Stephen King fans (he writes mostly really scary books, etc.). I was introduced to him by “Carrie.” I saw that movie many, many years ago, before I read the book.
Now, I do it in reverse. I read the book first — I find books are better in my imagination without the influence of Hollywood.
Several years ago, Stephen King published another of his compilations of short stories and novellas. One of these stories was “1408.” (8+4+1 = 13)
Discussing it at the time, Dana and I decided it was one of the scariest stories we’d ever read — right up there on a par with Shirley Jackson’s “The Haunting of Hill House.”
(“No live organism can continue for long to exist sanely under conditions of absolute reality; even larks and katydids are supposed, by some, to dream. Hill House, not sane, stood by itself against its hills, holding darkness within; it had stood for eighty years and might stand for eighty more. Within, walls continued upright, bricks met neatly, floors were firm and doors were sensibly shut; silence lay steadily against the wood and stone of Hill House, and whatever walked there, walked alone.” — The best first paragraph I’ve ever read!)
The story “1408” by Stephen King is as frightening as “The Haunting of Hill House” — which has long been my favorite “scary” book.
There have been several movies made about “Hill House,” none of which lived up to the intensity of the book. The only movie that has come close to being as scary as a good book (to me anyway — discounting the gory movies) is the movie “Blair Witch.” Absolutely nothing really happened in that movie — no blood, gore or guts. Scary as all get out!
Friday night, on the way home from the movies, I told Dana I was never going to see that movie (1408) again! I did not want to see a commercial or even the book title anywhere. And there is no blood and gore in this movie either.
You can tell a movie is really intense when after the opening 15-20 minutes or so, in a theatre full of college students, and it’s dead quiet. A few nervous giggles now and again. A really scared scream or two. And when the movie ended — that same dead quiet.
Walking out, most of the rest of the audience looked exactly like I felt — shell shocked. I was kinda shaky walking even. And, Dana said she’d been as scared as I had. It’s hard to scare her!
The drive home from Oxford Friday night — in hindsight — was funny. We even locked the doors!
Not that locking the doors would have helped...
I have changed my mind about seeing the movie again. I’m taking my son over the 4th of July holiday.
If I can...
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