Category Archives: journalism
Good things — Mississippi football & grandbabies
Oh my goodness. I don’t know about you, but things have been CRAAAZY around here lately. For one, my husband right now is the most important person in the state of Mississippi. Well, one of the most important. Well, OK, an important person. (And, of course, to me he always is the most important person everywhere. This commercial message brought to you by the institution of marriage and soulmate-age.) Why is this, you ask? What has he done to bring such fame and fortune? Of course, those who know John L. Pitts are not surprised to discover the extent of his influence, but lately he holds in his hands, literally, the story that is shaking up everything anyone knows about football: namely, that the two teams his newspaper, the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal, in Tupelo, covers — Mississippi State and Ole Miss — are in the top 10 in the AP poll. And, as of right now this very minute, they are no. 1 and no. 3 respectively. Pretty amazing. And now there’s Heisman talk? All I know is that for the past few weeks, my sports editor husband has been working pretty much 24/7 to cover this national story for his local readers — not easy. But, as always, he’s excelling. Of course, this could explain his recent encounter with a deer, on a heavily traveled road less than a mile from our downtown. I really don’t like to think too hard about this. And what’s even stranger is that my Republican-voting, NRA-supporting, Obama-criticizing husband went and bought a new car that’s synonymous with all he makes fun of: a Prius. It’s the mileage, you know. And the anti-deer capabilities.
Well, those are not even the most exciting things to happen to our family lately. Our third precious grandbaby-boy got born last weekend. Older Daughter and son-in-law did an amazing job of completely un-medicated childbirth in a hospital suite dedicated to a natural and drug-free experience. She is a warrior mom, through and through. I did un-medicated by accident with Younger Daughter (Me: “I really think that we need to go to the hospital now.” Husband-at-the-time: “No. You can’t be that close to pushing yet.” Folks at the hospital as soon as we got there: “Get this woman to delivery stat!!!”), and there’s something to be said for it — now that I’m 28 years away and have pretty much forgotten the details. And speaking of totally awesome Younger Daughter, she now shares her birthday with her third nephew, which is the second shared birthday in our family. I think we’re on a roll.
My Three Papers
This is the one spot in the world — that I know of, at least — where three of my worlds collide. And, strangely enough, I’m pretty much the only person who takes notice of such a significant location. Everybody else just hurries past because they have Things To Do. But not me. Well, I usually do have Things To Do, but whenever I’m here at this spot, I always stop and consider that I have at one time worked and/or am currently working for all of these newspapers. I just think that’s … well, I’m not sure what I think about it. Only that these three papers represent a huge chunk of what I do and who I am and, as different as they are from each other, it’s sort of jarring, I guess, to see them all lined up. It’s the majority of my working life, lurking outside of Jack’s in Iuka, Miss. And then, of course, I get to thinking about newspapers (see “the demise of “) and friends & talented journalists who are moving on before they get moved and the painfully irretrievable loss that is. Sigh. Deep, deep sigh. On the other hand, each of these papers serves its community brilliantly, and I’m honored to be a tiny part of that success. (Also: They all have “Daily” in the title although one of them is lying.)
Letters to Home
I adore working on a college campus. I love the energy and the enthusiasm of 20-somethings. I always defend them when folks start conversations with “Oh my gosh, can you believe kids today?” Almost every student I encounter WANTS to be in school and WANTS to learn (at least something) and many of them work two jobs and drive two hours and otherwise sacrifice A LOT to be at school. On the other hand, sometimes this generation sort of stuns me. Such as when I recently noticed this how-to-address-an-envelope tutorial taped to the mail-center counter in the student center. “Are you seriously telling me that some students don’t know how to address an envelope?” I asked the mail-center staffer, incredulously. She nodded grimly. “We just got tired of explaining it all the time,” she said. I know that actual paper envelopes are going the way of landlines, CDs and watching movies in a movie theatre — but still. I mean, can you believe kids today?
From the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal
The great thing about having two writers in the house is that we
freely can borrow from each other whenever one of us is too lazy to actually write for ourselves and we shamelessly appropriate each other’s experiences share. Well, it’s mainly me who does that. But what my husband, Tupelo, Miss., sports editor John Pitts, says here in his weekly column for the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal is true: Our grandson occasionally lost focus on the T-ball field, it’s a delight to watch athletes who love what they do and baseball definitely is boring.
JOHN L. PITTS: Let’s keep some fun in games
My older grandson, who’s 5, got his first taste of T-ball this year.
He really likes practice – we’re talking about practice, y’all – because there’s more hitting and running and doing stuff. He’s less enamored of baseball’s quiet stretches, an attitude he may get from his grandmother, my wife. Her immortal observation, “Baseball is so boring!” will probably never be enshrined in Cooperstown.
He’s learned to adapt.
His mother reports that, sometimes when he’s playing in the outfield, he just tosses his glove aside, lays in the grass and stares at the sky.
It looks like he has the right attitude.
With high school and college practices – football and all the other fall sports, too – under way, it’s worth considering that we’re all looking in the wrong place sometimes. Maybe that big cloud that looks like a monkey is the real point, not the issue of where to throw the ball with a man on second.
We’ve gotten so cynical about sports – and let’s face it, we earned it – that we’re not sure what to make of players who seem too happy doing their thing. The pure joy of the Dodgers’ rookie Yasiel Puig presents quite a contrast to many of his mercenary rivals.
Whatever his off-court problems, it’s the outsized style of Ole Miss guard Marshall Henderson that seems to provoke the most reaction.
My grandson, meanwhile, really does have his eye on the ball – so to speak.
I hope the youngsters who’re practicing never lose sight of the fact that it’s a game. It’s hard work, yes, but for the larger purpose of playing well.
I hope coaches who’re leading them never lose sight of the fact that these are young people who may not realize it now, but are learning lessons they’ll rely on for a lifetime.
I hope the parents and fans keep some perspective – do they make that any more? – and remember that good sportsmanship isn’t just a good idea for sportsmen.
And I hope we make every deadline, but along the way I hope we’ll have fun getting there.
John L. Pitts (firstname.lastname@example.org) is sports editor of the Daily Journal.
When Sports Editors Leave Town
This is my husband. This is my husband on vacation. I offer it as photographic proof that he actually can get away from his office occasionally and relax. Like most newspaper folks and especially like most newspaper editors and doubly especially like most newspaper sports folks, he is dedicated to and enthusiastic about his job. To him, following sports stories online for six hours straight isn’t “work” — it’s just what he does. And he does it well. He also is an exceptional boss. He supports and encourages the sportswriters and copy editors he works with and never asks anybody to do anything he wouldn’t do himself. Like be at the newspaper 12, 15, 20 consecutive days. In a row. Now, he and I both are pretty independent people — having a commuter marriage for several years will do that to you — and I rarely invoke a wifely clause but sometimes I just have to insist we Get Away. Luckily, there’s a window of relative calm that comes after college baseball and before SEC Media Days when he’ll agree to sneak off for a week, provided he can take 1) his laptop, 2) his cell phone and 3) my laptop, tablet and smartphone for back-up. He even wandered out to the beach a couple of times. But at least being almost 400 miles from the newspaper prevented those “I think I’ll just run over to the office for a little bit” moments.
Every time I see this sign — on the side of a building in downtown Pensacola, Fla., — I always think it’s talking about my chosen-and-now-part-time field of journalism and how truly it is “citizen journalism” because reporters don’t have to earn specialized degrees or procure official certifications or register anywhere for anything. Can you write clearly, accurately, entertainingly and well? Good. You’re hired. Do you make things up, ignore the facts and don’t understand the difference between “you’re” and “your”? Sorry. Nice try. On the other hand, as journalism jobs disappear and the journalism landscape shifts almost daily, training and professionalism are key. Another thought: This obviously is my morning to ramble. Perhaps I should get ready to go to work? And kudos to the registered professional COURT reporters at Hitchcock & Associates in Pensacola. Love your sign.
Thank you, Annette, Margaret and Lilly
This isn’t a well-researched scientific hypothesis or anything, but I’ve always thought that my generation of women — born in the late 1950s through the early 1960s — have had to be pretty nimble, culturally & sociologically speaking (although I really shouldn’t use words such as “sociologically” until I’ve had a second cup of coffee). Take “pretty,” for example. When we were little, our moms had no-strands-out-of-place bouffants that coordinated perfectly with the handkerchiefs and white gloves they took to church and to parties where the New Christy Minstrels strummed in the background. But by the time we were teenagers, hair was as free and flowing and unencumbered as cotton Indian tunics, incense and the White Album. Then as young married women, it was back to the salon for Madonna-style perms to go with our stirrup pants and oversized decorated sweatshirts that I still have nightmares about. (Shudder.) Today, in our 50s, we’re back at an awkward phase — this time trying to balance the fashion questions of is-this-too-young? with is-this-too-old? with can-I-play-with-my-grandchildren-and-then-go-to-a-board-meeting? Good times. Of course, my generation of women was buffeted not only by the fickle wind-gusts of style but by the turbulent weather fronts of expectations. Take Barbie, for instance. My Barbie (ONE Barbie — back then we only had ONE Barbie, the way nature intended. And we were grateful.) had a closet of June-Cleaver dresses, ski wear, formal gowns, tennis clothes and, for the days when she wanted to pretend, maybe a nurse’s and a stewardess’ uniform. Our dream – mine and Barbie’s together — was to go to prom, find the right boy, settle down and have babies. But by the time I was ready to get started on that, my senior class donated our prom money to Vietnam-war orphans and “settling down and having babies” was sort of frowned upon. Instead, we were supposed to Go Out into the World and Do Great Things. So I did, although my “world” was my hometown newspaper and “doing great things” was reporting on school-board meetings. But still. This didn’t last long, however, because why should we give up one thing just to have another??? So we realized we didn’t have to choose! We could do both!! We could settle down and have babies AND go out into the world and do great things!!! As head-scratchingly “duh” as this sounds today, a couple of decades ago it was revolutionary. REVOLUTIONARY!!! Back then, we called this stunning revelation “a new way of thinking” and “opening up opportunities for women.” Now, we just sort of call it “life.”
All of this to note the passing recently of three women who, each in their own ways, influenced and shaped my generation and helped bring us to where we are today — where we can unashamedly smile and be sweet and kind while single-handedly and single-mindedly take charge of a chaotically lumbering mess and look joyfully sleek and pulled-together in a simple dress that’s equally stylish at the country club or the orange-juice stand. Thank you, Annette Funicello, Margaret Thatcher and Lilly Pulitzer. You showed us the way. We couldn’t have done it without you.
Random Thoughts from a Cluttered Mind
Recently I had a mad cleaning fit and finally — finally! — took on my home-office space. Although I think I’m a fairly organized person, the stacks of magazines and piles of papers and random notes stuck everywhere (I hope “Snd by 4:30 Tuesday” wasn’t important because I have no idea what I was supposed to “snd” or to where) said otherwise. Inspired to do better, I cleaned and filed and recycled and threw away and ended up with such a clutter-free work space that
I know it will take me only a few days to mess it up again I’m feeling back in control. So why not do the same thing to my brain? We all have these unfettered half-finished thoughts and lists and ideas sort of floating around — you know, the things that keep you up at 2 a.m. because you simply CANNOT GET THEM OUT OF YOUR HEAD. If you can declutter your desk, why not declutter your mind? So here are some of my thoughts that are just lying around taking up valuable space. Who knows what I could accomplish without them in the way — finish start my novel, clean out the refrigerator, take a nap? The possibilities are endless!
- We early-to-bed and early-to-rise folks do not like springing forward into Daylight Saving Time, with its dark mornings and its sunshiny evenings. Bleh! Of course, it does feel as if you have more time
to go clothes shopping after workto get home and pull weeds, so that’s a good thing.
- I never have to complete this sentence when talking to a fellow female about why I can’t go to the movie and sit still for two hours: “You know I had that major sinus infection for six weeks and then I finally went to the doctor and got some high-powered antibiotics that worked great, except that now …”
- I don’t know why I cannot look away from “Celebrity Apprentice.” Has Donald Trump’s hair somehow hypnotized me? Scary stuff.
- The baby-switching at the end of “Downton Abbey’s” final episode still bugs me. From one frame to the next, Lady Mary went from holding a “newborn” with fluffy reddish hair to one with slicked-back black hair. What does this mean? Did the producers think we wouldn’t notice? Or when season four starts and we’ve jumped ahead 10 years but nobody’s changed except for this strange child who DOESN’T LOOK LIKE ANYBODY ELSE, will somebody remember that Lady Mary blacked out for a bit after childbirth and nobody was with there with her for a few minutes and maybe SOMETHING HAPPENED???
- I hope colored jeans are still in style this spring because I picked up several pairs last year and if everybody else is back in classic blue denim and I’m bopping around in turquoise and lime green and bright red … well, it won’t be pretty. Literally.
- Speaking of babies — and this is a good thought I don’t want to get rid of — seems as if everybody’s having them. In the past few months, my brother & sister-in-law had their second, a girl named Harper (love, love, love that name); several friends welcomed new grandchildren; and almost everybody I talk to is hosting or attending a baby shower. More, please.
Ah, I feel much better now. Thanks for helping with my decluttering project. Sadly, I already can feel those empty brain spaces filling up, much like my clean desk seemed instantly to sprout new stacks of staff. So come back soon for my next data download. Who knows what’s in there?
I am such a geeky nerd. Or is it a nerdy geek? I’m not sure, but It’s whatever you are when the communications department chairman at the university where you somehow were asked to teach a media-writing class cleans out his office and leaves a big box of used books in the lobby with a “Free to good homes” sign and it’s like a mega sale at T.J. Maxx — you are THAT excited. So you pull the box over to a nearby chair and ignore the student chatter around you and delve into the treasures: “Ethics in Media Communications”! “Communicating for Results — A Guide for Business and the Professions”! “Media Flight Plan III”! Was there ever a greater collection of (used and possibly outdated) media textbooks? Strangely, I seemed to have been the only person interested in this unexpected bounty, and the department chairman walked by and whispered approvingly that I could ignore the two-to-a-customer posted limit. I cannot wait to browse through these and revel in the grownup luxury of getting to read textbooks without having to study them — and that right there, I believe, is what marks me as a nerd. And THEN, to make this day even better, my newspaper-editor husband brought home a couple of Junior League cookbooks from the food editor’s giveaway stash. Both were published in 1977, when only single women got to use their real names and everybody else got to hide behind their husbands’. The golf-themed cookbook from Augusta, Ga., is in green, of course, and features adorable golf illustrations. The hardback cookbook from Nashville is rather more posh — as Nashville believes it is — and starts with a formal-dinner menu that starts with caviar soup, which I don’t think I’ll be making but it sure is fun reading about.