OPINION: The people we turn into
As we grow older and have families, a fair number of us are shocked to discover that we've become our parents. Ever happen to you? You're going along in your day, dealing with the son or daughter, getting exasperated for whatever reason and sudde...
As we grow older and have families, a fair number of us are shocked to discover that we've become our parents.
Ever happen to you? You're going along in your day, dealing with the son or daughter, getting exasperated for whatever reason and suddenly you listen to what you've just blurted out. Wow. That's your mom talking. Or your dad. It works both ways.
I've done it many times, and I've reconciled myself to the fact that I've grown way beyond cool. It was only the other evening, though, that I sat and watched the evening news, had a strong reaction to some network flood coverage and realized that I've also become my old publisher.
The publisher was Robert Hipple, whose family owned the Pierre Capital Journal for a century or so. I worked as managing editor for six or seven years, so I had many opportunities to interact with Bob. He shared fascinating stories about things he'd witnessed in a long life. In his 80s at that time, he still wrote the editorial every day. He was set in his ways. He'd seen so much. He had solid opinions on the changing world.
I learned that before I joined the newspaper. In the 1970s, I worked for The Associated Press. Now, at that time the AP-and the United Press International, too, as I recall-had people who reported news, and they had people who sold the news service, or the membership, in the case of AP, which was a cooperative. The news-sellers made membership trips from time to time, visiting newspapers and broadcast stations to brag up the news service.
I'd been with AP a short time when an executive with the news-sales side rolled into Pierre to visit the local publisher. We walked from the Capitol downtown to the Capital Journal office on the lower block of the main business district (the front office of the paper included a pillar with a mark showing the high-water mark inside the building during flooding in the 1950s) and I introduced the guy to Bob Hipple.
Bob could be crusty, but he was always a gentleman, and he welcomed the visitor into his office. The guy asked how Bob liked the AP service.
"It's been going downhill since they took away the old telegraph wire,'' Bob told a shocked news-seller, who had been expecting rave reviews. "With telegraph transmission, every word counted. These reporters now, they write all day on one story. And putting bylines on stories? That just made reporters think the story is about them instead of about the news.''
Well, the news-seller walked out shaking his head. Maybe Kirke L. Simpson did, too. He was the first AP writer to have a byline (for a story in 1921 about the Unknown Soldier of World War I).
So, fast-forward to me and flood coverage on the evening news. I watched a reporter wade around somewhere in Missouri in flood water up to his hips, and I had an old publisher sort of response, this Bob Hipple sort of rant.
"Why does the guy need to be out in the middle of the water for me to understand that it is flooding? They just showed farms surrounded by water, homes with water up to the window sills, long stretches of major highways submerged. I can see that the water is deep. Tell me what happens next.''
I caught Nancy looking at me. I shook my head and thought, "Old man, you really, truly are getting old when you start sounding like your old publisher.''
Realizing I was in a lather, as my mom would say, I brewed a cup of stress-relieving tea and settled in for the local news.
The weather guy came on, breathless to report that, shocking as it may seem for early January in South Dakota, it was about to get cold, maybe below zero.
"Oh, great,'' I shouted. "Now some reporter will be bundled up and shivering outside the station in the morning. I know below zero is cold. Wow. TV weather has been going downhill since Dave Dedrick quit.''
I'm pretty sure my old publisher would understand.