The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

The Star Treatment

Posted on | June 20, 2024 | Comments Off on The Star Treatment

Arrival of the international celebrities.

My wife and our youngest daughter, Reagan, returned from Argentina last night. Reagan said that after the plane landed, she removed her sweater and fixed her hair because she knew — from previous experience — that as soon as they emerged from the gate at baggage claim I would be snapping photos. “Paparazzi Dad” is nothing if not predictable.

This goes back to a Basic Journalism Trick that I learned during the earliest years of my newspaper career, working for small-town weeklies: Treat the people you cover as if they were famous celebrities. During four years as sports editor for the Calhoun (Ga.) Times, I elevated this technique to an art form. So far as our readers were aware, Timmy Starr was the greatest basketball player since Michael Jordan. You’ve never heard of Timmy Starr, of course, but when he was playing for the Bulldogs of Fairmount High School, he was a local sensation in Gordon County, and the coverage I provided his exploits was as effusive as Tiger Beat covering a Bay City Rollers concert tour. (Although you’d have to be old enough to qualify for Social Security to get that reference.)

My inspiration for that totally non-objective approach to journalism was, of course, Hunter S. Thompson’s pro wrestling hype of “Kazika the Mad Jap” during his early career as a local sports writer in Florida.

When you’re doing entry-level work in the newspaper business, you need to play some kind of mind games with yourself to maintain your morale, to convince yourself that the work you’re doing makes a difference, somehow, to somebody. You’re getting paid to do this job and, even if the subjects of your coverage are obscure and of interest only to a handful of locals, those people are your readers — the customers who are ultimately paying your bills — and you have to find a way of motivating yourself to provide excellence. If you can’t do that, you’re never going to get ahead in the news business and, having started my career on the very bottom rung of the industry, I was fiercely determined to get ahead.

Having developed this strategy at the outset of my career, and having proved its value through experience, I never forgot it. When you get to the point where you’re part of the journalistic scrum covering a major national story — e.g., a presidential campaign — you must find some way to set yourself apart from the mob. Instead of letting other people decide what’s important, learn to rely on your own judgment, follow your own lead. You decide what angle to cover, and then cover the hell out of it.

So the Big Story last night was the wife and daughter of Influential Journalist Robert Stacy McCain returning from their Triumphant Tour of Argentina, and I got the world-exclusive scoop on that story.

Today’s Big Story? The Influential Journalist is taking his beautiful wife and lovely daughter out to dinner and — EXCLUSIVE BREAKING NEWS! — the Five Most Important Words in the English Language are:



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