2012.02.01 More talk about morons

Written by David Green.

By DAVID GREEN

I don’t know that I’ve ever had a January drive to Grand Rapids when it wasn’t snowing. Sure, there’s been a rare occurrence or two, but definitely rare.

I made the mostly annual trip Saturday morning to fetch a plaque at the Michigan Press Association convention. When I told a couple of people that ahead of time, I was asked “What did you win?” and I had to explain that it was nothing new. The awards were announced in October, but the plaques for Newspaper of the Year aren’t given out until the convention rolls around.

I refer to it as my hundred-dollar plaque because I probably wouldn’t go to the convention otherwise. I register for one day, eat the luncheon, shake hands with the MPA president as she hands me the plaque, and then drive out into the snow.

This year a photo was taken of each winner and I told the president as we shook hands that we don’t use plaque-passing photos in my newspaper. Then, as I left the podium, she told everybody what I said. Sheesh, it was just a private joke.

[Note: The photo on this page is a plaque holding photo, not plaque passing. I waited until the passing was finished. That’s about as far as I want to go with it.]

Before the luncheon began, I attended part of a session presented by the famous Kevin Slimp. I know him as the chief problem-solver when it comes to newspaper production, such as those rare times when numbers turn into square boxes with an “x” in them. We’ve lost some advertising money with that PDF problem.

Saturday morning Slimp talked about the characteristics of some successful newspapers he’s visited, such as a little weekly in northern Minnesota run by a woman and her 81-year-old mother. Now there’s an idea. I must talk to my mother about writing up basketball game reports. That would save me a lot of time. 

When his program ended, I walked up and asked, “Would it mean anything to you if I said that I bring greetings from the Archbold Buckeye?” 

The look on his face answered my question, but he decided that he should say “Yes!” and said to give them his regards. I don’t know if Buckeye staff members have spoken with him, but they’ve talked about him before. And Kevin Slimp has spoken with people from dozens and dozens of papers. Next month he will have forgotten me and my question about numbers turning to boxes.

I skipped the session about legal issues and wandered around the Amway Grand Plaza hotel, looking at the changes since my previous visit. Lots of renovation. All the paintings of ordinary people doing their jobs are gone. The mail carrier. The construction worker. The astronaut. I guess it was time for a change.

I mentioned this to Roselie of the MPA staff and she missed them, too. She said they were like old friends, but she heard that they might make a reappearance somewhere in the hotel.

With the awards luncheon approaching, I looked around the dining room that was slowly filling. There was no one that I recognized because I’m not a socially outgoing sort of guy and haven’t gotten to know too many of these people.

I picked a random table with four people, walked over and asked a woman if I could help fill up the table. She invited me to have a seat and I soon learned she was from the Detroit Free Press. 

I told her that her name sounded familiar but she seemed a little dubious. She was an editor so her name wasn’t at the top of stories.

I learned that she grew up in Toledo and attended Maumee Valley Country Day School by scholarship. It was quite a change for a poor African-American girl from Toledo.

Something in our conversation opened up the opportunity to mention that I’ve had some e-mail exchanges with the Free Press high school sports reporter Mick McCabe due to the nickname that he gives Morenci in tournaments: Moron City.

She said something like, “Well, that’s interesting. He reports to me.” 

Whoa. I was just telling a story. I wasn’t expecting intervention. I told her that I suggested “Little Motown” for a new nickname because of our Detroit connections. Ed Stair of Morenci becoming owner and publisher of the Free Press. Reporter Michael Rosenberg coming to the library to talk. Tyree Guyton of the Heidlelberg Project also speaking at the library here. Little Motown indeed.

She didn’t seem all that pleased with our nickname and later, when McCabe’s name came up as she was talking to her colleague, another Free Press editor, she turned to me and said, “Tell him your story.”

“What story?” I said.

“About McCabe.”

Now I was feeling like a tattle-tale.

Some day Morenci will advance deep into a sports tournament again, deep enough that we will come to the attention of Mick McCabe when he distributes his silly nicknames to all the schools involved. That’s when I might have to write a letter to my dinner companion to remind her of our visit. 

When I got home, I looked at her card that she gave me: managing editor.

Sorry, McCabe. Well, not really. Perhaps our Moron days are coming to a close.

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