Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Next up: Sing a song of barbecue`


Reading for Monday 8 December: Another delicious tidbit from Our Calvin.


Tuesday, September 30, 2008

October with OWrite

Energized from a few weeks of R&R, the O's writers' group returns for Rocktober! Join us Mondays at 9 in the old news conference room. It'll be worth your time. Plus: Free Coffee and Baked Goods.

Oct. 6: Beyond your comfort zone
Want to see your name in O!, Travel or Opinion? Editors of our weekly sections tell you how to pitch and execute great stuff, without annoying your regular boss.

Oct. 13: Beat reporting with the pros
Stay on top of the news, elevate daily stories and do meaningful enterprise, without missing a beat (yours). Hear from Max Bernstein, Jason Quick & David Stabler.

Oct. 20: Defining a 'cover story'
Centerpieces are so 2007. But how do you execute big ideas under the new world order? Susan Gage and Chris Broderick lead a discussion of the cover story.

Oct. 27: Parting shots
The buyout (maybe you've heard) promises to deprive us of talent, experience and insight. A few takers share what


Thursday, July 31, 2008

Writing with authority, some Hallman snippets

Tom Hallman will be joining us Monday to talk a bit about writing with authority. Here are a few recent examples of Tom's ability to, in a sentence or a few paragraphs, sum up why a story is a story.

Gas stations are society's great equalizer, a place where a guy in a Porsche pulls in behind a woman in a Pinto.

While stations used to represent freedom --Friday night cruising, Sunday drives to nowhere --now they represent uncertainty, a tap on the shoulder that says things are out of control. The attendants, especially in a state where you can't fill your own tank, become the face of the problem.


Memorial Day is made up of moments. Some big, some small. When you consider it, that's what the day is really all about.

The big battles, the glorious generals and the very wars themselves are what have captured and held our collective attention, some of the strands woven to become the fabric that binds us as a country.

And yet when we stand quietly on the holiday, observing a moment of silence as we lower our heads, we find ourselves mourning, remembering and paying tribute to the lone warrior, the stranger, the man and woman who stepped forward.

One isn't more powerful or important or better than the other. Just different.

You always have to have one to have the other.


The children who will arrive here within the hour exist in life's shadows.

At school they're teased. Or, even worse, ignored. They're the kids who ride the short bus, the boys and girls who don't fit in, the ones who struggle down hallways in wheelchairs or on crutches.

They're different.

But only on the surface.

And that's what this night is all about.

The volunteers began transforming the lobby at Portland's Shriners Hospital for Children after Friday's last appointment. They had to get the room ready for a prom thrown for children who've been coming to this hospital most of their lives.

For one night --for at least a few hours --these boys and girls could be teenagers. They didn't have to worry about fitting in. Or being understood. Or being accepted. They could reveal what lay hidden in their hearts and souls.


I t's just a dress. Only a few yards of limp fabric on a hanger. Take the finest, most expensive silk ever spun and there's still no life. And certainly no magic.

What a dress always needs is a girl.

A girl in a dress takes a father's breath away. He turns from the television when his daughter walks into the room and is struck by how quickly the years have slipped away, gone in a heartbeat when he wasn't paying attention to all the changes.

A girl in a dress stands before her mother and they realize --despite all those arguments over messy rooms and dirty dishes --that they share a bond that doesn't need to be expressed in words, only in a glance that says "We're alike."

A girl in a dress stands before a mirror and sees her past and her future, the girl she is and the woman she will become.

A dress without a girl is nothing.

That becomes clear Saturday morning when one sees the hundreds of dresses hanging from racks in a large room at the Oregon Convention Center in Northeast Portland. Every imaginable color and size are available.

They have about as much character as towels.


On this Monday morning in March, Hoppe is thinking about money. The $15 million barge project he's overseeing could end up behind schedule.

The barge is supposed to be finished in October. If Hoppe's crew doesn't get the barge in the water --a spectacle that attracts onlookers in the South Waterfront high-rises --when promised, the company faces a $2,000-a-day penalty that's written into the contract.

Hoppe pushes open a wooden door that leads from the hallway to the engineer's office, the last stop before the yard. He flips through blueprints. The 55 pages detail every inch of the 80,000-gallon barge. When done, it will have dedicated tanks to carry jet fuel, unleaded gas and diesel oil from Alaska to ports up and down the West Coast.

"A floating gas station," Hoppe says as he opens a second door and steps into the yard.

To stand in the yard is to visit a time when people built things that could be seen and explained. Look at a barge, you know what it does. How many of us understand how an iPod makes music?


In this mobile world, people move. Neighborhoods turn over, people come and go as they deal with job transfers, divorces and the need for more space or less. Sometimes what propels them is just a kind of restlessness. Something catches their eye over the horizon and they're gone.

And then . . .

There's no way of proving it --it's not like people keep local statistics on such things --but common sense makes it seem unlikely that anyone could stake a claim quite like Cramer's. Except for college and a stint in the U.S. Navy during World War II, he's spent his entire life in one house.

Oh, by the way, the man is nearly 90.


Life's most powerful forces are invisible. How do you begin to explain faith, perseverance and love? The best you can do, at least in this case, is to stand outside a Southwest Portland home in an early morning rain and wait for a 79-year-old woman to start her day.

She limps out --cane in hand, right shoe an inch taller than the left --and is helped into a van that will carry her to a school at the foot of the hill. Although she's in constant pain, she settles into the seat with a smile. Her name is Sister Dolores Doohan. But everyone calls her "Sister D."


Thursday, July 10, 2008

Resuming 14 July

Check out the post below for the story we'll discuss next Monday at 9 a.m. in the old newsroom conference room. See you then .


Thursday, June 26, 2008

Earl Swift, my hero

Probably one of the best newspaper writers in America who you've never heard of. Come ready to chew into this one on Monday. By Earl Swift of the Virginian-Pilot, Norfolk.



The scar made a long straightaway down the left side of his face. It ran shallow across his forehead and sliced through his eyelids and dug deep into his cheek. It crossed his mouth so that when he grinned, as Joe Weatherly was predisposed to do, he left a third of the smile behind.

Big as it was, the wound might have been the second thing most people noticed about Weatherly. The first, most likely, was the way he arrived, because he could drive anything on wheels faster than it made sense to go, and faster than anyone with sense had desire to.

For a time, the skill served him well: The Norfolk boy grew up to be a national motorcycle racing champion, then joined the stock car circuit; before long he owned a piece of three racetracks and was one of NASCAR's first big stars.

Over a dozen years, Joe Weatherly won 25 races, placed in the top five 105 times and won the points championship, now called the Nextel Cup, two years in a row. He was a favorite among fans for his flair as much as his victories: Weatherly was an archetype of the early NASCAR hero, an inveterate practical joker and hell-raiser, a resilient hard partier, a rough-and-tumble Southern rogue.

The scar predated all of that. When he'd made it big, some sportswriters guessed the wound dated to his motorcycle days. Others offered an explanation that persists on the Internet, that during his Army service in World War II, a bullet from a German sniper had torn into his cheek.

Neither story was true. Joe Weatherly got his scar on Norfolk's 26th Street, in a wreck that nearly killed him.

And he didn't get the worst of it.

An October midnight in 1946, Wednesday the 2nd rolling into Thursday: The Norfolk Police Department's graveyard shift had just come on duty when two officers in the traffic bureau, Charles D. Grant and Chase R. Davis, got the word: Accident on 26th at Leo Street. Multiple injuries.

The two rolled to the scene in a stretcher-equipped van assigned to whoever was pulling accident detail. They brought along a pair of cops who'd been angling for a ride home - a lucky break, because they needed the extra hands. The scene that awaited them was a mess.

A 1942 Buick sedan, eastbound on 26th, had hit the curb as it negotiated a tight S-curve. It had slid 188 feet across the road, jumped the far curb and smacked head-on into a tree. The car was totaled. Six people, three couples, lay inside.

Weatherly, the driver, was hung up in the broken windshield, his face cleaved in two, blood spurting from his punctured neck. His girlfriend, 18-year-old Jean Flanagan, lay bunched in the right front footwell, both legs broken. In the back seat, Marion Wells and another girl were shaken but unhurt, and Marion's date, Alvah "Skeet" Cowan, wasn't badly injured.

Not so the last passenger, 24-year-old James Edwin "Eddie" Baines. His head, wedged between front seat and door post, had suffered grievous damage. As Officer Grant would later recall: "We knew he was in bad shape."

But Weatherly commanded immediate attention.

"He was bleeding profusely," Grant said. "He'd have died in a few more minutes."

One of the off-duty cops, Louis D. Looney, clamped his hands over Weatherly's neck, trying to stanch the blood until an ambulance arrived.

These days, 26th Street carries just eastbound traffic until it merges with westbound 27th Street to become Lafayette Boulevard. They fuse at about the spot Weatherly crashed.

But the modern junction is much changed from that of 1946. The curve that 26th negotiates to meet 27th is wide and graceful; that of 61 years ago was a far more sudden jerk to the left, onto northbound Leo, followed by an almost immediate, 90-degree cut back to the right.

To the police, the accident's cause was no mystery: The 2-ton Buick had been moving too fast to negotiate the back-to-back turns. And it was no surprise to find Weatherly draped over the steering wheel.

"It was speed," Grant said, "which is what he was known for. Anybody who knew Joe Weatherly would tell you that he'd run a car as fast as he could. He was one we knew."

In fact, Weatherly was driving illegally that night, his license having already been revoked for an infraction lost to history. Within months he'd be making a name for himself as a motorcycle racer, and within two years he'd be national champion, but as Grant and Davis untangled him from the wreckage, Weatherly was in serious legal trouble.

At the time, it wasn't clear that he'd survive to face it. He'd been cut, Grant recalled, "all the way down his face and into his jugular vein.

"That officer saved his life," he said of Looney. "Thank God we had those other two officers with us."

A cop drove the unconscious Eddie Baines to Norfolk General Hospital. Looney rode with Weatherly to DePaul, a hand still pressed to the driver's neck. Jean Flanagan was conscious when Grant, destined to become Norfolk's police chief, lifted her from the footwell.

"We had to get her out of there and straighten her legs to get her on a stretcher," he said. "She hollered so as to make the hair stand up on your head."

That afternoon's Ledger-Dispatch reported that "four persons were injured, three seriously," with Baines suffering "a forehead laceration and internal injuries." The following morning's Virginian-Pilot added that Baines and Flanagan were in "critical shape" and that an arrest warrant waited for the improving Weatherly. The charges: reckless driving and driving with a revoked permit.

Then, on the afternoon of Oct. 6, Baines, who lived in the Fox Hall neighborhood and had recently mustered out of the Army's 101st Airborne Division, died of his head injuries.

A native of Blackstone, Va., Baines and a few of his nine siblings had moved to Norfolk before the war. He was buried near Rocky Mount, N.C.

Weatherly was charged with homicide.

A few weeks later, on Nov. 30, Weatherly presented Jean Flanagan with a ring. They were married in October 1948.

He spent a good piece of the intervening two years in court. In a lengthy police court session two months after the wreck, the homicide charge was dropped - a fitting development because, Jean Weatherly would say more than 60 years later, speed hadn't killed Baines.

Actually, the evening had been pretty tame: The six had been at Schoe's Curb Service, a drive-in restaurant at 21st and Granby streets that Jean's family owned, before Weatherly set out to take everyone home. Just before the wreck, he stopped the car at 26th and Church streets to say hello to a friend.

"It was only a block away," she said, "so he didn't have time to get much speed up, with the weight of the car."

Her explanation: "We hit the curb and broke the steering rod, and the tree was right there."

Even so, Weatherly was convicted of the lesser charges. He appealed to Norfolk Corporation Court - today's Circuit Court - where on Jan. 10, 1947, he was hit with $400 in fines and two suspended 30-day sentences.

That spring, Baines' sister, Effie E. Daniels, sued Weatherly and his mother, Carrie Kellam, who owned the Buick. The claim against Kellam was dropped, but Weatherly was found liable for $15,000, to be divided equally among Baines' four brothers and five sisters.

Weatherly's fiancee and her mother sued, as well. In June 1947, a jury in the Court of Law and Chancery fixed the damages due to each at $10,000 and $4,000, respectively.

And as a brief filed by State Farm Mutual Insurance Co. in federal court observed: "In each of said actions it is alleged that the Buick automobile in question was operated with gross negligence."

The accident wasn't Weatherly's last brush with the law, by any means. In September 1947, an unspecified misdemeanor saw his suspended sentences revoked, and he went to jail. In 1955, he led police on a wee-hours chase through Norfolk, for which he was slapped with a $100 fine, another suspended sentence and the loss of his license for 60 days.

By then, he was a big-time racer - newspaper stories wondered whether he could legally drive on a track when he was barred from the streets - and the press tended to couch his transgressions as harmless fun, even nicknamed him the "Clown Prince of Auto Racing." Legends bloomed from his practical jokes and hell-for-leather partying, about how he banged up rental cars and supposedly drove one into a motel swimming pool.

It seemed that, the scar aside, that night 61 years ago did not much change Weatherly.

"You saw him from the rear, wherever he went," said his friend Robert Ingram of Norfolk, a prominent car builder of the era. "He'd take it to the edge."

Weatherly won NASCAR's first all-star race in 1961. He dominated the sport in 1962, the first of his years as points champion. He did it again in 1963, when he finished 35 of his 53 races in the top 10. He was leading the points race for a third year when he pulled into Riverside, Calif., for the road race of Jan. 19, 1964.

He was a superstitious man, spooked by the color green or the presence of peanuts at the track, beholden to talismans and ritual. But those quirks, that scar, didn't prompt him to use a shoulder harness. When he crashed on the 110th lap, his unrestrained head smacked into a retaining wall.

He died of facial injuries.


Thursday, June 19, 2008

A Thank-You for 18 Million Cracks in the Glass Ceiling

During the campaign, it was her opponent who owned the lofty rhetoric. But on the day she finally conceded defeat, it was Hillary Clinton's words that soared.

"As we gather here today," she told her supporters and staff members at the National Building Museum yesterday, "the 50th woman to leave this Earth is orbiting overhead. If we can blast 50 women into space, we will someday launch a woman into the White House."

Two hundred forty miles below the international space station, the midday sunlight pouring into the 100-foot-high atrium illuminated the thousands who had come to bid the Clinton presidential candidacy farewell: most of them women, many of them with young children, some of them in tears.

"Although we weren't able to shatter that highest, hardest glass ceiling this time, thanks to you, it's got about 18 million cracks in it," the former candidate continued. "And the light is shining through like never before, filling us all with the hope and the sure knowledge that the path will be a little easier next time."

It will be up to the historians to ponder why Clinton waited until the very last day of her campaign to give full voice to the epochal nature of her candidacy. Through the Democratic primary race of 2008, she had played down the significance of being the first woman within reach of the presidency. It's tempting to wonder whether things would have turned out differently if she had embraced the theme earlier -- but there can be little doubt that her last speech of the campaign was also her best.

Yesterday brought the House of Clinton full circle. Fifteen years ago, one of Bill Clinton's first inaugural balls had been held in this same building, modeled on Roman palaces. The Corinthian columns stood as before, but this time a white-haired Bill Clinton merely gave a silent salute to the crowd; he had said quite enough during the campaign.

The storied building was, too, a place to salve wounds. Congress ordered it built in the 1880s as the U.S. Pension Bureau to help the maimed of the Civil War. Yesterday it was used for a form of ritual cleansing, a chance for Clinton and her supporters to leave behind the hard feelings and put their support behind Barack Obama.

It didn't go exactly according to plan. When Clinton got to the exhortation to "do all we can to help elect Barack Obama the next president of the United States," some boos hollered from the balconies mixed with the applause. The isolated booing returned each of the half-dozen times Clinton returned to a variation of the phrase.

"I would die and slit my wrist before I'd vote for Obama," said a Silver Spring woman in the Clinton volunteers section who gave her name only as Edith. She wore a sign pinned to the back of her Hillary T-shirt proposing: "Remember in November: vote present."

There were hints that Clinton herself was appearing with reluctance. She arrived 45 minutes late for the concession speech, after refusing to acknowledge Obama's victory at all after he clinched the nomination on Tuesday night. She wore black. She took the stage to the Goo Goo Dolls tune "Better Days." She uttered 650 words before she finally uttered "Barack Obama."

"Well, this isn't exactly the party I'd planned," she said, "but I sure like the company."

No doubt. It was that rare campaign event attended by both Sidney Blumenthal and Matt Drudge. The floor and balconies were jammed with thousands of supporters, who had lined up in the oppressive heat. Among them: 81-year-old Norma Mobley of Dallas, a McCain supporter who was in town for a funeral but came to see Clinton because "it's a part of history."

History was on Clinton's mind, too. "When I was asked what it means to be a woman running for president, I always gave the same answer: that I was proud to be running as a woman but I was running because I thought I'd be the best president," she said. "But I am a woman, and, like millions of women, I know there are still barriers and biases out there, often unconscious, and I want to build an America that respects and embraces the potential of every last one of us.

"I ran as a daughter who benefited from opportunities my mother never dreamed of," she continued. "I ran as a mother who worries about my daughter's future and a mother who wants to leave all children brighter tomorrows. To build that future I see, we must make sure that women and men alike understand the struggles of their grandmothers and their mothers."

The words flowed with a force of conviction rarely seen on the campaign trail these many months. "From now on, it will be unremarkable for a woman to win primary state victories, unremarkable to have a woman in a close race to be our nominee, unremarkable to think that a woman can be the president of the United States," she told her supporters. "And that is truly remarkable."

Behind the podium, some of the young women who volunteered for the campaign wept and hugged as she spoke to "the young people who put so much into this campaign: It would break my heart if, in falling short of my goal, I in any way discouraged any of you from pursuing yours."

She recalled the struggles for abolition, suffrage and civil rights. "Because of you, children today will grow up taking for granted that an African American or a woman can, yes, become the president of the United States," she said. "And so when that day arrives, and a woman takes the oath of office as our president, we will all stand taller, proud of the values of our nation, proud that every little girl can dream big and that her dreams can come true in America."

Soon the last rally was over, and the crowd filed outside, where the Clinton '08 T-shirts had been marked down to $5 each. Before leaving, Clinton aide Maria Cardona, holding her 3-year-old son's hand and her 15-month-old daughter in a sling, paused to reflect on the candidate's parting words about the children.

"That's why I brought them," she said. "They both can be president." She looked at her daughter, who, like her brother, wore a "Mommy and Me for Hillary" T-shirt. "She can go first," Cardona said.


In Defeat, Clinton Graciously Pretends to Win

"What does Hillary want?"

Hillary Clinton put the question to her supporters here Tuesday night, moments after her opponent, Barack Obama, clinched the Democratic presidential nomination.

What Hillary did not want to do was to concede defeat. "I want the nearly 18 million Americans who voted for me to be respected, to be heard," she told her fans, who answered with cheers of "Denver! Denver!" and "Yes she will!"

The campaign was over, and Obama had locked up the nomination after a flood of more than 40 superdelegates announced their support for him throughout the day. But in the Baruch College gymnasium here (the "Bearcat Den"), Clinton spoke as if she were the victor.

She and her husband and daughter took the stage, smiling, clapping and bopping to the beat. She said nothing about losing the nomination, instead thanking South Dakota for giving her a victory in Tuesday's balloting: "You had the last word in this primary season!" This, she said, confirmed that she had won "more votes than any primary candidate in history."

Clinton congratulated Obama -- not for winning the nomination, but for running an "extraordinary race." She recognized Obama and his supporters "for all they accomplished."

It was an extraordinary performance by a woman who had been counted out of the race even when she still had a legitimate chance. Now she had been mathematically eliminated -- and she spoke as if she had won.

Though some might think her remarks self-delusional, Clinton wasn't kidding herself; earlier in the day, Clinton had told lawmakers privately that the race was over and she would consider being Obama's vice president. Her public defiance reflected a shift in the balance of power that came with Obama's victory. Now that he had won the race, he would need to woo Clinton if he wanted to prevail in November.

"Obama has work to do," the outspoken Clinton adviser Lanny Davis told reporters in the hallway outside the gymnasium here. "Senator Clinton can't do it for him."

Obama's aides had done their best throughout the day to build excitement for his clinching of the nomination. "Obama needs 41 delegates to secure the Democratic nomination," Obama spokesman Dan Pfeiffer announced in an e-mail he sent out at 6:56 a.m.

It was the beginning of a day-long water torture for Clinton, as Obama aimed, by day's end, to reach the 2,118 delegates needed to clinch the nomination.

For Obama, however, it wasn't a pretty way to clinch. He had won only six of the last 14 contests, and Tuesday night he lost South Dakota, too, where he had been heavily favored. Now that the party had partially accepted results from the Florida and Michigan primaries, Clinton could claim with some justification that she had received more votes than Obama.

And so the limping nominee needed to be carried across the finish line by the superdelegates whose support Pfeiffer announced throughout the day: a Michigan congresswoman, a Massachusetts superdelegate, one from Mississippi, two from Michigan, one from the District of Columbia, two from California, one from Florida, three from Delaware. "Twelve delegates from the nomination," Pfeiffer announced. Then 11, then 10.

The rush of the opportunistic superdelegates toward the inevitable nominee only worsened what was certain to be an unhappy day for the Clintons, who had arrived at their Westchester home at about 3 a.m. after an awkward last day of campaigning in South Dakota. Bill Clinton had flown into a rage and called a reporter a "scumbag." At her last event in South Dakota, Hillary had lost her voice in a coughing fit. Somebody had seen fit to play an inappropriate John Fogerty tune before she took the stage: "It ain't me, it ain't me. I ain't no fortunate one."

On Tuesday evening, the crowd began to assemble at Baruch College in Manhattan for Clinton's non-concession speech. The scene was made to look festive: The Clinton campaign ordered 70 boxes of Domino's pizza for the press corps, and set up a cash bar for its fundraisers, or "honored guests." The honored guests were not in a partying mood, however. One older woman pointed at a reporter accusingly and said: "He is the one who destroyed our heroine!"

A crew from "The Daily Show" joined the party, and, hoping to keep Clinton in the race, struck up a cheer of "Four more months!"

Such an outlandish thing seemed almost plausible among the Clinton backers in the hermetically sealed Baruch gym. Below ground level, there was no cellphone or BlackBerry reception, and there was no television playing in the room. That meant that they could not see the network projections showing that, while Clinton had won South Dakota, Obama had won enough delegates to clinch the nomination. Instead, they listened to Tom Petty's "Won't Back Down."

Just before Obama officially clinched, the Clinton campaign issued a press release as if it were still in the middle of a nominating battle. "Wyoming Automatic Delegate Backs Hillary," the e-mail said. It didn't include the name of the brave superdelegate.

Terry McAuliffe, the campaign chairman, took the stage and read the full list of Clinton's victories, from American Samoa to Massachusetts. Introducing Clinton, he asked: "Are you ready for the next president of the United States?"

This brought laughter from the reporters in the back of the room, but Clinton induced the crowd to boo the "pundits and naysayers" who would have run her from the race. "I am so proud we stayed the course together," she told her backers, who interjected cries of "We believe in you!" and "Yes, we will!"

Only obliquely did Clinton refer to the fact that she had, in fact, lost the nomination. "The question is: Where do we go from here?" she said. She would figure that out "in the coming days," she said, but "I will be making no decisions tonight." The crowd in the Bearcat Den erupted in a sustained cheer. She referred her supporters to her Web site, as she had after many a primary night victory.

For a candidate who had just lost the nomination, she seemed very much in charge.

That must be what Hillary wants.