Bessie passes the bar!!!!!!!

Dateline: Thu 02 Oct 2008

Blogs that reference children and kittens are tiresome, but I promise there is a moral here.

Bessie Holladay, age 29, the baby of the family with two big brothers, was largely regarded by teachers and some peers during childhood as a "flibberty-gibbit" (Gracie Bill, her darling teacher at Childrens' Corner pre-school, made that pronouncement, not unkindly). Later it was: "She'll make a good wife." That was the diagnosis of another educator/friend, after testing her at the Bureau of Jewish Education in preparation for kindergarten -- a judgment that to this day causes my feminist friends to gnash their teeth in fury.

All thru St. Thomas Aquinas grade school, and even at Brebeuf Preparatory School, the flibberty-gibbit/wife candidate was often in trouble for big mouth: she talked out of turn, she whispered to the other girls in class (especially Manuela Pizzi) and in general she remained a "flibberty-gibbit," although a very sweet, smart and pretty one who always stole whatever show she was in (lots, starting with starring roles as Golem at the Civic Children's Theatre and the Pharoh at the Bureau of Jewish Ed).

After majoring in criminal justice at Indiana University, she briefly considered applying to the Indianapolis Poice Academy, but the family joke was that she'd lose her .38. The weapon, I figured, would disappear down that same hole where her purse, wallet, keys, extra lipstick, etc. ended up. Probably not a good idea to entrust her with a rather large piece.

What to do? In between boyfriends, with the "wife" part of life delayed, she took the advice of her big brother Andrew and his wife Joy and her big brother Zera. "Go to law school," they said. Both boys had jobs in Chicago working for a time for Craig Hammond, a tough woman lawyer who made an enduring impression on them, and not just for her unusual name.

So Bessie did, at John Marshall School of Law in Chicago. I am pretty sure she still talked out of turn in class. But she graduated in the top quarter or third or something respectable.

This week, she learned that she passed the Illinois Bar Exam -- she was one of 2,700 takers of the test in Illinois in July. (The average pass rate for July in Illinois is 85 percent. It is 70-75 percent in February, which is when many who failed in July are retaking it.)

Was she ecstatic? Only in the way that anyone is after completing a triathalon or mastering a complex skill set that entitles you to write J.D. or "esq" after your name or, yes, birthing a baby. She only called me three times with the throaty laughing message: "Guess what Mama? I passed the bar...."

Now, to the moral. It's so obvious, but here it is: Do not let others define you. Believe in yourself, with genuine humility and no false pride. If you are a parent, believe in your children. Encourage them at their talents. Or shut up when others are doing so.

Make moxie a part of your diet. Drink it at breakfast, noon and night. Swallow with a strong dose of reality.

Bessie does. As I fretted about the test results due out Wednesday, I suggested, selfishly, to her that she could always come home to Indiana...live with her parents...or one of her brothers....leave her cool boyfriend, a law student....play with the kittens....

"No way in hell, Mama," the flibberty-gibbit said. "If I fail this f----, I am going to take it again. I'm going to take it until I pass it," she told me.

She did, and maybe some of her teachers missed one other character trait: she is tenacious.

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IndyMoms.com kaput; now it's national momslikeme.com

Dateline: Wed 01 Oct 2008

An alert reader/former Gannetteer noticed an ad in Sunday's Star in the metro/state section, announcing that the popular but cynical IndyMoms.com will become the even more popular/cynical national website, momslikeme.

How Gannettish.

Reader/ex employee wonders if this isn't a Kevin Poortinga packaging plan, since he moved to Gannett Digital from the Star. This person asks: will the marketing department at the Star continue to run the site, or will it be masterminded out of Gannett HQ? And if so, what happens to the local Star employees who now keep this site afloat?

Clearly momslikeme is a national initiative; it's all over the web, as this reader noted in a later email. Also, while the new site is run out of Gannett, it has more markets than just Gannett. Says the reader, "The Grand Rapids Press is the largest of Michigan's eight Booth newspapers, all owned by Advance Newspapers, but it's listed on the momslikeme site.) Upcoming markets to be added include Indianapolis, Lafayette and Muncie."

Here is the link:

http://www.momslikeme.com/

"So what's next?" asks reader/Gannett ex. "Pawslikeme.com? Everyone working for Gannett should pause and get the hell out."

On a similar note, Indy.com/formerly known as InTake is also reportedly morphing into something a little more cynical and perhaps national. Anybody have any more info on this stratgy?

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Odds and ends, Gannettside

Dateline: Tue 30 Sep 2008

A reader says that the Star job description (the that made me want to take a nap) in the most recent post here sounds like Kevin Poortinga's old job. What, boy wonder Poortinga is gone? Yes, said the reader, who cited a post from Gannettblog July 2 saying that Poortinga went to Gannett Digital,

Here's the buzz, albeit a little ancient:

"Poortinga will become general manager/Digital Product Incubator at GCI's McLean, Va., headquarters. Last year, Poortinga won Gannett's first Innovator of the Year award for his work on the first mom's site, launched at Indianapolis."

Thanks as always to readers and Jim Hopkins of Gannettblog, who keep things humming.

In that spirit, Hopkins also reported Saturday that Newsache, the Cincinnati-based watcgdog blog of the Enquirer, folded its tents. Hopkins' quote: "'I'm leaving the blogging business,' Newsache's anonymous blogger says. 'And let me be clear: No one is silencing me. I'm just tired of it. The Enquirer is hopeless.'"

Too bad. Newsache won kudos from a top editor at the paper for helping the paper realize some of its flaws.

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The Star is hiring....if you want to break down silos....

Dateline: Sun 28 Sep 2008

A reader/friend/former Gannett slave saw this ad on JournalismJobs.com a week or so ago. As she notes, the job description hints at a cozier relationship between the second (newsroom) and third (ad/marketing) floors of 307 N. Penn, with the goal being to boost revenue.

Odd, she adds, to see such a job posting use words like marketing and readership. But then it's also Pure Gannett, and what strikes me as odd is that the company never learns from past mistakes. It just keeps chasing this carrot, rather than focus consistently on quality journalism.

Here's the pitch, which also is on CareerBuilder and was in today's Sunday Star:

"Executive Editor/Digital and Custom Content The Executive Editor/Digital and Custom Content will lead The Indianapolis Star's initiatives to become a next-generation leader in digital and niche print and on-line content. This individual will work with the Information Center Editor and, attuned to advertising, marketing, information technology and research and development goals and support, break down silos, develop new content and content management systems, and engage in strategic planning. This position will have a strong awareness of the audiences we serve, their lives and their roles in the geographic, cultural and economic make-up of Central Indiana.

"It will lead the Information Center's efforts to address the information needs of niche audiences and provide multi-media tools and other products to serve those audiences. Our goal is to reach more audiences with custom content delivered on more platforms, and this position will play a key role in that. This position also will be a leader within our Interstate Group of Gannett newspapers (metros Indianapolis, Louisville, Cincinnati and smaller to medium-sized papers in Indiana, Ohio, Michigan and Wisconsin) for multi-platform custom content. The position's channels of accountability are: -- Optimal presentation across all digital platforms of news information and special projects including 1st Amendment projects, multi-media, databases, calendar information, community conversation and reader/user interaction. -- The development of new niche web sites to bring together communities of users as we build our role as metro Indianapolis'prime source of community news and information. -- The integration of advertising and marketing initiatives into our digital and print operations, including new technology systems and advertising approaches that boost revenue while ensuring the independence of the information-gathering process from conflicting advertising and marketing influence. -- Strong custom publishing print and on-line products that meet the needs of information consumers and advertisers. -- Strong, audience and niche-focused, themed products for the core newspaper. -- Attention to budget, human resources, diversity/mainstreaming, ethics and other key goals of our company. In recognizing the new realities of the digital era, this position will focus solely on the above accountabilities. While it will have necessary involvement with budget, operations, story editing and planning, and other

aspects of the information center, it will not have day-to-day accountabilities for those functions. The position reports to the Editor and Vice President.

"If interested in this position, please respond to Dennis Ryerson/Editor at 307 N. Pennsylvania, Indianapolis, IN 46206."

Reaction here? Yawn. Makes me want to take a nap. Besides which, it has nothing to do with the mission, and everything to do with pandering. Bound to fail.

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Obama: us vs. them

Dateline: Fri 26 Sep 2008

This reflection on politics arrived yesterday from a former copy editor and colleague at the Indianapolis Star who, like so many, has moved on to a bigger and better life. He asked that his name not be used (to protect him from his mother-in-law).

The essay is worth running even without an author's name attached.To me, it cuts to the heart of this election: America's standing in the world, the perception (or not) that we are racist, and the dividing line between young and old in their allegiance to Obama or McCain. I am not saying that everyone who votes for McCain is a racist, and neither is this writer. But sometimes the hesitancy/fear of Obama clearly breaks out along racial lines.

As a bonus, this writer also has some family ties with Alaska and Sarah Palin. Small world.

Anyhow, here it is, from a real wordly guy and still a Hoosier:

"As the father-in-law of a young man from India and the son-in-law of a lifelong Indiana Republican, I am hearing some

interesting-yet-frightening things about the presidential election.

"The son-in-law (who was born in Bahrain of Indian parents, was schooled in India and now lives in Norway) observes that from what he's read in the international press and heard from friends and associates, the image of the United States hinges on whether we as a nation are willing to elect a nonwhite as president. Not electing him will leave the rest of the world thinking the country is trapped in a racist heritage. This view also is reflected in some of the stories out of the BBC.

"My mother-in-law, on the other hand, said she can't vote for Obama because of his religion. When informed that the man has been a nearly lifelong Christian, she says it still bothers her. The unspoken subtext here is that she is using 'religion' as a mask for race.

"Personally, I think there are far more voters like my mother-in-law. No matter what they tell the survey takers (after all, who's going to fess up to voting for McCain because he's white?), in the end there are going to be a lot of voters who will give a variety of reasons for voting for McCain that all are masks for racial preference.

"Finally, as if my family weren't politically touched enough already, my other daughter lives in Wasilla, Alaska. Yes, that Wasilla. She'll never vote for McCain no matter the VP, but with Palin as VP she's even more vocal -- but for two almost conflicting reasons. One she clearly thinks Palin lacks the background and experience to be president and her social

positions are backward thinking. But at the same time, she voted for her as governor of Alaska and wants her to stay in Juneau because she is a counterweight to the corrupt Republicans who controlled the state for decades and would love to get the governorship back. As for social policies, Alaska has a laid back, live-and-let-live ethos that allows people to live as they want in Alaska. If you're tough enough to last five years in the state -- the period needed to be considered a 'real' Alaskan -- then they won't begrudge you the way you live."

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