Paying homage to Maury White

Thoughts from the road …

Joe Biden may want to work a little harder in Wisconsin. Based on my highly unscientific observations while driving around in central Wisconsin, Trump is winning in this battleground state. At least if you go by campaign yard signs. I didn’t see a single Biden-Harris sign. I saw plenty of Trump-Pence signs — some of them surrounded by multiple U.S. flags. I guess having more than one flag exponentially increases your patriotism.

I’m really not sure yard signs are a good yardstick, so to speak, when it comes to political campaigns. But you have to wonder when you’re wandering around here. After all, Wisconsin is one of the battleground states that helped Trump sneak into the White House in 2016 because of 77,000 votes in a handful of places that swung the Electoral College in his favor even though he lost the popular vote by nearly 3 million ballots.

Gloria Borger on CNN.

We don’t have cable TV at hour house. So traveling for work means staying in hotels, which gives me an opportunity to watch pundits repeat conventional wisdom on all of the cable-news networks.

Watching MSNBC, CNN and Fox News this week has exposed me to a missed career opportunity. If only, prior to the pandemic, I could have had the foresight to become a cabinet maker/carpenter/handyman in our nation’s capital. I could have become rich making the built-in bookshelves and cabinets so many of the talking heads have in their home pandemic TV/Zoom studios.

A cottage industry has even cropped up to critique these rooms filled with walls of books and tchotchkes. And based on how popular these rooms have become, the pundits are paying attention to the critiques.

No, I’m not going to go there, but … On the road this week, I started listening — via my iPhone connected to the Apple CarPlay app on the rental car’s stereo — to the audiobook version of The Way Home: Tales from a life without technology by Mark Boyle.

The irony of this is not lost on me. Still, I don’t think I’ll follow his example even though I’m mostly enjoying the book as I drive around looking at Trump-Pence signs.

In fact, I’m enjoying the book enough that after getting to my hotel for the night, I went back to where Boyle wrote about being approached by an editor at The Guardian about writing a column on his experiences off the grid. Boyle accepted the work, but acknowledges he presents the newspaper with challenges not faced by editors for a long time. For one, Boyle writes the columns in longhand and sends them to the newspaper by mail. He walks a little more than 7 miles roundtrip to take the columns to the post office.

I never get to read the article online or in print, he wrote. I never know how many people liked it or shared it, which is exactly the way it should be. For as soon as journalism becomes a popularity contest, rewarding sensationalism, group think and deceit … people and places lose. And those who need to be held accountable win.

It’s hard to argue with that.

Back in my newspaper days, I often wrote notebook columns in which the column was filled with things culled from my notebook — sort of like what I’ve done here. The items were usually things that were interesting, but maybe not worthy of an entire story or column.

I copied this technique from the great Maury White, who worked at the Des Moines Register from 1946 to 1989 –the last 24 of those 43 years as a sports columnist. He often wrote columns that began with “A Little Bit about a Lot of Things″ — a technique he borrowed from other columnists around the country. Perhaps the most-famous practitioner of this type of column writing was Herb Caen, who wrote for nearly 60 years for the San Francisco Chronicle.

But I’ve always thought of White’s “A Little Bit about a Lot of Things” whenever I’ve filled a column (or blog post) with items culled from my notebook.

That’s enough for today. Thank you for stopping by. Be safe.

2 thoughts on “Paying homage to Maury White

  • On the one hand, I feel as though I would be perfectly happy if I had to give up my technology. On the other, I can’t imagine ever doing so because there’s just too much enriching material to be had at any second (and my hand cramps within minutes if forced to write long-hand). The trick for me is finding a balance.

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