Joe Starita helped save me from myself this week.
A former New York bureau chief and investigative reporter for the Miami Herald, Starita writes non-fiction and teaches journalism at the University of Nebraska. But when I met him more than a decade ago, he was the city editor and my boss at the Lincoln Journal Star. He subsisted back then, I’m pretty sure, on a diet of cigarettes, Coke, coffee, deli sandwiches and chocolate bars.
Starita, a wiry and tightly wound bundle of energy, gave me one of the worst ass chewings of my career after I didn’t hold a poorly written story that had been turned in late by two reporters and not edited nearly enough by me. I learned a valuable lesson: It’s OK to hold stories if they aren’t yet good enough to publish. The same holds true for blogging.
Earlier versions of this posting — which, thankfully, were not published — addressed how some readers responded to this week’s news about the new boss where I work now. Those first drafts were filled with snarky responses. (Snarky, by the way, was a Starita word for something he loved — writing that showed some attitude.)
After reading about the new boss, an online reader who often criticizes how comments are moderated on the news factory’s website, referred to me as Simba, the protagonist in the Disney film, “The Lion King.”
“Interesting,” he wrote. “Simba didn’t get the position?”
He later apologized and said he was not trying to be derogatory. I’ll take him at his word.
“Hakuna matata,” as they said in “The Lion King.”
This reader was wrong, though, because I’m a Shrek kind of guy — not yet regal or majestic enough to rule the jungle. But even ogres can learn from mentors like Joe Starita. And I’m anxious to learn from the new boss, who doesn’t appear to be monstrous, cruel or barbarous.