In Our Midsts

OKLAHOMA CITY — Assorted thoughts. The professionals among the conferees and the speakers all were pessimistic about the future of the newspaper business. It was just a matter of degree. The most hopeful see journalism shifting mostly to the Internet with a minority paper presence. The dourest — and they actually were in a position to know and not just reflecting on Romenesko like I do — were sure the Internet would change or subvert or kill real reporting. One said he hoped to hit retirement age before that happens.

I was due at work at 5 p.m. so My Beloved and I took in a great brunch early. Fayetteville was four hours’ drive, either through Tulsa or past Sallisaw. MB suggested phoning the Oklahoma City Museum of Art Cafe. Somehow I got connected to a line cook. He wasn’t sure if reservations would be needed but when he described the special and his internal debate about whether the lobster omelet with Serrano peppers also would need salsa — well, he sold me there.

The museum also was downtown, with its building named for Don Reynolds, is handsome and apparently has a strong, diverse but modest collection. But being Sunday it opened at 1, and we would be on our way east. The omelet was fine (though our first and never-to-be-topped lobster omelet was served at the Maine Diner nine months ago), and the restaurant was sunny, busy, and not too big. When eating trafe, do it right. Continue reading

Lasso Round-up

Will Rogers Writers’ Workshop, OKLAHOMA CITY — Susan Driscoll, CEO of iUniverse, spoke first, following a hot breakfast buffet to which the self-publishing firm treated us. I see why friends have published books, several of whom have gone the print-on-demand route, yet it’s not for me. No books. I’m more of a pamphleteer. But after years of reading writers’ magazines, between Susan and Tim Bete I see the economic advantage. If the author will end up doing all or most of the marketing, why not keep more of the revenue? The book, no matter the imprint, will be at your favorite bookstore and online, and the table where you’re signing.

Still, I was most impressed at the author’s tables here by those with the old New York publishers. By the percentage of flops, traditional publishers should be bankrupt millions of times. They’re not, and the business has not undergone any more mergers than any other. If a snooty publisher selects your book, it has jumped a critical critical hoop. It’s not so much that I’m old-fashioned but I’ve seen the review books dumped on the book editor’s desk, daily. You have to winnow.

W. Bruce Cameron is traditionally and prominently published. He’s been on Oprah, both the magazine and the TV show. He’s nice, and very funny. Yet there he was autographing anything that would hold ink. Continue reading

Wayne, Reagan and Lincoln

Will Rogers Writer’s Workshop, OKLAHOMA CITY — This Friday-Saturday set of seminars concerned humor writing — for newspapers, magazines, books and in one session greeting cards, covering the writing of funny essays but also sound feature reporting. Improving one’s marketing skills was featured in several ways. The impact of the Internet must have been mentioned in every class and was the subject of two.

What did I learn from famed Dallas-based writing coach Paula LaRocque, the first instructional speaker? Uh, it’s good to reminded of the basics, and she’s clear, cheerful and witty at that. Paula sees a use for the bulleted list in essays and articles. It makes it easier for the reader when the writer is hitting what she called a complex thought, but she meant serial thought. Complex thought was not discussed. Also, a starred list helps the reader when statistics or other figures are presented. Paula relies on PowerPoint, and evidently she thinks its structure improves literature overall.

Jeffrey Zaslow of The Wall Street Journal combined the two main parts — so far — of his enviable career in “Take My Advice: Write Features,” as he spent 14 years as a major advice columnist and wrote feature articles and columns before and since. Continue reading

Newspaper Redcoats

OKLAHOMA CITY — The Will Rogers Writers’ Workshop began with an evening reception Thursday, March 15, 2007, at the Gaylord headquarters, aka Oklahoma Publishing Co., aka The Oklahoman newspaper. The firm is far bigger than that, reminiscent of Donrey Media but older and broader, with TV stations besides newspapers of course, but also hotels. Old man Gaylord must’ve won at Monopoly. Or he was behind the Cowpoke Monopoly version.

It’s north of town, a tall, glass-walled office building hooked to a long low brown building, likely where the paper’s put together. Our party was in the former, in a large meeting room. We numbered at least 50, sat at large round tables, and filled perhaps half the space. Next to it was a small auditorium; the rest of the tower seemed to comprise offices. Peaking in, the Human Resources office looked like the lobby of a small new bank.

We did not get a newsroom-press tour. My Beloved and I left at the beginning of the second restored Will Rogers video after I questioned one of the catering staff. He said that since he saw no one in a red jacket and it was getting late, no tour was planned. The Gaylord complex is so organized it has uniformed tour guides. Imagine how the Copy Desk must feel when a redcoat is seen, leading Japanese tourists with cameras. Continue reading