Firing out a column from the shotgun

By Hunter Ford

I was talking with my buddy Shane the other day and he said he had a couple of ideas for a column and couldn’t decide which one to go with.

“Do them both at the same time,” I advised.

How do you do that?

Occasionally, when writing a weekly column, inspiration can come in fragments or not at all. But the glaring white light of the blank screen will be there one way or the other and the monster must be fed.

Here’s how to fill it up. Anybody remember the rambling columns that Larry King used to write for USA Today? (Does he still write them?)

No, I scanned the Net and found this bit of info from a 2001 newspaper article:
“Larry King’s USA Today column, a weekly offering studded with plugs, superlatives and dropped names — all usually in close proximity to one another — will cease publication at the end of this month.”

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King would say something like, “For my money there’s no better movie out now than Raiders of the Lost Ark.”

And he would follow it up with another completely random thought like, “Frank Sinatra and the Rat Pack were some of the best entertainers to grace the stage.”

You know, for my money, the summer Olympics are excruciatingly boring and a complete waste of time.

I saw a picture of some U.S. swimmers winning gold medals and instead of national pride, I felt annoyed.

One of the guys was wearing tights that were pulled down across his hips, coming just shy of exposing a lot more than should be seen in a family newspaper.

I also read that a pair of Auburn swimmers won some medals. Yay Auburn! The kicker, however is that the Aubies won the medals for their respective home countries of France and Australia. Viva La War Eagle Mate!

So, I was watching the Olympic coverage on TV Sunday night and switched channels when I couldn’t make any sense of it. I caught an old movie called “Teachers Pet” with Clark Gable and Doris Day. Gable plays a grizzled New York newspaper editor and Day is a journalism professor at a local college. I found it very interesting that some of the discussion of the state of journalism in this 1958 movie still rings very true today.

At one point a character, playing another editor, bemoans the fact that “We can’t beat radio and TV.” There was discussion of going back to doing “think pieces” that give readers more of the “why” behind important stories and not just the “where, who and how” that TV and radio will get first.

One thing that is different in the industry is that experience doesn’t seem to count for as much as it used to. It is much more important to have a college degree in order to get a job.

Gables character didn’t even finish high school. He learned the newspaper business through the school of hard knocks. Lots of shoe leather. He scoffed that anyone needed to go to a college to learn the trade. “Amateurs teaching amateurs to be amateurs,” Gable barked.

Day’s character was the daughter of a famous weekly newspaper publisher. On her desk was a plaque of her father’s that read: “If you want to sell newspapers tomorrow, try deception. If you want to sell newspapers ten years from now, try the truth.”

There are some weekly newspaper editors in this area that might heed that advice.

Coming full circle back to my pal Shane. I ran into an old classmate from my hometown of Huntsville.

He said he had heard me on the radio a few times last year, and he wondered what Shane was like, if I knew him.

“Shane is exactly like he is on the radio,” I said. “He’s honest and unabashed with his opinions, and if he’s your friend he’ll take a bullet for you.”

My friend asked about Paul Finebaum.

“Oh, he’s a jerk,” I said. “But you have to give him credit, he is very, very good at what he does.”

And nobody wears the number 12 better, or has worn it longer. Not even Namath, Stabler or Trammel.

For my money the Finebaum Show is still the best sports show around.

Hunter’s and Shane’s columns can be read in The Western Star and on Capstone Report at Contact Hunter at