Sunday, November 16, 2008

Sac Bee's Marcos Breton on tap for Column Writing class

SACRAMENTO, Calif., USA - This week the column-writing class at CSU, Sacramento is hoping to hear from Sacramento Bee columnist Marcos Breton as a guest speaker in class. Breton, who in the past has written about and sports and other feature-type stories for the newspaper, now is a major city-side columnist.

In recent months, he has written a lot about the Kevin Johnson-Heather Fargo race for mayor of Sacramento.

And most recently (Sunday), he wrote about the controversial Proposition 8 which state voters just approved.

  • Tolerance or intolerance?

  • Marcos Breton
    Marcos Breton

    Breton was scheduled to speak in class a few weeks ago, but like so many other staff members at the Bee, has been busy doing his job - and a lot more - to help the newspaper with its struggles in the down economy and had to cancel.

    Tuesday, November 11, 2008

    AP's Chelsea Carter talks about heading to Baghdad

    SACRAMENTO, Calif., USA - Sacramento State alum Chelsea Carter told an audience of about 50 students at CSU, Sacramento Monday that she would be required to wear body armor and a helmet - at least some of the time - when she is working for the Associated Press in Iraq, but that getting an overseas posting has been a dream of hers for years.

    Carter, a former State Hornet newspaper reporter outlined her career that took her first to the Lodi News-Sentinel in Lodi, Calif. after graduation with a B.A. in Journalism in the mid 1990s. She then was hired by the Associated Press and worked in Charleston, W. Va. , New York and Southern California and has also worked as a national writer for the AP.

    Later this week, she will be flying into Baghdad to be a foreign correspondent for AP.

    Most recently she has been working as a military affairs reporter for the AP. She was on board the Abraham Lincoln aircraft carrier in 2003 when President George W. Bush made his now-famous "Mission Accomplished" speech about the war in Iraq.

    She also told the students about a very tense moment she had during a near-riot and fight in New York City while she was covering the Million Youth March. She watched the riot and fight take place and barely escaped.

    She said that she learned that day she could put her fear of personal safety aside when pursuing a story.

    "I can do anything for the job," she said.

    Admiral Fox and Chelsea Carter
    Journalism Professor Sylvia Fox, left, and AP's Chelsea Carter

    Sunday, November 09, 2008

    Chuck Yeager, 'The Right Stuff' on tap for Literary Journalists again

    SACRAMENTO, Calif., USA - Tom Wolfe's classic book about the U.S. space program, The Right Stuff, will be up for discussion again Monday night in Literary Journalism class.

    The book got generally good reviews in the first round of class chatter - I even got to tell my Chuck Yeager story.

    Chuck Yeager about the time he broke the sound barrier

    A much older Chuck Yeager

    I had just taken over as editor of The Union newspaper in Grass Valley in 1980 - after a particularly bruising time in the newsroom with a rebellious staff. I came back from lunch to find a grinning Chuck Yeager, sitting in my editor's chair with his cowboy boots on the deck, heels digging into some papers I had left there.

    I went straight for the desk and told Yeager to get his $^%&#&* boots off my desk, embarrassing the then-chair of the Nevada County Board of Supervisors, Eric Rood, who had brought Yeager in to show him off.

    He and Yeager had served in the US Air Force together.

    I had no idea who Yeager was, and in hindsight all these years later, I probably still would have told him to get his $^%&#&* boots off my desk had I known that the cocky guy sitting in my chair was the legendary Chuck Yeager.

    Yeager and I met a few times after that at Nevada County social functions and laughed (sort of) at that incident.

    Wednesday, November 05, 2008

    An evening on the town at the Hoppy Brewery

    SACRAMENTO, Calif., USA - The students in my column writing class fanned out across Sacramento in groups of four or five Tuesday to have dinner at various restaurants.

    It wasn't just hunger that drove them - it was part of an assignment to write a restaurant review.

    One group went to the Hoppy Brewing Company on Folsom Boulevard which was packed, partly because anyone who had voted in Tuesday's election was eligible for a free beer.

    Judging from Hoppy's, the turnout was phenomenal.

    Hoppy Brewery building in Sacramento
    Hoppy's in Sacramento

    My original plan had been to drop in on the various groups at each restaurant, checking to see how it was going.

    But the one free beer, coupled with what I think was a looooong wait for service, kept me rooted to the booth at Hoppy's.

    But I still get to read all the reviews, due Friday.

    Monday, November 03, 2008

    Literary Journalism takes a look at 'The Right Stuff'

    SACRAMENTO, Calif., USA - Literary Journalism will take a look at Tom Wolfe's book about the beginnings of the U.S. space program - The Right Stuff - for the next week or so.

    Wolfe's style - a classic in the Literary Journalism genre - shines through in this book as he puts the reader right inside the capsules of the first U.S. astronauts.

    Wolfe was around the astronauts a lot during those days, 'immersing' in the culture as Literary Journalists are wont to do.

    Tom Wolfe
    Tom Wolfe

    The highest praise for the book I have ever heard comes from Sanders Lamont, formerly an editor with the Modesto Bee and Sacramento Bee newspapers (and others) who was writing about the space program in those days and had met many of the astronauts and characters in the book.

    "He got it right," Sanders has told me several times.

    From a journalist who was there, on the ground writing objective news stories at the same time as Wolfe was putting the Literary Journalism interpretation on events, that is high praise indeed.

    I once had an encounter with the famous Chuck Yeager. Yeager was never an astronaut per se, but a hot-shot test pilot who broke the sound barrier and who figures prominently in The Right Stuff. By the time I met him, I was an editor at The Union newspaper in Grass Valley and Yeager was retired, living on some property in nearby Penn Valley. He still had an attitude - and ego - as big as a house.

    It didn't go well, but that's another story.

    Saturday, November 01, 2008

    Lunch with former students brings back the memories

    SAN RAFAEL, Calif., USA - Catching up with former journalism students is always fun, more so when you can span two generations.

    Friday, the Admiral and I dined with Natalye Childress Smith, Josh Stabb and Bill Meagher - all students who suffered through my lectures and bad jokes over the years. Natalye and Josh are relative newbies, having just graduated and who are now working as writers for Crittenden Research in Novato, Calif. Bill works there, too - but as an editor.

    And while Josh and Natalye caught me at CSU, Sacramento in the last couple of years, Bill is a alum of Chico State where I taught back in the mid 1980s, before make the long academic trek down the valley to Sacramento where I have been since 1986.

    Four amigos
    A class reunion or a reunion of class?

    Bill was a student columnist for the campus newspaper, The Orion, and had (and still has) great news instincts. His columns about then Chico State President Robin Wilson got Wilson so angry that Wilson would call me late at night (because I was the faculty adviser) and rail about Bill's work.

    Wilson never said any of the columns contained information that was inaccurate, he was just totally pissed off that Bill had printed anything about him. And Bill broke many good (journalistically speaking) stories about Wilson, which kept my phone ringing.

    Seeing students succeed - as all three of them have, they have jobs after all - is one of the rewards of teaching. I suspect teachers at all levels get the same kick out of seeing their former students out there, practicing what was once largely a classroom exercise.

    The only sad part about such reunions is that they are usually way too short, as this one was.

    But I know the solution to that problem.