Ima Farseer fulfilled one of her life goals when she became dean of the Department of Et. Al., Et. Al., at Letongaloosa Community Junior College. Ima had from, the time she was a child, wanted to be a faculty member at an institution of higher learning.
Her other long-held desire was to be a journalist. As a child, Ima had awakened early one morning to the sound of a newsboy out in the street shouting “extra,” “extra.” From then on Ima thought that going about gathering information and writing it up in a newspaper would be exciting.
Aspiring to be a journalist and becoming one, Ima found, would require her to overcome a long-time fear of talking to reporters.
In her capacity as a college dean, Ima had no difficulty meeting and talking with students, parents, faculty members and other educational professionals. That came with the job and she was comfortable with it. But when some event brought reporters to the campus and the president ordered her to “take care of the situation,” Ima wasn’t at all comfortable
Journalists seemed SO self-confident. In a group, they tended to be loud and pushy. Reporters asked far-fetched questions like “Dr. Farseer is it true that the president of Letongaloosa Community Junior College has been nominated for a
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Nobel Prize for literature?”
Ima had to answer such mush without demeaning her boss.
On the other side, some resourceful journalists who had obtained information from sources inside the institution created serious problems for LCJC. Those questions had to be answered truthfully (lying to the press always caused problems) but very diplomatically.
Responses to questions about the budget, issues of federal funding, and some things about diversity required very careful wording.
Being pragmatic by nature, Ima decided to take her questions about the press to the source itself—in this case the editor and publisher of the local newspaper, the Letongaloosa Challenger-Bulletin-Clarion-Journal-Post.
Ima had known the editor/publisher, Michael Stoneworthy, for years. They had served together as members of local boards of directors. Theirs was a case of mutual, if sometimes uncomfortable, need. LCJC needed newspaper coverage and the newspaper needed to cover the town’s major institution of higher education appropriately.
Ima walked into Stoneworthy’s office at a time she knew he’d be the least busy.
“Mike, I need your help. I want to do what you do,” said Ima.
“Why would you want to fight the rising cost of newsprint and be yelled at by everybody in town?”
“No. I don’t want to run a newspaper. I want to be a reporter.”
“Wouldn’t we all?” he mused. “Those people have all the fun and have none of the headaches.”
“So how do I do it? I’m afraid to ask strangers hard questions, and that’s what reporters do all day long. I look at them—when I’m not talking about issues at LCJC, and I just dry up. They seem so formidable and self-confident with their notebooks and tape recorders.”
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Michael Stoneworthy paused, turned in his swivel chair and looked out the window of his office.
“A hundred years ago, when I was a cub reporter, I asked my publisher, Carlton James, the same question. He was a wise old duck, and he looked at me and said:
“Mike, what you need to do is dethrone these bozos without their knowing you’re doing it. You need to look at these formidable dudes and pretend that they’re sitting there in their underwear. You try to see through to their boxer shorts, and the black sock-holders strapped around their shins. They’re wearing their favorite frayed undershirt that they can’t bring themselves to discard.
“When you see them that way in your mind’s eye you say to yourself,
“I’m not afraid of these bozos.”
“Then you just speak up and ask your questions.”
“Did it work?”
“It worked for old James, and it worked for me.”
“Mike, you’re a lifesaver.”
“How would you like to go to dinner?”
“I’d love that Mike.”