This Day in Death

1.12.13: Newspaper Editor and Social Crusader Eugene Patterson – DEAD!

Filed under: Dead —James @ 9:54 am January 15, 2013

 Eugene Patterson obituaryMaybe I’m just a bit more pious than Mr. Patterson, but I personally never browse Bang Bus while the Good Book is in the same room. But every generation does these things their own way, I suppose.


Newspaper editor Eugene Patterson died of cancer on Saturday, which works pretty well as a reminder of your own mortality. So you should really sit down this evening and finally get moving on that project you’ve been talking about doing for months, as long as it’s not starting up a death blog. I’ve already got that covered and truthfully I will fold instantly at the slightest sign of competition.

But Patterson was more than just a symbol for how little you’ve done with your life and how much your parents and peers are silently judging you at every turn. He also gave a shit about the seemingly un-give-a-shittable topic of not sounding like a goddamn chimp in your writing:

Gradually, he learned how to write. He read and learned what he called “the melody” of the written word, practiced it in the always-against-a-deadline world of the wire services, and then fine-tuned it as a daily columnist in Atlanta.

Years later in St. Petersburg, as a prominent figure in American journalism and supervisor of dozens of reporters, Mr. Patterson bridled at what he called the graceless writing in most newspapers.

“I’ve always had a short temper when it comes to seeing a poorly written paper,” he said. “This is our job. If we can’t use the language, who can?”

This is as good a time as any to note that whatever typos or poor syntax you find on this blog really fall on the shoulders of Bakulu, the Voodoo spirit loa that does all of the actual typing for me. Originally I just conjured him up to help me get out of some unpaid speeding tickets, but we got to talking and it turned out we had a lot in common, so it just seemed like a natural fit.

When Mr. Patterson was arrested in 1976 for driving while intoxicated, he ordered that it be reported on Page 1A. Most DWI arrests are not mentioned by the Times, and Mr. Patterson’s subordinates argued that, at most, his arrest warranted only a few paragraphs somewhere in the local section.

Mr. Patterson was adamant, however. The editor of a newspaper has “to be able to say for the rest of his life, ‘I put myself on Page 1, so you can’t ask me not to put you there,’ ” he said.

That’s some serious integrity, and it really speaks to his commitment to truth and transparency. Although that makes it especially odd that he wasn’t willing to pay me for my shocking exposé about how MedicAlert bracelets don’t do anything but send social security numbers to the Iranian government. He said I had to have “evidence,” and I haven’t looked it up yet but I think that’s one of those words from medieval times that people use just to sound smart.

Source: The Tampa Bay Times

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