The Yang Slinger: Vol. XXXVIII
Was Ben Montgomery wrong for angrily e-mailing the Florida Department of Education? Was Alex Lanfranconi wrong for Tweeting out the private e-mail? Was Axios wrong for firing its best reporter?
This is the story of a douchebag.
This is the story of an editor.
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But first, this is the story of a writer.
A writer who fired off a snippy e-mail.
His name is Ben Montgomery. If you follow this self-indulgent world of pens and print and ledes and nut graphs, you’ve possibly heard of him. Ben is the author of four books—including “A Shot in the Moonlight” and “Grandma Gatewood’s Walk.” He’s an Oklahoma kid who, after graduating from Arkansas Tech University, embarked upon a blissfully meandering journalism run that’s included stints at the Courier in Russellville, Ark., the Standard-Times in San Angelo, Texas, the Times Herald-Record in New York's Hudson River Valley, the Tampa Tribune, the Tampa Bay Times and, until recently, Axios—where he served as co-author of the Axios Tampa Bay newsletter. In 2011 he was a Pulitzer finalist for this series, titled, “For Their Own Good.” He is, unambiguously, a top-shelf writer/reporter.
A little less than two weeks ago, while he was still employed by Axios (a six-year-old news/politics website), Montgomery checked his e-mail to find a balled up wad of phlegm disguised as a press release from the Florida Department of Education. The subject line: GOVERNOR RON DESANTIS HOSTS ROUNDTABLE EXPOSING THE DIVERSITY EQUITY AND INCLUSION SCAM IN HIGHER EDUCATION.
Here’s what the release said …
At best, the document is a masturbatory release stimulant to folks like Ralph Reed and Hugh Hewitt, whose sphincters tingle and phalli moonwalk at the thought of bitch smacking the libtards and making sure little Caucasian boys and girls never have to ask themselves why 95 percent of the people buying groceries at the nearby Whole Foods are White while 95 percent of the baggers are Black. But at worst, it’s pure, old-school propaganda—what dictionary.com defines as, “information, especially of a biased or misleading nature, used to promote or publicize a particular political cause or point of view.”
I mean, is there even an argument to be made? Take a second and read the release. Now read it again. And again. Whether you’re hard right or hard left, the 825 words are—quite literally—information, especially of a biased or misleading nature, used to promote or publicize a particular political cause or point of view.
I don’t see the debate.
Which is why Montgomery digested the material and fired off, in response via private e-mail from one person to another, this: THIS IS PROPAGANDA, NOT A PRESS RELEASE.
Then he moved on and thought little of it.
Alex Lanfranconi is the Florida Department of Education’s director of communications. He’s held the position since last June, after having spent time in Washington working for a a pair of Republican representatives—New Jersey’s Chris Smith and Florida’s John Rutherford (while Lanfranconi was in his employ, Rutherford was one of 147 Republicans to vote against the certification of the 2020 presidential election).
During my three decades as a journalist, I’ve found that—with the rarest of exceptions—folks with titles like “director of communications” are easy to reach. I mean, the job suggests, literally, communicating. So whether I’m writing about the New York Mets or the Nashville Symphony or Bo Jackson or a senator’s tie collection, the first step has usually been calling the PR person. Because, again, that’s their job and they’re all but waiting for us.
Weirdly, however, in asking around Florida media, no one I know has ever spoken to Alex Lanfranconi—or (before this dust-up) even heard of Alex Lanfranconi. Hell, on Twitter he has a scant 428 followers, and on the Florida Department of Education’s website one can find a work number Lanfranconi doesn’t seem to answer and an e-mail address Lanfranconi doesn’t seem to respond to.
Like me and the world’s other 7.8 billion homo sapiens, Montgomery knew not the name Alex Lanfranconi. But then, shortly after the THIS IS PROPAGANDA, NOT A PRESS RELEASE e-mail, Montgomery received this text from a colleague:
Um … what?
It turns out Alex Lanfranconi had used his Twitter account to Tweet out this …
Now … if you don’t exist in the universes of media or communications, you might not understand the violation here. But it’s a huge one. Traditionally, PR people and reporters work with one another, beneath a banner of certain conditions. First, we (reporters) understand that sometimes PR people are required to put out bullshit. One of my dearest friends in the business is a woman named Kelly, a longtime sports and entertainment publicist. And what makes Kelly so great is she’ll usually offer a heads-up when crap is coming down the expressway. “Look, I have to pitch this cheesehead hat to you, and I know it’s sorta ridiculous, but …”
And that’s OK. Everyone gets it. Sometimes you even blurb about the cheesehead hat, because Kelly has done you right in the past. Oh—another thing about Kelly is she’s blunt and direct and to the point. If you write something she doesn’t like, she’ll call and tell you you’re a fucking asshole. Then you’ll say, “Actually, you’re a fucking asshole.” And she’ll say, “No, you’re a fucking asshole and the next time I see you I'm gonna punch you in the teeth.” Then you’ll both laugh, grab some lunch and move on. This is how the vast majority of publicists I've encountered work and how the vast majority of journalists I've encountered work: There’s give and take, highs and lows, back and forth. Ultimately, there’s understanding. We all have jobs to do. We’re all humans with mortgages and kids and “Vanderpump Rules” loaded up and ready to go on the ol' DVR.
Lately, however, this has changed—particularly in politics, and particularly in Florida. Under the reign of Gov. Ron DeSantis, the media is the enemy of the people, and the best way for a 30-year-old pink meanie jellyfishlike Alex Lanfranconi to rise up the ranks isn’t to work with the press, but to embarrass, humiliate and punish the press. It’s actually weird, because you’d think—as the Florida Department of Education’s director of communications—Lanfranconi’s primary objective would be to update the state’s 22.6 million residents on things like, oh, award-winning teachers and students earning scholarships to Harvard and MIT. But, no. Despite holding a position funded by taxpayers of all political stripes, Lanfranconi exists to serve as a Christ-like culture warrior. That’s why his Twitter feed is highlighted by sludge like this …
And this …
And this …
And that’s also why Alex Lanfranconi didn’t hesitate to cross every possible code of writer-publicist decency and Tweet out a private e-mail sent from one person to another. Because, hey, why let common courtesy stand in the way of a sick media burn? Why be professional when you can humiliate the perceived enemy? “These people do not act on good faith,” said Nate Monroe, a columnist for the Florida Times-Union in Jacksonville. “They’re serving the purely political agenda of Ron DeSantis. There’s no effort to do the right or kind thing. It’s all politics.” So Lanfranconi Tweeted out Montgomery’s THIS IS PROPAGANDA, NOT A PRESS RELEASE, and—as the DeSantis machine does particularly well—the right wing apparatus went bananas.
First, Alex Lanfranconi’s Tweet was re-Tweeted by Bryan Griffin, DeSantis’ press secretary and a man who—like MC Alex Slick Bro—doesn’t seem to have much use for, eh, professionalism. Then it was re-Tweeted re-Tweeted by Glenn Greenwald, who puts the quotes in “journalist” (but who also has two million Twitter followers). With those two moves—BOOM!—shit was poppin’. Suddenly, Ben Montgomery’s name was all over right-wing social media as the [fill in the blank with your ugliest adjective] liberal media [fill in the blank with your ugliest noun] who does [verb] to [noun plural]. Ben Montgomery was all over Twitter. All over Instagram. All over Tik Tok. All over Fox News. All over the landscape of angry right gossip.
And then—in the time in takes to construct a snarky seven-word e-mail response—he was fired.
The editor’s name is Jamie Stockwell.
She arrived at Axios exactly one year ago, following nearly four years as a deputy national editor at the New York Times and 11 years at the San Antonio Express News. Like many in our business, Stockwell has succeeded without making too much of a public imprint. And I don’t mean that as an insult—in the era of Me-Me-Me media, she had a lengthy run while simultaneously not drawing much attention to herself. When asked several years ago what she digs about being an editor, Stockwell’s delightfully nerdy reply spoke volumes. “I just love working with reporters and editors from the beginning of reporting all the way through to the final editing,” she said. “I love working with the designers to get it packaged and presented in a very interactive and engaging fashion online, and then in print so that it feels more like a lean-back experience where it’s something that readers can really spend some time with.”
In our business, there are an endless number of Jamie Stockwells. Which is to say, people who rise and rise and rise by being good enough to advance but wise enough to never rock a boat. They do their jobs well. They show up on time. They work hard. Do they knock your socks off? No. Do they infuriate you? Also no. In short, they keep the vessel moving forward. They’re steady AF.
When he initially learned of the backlash to his e-mail, Montgomery never thought his position was in jeopardy. And, really, why would he? First, it was all fake outrage generated by those with a political agenda (aka: nary a single person was actually mad. It was strictly performative). Second, it was a private e-mail made public by a pimply flack who crossed too many lines to count. Third, it was a gnat on an elephant. And fourth—if there’s one thing veteran editors (like Stockwell) tend to have in common, it’s that they almost always have the backs of their reporters. Sometimes I find myself reflecting on my days at Sports Illustrated, where my baseball editor was a snarling, hard-nosed motherfucker named Mike Bevans. Anyone who worked with Mike knew what it was to have his head torn off during an editing session. But Mike was also relentlessly defensive of his charges, and wouldn’t hesitate to tell anyone (team officials, league officials, etc) standing in our way to shut the fuck up or face some serious wrath.
And, were she gifted with that level of backbone, this is surely what Jamie Stockwell would have done. Hell, I asked Chat GPT to write it up—and the results are actually shockingly on point …
Seriously, Jamie Stockwell needed to call Alex Lanfranconi. And if he didn’t answer, she needed to call again. And again. And again. And she needed to say, in some form, “Are you fucking kidding me? You know we cover you guys fairly—and this is the shit you pull? Seriously? You Tweet out my reporter’s private e-mail? And you don’t even have the guts to call him? Or write him back? Breh, why take a job in communications if you don’t communicate?”
And this is a hugely important point, so pardon the digression: The thing about Lanfranconi (and Griffin) is they’re (to go super old school here) two of the biggest motherfucking wusses on the planet. I mean, I’ve never seen anything like this. LOUD and BRASH and CRUEL and PIERCING with their tiny little stub fingers, nonexistent and unresponsive when it comes to genuine interaction. In the old days, if someone like Lanfranconi were legitimately angry over Montgomery’s THIS IS PROPAGANDA, NOT A PRESS RELEASE, he’d (gasp!) call him. Like any functioning human with guts and integrity. He’d call and say, “Ben, that wasn’t cool.” And Ben would say, “What wasn’t cool?” And Alex would say, “That reply to our e-mail. I didn’t appreciate it.” And they’d talk it out. Because—pre-Trump and pre-DeSantis—that’s what we did. We talked things out. We argued, we seethed, we cursed. But, ultimately, we behaved as adults.
That’s why, in advance of writing this, I sent Alex Lanfranconi this e-mail to his private account …
Sent another e-mail to his work account.
Then I left a message at his work phone.
Then I sent him this text (it wasn’t easy getting his cell number) …
Then I called the cell number—and got his voice mail. So I left a message.
Then I DMed his wife—a publicist whose name I won’t use here—via Twitter …
And you may think, “Wow, that’s excessive.” But it’s not. See, in journalism, we live and die with accountability. So when you’re writing about someone (as I am here), and you’re chronicling stuff that might impact a reputation, you try and be fair and detailed and accurate. You call—then call again and again. Just to make certain. That way, when you find out that Alex Lanfranconi, the Florida Department of Education’s director of communications, is in fact a graduate of a high school that recently asked gay, transgender, and gender nonconforming students to leave immediately, you know you have your shit correct. And that way, when you find out that Alex Lanfranconi, the Florida Department of Education’s director of communications, has a close relative who posts conspiracy theory crazinesss like this …
… you know you have your shit correct. And that way, when you find out that Alex Lanfranconi, the Florida Department of Education’s director of communications, had an amazing grandfather who served in the U.S. Army during the Korean War, you both know you have your shit correct and wonder whether honor still matters in the Lanfranconi genes. Whether integrity still matters. Whether being up front and decent and accountable still matter.
And that way, when you finally get Alex Lanfranconi, the Florida Department of Education’s director of communications, on the phone, you can ask him, authoritatively, “Why did you Tweet that out without first calling the reporter? Were you just trying to score points? Were were trying to impress Ron DeSantis and Bryan Griffin? You’re a product of a Christian education—does this strike you as a Christ-like way to exist? And are you happy Axios fired Ben Montgomery? Do you think it’s the right thing to do? Did his e-mail meet the standards of losing a job? And does it matter to you that he’s a divorced father raising two daughters on unemployment? Can you sleep with that knowledge? Are you satisfied?”
Alas, Alex Lanfranconi, the Florida Department of Education’s director of communications, never got back to me. Because he’s a wanna-be social media cowboy coward, hiding beneath his desk while planning his next viral Tweet and working to make sure every gay Floridian kid feels like dirt (I texted Griffin, too. He also never responded. To quote a reporter I spoke with—“These guys never get back to us. They shoot and hide.”)
But as bad as that is—it doesn’t come close to the brute-strength ridiculousness of Stockwell not merely failing to defend Montgomery, but calling him to say that, because of the private e-mail that was egregiously Tweeted out by Lanfranconi, he was being terminated. “When the person who fired me called and started reading the script, I said, ‘Oh, this is happening. This is really happening,’” Montgomery told me. “I told her I wouldn’t make calls, but I was going to answer the people who ask—and that it wouldn’t look good for Axios and her. I’m not sure she heard me.”
I need to make sure people reading this fully grasp the preposterous nature of Montgomery’s dismissal. In the course of my career as a young writer at The (Nashville) Tennessean, I asked a chef whether he’d ever cooked human flesh. I (jokingly) e-mailed a co-worker that she was a bitch—and as a result had her thinking a stalker had hacked her laptop. I made no less than 25 factual errors in my copy, got kicked out of a press conference for snickering derisively, butchered more names that one might think humanly possible—and was never fired. Why? Because my editors actually believed in me, and supported me, and nurtured me, and defended me, and wanted me to succeed. I was punished and demoted and chewed out on multiple occasions. But also backed. And lord knows, I was no Ben Montgomery when it comes to output and professionalism. Not even close. Seriously, Ben Montgomery was Axios’ best journalist. And I’m not even sure there’s a close second.
I reached out to Stockwell and told her what I was working on. She replied on the record with this …
Then this exchange …
That was the last I heard from anyone at Axios.
Like Lanfranconi, they went into hiding.
You have a question to ask.
I know you have a question to ask.
You don’t wanna sound stupid, so you’re holding it back. But you’re thinking it. I’m 100-percent certain you’re thinking it.
Was Ben Montgomery wrong to have responded to the e-mail with THIS IS PROPAGANDA, NOT A PRESS RELEASE?
No, he was not wrong because—again, without question—the press release was propaganda and we, as journalists, exist in part to call out nonsense. But yes, he was wrong in that Axios is an outlet that lives and dies with political relationships—and firing off THIS IS PROPAGANDA, NOT A PRESS RELEASE certainly wasn’t worth any potential payoff. Especially when Team DeSantis exists to keep reporters in its crossfire. “As a journalist, no, Ben wasn’t wrong because what he wrote was correct,” said Charlie Pierce, the fantastic Esquire scribe who wrote about the whole ordeal. “But as someone who might want to work on the beat, you might want to be more polite.”
Pierce paused to gather his thoughts.
“The bottom line—the release is an embarrassment. Not only to anyone with a brain, but to anyone who’d think the Florida Department of Education should be repped by someone who can write a fucking sentence. Ben’s response was certainly direct and certainly did not carry any nuance. But to tell me he did something wrong by the practice and ethics of journalism—that’s way out of bounds.”
To the myriad journalists I spoke with for this entry, the most egregious part is that—by firing Montgomery for a transgression that, at most, warranted a feathery slap on the wrist—Stockwell and Co. gave the twerps precisely what they wanted. “There’s now an undercurrent of hostility toward journalists here in Florida that’s unique to the era,” said Monroe, the Florida Times-Union scribe. “The idea that a career should be ended, that harm should come to you—because of that response to an e-mail? It’s insanity. Even if you think what Ben did was wrong, what the publicist did was so much worse. And now Axios is rewarding that guy.
“Ben Montgomery is a great reporter and writer, and he was fired because one of the governor’s loyalists was seeking it. We now live in a world where a news outlet is giving a bad-faith government agency the response it wants. If all of us were subject for termination for getting snippy, none of us would ever be employed.
“I think Ron DeSantis would love that.”
The Quaz Five with … Carina Conti
I first came to know Carina Conti from her run on “Winning Time” as Paula Abdul. She’s an uber-talented actress and dancer, and also a zen master of making Instagram work for her. So I thought it’d be cool to pick her brain right here in Substack Quaz land. Follow her here.
1. Ever since I first knew of you from your run as "Paula Abdul" in "Winning Time," I've been impressed by your usage of social media to promote your career/work. What's your approach? What's the goal?: My relationship with social media, specifically Instagram, has really shifted over the past seven years. When I first moved to LA, I was so impressed by likes and followers; I really felt inferior just based on these numbers. When I started to realize how inaccurate and superficial those stats can be as a representation of your talent, success, or potential, my relationship with the app shifted to a much healthier, more fruitful place. Now I see Instagram as a platform to share my creative projects - whether that be dance, photography, or acting. I view it as my own portfolio, first for me, and second as a way to connect with my circle and other creatives. It can be an incredibly unifying and inspiring tool when it’s used in a healthy way!
2. You're sort of a cliche (I say this with great respect, to be clear)—the 20-something actress/dancer who comes to Los Angeles seeking the Hollywood dream. And all one hears is how fucking hard it is. So, Carina, how fucking hard is it?: Haha, it’s hard. I am surrounded by friends who awe and inspire me with their talent, who are still pushing to get agents, managers, and casting directors to just give them that preliminary ‘yes.’ The year I was cast in “Winning Time,” my goal for the whole year was just to get casting directors to let me in the door — not even to book a role, just to get them to let me audition! Sometimes, no matter how talented you are, it takes patience to build relationships and earn trust. The timing has to be right, the role has to be right, you have to be connected to someone who is connected to someone. The “Winning Time” audition came through my dance agent, which was a total fluke because a recurring-guest-star role for a TV show would typically come through a theatrical agent, and I didn’t have one at the time. If I hadn’t gone out on a limb years before to audition for the Movement Talent Agency, “Winning Time” would’ve never found me.
3. How did you land the Abdul part? And what has it done (if anything) for your career?: I was in Arizona, filming a music video with some good friends, when the audition came through. With a quick turnaround, of course. So, instead of taping at home, where I have my professional self-tape setup, we taped on an iPhone in my friend’s living room in Arizona. It’s a good lesson for me that the quality of the tape doesn’t matter as much as the quality or fit of the actor. There were three callbacks, each several weeks apart, so at every round I was sure I didn’t get it. And each time I did get to come back, I told myself, “Well, alright, do the best you can, and that’s all you can do.” Especially when they’re casting for a real person’s look-a-like, you as an actor can only do so much.
The role has proven to be a real blessing because it establishes me as a professional actor who is equally professional as a dancer, and that’s a rare thing. This is, ultimately, what I want my career to look like: I want to play roles that allow me to feel deeply and express myself fully, and that means both emotionally and physically. I want to spend my life acting, dancing, and singing, maybe even at the same time.
4. What is it like to audition for a part? Soup to nuts? Is it more fun or terrifying?: I love auditioning for a part! Getting to audition is a gift. You get to try on what it would feel like to live in the alternate universe where that character is you. Auditions challenge me to feel out new parts of myself, and to be open-minded about who I could be, about who I am. A new character might force me to make peace with the judgements I have about certain traits. We all have the potential to be too selfish or too giving, too shy or too loud, too lazy or too compulsive, too warm or too cold. They say that in order to give a good audition, you have to make choices about the character. So, to me, each audition is a safe space where I can practice not playing it safe, where I can explore the experience of being someone who is fully, helplessly themself.
5. You were in a Doritos Super Bowl ad. How did that happen?: I have an awesome commercial agent! I got an audition, got a callback, and got the part. I auditioned both times with my hair in space buns, but when I got to set, they decided to leave my hair down, so I looked totally different. That made me laugh - you can never really anticipate what people will want, because they often don’t even know.
[Bonus] Rank in order (favorite to least): the Dartmouth campus, LeBron James, orange juice, 1980s hip-hop, soggy wheat bread, loud phone talkers, Taylor Swift, Danity Kane, the color purple, your toes, scented candles: 1. Taylor Swift, 2. The Dartmouth campus, 3. Scented Candles, 4. The color purple, 5. Orange Juice, 6. Danity Kane, 7. LeBron James, 8. 1980s hip hop, 9. My toes, 10. Loud phone talkers, 11. Soggy wheat bread.
A random old article worth revisiting …
On March 22, 1973, Philadelphia’s Daily News published this weird-ass column about homelessness and life from Ron Javers. I stumbled upon it and found it oddly riveting. Not amazing, not terrible—just odd and riveting.
This week’s college writer you should follow on Instagram …
Vivek Crowe, columnist at The Daily Gamecock, South Carolina’s student newspaper
I’m always a sucker for the-food-here-sucks columns, and Crowe goes at South Carolina’s eats with Jake Paul-esque force in USC’S QUALITY OF FOOD, UNSANITARY PRACTICES IS SUBPAR …
I ate up every word.
One can follow Vivek on Instagram here. Bravo, kid …
Jim Murray speaks with …
A new feature to the Pearlman Journalism Substack—thanks to the warped geniuses at Chat GPT, we can sorta kinda see what would happen if Jim Murray, the late/legendary Los Angeles Times columnist, sat down with three random celebrities. This week, here’s what GPT offers from Jim’s meeting with Dodgers star Mookie Betts, Joan of Arc and Lorena Bobbitt, who, eh, um … yeah.
Jim Murray: Good afternoon, everyone. It's great to be here today with such an interesting group of people. Let's start by introducing ourselves. I'm Jim Murray, a sports journalist.
Mookie Betts: Hey, everyone. I'm Mookie Betts, an outfielder for the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Lorena Bobbitt: Hi, I'm Lorena Bobbitt. You may remember me from an incident in the early '90s when I cut off my husband’s penis.
Joan of Arc: Bonjour, je m'appelle Jeanne d'Arc.
Jim Murray: Joan, could you please speak in English?
Joan of Arc: (shrugs)
Mookie Betts: It's nice to meet you, Joan. Do you follow baseball?
Joan of Arc: Je ne comprends pas.
Jim Murray: She doesn't understand, Mookie. She only speaks French.
Lorena Bobbitt: I don't understand French either.
Mookie Betts: Oh, okay. Well, I'm a baseball player.
Jim Murray: Mookie is one of the best players in the game today. He's won several awards and championships.
Lorena Bobbitt: That's impressive.
Joan of Arc: Pardonnez-moi, je ne comprends pas.
Jim Murray: I'm sorry, Joan. Mookie is talking about how he's a great baseball player.
Joan of Arc: Ah, je vois.
Lorena Bobbitt: So, Mookie, what do you think of the Dodgers' chances this season?
Mookie Betts: I think we have a really good team this year. We have a lot of talented players and a great coaching staff.
Joan of Arc: Je ne comprends pas.
Jim Murray: She doesn't understand, Mookie. She only speaks French.
Lorena Bobbitt: What about you, Jim? What have you been working on lately?
Jim Murray: Well, I've been covering the Olympics, the World Cup, and other major sporting events around the world.
Joan of Arc: Je ne comprends pas.
Jim Murray: She still doesn't understand, Lorena. Maybe we should try something else.
Mookie Betts: Do you like sports, Joan?
Joan of Arc: Je ne comprends pas.
Lorena Bobbitt: I think it's safe to say that Joan doesn't understand anything we're saying.
Jim Murray: Yes, unfortunately that seems to be the case. Well, it's been great meeting all of you, even if we couldn't really communicate with Joan.
Mookie Betts: Yeah, it's been interesting.
Lorena Bobbitt: It's been nice meeting you all too.
Joan of Arc: Au revoir.
Random journalism musings for the week …
Musing 1: If you read one sports piece this week, make it Zack Meisel’s breathtaking story for the Athletic, headlined A BASEBALL FAMILY, A HAUNTING TRAGEDY, AND A SON KEEPING HIS FATHER’S STORY ALIVE. It’s everything journalism should be—richly reported, written with sensitivity and empathy. Brilliant.
Musing 2: If you read two sports pieces this week, make the second Jon Wertheim’s THE DEATH OF THE LOCAL SPORTS ANCHOR. It’s not exaggeration to say the local news sports dude was a major celebrity back in the day. And if you need proof, I’ll show you the Jerry Azar autograph I snagged back at Yankees’ spring training in 1985.
Musing 3: Speaking of local sports anchors, my guy was Jerry Girard, who did the sports for WPIX Channel 11 in New York. I’d literally wait in the kitchen until I heard, “Coming up after the break—Jerry Girard with sports …” and dash in. Girard died in 2007. RIP.
Musing 4: Al Franken stepped in to host the Daily Show this week, and one of his first guests was Lindsey Graham, his former colleague in the U.S. Senate. And while I give Franken props for having a political rival on the show, and I give Graham props for stepping out of his comfort zone—well, it really sorta sucked. Goofy, unfocussed, no real questions asked or answered. A waste of a golden opportunity to witness a genuine discussion of opposing viewpoints.
Musing 5: Meredith Lee Hill of Politico with a fascinating, nuanced piece on the Wisconsin Republican who stands as a Trump critic and the party’s best chance of flipping a senate seat red. I love these types of articles, where you walk away respecting someone you’re sorta programmed to loathe.
Musing 6: I know nothing beyond the headlines, RE: Rob King and his departure from ESPN after multiple decades. So I’m not excusing anything, I’m not letting bad behavior off the hook. None of the above. I just want to note that, in his time with the company, King was hugely influential in the diversifying of voices, of backgrounds, of employees of all different genres. And, for that, he’s an influential piece of modern sports media.
Musing 7: I’m not entirely sure why this caught my eye, but LOTTERY WINNER LEFT SPEECHLESS WHEN TICKET REVEALS BIG JACKPOT—UNTIL SHE GETS HOME sparked some joy. You’re Crystal Fitzpatrick. You’re going about your day. Driving here, walking there, working, napping. Whatever. Then—BAM!
Musing 8: As a kid who grew up watching the New York Mets, I consider Dwight Gooden something of a king—problems be damned. So I was giddy to hear Doc appear on Ira Kaufman’s podcast, Ira on Sports, for a chat.
Musing 9: I’ve always loved Damian Lillard’s game, but his appearance on J.J. Reddick’s “The Old Man and the Three” podcast was just so so so wonderful. A smart, thoughtful NBA superstar who keeps everything in perspective. Impossible not to root for the man.
Musing 10: The new Two Writers Slinging Yang stars Darren Urban, Arizona Cardinals beat writer for azcardinals.com.
Quote of the week …
“English has provided a precise term of art to describe the writerly condition: Submission. Writers live in a state of submission. Submission means rejection. Rejection is the condition of the practice of submission, which is the practice of writing.”
— Stephen Marche, “On Writing and Failure”
Can someone please explain to me how/why “diversity” became this sinister thing? I truly don’t get it.
Don’t judge me.
A real species.
He’s almost certainly satisfied.
That was too easy.
Jeff, this is wonderful work. Thank you.
Imagine being a writer at Axios with that editor above you, knowing how quickly she and the rest of the "higher ups" caved to this craven PR hack. Can you ever have trust in her again? No, you can't. Great expose of this Jeff