Sunday, April 15, 2018

Axis Mundi

Literally translated, “axis mundi” is the center of the universe, the conduit between heaven and earth. For me and many others, our property in the pines can truly be that place. Any excuse will do, so when I have the opportunity to attend a conference in Washington, a sojourn to our "capanna montagna" is nigh inevitable.

The conference? The 2018 PRSA North Pacific District Conference in Seattle, where numerous professional development presentations and networking opportunities await. Meanwhile, I have the chance to visit the Owl Conservatory near Plain, the first trip of the year, for a bit of repose and respite. More to come, so stay tuned.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Guitar Maestro

Finishing winter quarter in the UO School of Journalism and Communication, I paused to reflect on the life of Tom Wheeler, valued friend and colleague, who passed away on February 10 at age 70. A man of many talents, Tom was a guitar maestro, self-proclaimed grammar nerd and journalism professor extraordinaire.

Having met in the early 90s, Tom -- former editor of Guitar Player magazine and freelancer for Rolling Stone -- was hired to teach in the magazine sequence. A master storyteller and expert on the history of the guitar, he authored The Stratocaster Chronicles, among others. He also moonlighted as guitarist for several local bands.

His interviews with guitar heroes such as B.B. King, Keith Richards, Michael Bloomfield, Chuck Berry and Eric Clapton were legendary. When son Jory and I attended The Who concert at Moda Center in Portland a couple of years ago, I took note of the reader board on the screen when the band listed special acknowledgements.

“The Who would like to acknowledge the following individuals….” Near the top of the list was Tom Wheeler. Later, when Tom conducted a research presentation on his many interviews, he made sure to invite his music buddies, including yours truly. “Any colleague who’s a fan of The Who is a friend of mine,” he wrote me in an email.

A frequent guest speaker in his “Media Professions” course, I would expound on the trials and tribulations of my life as a career public relations practitioner. A staunch supporter of journalists, journalism educators and musicians of all stripes, Tom was one of the kindest and most thoughtful individuals you’d ever meet.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Seattle Safari

Joining a host of students from the University of Oregon chapter of the Public Relations Student Society of America, we all took a brief sabbatical from our school obligations for a professional development tour in Seattle on March 1-2. Arriving late afternoon, traffic was downright beastly as I negotiated I-405 from Sea-Tac to Kirkland.

The next morning, our first stop was the Microsoft campus, hosted by Frank X. Shaw, Corporate Vice-President of Communications, and a UO alum. After an engaging session at Microsoft and a hair-raising stampede across the Evergreen Point Bridge, we arrived in downtown Seattle, where gridlock was even more ferocious.

Running late for our meeting with The Fearey Group, we became stuck between two dump trucks on Seventh and Virginia thanks to construction delays compounded by an organized protest against a new youth jail and the Emerald City Comic Con conference at the nearby Washington State Convention Center.

If traffic congestion wasn't bad enough in Amazonia on the south end of Lake Union, the additional activity created by the motley fools and court jesters roaming the streets was almost too much to bear. We nonetheless arrived at The Fearey Group, a dynamic PR firm in downtown Seattle, for a tour and question and answer session.

Fortunately, the group had a bit of down time to roam the Pike Place Market and Belltown during lunch break. Next on the agenda, we toured Weber Shandwick, an international public relations firm, where Michelle Maggs, Executive Vice-President & General Manager (and UO alum) helped provide an overview of the agency.

Finally, we wrapped up at the Port of Seattle, where Kathy Roeder, Director of Communications, provided an overview of the government agency that runs Seattle’s seaport and Sea-Tac, the fastest growing airport in the U.S. Afterward, I drove the backroads to my hotel, exhausted from a full -- and fruitful -- day on safari.