Thursday, April 28, 2011

Pure Cacophony

Editor's note: Now that I don't have to worry about finding a job, I'm less restrained when expressing my opinion on the hot topics "du jour." However, the downside is: I have become "one of them." You know the type: those crusty curmudgeons who can no longer abide some of the nonsense in the editorial pages of some newspapers. To paraphrase "Pogo," the long running daily comic strip created by Walt Kelly, I have seen the enemy and he is I. Herewith is my latest submission to The Leavenworth Echo.

To the editor:

Once again, we've have to weather the tired exhortations of Bill Cowles as he tries to convince us that "we have more oil and natural gas than all of the Middle East combined." He then cites the U.S. Geological Society (sic) as his source.

Sorry, Bill, but nowhere on its website has the U.S. Geological Service made that claim. Most credible sources for rankings of natural gas and oil reserves have the U.S. in the neighborhood of #12 to #15. But here's the deal; this isn't just a matter of supply but also one of demand. The U.S. consumes more fossil fuel than any other nation in the world by a country mile.

Until we start thinking outside the box and establish a comprehensive energy policy (we're one of the few countries in the world that doesn't have one), the U.S. will continue to reside behind the eight ball, a whole nation of oil junkies who need their fix from dealers located in the Middle East.

Sadly, much of what Bill Cowles has to say is pure cacophony. You can always tell, when someone has to remind you: "I do know what I am talking about." Perhaps the publisher of The Leavenworth Echo should consider a noise ordinance of his own.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Then There Were Giants

For me, this has been one of those weeks when the big stuff seems small and the little things loom large.

Professor Emeritus Ken Metzler -- my teacher, mentor and friend -- passed away in his sleep on Monday, April 11 at the age of 82. Though incredibly saddened by his sudden passing, I find solace in the fact that Ken stomped on the terra and influenced the lives of many, including yours truly.

I first met Ken as an undergraduate student back in 1973, when I took his class titled Production for Publication. A required class held in Room 221 in Allen Hall, home of the University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication (UO SOJC), Ken Metzler was one of the few professors who could project to the back row in such a large lecture hall with his booming, resonant voice.

Despite his best efforts, he was unable to convince me of "the joys of copy fitting," though I finally did learn the math. Copy fitting is the only skill I learned from Ken that I don't use anymore; his interviewing tips and techniques are legendary. His formula for a good feature article -- "hey," "you," "see," "so," "ha!" -- is likely the only thing I specifically remember from my days as a journalism student.

Later, as a graduate student in Ken's Magazine Editing class, he appointed me -- of all the students in class -- as editor and publisher of the team assignment to develop a prospectus for a new magazine.

When I was hired as public relations coordinator at McKenzie-Willamette Hospital in Springfield, it was Ken who made the timeliest of calls on my behalf. My former supervisor at the hospital later told me that it was his enthusiasm for my skills and abilities -- as well as his authoritative voice -- that persuaded her to hire me.

A couple years later, it was Professor Tom Bivins and Ken -- serving a stint as Associate Dean -- who hired me from among all the other qualified candidates as an adjunct instructor at UO SOJC.

Ken's love of the outdoors is unquestioned. A native Oregonian like myself, Ken was born in Boring, southeast of Portland. One of his favorite headlines was "Boring Boy Weds Needy Girl." Both Boring and Needy are small towns in Clackamas County, Oregon. I have fond memories of hikes and river floats with Ken and his wife, Betty, and the j-school gang (Steve Ponder, with Bill Ryan and daughter, below).

On one particular trip down the McKenzie River, our raft (left, with Rebecca and Betty Metzler) exploded with a bang on the bank during a break, startling everybody in the immediate vicinity. We packed up the old raft and soldiered on with Captain Ponder for the remainder of the float.

I learned another important lesson from Ken on one of those many enjoyable raft trips: never drink wine like it's beer on a hot day.

Ken, a prolific author and storyteller, interviewed me for The Best of Oregon, a book that featured a medley of tales on his beloved home state. He was fascinated by my experiences as a tour guide and boat operator at Crater Lake National Park in the early '70s. To my delight, he listed me as a collaborator in the acknowledgements.

After retiring from the j-school in 1990, Ken volunteered for a variety of causes and was quite active, climbing Spencer Butte every few days and walking the bike paths along the Willamette River. In 2008, Ken was inducted into the UO SOJC Hall of Achievement. When I retired from EWEB, I invited Ken to my bon voyage party, introducing him to the crowd as my "Morrie" (from Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom), the professor who most profoundly influenced my life.

Meeting Ken for lunch on a number of occasions recently, I informed him that I was writing a book. He immediately reminded me of a Winston Churchill quote: "Writing a book is an adventure. To begin with, it is a toy and an amusement, then it becomes a mistress, and then it becomes a master, and then a tyrant." He said he would meet me again soon with a bottle of whiskey and try to talk me out of it.

"What kind of book are you writing?" he asked. "I don't know how to describe it," I replied. "It's what I call 'hysterical fiction,' kind of a period piece based on some of my real-life experiences." "Oh, you're writing a novel. I could never write a book like that; you're much smarter than I am," he smiled with a twinkle in his eye, joking in his typically self-deprecating manner.

The morning of his passing, Duncan McDonald, Professor and former Dean of the UO SOJC, noted that Ken Metzler was among the last of a generation of journalism educators, a group that included Professors Rarick, Crawford, Duncan, Winter, Wales, Ewan, Lemert, Rea, Halverson, Nestvold and Nelson.

They're all giants in the field of journalism and communication, as well as journalism education, in the State of Oregon.

Editors note: Tip of the hat to Tom Bivins for the image of Ken swinging for the fences (above) and to Jack Liu for the shot of Betty, Donald and Ken (below), with some interloper in the background.