Friday, April 27, 2007

Mercer Mania

Kevin Mercer is the general manager of a development district in Denton County and two fresh water districts for Lantana, an unincorporated development that is growing like a (very pretty) weed near Flower Mound. I profiled him for The Cross Timbers Gazette and felt pretty good about the piece. I'm not sure if the way I feel has any relationship whatsoever to the quality of the piece, but in any case, here it is in PDF.

Mercer was really nice and by all accounts, very talented, and like a lot of nice, talented people didn't really see what the big deal was about himself, and thus was not very forthcoming with his personal story of greatness. I had to call him back several times to get a clear picture, and not until after I'd been tipped off by a few other people.

This time I had one week to report and complete the piece, which is more than enough time, if all goes right and interviews can be scheduled to everyone's liking, and that was the case in this instance. But what was also the case were the things that pop up with kids--extra play dates, the pull of the children to be outside because of the spring time weather, soccer games, etc. I finished the piece right at deadline and could not come up with a headline, and so I sent this, "Lantana: At the Mercy of Mercer!"

It is not the headline that the publisher chose, fortunately, but it reminded me of the time I edited a daily faxed newsletter for Broadcasting & Cable called Cableday, and one of the writers headlined her piece something like this: "Is that a banana in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?"

Since I was merely a lowly editorial assistant, hence the late hours waiting for these news briefs so that I could FTP them out to some site that faxed them to eager Cableday readers for their morning office reads, it did not occur to me to question the headline, and it ran.

That was not the worst of my mistakes in that position, but it was the funniest.



Anonymous Gary McVey said...

Lantana and Flower Mound are charming place names. First heard the FM name when asking Mike In SA as to your safety during the recent poor weather.

Re your dawn fax, Linda Ellerbee did something similar, but much more consequential (i.e. she got fired) in 1969 when she had to delete some chatty notes from an overnight telex at the AP to make way for Apollo bulletins.

6:37 PM  
Blogger Nancy said...

I mentioned once on CW that I interviewed Linda Ellerbee (another Texan!)for Broadcasting & Cable.

She told me that story then. She was very nice to me and gave me a follow-up interview by phone because our initial was cut short. Coincidentally, she was a favorite of my husband's back when she did her late night news show.

8:50 PM  
Anonymous kathy said...

hey I really like your piece! Fluid, interesting, great transitions, great use of quotes about the guy (his wife's especially) -- man you seem really confident reporting and writing.

"is that a banana in your pocket story" is hilarious by the way

9:25 AM  
Blogger Nancy said...

Thanks Kathy! I'm really proud of my transitions, though too proud sometimes (people sneer!--no I kid). My quest to transition well gets in the way of telling a story, esp. a non-linear one. I start to care less about the story than will it flow smoothly as I tell it, which is dumb.

I also like to rely heavily on quotes--I figure I'm generally better off telling the story in other people's words if I can.

10:01 AM  
Anonymous Gary M said...

Fred Zinneman made a great,forgotten film in 1958, "The Nun's Story" with Audrey Hepburn. Although you'd have to be a Catholic scholar to figure it out without a map (I had a map) the central drama is: does this gifted woman (the story is set in the past) have the right to take pride in her intelligence without committing a sinful degree of pride? The modern answer is obvious, but you'd be surprised (well, no actually, readers of The Bystander won't be surprised)how much real drama the artists get out of it.

11:59 PM  

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