• Atlanta,  Family,  Uncategorized

    Golf Lesson

    I played golf today in a client’s foundation golf tournament and shot pretty well. After people see me drive the ball far down the fairway, they inevitably ask me how often I play. The answer is, not much, perhaps five to 10 times a year. Not that I don’t love the game, I do. In fact, if I had to cherry-pick my dream career and start all over again, being a touring golf pro would be hard to beat. My problem is time: Running my own company keeps me glued to my computer and phone. That, and I don’t belong to a club.

    Golf lesson
    Chris David, right, squaring my shoulders at High Hampton Inn golf lesson.

    I did, however, get a golf lesson last year that was the best ever. I’ve probably had four or five lessons in my life. I still have notes the pro wrote from one in high school and I have the videotape from an afternoon I spent at a Hilton Head vacation golf session. So when I accompanied my wife on a travel writers trip to the High Hampton Inn in Cashiers, NC, I was eager to learn that I could take a free golf lesson, even though I was a tagalong.

    I had nearly two hours with High Hampton’s golf pro, Chris David. He not only explained what I need to do to improve my swing, he also explained the whys – the philosophy behind the golf swing. Suddenly it made so much more sense to me. In fact, Chris’ analysis of my golf swing rang a familiar bell. My approach to golf is apparently similar to the same critique other professionals have made of other parts of my life: my dancing, my public speaking and my opening up in intimate relationships. In all of them, counselors or instructors have told me I hold back, that I need to loosen up, put more of me into what I’m doing.

    Ah, the lessons you learn later in life … If only I had taken these lessons to heart earlier.

    While I only played golf twice during the summer, I did get to play golf two days this week – both games had been postponed by the September floods in Atlanta brought on by weeks of rain. The other time I played with my brothers, Jack and Mike, and my nephew John Waddy.

    Picture for CS
    Nephew John Waddy, with brother Jack, me and brother Mike.

    But my favorite golf memory is when Jan and I visited my son Thomas in Scotland, when he was enjoying a semester abroad in Edinburgh, Scotland. Thanks to Jan’s travel writer connections, we were able to stay in the Old Course Hotel in St. Andrews, overlooking the Old Course, of course. While we didn’t call in time to get a tee time on that course, we did get to play the adjacent Duke’s course.

    We were treated to an array of Scottish weather: sun, clouds, rain and wind. What would Scottish golf be without it? Thomas and I did get to pose on the famous bridge on the Old Course’s 18th hole. On Sundays, the course is closed and is open to the public to walk around at will. For such a storied tradition, I was surprised but happy to learn that the famous course is, after all, a public park – and on Sundays, everyone can walk it as if they were Bobby Jones or Tiger Woods.

    I’m still not that great at golf. When I get to the greens I inevitably have an errant chip or a three-putt, but my approaches in the fairway are much more impressive now. And now I do try to throw myself all the way into it. Dancing, eh, that’s still is another thing. Maybe Chris can help me with that, too!

    St. Andrews
    On the course at St. Andrews with my son, Thomas, right.
  • Atlanta,  Media,  Public Relations,  Uncategorized

    My Days Are Numbered

    In 1982, when I worked for the newspapers in Greenville, SC, I not only labored in the newsroom — writing, editing and designing the pages of the daily papers — I also walked the streets of my neighborhood just a few hundred yards north of downtown on North Main Street, delivering the paper to readers’ front steps.

    As I carefully dropped the paper at my customers’ front doors, I remember being puzzled by the few neighbors — and there were only very few — who did not subscribe to either the morning or afternoon paper. I would drop off a sample copy with a handwritten note, asking if I could start delivering them a daily paper. I was usually successful in my sales effort, though there were a few intransigent ones.

    These days, I walk out my front door and grab three newspapers delivered at 6am to my front yard: the AJC, the Wall Street Journal and, on weekends, the New York Times. Each morning, I remember that I am participating in a dying ritual, and it saddens me.

    My days are numbered. As I watch our deliveryman drive down the street, I am amazed by how few — and there are only a very few — yards into which he tosses a paper or two. Sometimes I even feel responsible, as if I’m letting a 250-year-old American tradition die on my watch.


    It’s not for lack of trying. I worked at six different daily newspapers in the South (including my hometown AJC) before starting my own monthly newspaper group in Intown Atlanta in 1994. But each day I read of yet another daily newspaper closing its doors. In fact, at least 120 newspapers in the U.S. have shut down since January 2008, according to Paper Cuts, a Web site tracking the newspaper industry. More than 21,000 jobs at 67 newspapers have been eliminated in that time, according to the site. These stats hit dangerously close to home. My prediction is that my AJC won’t be delivered to my home on Mondays and Tuesdays by the end of this year. Their business model is that fragile.

    There are exceptions, thankfully. The Wall Street Journal showed a fraction of an increase in circulation last year. Locally, the weekly Atlanta Business Chronicleincreased its circulation last year by three percent — following other years of similar or larger gains. We maintain several subscriptions, to our office and our homes.

    The Chronicle started the month after I graduated from college and for more than 20 of its years, the team of Publisher Ed Baker and Editor David Allison has delivered a well-respected paper, tightly focused on Atlanta’s business community. In addition to their print edition, they deliver a daily 3pm news alert via email, make their print edition available online to wacky folks such as me who download it as early as 5am Fridays.

    In a sign of the times, the AJC’s well-respected business columnist Maria Saporta took a buyout from the daily paper and joined the ABC staff last year, where her years of institutional Atlanta knowledge will be a significant asset.

    Maria is not content to write for the ABC alone. Schroder PR proudly designed and maintains her independent website, SaportaReport.com, which I predict will be one of the top 10 destinations to get local news and perspective in the coming decade of journalism’s evolution to the web.


    Our PR firm has evolved too. Nearly half of our revenue comes from writing and designing websites, producing videos, delivering eNewsletters for our clients and increasingly entering into the social media space.

    I already have a laptop and an iPhone. I imagine this summer, I’ll give in and buy the new Kindle DX, a hand-held digital reader with a nearly-10-inch screen to which you can download books and hundreds of newspapers.

    You may find me still sipping coffee on my front screen porch, reading the morning “paper” on my Kindle. I will be as well informed, but I won’t be as happy. For I will miss the sound of the morning papers hitting my sidewalk and the hours I now enjoy each day, turning their pages. I’ll miss the smell of newsprint and ink that has seeped deeply into my blood, on whose behalf I have sweated for decades and for which I will shed tears of sorrow to see them disappear.

  • Uncategorized

    Tell it like it is Ted


    I love Ted Turner. I’ve never shaken hands with him, but I’ve been in the same room with him numerous times. We even share the same birthday. Two years ago he celebrated his birthday with his family at a table immediately next to my table and my family. Couldn’t help but notice how well they all got along, as did we.

    Of the many things I love about Ted, his genius for starting new broadcast concepts is high on my list. Making Channel 17 WTBS the first national cable SuperStation allowed me to watch the Atlanta Braves while I lived in small towns throughout the South. His founding of CNN allowed this news junkie a 24-hour-a-day fix.  I love his personal and substantial financial commitment to the environment, to the United Nations, to bringing back the American Buffalo, an indigenous mammal that we almost hunted to extinction.

    But what I really appreciate is his ability to say anything at anytime. They say the worst speechwriting job in America is to be Ted’s writer. He never follows a script, but follows his own wacky mind. I’ve seen him speak a number of times and he’s always entertaining. It’s like watching a car race … you just know there’s going to be a wreck at some point.

    I remember being stuck on the floor of London’s Gatwick Airport in 1978 for five days during an air controller strike. We read all the books and magazines our group had, so someone bought a Playboy magazine and there was a wonderful rambling interview with Ted. He had won yachting’s America’s Cup and the writer asked Ted if he wanted to be President. Sure, he said, he’d love to be, “but I think I’d probably have to be Senator first.” Yep.

    Yesterday, I hosted a table of clients to see Ted speak to the Atlanta Press Club. I bought my guests an autographed copy of his new book, “Call Me Ted.” But what I really treated them to was another wacky trip through his mind as he answered the audience’s questions. Within the first few minutes of his remarks, moderator and former CNN President Tom Johnson was jumping to his feet, offering apologies to luncheon sponsor General Motors, who Ted had just accused along with the other big two Detroit automakers of driving their companies into the ground, in total disregard of the commanding environmental, energy and economic trends that had been buffeting them for 30 years.

    “I’ve been driving small cars like Toyotas since 1978, when Jimmy Carter was president and we had an energy crisis then … I’ve been driving a Toyota (hybrid) Prius for eight years,” Ted heaped on a few minutes later.

    Talking about the economy, he said he was on the cover of Time Magazine as its Man of the year, but then was let go a year and a half before his contract with Time Warner was completed. And he was the largest stockholder. “I’m proof that anyone can be let go. Don’t think you have job security.”

    For my money, one of his more memorable lines was about the importance of being a father. He said he gave up yachting in 1981 when he was trying to balance work and family and he realized something had to go. Gone went yachting. “My definition of success is … I don’t think you can be called successful, in any phase of life, if you have a dysfunctional child,” he said. Ted’s children were there. “They all have a job,” he said.

    A woman seated near our table asked a question at the end. Actually, she never asked a question. She rambled on and on about how she thought this and agreed with that, so Ted interrupted her and said a few words. She persisted, finally starting to ask a question. Tom Johnson was trying to take back control of the program. The woman got five, maybe six words of her question out when Ted interrupted her. “No, you’re done!” he said. The woman sat down and the audience applauded gratefully.


  • Uncategorized

    Goodbye to My Heroes

    I don’t have many heroes. I’m rather strict with my requirements. A single heroic act is not enough; they must be dogged in pursuit of a dream and be sincere in their professional demeanor and approachable and friendly in their personal lives.

    I was saddened when two of them died last month, within a day of each other.

    I was driving my kids to the beach when we heard on the radio that Jimmy Stewart had died. Jimmy_stewart It felt as if someone I had actually known had died. He was in some great movies, but it was his character that drew me into them. I explained to my kids how much a part of my childhood he had been, how I had been totally absorbed by the suspense in his Alfred Hitchcock films.

    My favorite was “Rear Window.” When I saw it again as an adult, my life had changed considerably. The plot was secondary, it was the character that I identified with now. A photojournalist given to wanderlust; when confined to his home, he finds intrigue when he turns an eye on his own neighborhood. He was resistant to involvement in a relationship, even one with the beautiful and charming Grace Kelly.

    The next day, we listened on the radio as they announced the death of Charles Kuralt. An unlikely hero, you might think. He was bald, overweight and talked slowly. But it was his perception that was so piercing. Talk about wanderlust! He wandered for years in a CBS Winnebago and during the harsh times of the ’60s and ’70s, presented a softer side of America that it seemed only he could find. He was a hero in part because he found the heroic in everyone else: the man who had a lending library of bicycles for a poor side of town, the sharecropping Mississippi couple who picked cotton for 50 cents a day, but sent seven children off to earn college and advanced degrees.


    I so admired Charles Kuralt that when I worked for The Charlotte Observer  I invited him back to his childhood home to speak as part of a newspaper centennial celebration. I spent a day driving him around his hometown. When I brought him in the newspaper’s lobby, he immediately ambled over to an old linotype machine. He remembered how it used to work.

    CBS was sending him the following month to Moscow as part of a summit conference. Not to cover the presidents, but to cover something much more significant: the return after a 60-year-absence of native son and concert pianist Vladamir Horowitz who was to play in the same concert hall he had last played in before his defection. Charles later said it was the “Sunday Morning” broadcast of which he was most proud.

    But this day in Charlotte, Charles needed a typewriter to take to Moscow. He was going to cover the triumphant return of pianist Vladimir Horowitz. Vladimir_horowitz He wasn’t sure of what electronic accommodations he would encounter and he wanted something he could count on. Laptop computers had just been introduced, but we were in pursuit of something much simpler.

    He directed me to an old business machine store he had frequented. After chatting with several employees he remembered, we walked the aisles of the store, carefully looking over all their old, retired models. In the corner, he found it. A typewriter that needed no electricity, that was dark with age and character and came with its own hinged cover. Charles had found what he was always able to find: the simple item, unadorned by life’s counterproductive distractions, focused on and able to do what it was always meant to do and to do it the best of any of its kind.

    The same qualities that I look for in a hero.

    Photos: Jimmy Stewart, Charles Kuralt and Vladamir Horowitz.

  • Uncategorized

    Playing the Chords of Creativity

    My daughter, Sally, turns 13 this month and I need to buy her a present. It’s no easy task. Thirteen is the beginning of the era in our life we all look back upon with — well, you know.

    She’s taken up interest in the guitar lately. Practices 15 or 20 minutes a day on a borrowed acoustic. It’s not her first hobby. Two of my favorite paintings in the world are framed and hanging in my living room. Friends have sipped wine in front of them, amazed that these canvasses were filled by an 11-year-old.

    They seemed almost effortless for her. She was visiting my mother, who had taken up painting again. Mom was in her basement one Sunday afternoon. After looking through some magazines, Sally found a landscape she liked. She grabbed a canvas and, in 90 minutes, immortalized a storm at sea. A few weeks later, she drew a different ocean, this one with a heavily wooded shore.

    In typical parent fashion, I went out and bought a set of blank canvasses, paints and brushes for her Christmas present. They sat in her closet for months. Not content to let well enough alone, I left room in the trunk for the canvasses when we went to the beach the next summer. They remain untouched to this day.

    I learned an important point: a parent can’t force creativity upon a child. Creativity occurs in spontaneous, inspirational moments orchestrated by God, not man.

    As I prepare to purchase this gift, should I steer clear of her latest interest for fear of nipping it in the bud? Or should I show my approval of her exploration no matter where it leads?

    I remember when I was 13. I took the bus up to Buckhead and told the manager behind the counter at Rhythm City that I was thinking about taking up the guitar. He just happened to have his old steel-string on the rack for $20.

    I learned six or seven chords before selling it to a classmate for $20. Something ventured. Nothing gained … except the knowledge that I have very little natural rhythm — at least none I’m confident enough to broadcast.

    My parents said nothing about my musical career. If they had, it might have been even shorter than it was. Maybe it was because I chose not to involve them. Perhaps they feared I might turn into Keith Richards.

    Parents want adolescence to be a positive experience. We want to be affirming. Mostly, we want our kids back when they come out on the other side. We hope hobbies or sports will serve as lifelines through the teenage years. For parents, there’s a fine line between caring and control. All too often, we cross that boundary.

    My friends have younger children than I do. This summer they looked at me and shook their heads empathetically when I told about taking Sally to Lenox to meet a boy for a movie. She and her friends were calling boys late at night. But it seems that stage has passed — at least for now.

    Now I have to buy her a present. Something that could occupy her during these years when the teenage demons — those from within and without — come a callin’. Maybe I’m asking too much. After all, this is just another present. And I am just a parent.

    Happy birthday, Sally. Enjoy the guitar. I love you.

    – November 2, 1995 column