Bad Guys Like Me
Walker aide critiques the press
The following is a letter from Norton Kay, who served as News Secretary to former Gov. Dan Walker. The letter was printed in the first issue of Illinois Times on Sept. 18, 1975, as a welcome and bit of "advice." We've transcribed the letter from the original text, and photos of the letter as it appears in the first issue are below. Mr. Kay died in 2011 at age 83.
The start of a newspaper is an exciting event - both for the people working on it and for the reader. Will it make it? What will it be like? Will we get all the copy in on time? Can we get enough newsprint? And so on.
As one with more than a passing interest in the success of Illinois Times, may I use this space to wish you well and offer some suggestions - none of which should be construed as criticism of those under the Capitol dome - on the third floor. Perish the thought. Most of what I have to say may fall in the category of shop talk. But it might be of some interest to your readers.
For example, when you can, use the word "said." It's a good Anglo-Saxon word. Don't be embarrassed by using it frequently. That will not be interpreted - at least by me - that your vocabulary is limited.
I happen to be very sensitive about the word "said" because the synonyms very often disturb me. For example, all “bad guys” like me, like Governor Walker, like Vic de Grazia never “say” things.
We grumble. We concede. We admit. We acknowledge. We complain. We never “say.” On the other hand, the good guys (who shall go nameless) assert. They state. They charge. They point out. And when their case is very weak, they only note. So please, try using say or said.
It’s okay to use a word like “stalwart.” But use it on all sides. It troubles me to see our supporters called “dissidents” while the other side’s guys are “stalwarts.”
It may not be fair to say the “Bureau of the Budget” failed to produce the back-up material, while saying the legislative staff is researching the issue.
Oh, I know those are petty things. But I always leap to the conclusion – unfairly, I know – that perhaps the writer has some personal ill-will towards the Administration.
Perhaps you might avoid scolding us on both sides of the issue. If you frown, for example, on our hiring some people from outside Illinois, don’t knock all other appointments as patronage. You might have second thoughts – before you put them in print – about rapping us both for “deals” and “confrontation politics.”
Please – and I ask this earnestly – don’t blame us for anything the board of elections does. We vetoed it. We are not responsible for their decisions or their lost articles.
Consistency, it has been said, is the hobgoblin of small minds. So I won’t hold anyone to absolute consistency. On the other hand, it might be inconsistent to accuse us of record spending and ignoring the plight of the poor. Try and take one side of that issue. If you don’t like the state renting space for its agencies, then kindly don’t bludgeon us for building a new office building to help favored contractors. Hitting us on one side of the issue will be enough to improve circulation.
If young Will Walker goes with his father to meet the President, it may not be a publicity stunt. It may be that a youngster of 12 asks his father if he can get the President’s autograph.
Keep your eye on your “link editor.” A “link editor” is an editor who “links” things…like a contribution to a contract, or a vacation in New Hampshire to a primary.
Consider the possibility that the Better Government Association isn’t a better government association.
I feel it necessary to tell you to watch out for a certain copy-reader. He moves mysteriously from paper to paper. He’s the guy that writes all the bad headlines in his newspaper. I think he’s the same copy-reader who cuts out our side of a story. That usually comes up when you ask a reporter about something missing from a story and the reporter replies, “I had it in my story, but someone cut it out.” That copy-reader really gets around.
Oh, one more thing. For the sake of accuracy only, please do not call us P.R. geniuses. While I’d like to use it for future references, modesty requires me to ask “Why do we have such a lousy press?”
P.S. I’d be happy to work as a volunteer copy-reader at night.