Thursday, May 31, 2007

I was misquoted

I started my first newspaper in the fifth grade. The school was Cottage Elementary in Lubbock so it seemed only natural I name the newspaper the Cottage Cheese-it.

And I've been in trouble ever since.

For the remainder of my education, I worked for the school newspaper in one job or another. Perhaps the most fun was writing a Daily Texan column for married students called "Old Wives Tail."

Trouble. It took the censors a year and a half to catch on. My faculty advisor angrily told me I would never make it in the news business because I had a dirty mind. Hell, I thought that was a prerequisite for getting into Journalism 101.

It was at the University of Texas that I met my life-long friend and future business partner, Sam Kinch, Jr. He was editor of the Texan. Sam is big, tough, smart, funny and good at his chosen work, writing about Texas politics.

Sure, Sam is a little quirky but he has an excuse. Once he was on an airplane that was hijacked out from under him. The hijackers wanted to go to Cuba and killed a passenger to underscore their point. Sam must have mouthed off because one of the bandits held a loaded shotgun to the back of Sam's head for the next nine hours. That would make anybody quirk.

When the plane landed in Cuba and the passengers were safely removed, Sam had ten minutes to file a story about the experience. It was good and Sam earned a $10,000 journalism award. "First time I ever got paid a thousand bucks a minute," he said later. I pointed out that the fee did not include travel time.

My guess is, Sam still has that ten grand. He's tight with a buck. And with reason. He and Lilas helped put seven kids through college -- on a reporter's salary.

But I think his money management goes deeper than that. Like to his DNA.

Here's proof (more trouble).

When we started our political newsletter, Texas Weekly, Sam made his aged mother pay the full rate for a subscription, which was $95 at the time. A year or so later I was posting the renewal bills and came across hers. Since his mom was in the hospital in intensive care, I asked Sam what he wanted to do about her bill.

He paused for only a moment and said,"She's better. Send it."

Wait. There's more.

A year or so later, after his mom died, I came across the out-going bill to her. "What do you want to do about this, Sam?"I asked. "There's two months remaining on her subscription."

Without missing a beat, he said, "Send it to my sister. Maybe she'll renew."

I'm really in trouble now.


Ken Martin said...

Dear George,



George Phenix said...

Whew. Scared me.

For a minute there, I thought you might be Sam on his way over to whip my butt.

Denise said...

Hey George -- agree with Ken! You have been blessed to have these rich people in your life. I can picture your friend on that plane and cannot imagine how he had the fortitude to write that story. The part about the subscription is priceless! We've had situations in the newsroom where someone suggests an outrageous way to get a story. We all laugh, then pause, and someone will eventually say, "Do you think that would work?"

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