Wednesday, August 24, 2005

way to go tony-o!

Met up with Tony Ortega and Fatimah to swap see-ya-laters, and I can't resist adding to the blogger tribute parade. It's been great getting to know both of them, and to have played a key role in their raising of fur children.

Tony's a great editor, this move is a much deserved bump up, and the folks in Ft. Lauderdale are lucky to have him. He's got a lot of energy and enthusiasm, and a rare mix of strength in both reporting and writing. I always loved the way he'd shout, "Dude, that's fucking awesome!" whenever I told him I'd unearthed a particularly juicy tidbit for a story.

I have to mention here a couple of stories we worked together on, both of which are among my favorites from my time at the Pitch, and which his editing improved immensely.

One was about a certain conniving U.S senator. I'd gotten really bogged down early on in my reporting, printing out stacks and stacks of documents from government sites and Lexis-Nexis, trying to nail this dude from all angles, and I was sort of driving myself nuts. But Tony kept telling me it's real simple: Just point out how local Democrats love him, and then play that against his record on Democratic issues. I still went pretty deep into the story, but Tony's guidance kept me focused, and the story wound up generating a fair amount of buzz (it even got quoted in a later article by Salon).

The other was a story about a scientist at Stowers. I'd always wanted to do a science story, and Tony was very supportive, even though it wasn't the sort of thing I usually did. When I turned in the draft, I played all the stuff about cloning up real high, but Tony told me to move all that down and put the stuff about the scientist's research into to birth defects up front. Which I thought was really sophisticated and cool -- not what you might expect from an alt-weekly -- and it definitely made the story much better.

After both of these stories ran, my grandpa, who was a newspaper editor and one of my toughest critics, called me up to praise me, which didn't happen often. Both stories are right up there at the very top of my clip pile.

I know this is sounding like is as much in praise of me as Tony. But that's what editors do -- they make writers look good. With little in return. Except bigger paychecks.

Thanks Tony! And all the best to you!!

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