Muckraking matters, but the true test of a newspaper’s mettle is its day to day commitment to telling ordinary stories in extraordinary ways.
Florida lost one of its most gifted—and beloved—storytellers Saturday when Tim O’Meilia, 65, succumbed to cancer.
O’Meilia leaves behind wife Debbie, sons Rolly and Casey, and generations of Florida journalists who took instruction and inspiration from the body of work he produced for The Palm Beach Post from 1972- 2008.
A look at the guest book for people wishing to leave condolences on The Post’s website could double as a textbook for what makes a great reporter.
“I had the express joy of knowing him for a decade,” wrote Elizabeth Dashiell of Jupiter. “He covered the Science Museum, and came out for all of our major (and minor!) events. He was a gentleman, brilliant writer and warm caring person. I loved reading his articles and loved even more spending time with him, talking about local places and strange things. He shared my love of the unusual and knew the best way to describe Florida’s uniqueness.”
O’Meilia was a low-maintainence general assignment guy who could always be counted upon to produce a high-impact story.
“Because of his ability to turn a non-story into a great read for the front page, Tim was always picked to handle the quirky piece. He was the “go-to guy” in the newsroom. He never complained — not once — and always turned the story into something worth taking the time to read. He was a real pro, a great guy and I don’t know anyone who didn’t enjoy working with him,” wrote Pete Ebel, one of the many editors who loved to handle O’Meilia’s consistently close-to-perfect copy.
Kathryn Quigley of Deptford, New Jersey “…had the pleasure of sitting next to Tim in The Post newsroom from 2000-2002. I loved seeing his sly smile and hearing his confident, quiet way with sources on the phone. ”
Investigative reporter-turned filmmaker Gary Kane weighed in from New York: “…..Yes, you CAN believe everything he wrote, whether it was a story about a Lake Worth zoning squabble or the mating rituals of turkey vultures. No factual errors. No misquotes. He wrote with a clear, concise style. His storytelling was honest, thoughtful, clever. I imagine that countless stories carrying the Tim O’Meilia byline have been clipped and pasted in scrapbooks or tucked in boxes of mementos. Tim wasn’t a newsroom prima donna. He….wasn’t obsessed with becoming a brand. He was simply a journalist. A damn fine one….”
An especially poignant tribute comes from The Post’s veteran courts reporter, Susan Spencer-Wendel, who reported her own story of living with purpose and joy following a diagnosis of Lou Gehrig’s disease. “Tim made writing look easy,” wrote Wendel, who tapped her best-selling memoir, “Before I Say Goodbye” out on an iPhone, one character at a time. “I loved his stories about a comet buzzing by or the new jaguar born at the zoo. There was such delight in them. He was a true gentleman and a fine and fair reporter.”
Post Director of Administration Lynn Kalber speaks for many others who think “Tim was part of that small, unique percentage of newspaper writers: Everything he wrote was gold. He made it look easy. He made us care about all of it. He taught us all kinds of things without letting us know we were learning. And to cap all of it off, he was one of the nicest guys around….”
O’Meilia, a Notre Dame graduate, could have spent most of his career at bigger papers with bigger audiences for bigger money. But as the condolences continue to pour in from all over the country, it’s hard to imagine any way he could have left a bigger mark.
Florence Snyder is a corporate and First Amendment lawyer. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org
One of the most general and robust findings in social psychology is the power of situations to shape behavior. For example, if you are in a situation where you are competing with others, you will tend to dislike them, whereas when you are cooperating with them, you will tend to like them. This is relatively intuitive, yet we often fail to appreciate this in practice, and then we end up amazed when arbitrary groups put in competition end up in deep conflict. If artificially created competitions can inflame divisions (e.g. sports fandom usually pits very similar people against each other), perhaps we can also manufacture cooperation to reduce division.
The asteroids are coming! The asteroids are coming!
OK, I don’t mean literal asteroids made of rock and metal. I mean big problems that polarize us and therefore paralyze us.
If you’re on the left, you probably have extremely acute vision for threats such as global warming and rising inequality. You’ve tried to draw attention to the rising levels of carbon dioxide, the rising average global surface temperature and the rising seas. You’ve also grown increasingly disturbed by the percentage of the national income taken home by the richest 1 percent. In fact, I’ll bet you spotted those two asteroids back in the 1990s, when it would have been so much easier to deflect them, and you’re angry that conservatives are still deep in denial. What’s wrong with those conservatives?
On the other hand, if you’re on the right, you’ve probably been tracking our nation’s entitlement spending and the rise of nonmarital births for a long time now. You’ve been ringing alarms about those two asteroids since the 1970s, but liberals have treated you like Chicken Little, completely unconcerned. Caring is spending, they seem to believe. All forms of family are equally good for kids, they assert in spite of the evidence. What’s wrong with those liberals? Read the whole piece online at Tallahassee.com.
Fareed Zakaria has an answer to the question of why, if the science is not really in dispute, it is so difficult for us to actually do something about it? It also explains why economic reforms are so hard to make. It’s because we don’t delay gratification well anymore…
“It wasn’t always thus. The great sociologist Daniel Bell once wrote that the best way to describe the Protestant ethic that produced capitalism and the industrial revolution and the Rise of the West was one phrase, two words – delayed gratification. But there are few Calvinists left today, and the spirit of our age might be better described with one word change – instant gratification.”
Join us on Tuesday, January 14th for our 2nd Dinner at the Square of our season “Asteroids Club” – the dinner is “FEARS: Where not everyone shares your pain” – get details and reserve your seat HERE. In the meantime, here’s a must-read on the impact of the climate change “asteroid” on our state.
“Even more than Silicon Valley, Miami embodies the central technological myth of our time – that nature can not only be tamed but made irrelevant. Miami was a mosquito-and-crocodile-ﬁlled swampland for thousands of years, virtually uninhabited until the late 1800s. Then developers arrived, canals were dug, swamps were drained, and a city emerged that was unlike any other place on the planet, an edge-of-the-world, air-conditioned dreamland of sunshine and beaches and drugs and money; Jan Nijman, the former director of the Urban Studies Program at the University of Miami, called 20th-century Miami “a citadel of fantastical consumption.” Floods would come and go and hurricanes might blow through, but the city would survive, if only because no one could imagine a force more powerful than human ingenuity. That defiance of nature – the sense that the rules don’t apply here – gave the city its great energy. But it is also what will cause its demise…”
“Protecting the city, if it is possible, will require innovative solutions.” Those solutions are not likely to be forthcoming from the political realm. The statehouse in Tallahassee is a monument to climate-change denial. “You can’t even say the words ‘climate change’ on the House ﬂoor without being run out of the building,” says Gustafson.”
We hope you’ll be joining us for the continuation of our “Asteroids Club” season? The dinner is Tuesday, January 14th “FEARS: Where not everyone shares your pain” – get details and reserve your seat HERE. It will be a conversation on entitlement spending and climate change like none other. In the meantime, here’s a video from Planet Money’s Adam Davidson that offers hope we can “deflect” the climate change asteroid.
Davidson: “a tiny tiny percentage of ancient economists and misrepresentative ideologues have captured the process… but they don’t represent what our views are.”
VILLAGE SQUARE CONTINUES “THE ASTEROIDS CLUB” SEASON Programs examine six American “asteroids” that threaten our future
(TALLAHASSEE, FL) – January 7, 2014 – Imagine there is a giant asteroid heading to earth, expected to destroy life as we know it. We’d stop the incessant partisan bickering and do everything within our power to deflect the asteroid, right? Like in the movies?
During its 2013-14 Dinner at the Square season, The Village Square examines six American “asteroids” headed directly at us – each a problem that will only grow bigger and harder to “deflect” the longer we ignore it. Stuck inside our feuding partisan tribes, we’ve failed to find common cause against common threats – preferring instead to argue in the public debate about whose asteroid is real; all while the threats continue to build.
This year’s season of programming is a joint project of The Village Square and Dr. Jonathan Haidt of NYU’s Stern School of Business and author of “The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion.” The Village Square’s unique model of civic engagement continues to draw national attention, recently named by Senator Olympia Snowe as one of eight organizations in America seeking to grow political common ground (the only one hometown-based).
The second program of the season will be held on Tuesday, January 14, 5:30 to 7:30 pm at St. John’s Episcopal Church downtown. “FEARS: Where not everyone shares your pain” will take a look at the liberal “asteroid” of climate change and the conservative “asteroid” of entitlement spending – both data-supported problems that one side of the political aisle warns has put future generations at serious risk and the other side simply fails to see.
Panelists include attorney Brian Armstrong of Nabors, Giblin & Nickerson and his good friend Dr. Ed Moore, President of Independent Colleges of Florida. We’ll be posing them the question: “What if manmade climate change is real and the social welfare state is doomed?” Two experts will assist them – Dr. Randy Holcombe, the Devoe Moore Professor of Economics at Florida State University and Susan Glickman, the Florida Director of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy.
“The Asteroids Club” season will continue through the school year with other asteroids, including money in politics and moral behavior. Last fall the series examined rising economic inequality and family breakdown.
For more information, visit www.tothevillagesquare.org, call 590-6646 or email email@example.com. To learn more about the Asteroids Club project go to www.asteroidsclub.org. A limited number of scholarship tickets are available through Friday, January 10th.
This Friday January 10, FAITH, FOOD, FRIDAY, (“Improbable conversations for people of faith and no faith at all”) continues with “Restorative Justice: Rethinking the Role of Forgiveness.” The God Squad will host Andy and Kate Grosmaire, whose 19-year-old daughter Ann was killed by her boyfriend in 2010. Joined by the Reverend Allison DeFoor, who had a critical role in the events that unfolded following Ann’s death, they will share their journey of loss and forgiveness and their struggle to define what justice is in the face of profound and unthinkable personal tragedy. Together, they will tell a story of two families seeking another way despite incredible obstacles – a story that takes them across the country, around the world and deep inside their hearts – to bring to fruition an idea unlikely to happen anywhere, much less in the panhandle of North Florida. There are few stories like the one the Grosmaires will tell in the world today. Rev. Dave Killeen of St. John’s Episcopal Church will moderate the discussion.
To get more information or reserve your seat for this program click HERE. The program will be held at First Baptist Church (108 W. College Avenue) from noon to 1 pm with lunch available at 11:30, and is free and open to the public. RSVP by Tuesday for the early-bird lunch price of $8 ($10 after). Lunch is a Baked Potato Bar: Potatoes, Chili, Steamed Broccoli, Sauteed Onions and Mushrooms, Cheese Sauce, Butter, Sour Cream; along with Rolls and Dessert. Or, and you’re welcome to bring a bag brown lunch or not eat. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 590-6646. You can see “Faith, Food, Friday” dates and topics for the entire season and even RSVP for any of this year’s programs online HERE.
The latest research, including an assessment by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, suggests that sea level could rise more than six feet by the end of the century. James Hansen, the godfather of global-warming science, has argued that it could increase as high as 16 feet by then – and Wanless believes that it could continue rising a foot each decade after that. “With six feet of sealevel rise, South Florida is toast,” says Tom Gustafson, a former Florida speaker of the House and a climate-change-policy advocate. Even if we cut carbon pollution overnight, it won’t save us. Ohio State glaciologist Jason Box has said he believes we already have 70 feet of sea-level rise baked into the system.