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Florence Snyder: On ISIS and Viagra

“Men raise flags when they can’t get anything else up,” Emperor Charlemagne’s mother tells her grandson in “Pippin,” the Tony award winning musical set in the 9th century.

You’d think the modern multibillion dollar erectile dysfunction industry would have fixed that problem. But plainly the drugs aren’t working.

Preening pols and pasty faced-pundits have been screaming for war since Friday’s attack on Paris. They have thus far not told us whose children will be providing the cannon fodder.

It’s worth noting, then, that Vietnam combat veteran Mac Stipanovich is willing to put his beloved grandsons where his mouth is on the subject of what to do about ISIS. Stipanovich, a lawyer, lobbyist and oft-quoted influencer, took to Twitter to call for “War. Not kinda war on the cheap. Boots on the ground. Higher taxes, less domestic spending, less consumption, conscription if needed. War.”

“I have grandsons coming of age for whom I fear, ” Stipanovich tweeted, “but I believe we must put aside hopes for peace and go to war with whoever will stand with us.”

Many of Stipanovich’s contemporaries burned their draft cards and fled to Canada rather than “engage communism” in Southeast Asia. Still, they respected the fact that people running the draft and reporting the news from the rice paddies had themselves “engaged fascism” in Europe and in the Pacific. The voting age public has no such respect for 21st century pols and pundits who don’t know a Sunni from a Shiite and can’t pronounce Raqqa, nevermind locate it on a map.

They are unimpressed by Florida Man Jeff Zucker, who is rebranding CNN as the Childish News Network by deploying “talent” to ask the President of the United States on live TV “why can’t we take out these bastards?”

For an adult answer to that question, consider “Isis in Afghanistan” a PBS Frontline documentary by Afghan journalist and Alfred I. DuPont Award winner Najibullah Quraishi.

It’s a stomach-churning, bone-chilling look at the district of Shaigal, where ISIS fighters have appropriated the land and the children of the locals. Early childhood education starts at age 3, and the curriculum includes gun toting, grenade throwing, and suicide bombing. The villagers would spare their children this “education” if they could, but ISIS does not believe in school choice. They will take and brainwash the babies, with or without parental consent.

As we think about what to do next, let’s follow Stipanovich’s good example. Let’s find out who’s willing to put their own children’s skin in the game.

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Florence Snyder is a corporate and First Amendment lawyer. Contact her at lawyerflo@gmail.com



Florence Snyder: Less green bean casserole, more human understanding. For Paris.

3254822612_acd6e77782_zDeath happens to the best of us, and also to the worst.

We saw that again last week in Paris, and in Beirut, where hundreds of people going about the business of daily living had the bad fortune to cross paths with fanatics armed with weapons of war and hearts full of hate.

The Grim Reaper is not obliged to give a heads-up that your number’s up. There is always a chance that a marathon in Boston or a church in Charleston will be violated by twisted souls that nobody’s God would claim.

The Grim Reaper outsources only a fraction of his job to nut jobs claiming to be guided by homicidal Higher Authorities. The bulk of his business is done by Alzheimer’s and heart disease and cancer and 57 varieties of addiction.

The Grim Reaper does not respect boundaries. Surprise visits to offices and schools and family vacations are not off limits. He works his regular shift on birthdays, anniversaries, and the occasional bar mitzvah. He does not care that Americans are about to celebrate that most Leo Tolstoy of holidays, Thanksgiving, where “All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”

This Thanksgiving, as always, happy families count their blessings and carve the turkey, while unhappy families sharpen the long knives and use them on one another. No matter what else might be happening in the world, unhappy families can rarely resist the annual opportunity to eat, drink, and resurrect ancient grievances.

In her brilliant new book Tribal, my colleague Diane Roberts reminds us that much of the human race is hard-wired to believe that God wants bloody vengeance for last week’s defeat on the football field. We should not be surprised that there are people on every continent seeking bloody vengeance for Civil Wars, and Balkan Wars, and wars dating back to the twelve tribes of Israel.

This Thanksgiving, let’s skip the competition for Smartest Guy in the Room and Prettiest Presentation of Green Bean Casserole and focus—really focus—on learning something we didn’t know about someone who shares our holiday table. That’s as close as we can come to cheating death.

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Florence Snyder is a corporate and First Amendment lawyer. Contact her at lawyerflo@gmail.com

Photo credit: Gregory Bastien.



Florence Snyder: Florence’s Handy Dandy Father’s Day Shopping Compendium

3520871459_ed2586d917_zHey kids! Just six more shopping days until Father’s Day. Step away from the tie counter, please, because your father does not want another tie, unless it’s the one Jim Morrison wore at his high school graduation.

Here are some other things your father does not want: belts, bathrobes, T-shirts, cuff links, coffee mugs, and electronic devices that were on the shelves before Mothers Day and cost less than $500.

If you’re old enough to be reading this, you’re old enough to get it through your head that what you father wants from you is time.

Give him as much of that as you can spare, because God counts the years, and you never know when his number—or yours—will be up.

Here’s some stuff your father wants you to ask about:

  • What’s the first thing you remember?
  • When did you decide to become a butcher (or baker or candlestick maker)?
  • What’s your favorite movie?
  • What are you most proud of?
  • If you could go anywhere, where would you go?
  • If you could do anything, what would you do?

For best results, have these conversations in person, and remember to shut off your father’s device, as well as your own.

And kids, while you’re home, don’t forget to clean up your room. Your father is very tired of hearing your mother wringing her hands about whether it would be ok to give away your stuffed animals.

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Florence Snyder is a corporate and First Amendment lawyer. Contact her at lawyerflo@gmail.com

(Photo credit: Easa Shamih)



Florence Snyder: A Valentine to David Carr

rachel-heart-desatLike all addicts, David Carr had a drug of choice. His was journalism.

He craved the constant rush that the news business provides. The endorphins unleashed in the newsrooms where he worked in Minnesota and Washington and New York made for a better high than “the frantic kind of boring,” that Carr described in his memoir about the years he spent out of newsrooms, shacked up with the harsh mistresses of alcohol and cocaine.

Carr got sober and spent the next 25 years as journalism’s Romeo. He loved reporting the news, and was an ardent lover of people who reported the news.

Unlike many aging baby boomers, Carr had no fear of new technology and no contempt for young people who did not equate the survival of newspapers with the survival of journalism.

But he brooked no insolence from new media whippersnappers who insulted the New York Times, for which Carr had “an immigrant’s love.”

The nut graf of Carr’s life is preserved forever in the 2011 documentary film “Page One: Inside the New York Times.” Carr is seen interviewing Vice founder Shane Smith about Vice’s coverage of Liberia. Smith babbles that mainstream media “never tells the whole story.”

Carr explodes, “Before you ever went there, we’ve had reporters there reporting on genocide after genocide. Just because you put on a fucking safari helmet and looked at some poop doesn’t give you the right to insult what we do.”

But Carr’s love was not blind. Day after day, year after year Carr documented the “industry suicide’ of old media while writing road maps for the people who will invent journalism’s future.

Some of those people are studying at Boston University, where Carr, the first holder of the Andrew R. Lack Professorship, created a “contemporary and entrepreneurial journalism” course called PressPlay: Making and distributing content in the present future.

Former Miami Herald Editor and Dean of the Boston University College of Communications says it was “…almost as the result of wishful thinking” how Carr came to the Professorship.

“Several of us were at a lunch that Mr. Lack hosted tossing about the names of people who might fit the vision of the Lack Professorship, that is, a person with a unique ability to understand and explain the changes, good and bad, that were occurring in the communication fields as a result of emerging communication technologies. Someone — probably Andy Lack — remarked that the person we were searching for would have to be on David Carr’s speed dial; it would have to be a person whom David would call when he was seeking insight into some development. Not in our wildest dreams did we think at that moment that David himself would be interested in this position and would find a way to join Boston University.”

Fiedler should not have been surprised. Carr spent every minute of his professional life teaching people inside and outside of the newsroom what journalism is, and why it matters.

On the last night of his life, Carr conducted yet another master class in finding stuff out and sharing it with the world, moderating a Times Talk about the film “Citizenfour” with its principal subject, Edward Snowden and Laura Poitras and Glenn Greenwald, the journalists to whom Snowdon leaked a trove of classified documents.

And then he collapsed in the newsroom he so dearly loved.

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Florence Snyder is a corporate and First Amendment lawyer. Contact her at lawyerflo@gmail.com



Florence Snyder: Journalistic credibility requires the attention from the top

Media bashers, media ethicists and the Greek chorus at Comedy Central will be gorging for a long time on the disgraced remains of Brian Williams.

But the credibility crisis now engulfing NBC News is not Williams’ fault. It is never the reporter’s fault.

An “anchor and managing editor” is neither God nor a kid with a YouTube channel. He does not edit his own stories and he does not put himself on the air.

Like print journalism, broadcast news employs an army of producers and business executives whose job it is to demonstrate with every story, every day that “we work for the viewers, and we care about the truth.”

The folks in charge of ethics and basic reporting skills at NBC have been failing Williams for a long, long time.

More than a decade ago, Don Helus, one of the pilots of one of the helicopters that figured in Williams’ escalating tales of derring-do, noticed Williams’ embellishments of his brief stint as a war correspondent in Iraq. Helus showed NBC the respect of writing a letter pointing out Williams’ factual errors.

Such communications are taken seriously at news organizations wishing to be taken seriously by audiences, advertisers and sources.

Helus had every right to expect that NBC would show him the respect of acknowledging his letter and investigating his concerns.

NBC instead ignored Helus and year by year, Williams’ propensity to self-aggrandize grew along with his salary and his bromances with Jimmy Fallon and Joe Scarborough.

It wasn’t until other soldiers who were around for Williams’ journo-tourism adventure came forward on Facebook to call him a liar that we began to learn that there might also be some holes in Williams’ award- winning coverage of Hurricane Katrina.

Helus, now retired and living in Enterprise, Alabama, was unimpressed by the apology Williams offered his audience on last Wednesday’s Nightly News.

“I had to chuckle, and it is not because I wish ill of Brian Williams,” he told Erin Edgemon of theDothan Eagle. “It was just ‘admit you are wrong and take your lumps.’ It really wasn’t an apology. It was more of an excuse than anything.”

Excuses may cut it in business and politics, but not in the Fourth Estate. Williams’ name will live in journalism infamy, but the real villains are the yet-to-be-named people at NBC News who ignored Helus’ letter.

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Florence Snyder is a corporate and First Amendment lawyer. Contact her at lawyerflo@gmail.com



Florence Snyder: Wheat, Chaff and Shoeleather

3247073217_0861b0afd4_zThe Ledger, Imperial Polk County’s newspaper of record, is run by a young woman from the Old School.

Editor Lenore Devore thinks reporters should look at the wheat to be found in public records, and not the chaff of press releases peddled by taxpayer-supported ministers of disinformation.

So when the Lakeland Police Department’s “public information officer” stonewalled a young police reporter looking to flesh out details of a local shooting, Devore did what good editors do. She refused to let her newsroom take “no” for an answer.

That was in the fall of 2012, when the community and its newspaper had high hopes for Lakeland’s new police chief, Lisa Womack. But Womack quickly proved to be Lakeland’s worst enemy, and her own, as The Ledger uncovered instances of the Department falsely claiming that records did not exist or could not be found, Womack candidly if stupidly admitted she plays a “cat-and-mouse” game with the press regarding Florida’s hundred-plus-year-old public records law.

The State Attorney asked the grand jury to take a look, and The Ledger took the unusual step of allowing Devore and five of her reporters to testify under oath and behind closed doors. Journalists usually resist being “part of the story,” and for good reason. A newspaper’s credibility rests entirely upon the public’s belief that the newsroom is working for readers, and not for the powers that be.

But The Ledger didn’t report anything to the grand jury that it had not already reported to its readers.

The grand jury issued a scathing report, expressing doubt as to Womack’s fitness to serve as police chief given her hostility toward her legal duty of candor with the press and public. The report remained secret for 10 months, as the city fought tooth-and-taxpayer dollar to keep it secret.

Meanwhile, honest people who knew things and trusted their newspaper to report them began to come out of the woodwork. The more The Ledger dug, the more “new sources provided information from right under the chief’s nose,” said Devore.

The Ledger’s front page was awash in stories of sex scandal cover-ups by higher-ups. A police captain, a city human resources chief, and 28 others were fired or forced to resign. There were reports of frat-boy “bra searches” designed to frighten and humiliate rather than to serve and protect.

One officer was arrested on charges of sexual battery and stalking. Another officer admitted to requiring DUI suspects to sign forms he had not yet filled out. The State Attorney was forced to drop dozens of that officer’s cases, and later concluded that “public safety is at risk in Lakeland.”

A year after The Ledger wrote its first story detailing problems with public records at the police department, the city lost its $220,000 fight to keep the grand jury report secret. A month later, the police chief resigned.

Lakeland’s credibility is in a mighty big hole, but the city fathers won’t stop digging. And neither will The Ledger, which recently reported that the city secretly hired a public relations firm and paid it $130,000 for fruitless and futile damage control. You don’t have to live and pay taxes in Lakeland to appreciate this kind of dogged, persistent, meat-and-potatoes local reporting. Every community deserves an editor like Devore, but far too few communities have one.

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Florence Snyder is a corporate and First Amendment lawyer. Contact her at lawyerflo@gmail.com

(Photo Credit: Lakeland Local)



Florence Snyder: Palm Beach Post’s O’Meilia leaves his mark in scrapbooks – and hearts – across America

O'MeiliaMuckraking 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.

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Florence Snyder is a corporate and First Amendment lawyer. Contact her at lawyerflo@gmail.com



Florence Snyder: Raising a glass to Arthur England

England_ArthurArthur England was not a pretentious man. Unlike a lot of retired traffic magistrates, he did not want to be called “Judge” after he left the Florida Supreme Court in 1981. It was easy to forget that for all of his professional life, he really was the smartest guy in the room.

England, who died August 1, did much of the heavy legal lifting in the years when Florida was on the cutting edge of everything. Two memorial services, one at his synagogue in Miami and a second this week at the Florida Supreme Court, only begin to scratch the surface of England’s contributions to his state and to the many people who loved him.

Former Gov. Reubin Askew’s eyes sparkled with pride as he paid tribute to his old friend in the well of the courtroom where England had presided. Askew deserves and was happy to take most of the credit for the man who fathered Florida’s Corporate Income Tax Code, the 1973 Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act, and the Florida Administrative Procedures Act, as well as six children who share their dad’s commitment to education, to community service, and to the belief that in all endeavors of life, character counts.

At the time of his death, England was 80 going on 50. “Tethered to an oxygen machine,” his widow, Deborah Miller England told the Miami Herald, he fended off pulmonary fibrosis at the family home in Coral Gables and attended to his cases and clients until hours before he succumbed.

England served on the Court alongside his good friend, the late Alan Sundberg. To journalists of a certain age, England and Sundberg were Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, shooting holes in the arguments made by legions of old-school, low-tech lawyers who opposed cameras in the courtroom.

Former Florida State University and American Bar Association President Sandy D’Alemberte, who argued the cameras case on behalf of the Post-Newsweek television stations, credits England with designing a one year pilot project that paved the way to the landmark decision which made it possible for the public to see for themselves what was happening in their courtrooms.

At the Miami memorial service, and again in Tallahassee, D’Alemberte eulogized England as a lawyer and jurist who was always motivated to make the law accessible and understandable to everyone.

Court colleague and lifelong friend Eleanor Mitchell Hunter recalled his tireless efforts to modernize the administrative wheels of justice. “It was Arthur who bought the Court’s first computer,” Hunter said.

Standing shoulder-to-shoulder on the pulpit at Temple Beth Am, and again at the Supreme Court, England’s children spoke of him in the present tense. They smiled and wrapped their arms around each other and delivered the kind of crisp, clear, final summation that England himself was known and admired for in his post-Court career as one of the nation’s premier appellate lawyers: “He’s brilliant, kind, loving, easygoing, and constantly makes us and others feel special and valued.”

For a moment, it was possible to imagine that this was a toast at a family birthday party, and any second now, England would raise a glass and respond.

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Florence Snyder is a corporate and First Amendment lawyer. Contact her at lawyerflo@gmail.com



Florence Snyder: The Fourth Estate in the Sunshine State

Context Florida Publisher Peter Schorsch got it wrong dead wrong when he suggested in his September 5 Saintpetersblog post that reporter envy might taint coverage of the Chris Clark imbroglio.

Miami Herald Tallahassee Bureau Chief Mary Ellen Klas broke the story that Floridas power elite has spent the week chewing over, praying over, and kvetching over.

Klas reported that Clark makes megabucks as a political consultant, servicing clients he also deals with in his $150,000 day job as Senate President Don Gaetz chief of staff.

That was news to the 99%, most of whom think that $150,000 is real money, and more than enough to purchase all of a legislative staffers time and loyalty to the public that picks up the tab.

In 21st century Florida, everythings legal and theres no such thing as a conflict of interest. Taxpayers, and even the press, have become desensitized to public servants who hang out their influence-peddling shingles at 5 oclock on the day they cash their last government paycheck.

But Clarks real-time revolving door is something new.

Schorsch, himself a political consultant, is open-minded about Clarks hybrid job and rightly suggests that if this is the new normal, some public dialogue is in order.

As we continue to discuss this story, a better sense of proportion is needed,” Schorsch wrote.

Nobody could argue against proportion, but Schorsch goes a phrase too far when he posits that proportion may not come from envious reporters making little more than Highway Patrolmen.

Schorsch was blogging from a family vacation and may not have intended the juxtaposition of Klas and the Green Eyed Monster.

But plenty of Tallahassees movers, shakers, and legends in their own minds do confuse real reporters like Klas with the burgeoning population of reporters turned media lobbyists.

Lobbying the press is big business, and an out-of-control cancer on the body politic. As the News Service of Floridas Dara Kam showed in a groundbreaking story this week, professional press wranglers have been redefined as an expected expenditure for anyone who wants anything from government.

“Conduits to the media”, Kam reports, have become a routine cost of doing business, and the special interests will pay through the nose for ex-reporters willing to call themselves story brokers and peddle someone’s party line to their old colleagues.

Klas is lucky, and so are we, that whats left of the Miami Herald will pay her a wage she can live on to find out things that Senate Presidents and their retinues dont want you to know.

Klas could have cashed in her credibility for a Chris Clark size income in media lobbying years ago..if she were the envious type.

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Florence Snyder is a corporate and First Amendment lawyer. Contact her at lawyerflo@gmail.com



Florence Snyder: The Fourth Estate in the Sunshine State

Context Florida Publisher Peter Schorsch got it wrong dead wrong when he suggested in his September 5 Saintpetersblog post that reporter envy might taint coverage of the Chris Clark imbroglio.

Miami Herald Tallahassee Bureau Chief Mary Ellen Klas broke the story that Floridas power elite has spent the week chewing over, praying over, and kvetching over.

Klas reported that Clark makes megabucks as a political consultant, servicing clients he also deals with in his $150,000 day job as Senate President Don Gaetz chief of staff.

That was news to the 99%, most of whom think that $150,000 is real money, and more than enough to purchase all of a legislative staffers time and loyalty to the public that picks up the tab.

In 21st century Florida, everythings legal and theres no such thing as a conflict of interest. Taxpayers, and even the press, have become desensitized to public servants who hang out their influence-peddling shingles at 5 oclock on the day they cash their last government paycheck.

But Clarks real-time revolving door is something new.

Schorsch, himself a political consultant, is open-minded about Clarks hybrid job and rightly suggests that if this is the new normal, some public dialogue is in order.

As we continue to discuss this story, a better sense of proportion is needed,” Schorsch wrote.

Nobody could argue against proportion, but Schorsch goes a phrase too far when he posits that proportion may not come from envious reporters making little more than Highway Patrolmen.

Schorsch was blogging from a family vacation and may not have intended the juxtaposition of Klas and the Green Eyed Monster.

But plenty of Tallahassees movers, shakers, and legends in their own minds do confuse real reporters like Klas with the burgeoning population of reporters turned media lobbyists.

Lobbying the press is big business, and an out-of-control cancer on the body politic. As the News Service of Floridas Dara Kam showed in a groundbreaking story this week, professional press wranglers have been redefined as an expected expenditure for anyone who wants anything from government.

“Conduits to the media”, Kam reports, have become a routine cost of doing business, and the special interests will pay through the nose for ex-reporters willing to call themselves story brokers and peddle someone’s party line to their old colleagues.

Klas is lucky, and so are we, that whats left of the Miami Herald will pay her a wage she can live on to find out things that Senate Presidents and their retinues dont want you to know.

Klas could have cashed in her credibility for a Chris Clark size income in media lobbying years ago..if she were the envious type.

____________

Florence Snyder is a corporate and First Amendment lawyer. Contact her at lawyerflo@gmail.com



Florence Snyder: Surely it was inevitable that the boomers would create TGIO (thankfully, in Tallahassee)

There’s not much to smile about in this Summer of Tsuris. Governor Rick Scott has fled the jurisdiction as Dream Defenders occupy the Capitol. Deck chairs are being shuffled at the Department of Children & Families. The Agency for Health Care Administration is using the children it warehouses in geriatric nursing homes as an excuse to bash Obamacare. Obscene “compensation” pours into the pockets of shameless officers and directors at Florida Blue.

So it was a welcome and altogether unexpected surprise this weekend to see hundreds of old folks dancing down Broadsway at Florida State University’s Opperman Music Hall.

That’s not a typo. “Broadsway” Productions is the second act of self-described recovering lawyer Elise Judelle and Peggy Brady, who recently retired after a 21-year run as Executive Director of the local Council on Culture and Arts.

Judelle and Brady are in show business full time now, and this weekend was the world premiere of a cabaret they call TGIO (Thank God I’m Old). For two solid hours, Broadsway’s troupe of singer-actors took an unsparing musical look at all manner of unfinished business people contend with in the 4th quarter of their lives. The characters portrayed come from the songbooks of pop, rock, and country, as well as the Great White Way, and the stakes are high, because time on the clock is running low.

The Judelle-Brady spirit of “hey kids, let’s put on a show!” made for a great performance, but even more interesting was the audience.

The 442 seat venue was close to full of local retirees. Some of the faces were recognizable, but most were unsung heroes of generations of state workers, educators and journalists who served Florida in the decades before it was the world’s leading exporter of late night comedy.

The token young person in the room was cast member Kelly Staver Elliott, who sang the role of a beloved granddaughter in a reimagined version of “For Good,” a signature song from Stephen Schwartz’s “Wicked.” More often, Elliott was camping it up as a sweet young thing who catches the eyes of over-the-hill men armed with high hopes and a few hits of Viagra.

Audience emotions were toyed with in ways not generally associated with attorneys like Judelle, who spent much of her career doing the mind-numbing work of a bond lawyer at Bryant Miller Olive, the firm founded by the late Gov. Farris Bryant.

Show-goers toggled between uproarious laughter and barely-muffled sobs. There was a relaxed camaraderie in the audience that one used to see in the halls of power back when public service was an end in itself, and not a pit stop on the path to a lucrative life of influence peddling and no-bid contracts.

At intermission, people who used to be bold-faced names worked the room. They recognized people who, long ago, did real work competently at metal desks far removed from the corner offices of agency heads and managing partners. Unlike today’s “executive leadership teams” who always have their eyes on the name tags, looking for someone more important to talk to, they greeted old subordinates as equals, and asked after their children.

Judelle and Brady’s Glee for Geezers seems destined for future performance on the road and on the Internet. But on opening night, it felt like it was the audience that should be taking the bow.

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Florence Snyder is a corporate and First Amendment lawyer. Contact her at lawyerflo@gmail.com



Elena Novak: Changing the Political Atmosphere

Village Square at Florida State University LOGOFrom ULoop:

When I was in high school, I wanted to go into politics. The fast-paced environment, the constant challenge, the promise of a better tomorrow, the false sense of importance, the manipulation, the lying and conniving… okay, I digress. You can see I changed my mind.

That is until I started volunteering my freshman year with a Tallahassee non-profit called The Village Square. I was looking to volunteer with any non-profit as a means of getting involved in the community during my college years, and this politically-oriented organization found me, not the other way around. Read the rest of the article online here.

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Elena is the Village Square FSU Ambassador. She is currently launching The Village Square at FSU.



Florence Snyder: “The Newsroom” that isn’t anymore.

coffee newspaperAs HBO launches the new season of “The Newsroom,” the infotainment intelligentsia are all over the Internet making fun of Aaron Sorkin’s hyper-romantic Valentine to journalism.

Huffington Post TV critic Maureen Ryan and other purveyors of news and opinion scoff at Sorkin’s “heart-on-sleeve earnestness” and “magical belief that better news coverage could fix America.”

Not so long ago, that magical belief was a consensus point of view.

Florida’s newsrooms were stuffed with shy social misfits, charismatic class clowns, outlaws and outcasts, all drawn to the business by a shared belief that journalism was an end in itself, a sacred public trust. Read all »