I routinely cover a lot of routine meetings, most notably county commission meetings, planning and zoning meetings, board of trustees meetings (fire district and hospital board), and in the past there were school boards, ambulance districts, city councils, boards of aldermen … lots and lots of meetings.
It’s safe to say I’ve been doing it forever. Today I was at a hearing (another word for “meeting”) at the State Capitol, where the House Committee on Appropriations for Agriculture and Natural Resources heard about an eminent domain issue in Hallsville.
You’ll just have to wait until tomorrow’s Columbia Daily Tribune rolls off the press to see my report on that meeting/hearing. Like thousands of meetings before it, my single focus and single goal is telling the story of the meeting without inducing eye-glazing numbness, which so often is the effect I fight off during said meeting.
In 30 years of news reporting, I’ve covered too many meetings to count. My archives of material for my epic memoir-in-progress — tentatively titled “Goats on Top of the Car” — contain a time-lapse chronology of a meeting of the Belle Board of Aldermen, dated Jan. 14, 1981. I was a senior in high school, but employed by The Belle Banner as the ace reporter. I’m assuming I kept notes of the real action, but my “log of the meeting” details the cigarettes smoked and coffee consumed during the city aldermen meeting in a town of 1,104 residents.
I’ll only present the highlights, so to speak, but first you need a quick introduction to some of the main players: Herb Henley, the city marshall, collector and sewer commissioner; Marlis King, the city treasurer; and Guy Rager, the mayor, a man who perfectly resembled Col. Sanders.
Here goes, unedited:
7:02 p.m., Mayor calls meeting to order. 11 present. All have coffee. Most have cigarette. Some already on cig #2. Marlis King to be late because of wisdom teeth just removed.
7:05, councilmen Curry and Hicks light up. Mayor appearing foggy.
7:08, Henley/Rager begin unnecessary discussion on cig. tax stamps.
7:10, Treasurer King comes in, holding jaw steady.
7:14, smoke in room blending with color of mayor’s hair.
7:35, Hicks lights cig #3. King cusses — couldn’t hear exact word. Curry lights another. King leaves, coughing. King grabs jaw, face contorted in pain as she exits.
7:39, mayor nearly completely obscured by nicotine-laden cloud of toxins.
7:39, aldermen Shanks, Curry get coffee. Curry now has three half-full cups of joe. And two cigs going at once.
7:48, I imagine being fatally wounded by a gunshot through the door.
(I’m skipping over rapid-fire references — with time stamps — to someone lighting up or getting another cup of coffee).
8:28, mayor says he’ll veto an ordinance that just passed. He adds, “Just kidding.” I hear his voice, but i can’t see him.
8:33, mayor doesn’t know Henley is also the water/sewer commissioner. Aldermen snicker.
8:38, meeting adjourned.
Tonight’s totals: 36 cigarettes smoked (that I could see), 24 cups of coffee downed. Conclusion = arteriosclerosis, emphysema and caffeine addiction.
Those were my notes. No idea what was in the actual news story, but I’m sure it wasn’t as entertaining as my notes.
COUNTDOWN TO KIANNA: 35, 34, 33 days away …
The highlight of today was dropping in on my old stomping ground at the Jefferson City News Tribune, unaware that so many of the old gang would be working. Intruding was my pleasure and it gave me a chance to kiss former sports writing colleague Tony Hawley smack upside the head. Sports editor Tom Rackers, under whom I wrote and produced sports and sports pages for parts of nine years from 1992 to 2001, declined a smooch.
Managing editor Richard McGonegal and so many other faces and names from those wonderful years at the “other” Tribune provided the perfect audience for me to announce, “I’m going to be a grandpa soon!”
Reporter Anne Kettenbrink, who was in high school and an intern when I left 11 years ago, recognized my voice, inquiring from her obscured seat, “Is that Jodie Jackson?” When I said it was nice to be remembered, my old sports writing pals quickly let me know that my name does crop up from time to time. It seems I’m partly remembered as a spinner of stories, a teller of tales. And I believe they also mention my name mockingly.
Kind of like at the Tribune where I’m presently employed. (Columbia).
Grandpa’s message to Kianna, #5:
Learn to laugh at yourself.