When the future was in Topeka

Topeka Capital-Journal
Sept. 25, 1992

There have been times when I would have liked to buy back my introduction to Gene Gregston, times when I wished I’d never seen him. Not many times, but a few. The reason is, he’s the man who, some 40 years ago, got me to move to Kansas and go to work for the old Topeka Daily Capital. Continue reading

Memorable leads

Topeka Capital Journal
June 27, 1986.

The other day here, writing about gobbledygook, I quoted an Illinois statute, in which the first sentence was more than 260 words long. A friend remarked that it must not have been written by a newspaper man – or newspaper person, as we are supposed to say now – because they are trained to write short “leads,” or opening sentences.

It doesn’t always work out that way, as the sentence above proves. But it is true that editors like short and simple beginnings, and some of them get nasty about it.

James Thurber had an editor who demanded short leads, and made such an issue of it that one day, covering a news story, Thurber wrote:

“Dead.

“That’s the way they found John Doe today.”

And that brings us to the subject of memorable newspaper leads and headlines, Continue reading

When heat tested whittlers, nuns and nearly naked newsmen

Topeka Capital-Journal
June 22, 1987

Often on the golf course, when four or five men are about to suffocate from heat and humidity, they talk about how they would react if they were forced to go out in that weather for four hours and do something equally as senseless as chasing a golf ball.

The other day, one such group followed that brief discussion by talking about what life was like before air conditioning and what it would be like now, if that marvel of marvels hadn’t been invented. Things would be different, that’s for sure. Continue reading

How about, “Proving journalism is the last refuge of the vaguely talented?”

(Editor’s note: During the 1990s, Snider was identified at the end of his twice-weekly column in a blurb that called him simply “a local retired newsman.”)

Topeka Capital Journal
April 30, 1990

It has been ordained that I be identified at the end of these columns, that there be some line there explaining who I am, in case somebody might be wondering. It is a good idea. You have every right to know who is responsible for what goes on here. Continue reading

Fields of dreams and delusions.

Topeka Metro News
March 25, 2005

Devere Nelson, known to his millions of fans worldwide as Dev, used to sit in a little closet-sized control room, or studio, or whatever they called it, at WIBW and recreate baseball games that Topeka’s professional team was playing on the road. Continue reading

For These Shooters, No Shots, No Hats

Topeka Daily Capital
July 15, 1959

The popular picture of the press photographer comes from the movies, or the poorer television shows. The fellow is a middle-age wise guy, with his hat turned up in front and a press card sticking in the band and – since he works for a newspaper – he naturally drinks too much and talks too much.

I was comparing this “typical” photographer with the Daily Capital’s real life staff the other day and I was a little shaken. Either times have changed or we’re on the wrong track.

Rich Clarkson, the boss, and Gary Settle, are Ivy League-trim, practically hairless and disgustingly young and single. Owen Brewer is so young, he’s Little League. Then there’s Bill Snead, and I guess you would call him National League. He’s young, too, but he’s married and he’s a Cardinals fan.

The four of them don’t own one hat among them. If anything, they talk too little, and I shudder to think what havoc a shaker of martinis could create in their darkroom. I am confident they all take heed of my admonition that bleary eyes cannot focus properly and hands that touched liquor should not touch our shutters.

It’s remarkable, the more I think about it, how these guys get us good pictures when they fail so miserably to measure up to the movie and TV versions of their profession. Continue reading

Kansas Newspapermen Linked by Sports

Topeka Capital-Journal
Dec. 15, 1999

There were a couple of send-off parties earlier this month for Mark Nusbaum and his family, wishing them well in Lubbock, Texas, where he is the new publisher of the uniquely named Avalanche-Journal. I remember it as the only newspaper I ever saw printed blue raindrops on the front page of the weather report.

Nusbaum is a local boy who made good. He started at the Topeka Capital-Journal as a copy boy, almost as low on the totem pole as a local retiree columnist, and he was executive editor when he left.

He became a sportswriter, and as he moved up, he worked on both the news and business sides of the paper. He became a good newspaperman, well qualified to go off at the tender age of 44 and take over a big daily.

When he told his wife he was surprised by how well he got along with the key players on his new team in Lubbock, a West Texas city of 186,000, she said it was because he had enough redneck in him to make it work. It wasn’t the answer he was expecting, but he agrees. Continue reading

In Memory of Dick Snider

By Peter Hancock
Special to the Topeka Metro News
Nov. 26, 2004

Babe Ruth hit his last home run as a player for the Boston Braves. The last uniform he wore (as a coach) was that of the Brooklyn Dodgers.

Michael Jordan finished his career in the NBA with the Washington Wizards, and Joe Namath threw his last NFL pass for the Los Angeles Rams.

A lot of great people end their careers in places other than the one that made them famous, and so it was with Dick Snider who died this week at age 83, a month after publishing his final column in the Topeka Metro News.

Regardless of where he ended his career, most readers will always remember Snider as a longtime reporter and columnist for the Topeka Capital-Journal. And that’s as it should be, even though his short-lived career at this newspaper should never be forgotten or discounted.

I never had the privilege of knowing Snider personally, but I always admired his work. He had that rare ability to keep both the big world and the small world in their proper perspective – to write with equal eloquence and passion about city politics or a Snider family reunion.

He could be lighthearted and whimsical, or he could be dark and caustic. Either way, he never fell into the trap of taking himself, or his own opinions, too seriously.

Snider came to this newspaper after what can only be described as a less than amicable separation from the Capital-Journal. I don’t presume to know all the reasons for his departure from that paper, nor would I presume to pass them along here even if I did. Continue reading

Remembering Peggy of the Flint Hills

Topeka Capital-Journal

June 16, 2000

Zula Bennington Greene never was sure where her given name originated. She would say her best guess was that her mother read a novel that had a character named Zula in it and gave it to her. That was in 1895 when she was born on a farm in Missouri.

Her first name never really mattered, because she became famous all over Kansas and beyond for the “Peggy of the Flint Hills” columns she wrote for the Topeka Daily Capital and The Topeka Capital-Journal. She wrote her first one in 1933 and continued them until her death 12 years ago this week at the age of 93.

Continue reading