It was 1979 and tired of working seven years on Capitol Hill for two U.S. Congressmen, I decided it was time to return to my first love -- writing and journalism.
That was 40 years ago and I was 36 years old with a wife, two young children, and a mortgage. But while working as press secretary and chief of staff to those two Congressmen, I constantly saw business and trade magazines come across my desk, all of them attempting to report on issues and developments in Washington affecting those specific industries.
In many cases, it seemed like those publications lacked insight and understanding of even the basic processes in Washington, and relyed almost totally on their industry trade associations for warmed over news. Moreover, most of them were monthly print magazines, so more often than not their Washington-based articles were badly outdated by the time they saw print.
That seemed like an opportunity for me. So I hopped on a train, went to New York, and met with the editorial directors of two trade magazine publishing companies. When I went home that evening, I had commitments to provide monthly Washington "update" columns for some 10 or 12 trade magazines -- at about $200 for each column.
How would I actually do that? I had no earthly idea.
All I had to work with was a manual Royal typewriter and a home telephone. Plus, I had to quickly learn about a dozen different industries and start churning out useful columns every month for each of them.
Sporting Goods Business. National Jeweler. Health Care Product News. Grocers' Spotlight. Housewares. Destinations. Skiing Trade News. Merchandising. Premium/Incentive Business. Roofing, Siding and Insulation. Hotel & Motel Management.
Those were just some of the early clients of the "Periodicals News Service" that I established so I could get press gallery credentials on Capitol Hill. With a political pollster friend, the late Don Herche, we opened an office above a liquor store just a block down Independence Avenue from the Capitol.
Meeting the Conductor
Graduating from my cherished manual typewriter to an IBM Selectric, I often ran -- I was in shape -- my finished manuscripts five blocks to Union Station, paid a conductor $5 to hand them off to a messenger sent by my publisher to meet the train in New York, and thus make my deadlines.
Soon I invested in one of the early personal computers, a Radio Shack Model II, and a "typewriter quality" printer. I signed up for MCI Mail, an early email service, and convinced my clients in New York to do the same. All of a sudden, my productivity multiplied and I was able to expand, building upon the information developed for one client and manipulating and updating it for another.
During those days, I also did some political media consulting, teaming up with Don to work with some of his clients, providing communications consulting and campaign marketing services. That was a fairly short-lived enterprise, however, as I tired of chasing candidates for my money.
Over the years, additional magazine clients were added and I began to use trusted freelancers, like my friend, Cecelia Blalock, to help. I also branched out to provide communications services to national trade associations, expanding from editorial services to graphics, photography, magazine development and more. My former wife, Mary Ann, and our daughter, Shelly, were big parts of that effort for several years. Mary Ann became an accomplished photographer, who in her late 70s, still works with my son, Mike, in his company, U.S. Event Photos. Shelly is an author and high school English teacher.
The 'Woodstein' of Urology
In the 90s, I added a number of health-related publications read by physicians and other healthcare providers. One of those publications was Urology Times, for which I began writing a Washington and You column in the early '90s.
Three years ago, my now wife, Jackie, and I moved to Myrtle Beach, SC, and I resigned from most of my accounts to, in effect, retire. That's when Not Fake News was born.
Last Friday, I wrote my final column for Urology Times, one that earned me the complementary nickname of "The Woodstein of Urology" by one of my sources, Dr. Neal Shore, a leading urologist based here in Myrtle Beach.
"Woodstein" -- you know, a blend of Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward, famed Washington Post writers who uncovered the Watergate scandal.
I liked that.
"It's an end of an era," wrote Richard Kerr, the editorial director of the company that now publishes Urology Times, in an email to me this morning.
Indeed, it is.
So now, I have even more time to hassle you guys with Not Fake News. Lucky you.