Rupert Howell Column

Published 12:00 am Friday, March 5, 2010

Rupert Howell

Hawaiian vacation taught great lesson in local journalism

All I know about community journalism, I learned from a lady I’ll call Betty Sue Nomie.

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Betty Sue was married to a man I’ll just call Bruiser.

Once upon a time in about 1977, Betty Sue and Bruiser went on a vacation to the Hawaiian Islands. When they returned she brought to the newspaper office her photo with Bruiser sitting at a table in a Hawaiian lounge. Both had leis around their necks and drinks with little umbrellas in them.

At the time I wasn’t long separated from that great university to the east where I studied, among other things, journalism. This wasn’t long after Watergate. The movie “All the President’s Men” was just having its effect on the journalism profession with Robert Redford playing the lead.

When Betty Sue asked if I would put their vacation picture in the paper I couldn’t tell her “no,” although I think I did tell her I would do it “when we had space.”

My elitist attitude acquired while at the university told me that world travel is no longer an uncommon event. Vacations are kind of like birthdays — everybody has one every year except those who are no longer among us.

After Betty’s third trip to the office seeking clarification of why the Sue Nomie’s vacation picture had yet to run in the paper she cut to the chase and said, ”Now look. If my and Bruiser’s picture is not in your paper next week, my little skinny a__ is going to kick your fat a__ all over that parking lot.”

My choices were limited. But my parents had taught me early on never to fight with a woman. Thank God.

If you fight a woman and win its like kissing your cousin. You can’t brag about it to your friends — and I wasn’t going to win.

Needless to say, Betty Sue Nomie’s picture with Bruiser sitting at a table in the Hawaiian honky tonk was published in the next week’s pages and my attitude had been adjusted.

You see, Betty Sue Nomie worked in the local “drawer’s factory” with about  800 other women. We sold at least 600 newspapers in and around that factory each week.

And there was their co-worker, Betty Sue Nomie along with her husband, Bruiser, sitting in a Hawaiian honky tonk, with leis hanging from their necks and little umbrellas in their drinks.

Now if that’s not community journalism, I don’t know what is.

After almost 35 years I had to confess and write these words so I could go to Hawaii myself.

Aloha, y’all!