Author Archive

Help Someone Record a Memory

September 4, 2007

The other day I got a phone call from a nice woman who had read about our Your Stories project. She wanted to see if we knew about a piece of local World War II history–the 1943 glider crash at Lambert Field. We do. In fact, Channel 9 had done a story about it some years ago. The crash was one of the biggest disasters in St. Louis aviation history–10 people including the mayor of St. Louis and other city officials died when a troop transport glider fell apart during a demonstration flight. I asked the woman why she was checking about this particular bit of history.

Well, it turns out that she witnessed the crash! I was stunned. She had been the first female radio operator (for TWA, I think, although in my surprise I didn’t catch all the details) and worked at Lambert Field. She must have been working in the tower, because she could look down on the crowd watching the demonstration. Her attention was grabbed by the sound of a spontaneous, horrified exclamation from the onlookers. She looked out and saw various pieces of the glider detach and fall to the earth.

She dashed out of her office just in time to catch a woman fainting in the hallway. It turned out to be the wife of the mayor; the poor woman had just watched her husband die.

I told the lady on the phone to please write down her story, or let us videotape her recollection. She demurred. I think the prospect of going public was alarming. “I’m 87!” she protested. And with that she conveyed the idea that she was too old, too tired and too overwhelmed with daily tasks to face dealing  with anything more. She made her phone call; that was enough.

My own mother is 85, so I understand where this woman is coming from. But her story illustrates how important it is to record these memories of history before they are lost forever. If you know of someone with a story to tell, please help them tell it! You don’t have to be Ken Burns or Gore Vidal. We welcome all submissions in any form–write it, type it, video tape it, audio tape it. If you’re reading this now, you can do it!  

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Suburan Journals

August 17, 2007

Metropoliton St. Louis–some see urban sprawl, others see a collection of small communities. When looking through the lens of the Suburan Journals, I definitely see a collection of small communities. No matter where you live in the area, there’s a Suburan Journal to serve the needs, interests and  uniqueness of the people in that little pocket of the landscape.

When trying to publicize something as large and far-reaching as Your Stories, however, navigating the crazy quilt of the Journals is tricky. Their readership is about 725,000, broken up into bits and pieces of 2,000 to 40,000 homes. Whom do I send information to?

I send releases to every editor, of course, and to the one writer who is unilaterally picked up by all the Journal newspapers–Janice Denham. Your Stories piqued her interest, and she came to Channel 9 to interview President and CEO Jack Galmiche.  Her resulting article perfectly described everything that Your Stories is about, including a coda that gave my name and phone number as the person to call for the Your Stories speakers bureau.

Her story hit on Wednesday. I know this because I began getting phone calls from nice people wanting to know how to go about sending in their WWII story. Lots of calls. That’s wonderful. But for anyone who every doubted the reach of the Suburban Journals or the power of the press, try having them publish YOUR phone number.

Lunch with Ken Burns? Oh, Yeah.

August 9, 2007

As Channel 9’s PR person, some of my favorite on-the-job moments have come when my duties have compelled me to do something so cool and awesome that I think, “I can’t believe I get paid for doing this!” That thought came to me a few weeks ago when Ken Burns’ publicist Dave invited me along on two interviews he had set up in St. Louis while K.B. was in town to preview The War. Have lunch with Ken Burns? Oh, yeah.

So, fyi, Ken Burns is charming, cute and trim. Yes, he has great hair and gleaming teeth. I’m just saying that because everyone ALREADY knows that he’s brilliant, erudite and has a mind like a steel trap. At lunch (he ate a hearty salad) he convivially draped his arm over the back of the chair of the reporter seated next to him, fixed her with eyes so intense they seemed to be working with fiber optic technology, and he downloaded thoughtful, considered answers to her questions from his brain to her tiny tape recorder. I’m surprised the machine didn’t explode.

Then we went to the Post-Dispatch, where Burns was put under the spotlight in a small room filled with the newspaper’s editorial board and assorted other editors, writers, a videographer, a photographer, graphic artists and whoever else wanted to show up. Burns was unflappable, relaxed and self assured in the way an astrophysicist would be when questioned by the high school astronomy club. Among intellectuals and people whose interests extend beyond Paris Hilton, Burns is a rock star. He confidently alluded to mythology and ancient history, tossed out quotes by famous people and spoke not just in full sentences and paragraphs, but in fascinatingly worded essays. Hardball questions from the panel seemed to dissolve in Burns’ surety. He even quoted back to the group a statement by Post founder Joseph Pulitzer that Burns had just read in the lobby.

My one moment came at the restaurant, when someone asked how long I had worked at Channel 9. I replied that I have been here since Burns’ earliest documentary, Brooklyn Bridge. Burns’ smiled and leaped up to high-five me. It made me feel for a second as if we were in the same club. But I know better.