What turns a writer into a journalist? A formal education in journalism helps, but is it essential? No. What is essential is someone who can bring forth whatever talent a writer has, get rid of their bad habits, energize their lazy writing and focus their attention. That takes an editor. Good editors create good journalists.
In my misadventures in journalism I’ve had the great fortune to have worked with several editors who have taken the raw ingredients and turned them into something resembling cuisine. There was Bob Powers at the The Free Press, Pat Schmucki and David Smigelski at Columbus Alive, later followed by Brian Lindamood, George Myers Jr. and Frank Gabrenya at the Columbus Dispatch, Martin Yant at The Ohio Observer, but most importantly, Gilbert Price, the editor of The Call & Post newspaper played a vital part in the finished product that I am today.
As writing transitions from journalism to blogging (and no, they are not all considered equal to my mind), what is missing are editors who can separate the treasure from the trash. Bloggers have no filter between themselves and the few hundred people who read them. Before his death from a heart attack, Price, 56, was a fixture in local journalism and he filtered many an aspiring writer into a skilled and trained journalist.
To be a serious journalist you have to love your craft. Liking it isn’t enough. You have to love being a journalist and Gil Price had a lot of love for his job. He must have. He did it so well. Gil made it look easy but that was because his approach to journalism was like that a duck on the water: calm and placid on the surface and paddling like hell just out of sight.
If Amos Lynch is considered the Godfather of Black journalism in Columbus, Gil Price was the consigliere. That’s not an insult. Gil was one of the most astute political commentators in Ohio. He knew his way around City Hall, the Statehouse and anywhere else where the political and powerful intersect. It would be going too far to say Gil made me a journalist. He did however mold me into become a better journalist one red-lined bit of bad copy at a time. Gil would take an okay idea and bend it into a better idea and then a better idea into a good idea.
Anyone who likes their news straight with no frills and fluff will miss Gil Price’s brand of reporting. Anyone who didn’t read him regularly won’t know what they missed. That’s their loss. We all lost a great journalist, a man of family and faith, and someone who made a difference in his brief time on this little blue planet.
I was pondering what to title this little remembrance about Gil. Audioslave’s “Original Fire” came pounding out of the speakers while I was writing and it seemed particularly apt for a man who was an original and brought considerable fire to his work.