In recent days, Arizona Republic managing editor Steve Knickmeyer has busied himself doing in-house damage control. By the end of last week, he was spinning from desk to desk in the newsroom, struggling to dispel rumors that ranged from his termination to upper management's call for him to receive psychological treatment.
As usual, you can count on The Flash for the real story: Apparently the Harwood Group--Phoenix Newspaper Inc.'s management consultant du jour--recently took an employee survey to determine why newsroom morale was so low.
The near unanimous reply: Steve Knickmeyer!
PNI immediately ordered psychological testing in the form of a quiz to determine what career best fits Knickmeyer. (This is a long-standing PNI tradition. A recent test-taker is onetime managing editor for presentation Don Henninger, who seems to have flunked, since he was fired earlier this year.)
Knickmeyer must have been proud of his results, because he's been racing around the newsroom bragging that the test showed he has the perfect attributes for a career as a cartographer--that's a mapmaker--because they work alone. Hmmmm. That may explain why Republic stories are so often accompanied by a map.
There's talk that Knickmeyer may be yanked from the newsroom and put in a room by himself, but it's unlikely he'll be fired or demoted. Knickmeyer goes way back with Republic publisher John Oppedahl. They worked together at the late Dallas Times-Herald. And the Knickmeyster was Oppedahl's chief executioner when the Republic purged scores of journalists early this year, many of them Uppity Women. He was also the editor who huddled with statehouse reporters after J. Fife Symington was reelected in 1994 to say there would be "no more gotcha" stories about Fife the felon.
In other Republic news:
* Page 2 columnist Steve Hairboy Wilson is rumored to be the front runner for the position of editor of the editorial page. Hairboy--whose Flash-inspired moniker spread through the Republic newsroom like head lice through a preschool--is best known for his insightful retelling of stories he's read in Newsweek and the Wall Street Journal.
If hired, Hairboy has promised to get John Kolbe a salon makeover, and to make each member of the Republic editorial staff write weekly synopses of Time magazine's cover story and recount their lunch experiences.
* The Republic has been making news in national journalism publications--but it's not the kind of stuff you'll see repeated in the Republic.
The November issue of American Journalism Review printed the following e-mail from the aforementioned Knickmeyster to the Republic staff:
We are trying to figure out how many task forces we have going on at the moment. Please message me if you're on a task force. Just need your name and subject of the panel. Thx.
* The November/December issue of the Columbia Journalism Review gave a "Dart to the Los Angeles Times and writer Ruben Navarrette . . . for failing to mark their words. In a July 6 op-ed piece, Navarrette persuasively showed why Latinos could and should support the 'English Language Education for Immigrant Children Initiative,' a referendum slated for June 1998 that would effectively end bilingual education in California public schools. The article noted that one of the sponsors is former gubernatorial candidate Ron Unz. It did not note that Navarrette was Unz's paid media consultant."
Navarrette has since been hired by the Republic.
Skippy to the Rescue
It seems that Mayor Skippy Rimsza isn't getting enough exposure with those gallant folks of the Phoenix Fire Department.
A series of city e-mails [obtained through ingenious hacking] reveals that City Hall is simply beside itself with anxiety over Skippy's lack of prominence at Fire Department do's.
This message went from deputy city manager Marsha Wallace to Bob Khan, the Fire Department's spokesman, on October 16:
Bob, how are we doing on getting the Mayor out to events? I noticed that there were a lot of great things you've been doing the past week or so. Is there anything Halloween-safety-related that he might get involved in? Just a thought, maybe that's not a good idea. thanks, Marsha
Khan responded on October 17:
We haven't done very well in all honesty. I mentioned a couple of ideas to Andrea [Tevlin, Rimsza's chief of staff], but I didn't get much of a reaction. Much of what we are doing is so last minute it would be difficult to incorporate the Mayor.
I know the UK-AZ has been time consuming for all parties, but I would think any parent with triplets would be a natural for Halloween safety.
We may have a couple of events coming up towards the end of this month. Let me firm things up a little and I will E-mail you directly. There is always a chance things won't come together, but we can try.