Sunday, October 14, 2012
I saw Mike Trimble Wednesday and learned a new story about his colorful past as a newspaper and magazine reporter. It involved a motorcycle on the third floor of a newspaper building. It was so wonderful I knew I had to share it.
Now if you don't know Trimble, you have missed out. He's a lifelong journalist who spent his last several years as the opinion page writer for the Denton Record-Chronicle. He won many editorial awards, including a national prize that netted him a trip to Washington DC to be honored for his opinion writing.
That ended a few months ago when he was fired for having the audacity to disagree with the publisher on facts he was editorializing on. Bad Trimble. He was shown the door, denied unemployment and is now volunteering for CASA.
But I digress.
The topic was being fired. My daughter just went through that and Trimble was telling her he was one of the few people who could say "I know how you feel," and be correct. But he said he knew there were times in his career when he should have been fired and wasn't.
Most of them, in his early years, involved alcohol, he said. Back then, reporters actually kept flasks in their desk drawers and it was not uncommon to have drinks with dinner and then go back to the office and pound out another story. Those days are over. You can get fired for that.
Trimble had a new motorcycle, he remembered. He was quite proud of it and decided to show it to the newsdesk. Yes, they were on the third floor, but there was an elevator. So Trimble and the motorcycle went up in the elevator. Then he revved it loudly and rode it down through the newsroom. The desk editors broke into applause. He took his bows and rode triumphantly down the elevator with his bike.
The next morning he awoke with a hangover and saw the feat in a new light. the light of what the managing editor might say or do if he found out. Maybe nobody would tell him, Trimble thought.
But as soon as he hit the newsroom, sans motorcycle this time, he found the note on his desk. "See me," it read, and was signed by the editor. Trimble knew he was in deep caca.
He rushed to the editor's office. "I know I did wrong riding my motorcycle through the office," he began. "I was wrong, wrong, but I promise that if you won't fire me, I'll never do it again."
The editor looked up at him and thought a moment.
"Well, I hadn't heard that," he said. "I wanted you in here because it is time for your evaluation for a raise. Of course, knowing what I now know, I can't give you a raise. But I appreciate your honesty. See me in three months and we'll talk about it again."
Trimble wasn't sure whether to be upset that he ran his mouth or grateful that he didn't get fired for running his motorcycle through the newsroom. Which ever he decided, it makes a wonderful cautionary tale all these years later.
Good journalists are different. They're quirky. They don't just think out of the box, they live out there, exposed to the elements and the dangers of pissing off the wrong people. It's not a safe life, or one that offers even decent pay. But there are a few of us who have done it anyway, and not to brag, but we have made the world a better place, and we have stories like this with which to amuse our friends.