Stodghill Says So

An opinionated posting on a variety of subjects by a former newspaper reporter and columnist whose daily column was named best in Indiana by UPI. The Blog title is that used in his high school sports predictions for the Muncie Evening Press.

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Location: Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, United States

At the age of 18 I was a 4th Infantry Division rifleman in the invasion of Normandy, then later was called back for the Korean War. Put in a couple of years as a Pinkerton detective. Much of my life was spent as a newspaper reporter, sports writer and daily columnist. Published three books on high school sports in Ohio and Indiana. I write mystery fiction for Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine and others. Three books, Normandy 1944 - A Young Rifleman's War, The Hoosier Hot Shots, and From Devout Catholic to Communist Agitator are now available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble and other booksellers. So are four collections of short mysteries: Jack Eddy Stories Volumes 1 and 2, Midland Murders, and The Rough Old Stuff From Mike Shayne Mystery Magazine.

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Friday, May 16, 2008

Truly Dirty Republican Politics

While the give and take of politics has never been a model of decorum and fair play, it was in the mid 1970s that I first encountered an attempt to distort the truth with a brazen lie. It was in a mayoral race and centered on a beer can. A week before the election the Republican candidate, a prominent figure in the city, was far ahead of his opponent, a local grocer a bit on the crude side. It was so one-sided that few people were even paying attention.
That weekend a Republican flier was distributed to every house in the city. On Monday morning after finishing my rewrites I walked to a nearby tavern where politicians and office holders drank coffee before heading for work. Before I could order a cup, a Democrat office holder hailed me and displayed a copy of the Miami Herald that featured an Associated Press story on the local election. Miami was a thousand miles away. Included was a photo of the grocer standing at a chopping block while wearing an apron stained with what was obviously blood. His can of beer rested on the block. After I gave it a quick glance the Democrat handed me one of the GOP fliers that bore the same photo. He said, "Take a look at the beer cans."
What I saw was a beer can on the flier at least four times larger than the original. It was turned so the label was clearly visible. It wasn't even the brand that the grocer drank. I asked to borrow both the flier and the newspaper, then walked a block to Republican headquarters.
The receptionist wasn't happy when I asked about the flier and told me I would have to talk to Mr. Davis. Jim Davis, who was soon to hit it rich with his Garfield comic strip, was even less pleased to see me. He said I would have to talk to the owner of an advertising agency. I called him and he readily admitted having substituted a larger can for the original. "We do it all the time in advertising," he said.
"Don't you think a political ad is a little different?"
He conceded that it might be. He was and still is a good man venturing into unfamiliar territory.
I went back to the paper and wrote a brief story on the beer cans. The city editor read it over and took it to the managing editor, who gave it a hurried look and picked up the phone. I knew he was calling the publisher, Jim Quayle, a college fraternity brother of the Republican candidate. A minute later Quayle, father of future vice-president Dan Quayle, read my copy and then called me into the managing editor's glass-enclosed office. "I don't think this is a story," he said. "Do you think it's a story?"
"Yes, I think it's a story."
Quayle threw the copy down on the managing editor's desk and stalked out of the office saying, "Then run it." I've always given him credit for that.
It ran in a single, short column on Page One. The result was astounding. People who wouldn't have dreamed of voting for the grocer flooded the paper with calls saying they now would. Labor unions that had remained on the sidelines rushed to back the grocer. He won without difficulty.
I had always gotten along with the Republican candidate and was surprised that he wasn't angry about the story. He claimed he knew nothing about the enlarged beer can. I believed him and still do.
That beer can was a portent of things to come: Republican attack ads that distort the truth or are just outright lies. Willie Horton, swift boats, so many more. It's already starting again. Is winning an election worth sacrificing integrity? Apparently a lot of people believe it is.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Winning isn't everything, it's the only thing." That is a famous quote of Vince Lombardy. I never believed in that philosophy and still don't, however in politics, they do.
I've always believed in: "It doesn't matter if you win or lose, but how you play the game."
Being honest, or even just fair, doesn't fit with American politics.
Dick, your courage to do the right thing just isn't done much anymore. Too much bother to seek the truth and/or expose the lies.
It is so sad.

1:20 PM  
Anonymous Leigh said...

Karl Rove advised, "You don't engage or debate your opponent, you destroy him."

Is Jim Quayle related to the Quayles who owned one of the Indianapolis newspapers, grandfather of Dan Quayle?

6:04 PM  
Blogger Dick Stodghill said...

Yes, Jim's wife was (or is) a Pulliam, the family that owned papers in Indianapolis, Muncie and Huntington in Indiana and the paper in Phoenix. Dan was a lightweight. I still break out in a cold sweat whenever I recall that for four years he was a single heartbeat away from being president.

11:51 AM  

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