Thursday, December 18, 2014

Bob Dunning: This new kid might have a future


From page A2 | August 31, 2014 |

I opened the paper last Sunday and, what to my wondering eyes did appear, but a brand-new Davis Enterprise columnist splashed all across the top half of the Forum section.

I’ll say this, the new guy is certainly wordy. I mean, I’d have to call ahead and alert the guys in the press room if I ever tried to use that many words in a single column.

His name is Dan Wolk and his column is cleverly titled “The Mayor’s Corner.”

Corner? Looks to me like he plans to take over the whole neighborhood.

The column features an obligatory mug shot of our new hire, who, for some crazy reason, prefers to wear his sunglasses on top of his head.

I don’t know much about this “Dan Wolk” character other than the fact he appears to be young, good-looking and apparently has an excellent dentist.

Probably a recent graduate of Stanford’s journalism school who fast-talked his way into a columnist’s gig at Davis’ most prestigious daily newspaper.

Good for him. But since I’ve been at this daily grind precisely 45 years longer than he has, I’m not against giving him a bit of friendly advice. It’s the least I can do for a comrade in ink.

The first thing that has to go is that photo. Much too friendly. It appears as if he’s sitting on a Whoopie Cushion and is about to bust out into a full guffaw. I’m not saying he should necessarily look menacing, but a little edginess could go a long way toward building a serious readership.

He does have a very manly vein running right down the middle of his forehead that he could use to huge advantage if he’d just wipe that smile off his face.

OK, enough on his physical appearance. Let’s just say if I can make it in this business (see photo above), Dan should be a lock.

“This is the first installment of a monthly column I am calling The Mayor’s Corner,“ his first effort begins in the factual, straightforward manner they teach at Stanford.
But monthly doesn’t cut it. He’ll never build a regular audience with a column only once every 30 days. By the time he reaches retirement age, he’ll barely have scratched the surface of all the topics there are to write about in this wild and crazy town.

Besides, this is a newspaper, with emphasis on the word “news,” which derives from the word “new,” which, in the world of journalism, means “current.”

If terrorists dump Red Dye No. 3 in the Davis water supply to celebrate Valentine’s Day, it won’t be much good to have Dan comment on it a month later on St. Patrick’s Day, when the terrorists will have already switched to Green Dye No. 17.

I’d recommend a daily column, or at least three times a week. Trust me, in this town, it’s easy. Davis, in fact, is the very definition of a “target-rich” environment.

“Our new City Council was sworn in just a little over a month ago and already we have made a significant degree of headway on a number of issues.”

Quick, honey, grab the No-Doz.

First off, “headway” is not measured in degrees, but in pounds. The proper term would be that you have made a significant “amount” of headway.

Also, tell us a bit more about this “new council,” such as “This new guy, Robb Davis, makes me nervous. He got a ton of votes in the last election and I’m afraid he might run against me for my mom’s seat in the State Senate.”

You want readers? Now you have readers.

“The City Council has unanimously devised a rate structure that is simple and equitable.”

Fine, but it would be much more interesting if he said “Those Measure P supporters are a tough bunch to please, but if they don’t like our new water rates, they can go pound sand.”

“The City Council has been making progress on the very important task of hiring a new city manager.”

How about “We’re still ticked off about that turncoat Steve Pinkerton taking a job in Nevada and leaving us to deal with this water mess all by ourselves. Whoever we hire now will want an ungodly sum of money to run this town.”

And let’s dissect that paragraph about the city’s new poet laureate, where Dan says he will “welcome the inimitable Dr. Andy Jones to ply his craft for a two-year term.”

If Dan ever hopes to build an audience on my side of the tracks, he simply can’t use words like “inimitable.” Two syllables is the absolute maximum.

“I hope you’ve enjoyed this first installment of The Mayor’s Corner.”

Big mistake, Dan. Never ask the readers what they think of your column. That’s just asking for trouble.

— Entries to the Contest to Replace the Above-Pictured Columnist are due on Monday, Sept. 8, at 5 p.m. Entries, between 400 and 800 words, can be emailed to and should include a short biography and mug shot of the author.



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