OMT One Man's Trash...from Norman Leahy

Friday, July 28, 2006 :::

A Vacation Discovery

With great reluctance, the Leahys returned to Virginia last night from an extended stay at the Isle of Palms.

Like Brother Buffett says, we "wonder why we ever go home." And I'm wondering...really wondering.

One of the things that's got me wondering most is why there isn't another newspaper in Richmond -- a paper with attitude, conviction and panache (well, that and why I can't find Palmetto Amber at Total Wine).

My father-in-law introduced me to a Charleston newspaper that has all three -- the Charleston Mercury. If the name sounds familiar to some, that's good (if it doesn't, Google the name and learn).

The current Mercury's website is a rather poor substitute for the print edition -- a peach-colored broadsheet (think the Financial Times) that, for all its deliberately cultivated Charlestonian eccentricity, packs more writing talent on a single page than the Richmond Times-Dispatch manages to scrape together in a year's worth of issues.

For an idea of what I mean, read the paper's Kanesian statement of principles. When was the last time you ever saw a newspaper write about honor?

Of course, most of this is simply marketing, and the Mercury does a wonderful job of it (enough so that the Post & Courier bought a 60% interest in the publication). It's written by long-time Charlestonians but it's largely aimed at those who wish they were -- the people who lavish millions on their historic, candy-colored, Meeting Street manses, but will never be invited to join St. Cecilia's (and don't even think about the Yacht Club). Yet it also has a real appeal to the locals, who either know the editors, those profiled in the stories, or both.

I wondered whether such a paper could possibly work in Richmond. After all, Richmond has its share of long-lost newspaper names that could find new life with a new attitude, filling the void between the T-D's daily dullness and Style's weekly whatever.

But I don't think it's possible. Richmond can be as stiff-necked and provincial as Charleston. But it lacks the towering egocentrism and cosmopolitan pretension of Charleston. Perhaps that's a good thing. But it would be useful and refreshing if, for even a brief time, Richmond was able to toss it's reserve in the back seat and give locals a strong dose of editorial attitude.

On peach newsprint, please.

::: posted by Norman Leahy at 7/28/2006 4 comments


"You know what the fellow said: In Italy for 30 years under the Borgias they had warfare, terror, murder and bloodshed, but they also produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and the Renaissance. In Switzerland they had brotherly love -- they had 500 years of democracy and peace, and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock." -- Orson Welles, The Third Man

"The graveyards are full of indespensable men" -- Charles de Gaulle

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