A postscript in Perspective

January 05, 2003|By G. Jefferson Price III | G. Jefferson Price III,PERSPECTIVE EDITOR

LAST SUNDAY in this section, the page opposite the editorial page was devoted to biographies of the editors and writers and support staff who produce the editorial and op-ed pages.

Inasmuch as those two pages appear each Sunday in Perspective, some have wondered why nothing was said about the Perspective staff. Are we hiding? No.

This offered an opportunity to explain the difference between the two - why some Sundays the editorial page may praise the governor as a genius while a Perspective piece argues he is an imbecile. The editorial and op-ed pages are the domain of the editor of the editorial page, who reports directly to the publisher. The editorial page presents the institutional view of events and issues in the news. The Perspective section is the province of the newsroom and I report to the managing editor, who reports to the editor, who reports to the publisher. Happily, they do not interfere much.

(The crossword puzzles, the word jumble, bridge column and chess column are the province of the deputy managing editor for features. So if West couldn't have led the ace of hearts because the ace of hearts wasn't in West's hand, don't blame Perspective.)

I have been the editor of Perspective since September 2001. Michael Hill is the Perspective writer. Together we decide early each week what he will write, and usually it is the main article. The other three elements of the section are articles by Sun staffers and free-lancers on issues of the moment, the diary of the week's events, and this column.

The objective is to give readers articles that help to explain, illuminate, analyze and put into context events and trends that are on the minds of Americans and Marylanders.

Inevitably, the section is influenced by our interests and biases, so it is a healthy thing that Hill and I are different in many ways. He is thin and athletic; I am not. He likes to run; I do not even like to walk. He is an aficionado of wines, while I like wine with a meal, I prefer something stronger the rest of the time. He has a passion for bicycle racing; I like to play cards. But we do have important characteristics in common.

Both of us have been employed by The Sun and what used to be The Evening Sun for more than 30 years. We came to Baltimore - he from Atlanta to study at Hopkins; I from Hong Kong to work at The Sun - when the city was one of the 10 biggest in America. The newspaper was owned by Baltimoreans, the top banks were locally owned, two or three major insurance companies were locally owned, there were quite a few locally owned stock brokerages and several locally owned breweries. Why, even the mayor of Baltimore was a native of the city; so was the Roman Catholic Cardinal-Archbishop, which can be said of neither today. The Inner Harbor was a dump of dilapidated wharves. There were few major hotels. But the city had some grand restaurants, and its reputation for gastronomic excellence was intact.

Most Baltimoreans entertained at home, and it was not an easy town to crack socially. Hill and I had the good sense to marry Baltimore girls. He married Nancy Forgione, who has a doctorate in art history and teaches at Hopkins and Goucher. I married Anne Hargaden, the daughter of legendary Loyola High School coach Ed Hargaden. She is the principal of Sacred Heart School in Glyndon.

Coincidentally, both of these ladies attended St. Mary's School in Govans. The Hills have two children. We have three. We did have four, but John Price, our second son, was killed 2 1/2 years ago in an accident in Worcester, Mass., where he was a student at the College of the Holy Cross.

Hill and I have both served as foreign correspondents for the newspaper. He was The Sun's correspondent in South Africa in the '90s and covered the country's transition to democracy - Nelson Mandela's election as president - as well as a variety of stories across the continent. I was Middle East correspondent stationed in Beirut from 1973 to 1975 and Jerusalem from 1982 to 1987. This will help to explain why Hill likes to write about Africa and I like to write about the Middle East.

Like most Sunpapers reporters of our generation, we both started as police reporters. As Hill puts it: "While driving around to the police districts and the jails and courthouses and neighborhoods, I found that the city I had viewed with suspicion from the Homewood campus was a fascinating, seductive place. I've never really wanted to live anywhere else."

Hill covered county governments, wrote features and eventually became TV critic for The Evening Sun - a job in which he was actually paid to do what other Americans were doing every day for free. When The Evening Sun and The Sun were merged in 1992, he returned to reporting, covering county governments, the state government and then South Africa. Before joining Perspective, he was The Sun's higher education reporter.

In addition to the two Middle East assignments, after covering police, I covered City Hall and state government, worked as an investigative reporter, was an editor on the city desk, wrote editorials for two years for The Evening Sun and was foreign editor from 1991 to 2001. It's been a rich and, in some cases, very expensive experience - expensive for The Sun, that is.

Newsmen ask questions. We try to provide answers here. The most expensive question I ever asked was in a restaurant in Paris: "Do you have any really good, old cognac?" The stupidest question I ever asked anyone anywhere was "Who the hell was H.L. Mencken?" Forgive me. I was new to Baltimore.

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