Editor’s Desk

Of politicians, smartphones, Christmas

December 28, 2013 

In my 30 years in the newspaper business, I have known many elected leaders. Almost all have been accessible and accommodating, even when they were at odds with the newspaper. I appreciate that.

But rare is the politician who stops by the office regularly to talk shop. In fact, I can count their number on one hand and still have one or two fingers left over.

One was former county commissioner J.H. Langdon. I had known J.H. from his days as an educator in the Johnston County schools, so it was natural for us to talk, and we did, especially about how to manage and accommodate Johnston’s explosive growth.

County Commissioner Wade Stewart was another. He enjoyed bouncing ideas off of me for their policy and political implications. As a bonus, Wade was frank, which is refreshing in a politician, and I enjoyed our conversations.

New Smithfield Mayor John Lampe is the latest. In three weeks in office, he has dropped by at least twice, maybe three times. (It’s refreshing when an elected leader stops by so often you lose track of the number of visits.)

Unlike J.H. and Wade, Mayor Lampe doesn’t come in search of advice, but that doesn’t hurt my feelings, because he’s offering what a newspaper really wants and needs from elected leaders, and that’s insight into their policy preferences, their agendas, their approach to governing.

For a newspaper and its readers, this insight is invaluable. Most notably, it gives our reporting context, which makes every story better, and it helps us plan our coverage of town government.

To Mayor Lampe, I just want to say thanks for acknowledging the role a newspaper plays in informing a town’s citizens. To Johnston County’s other elected leaders, I just want to say our door is always open. Feel free to drop by.

Kudos to the smartphone

I’m a gadget guy, always have been.

As a kid, when the J.C. Penney catalog arrived by mail in the fall, I flipped first to the electronics, turning the pages slowly so I could savor all of the gadgets the department store had to offer. Over the years, thanks either to Santa Claus or my parents, I was the proud owner of a Kodak Instamatic camera, a cassette player-recorder and an all-in-one stereo system with a radio, record player and an eight-track player-recorder. That’s right, I could play and record eight-track tapes.

As an adult, I was an early adopter of new technologies, moving from film to digital in cameras, from vinyl to compact discs in music, from VHS to DVD in movies, from tube to LCD in TVs. I know I was an early adopter because gadgets that cost $50 today cost me $500 back then.

But of all the technology I’ve owned, nothing compares to the smartphone. It is, simply, the best invention since the microwave oven.

A device that fits easily in a pocket allows us to do all of these things: It allows us to talk, to text, to read and send emails, to take photos and email those too, to surf the web, to listen to music. And it does all of this before we download the first app. Those apps, if you don’t know, allow us to play games, to check stocks, to find the perfect dessert recipe, to read books and newspapers and magazines, to check sports scores and even watch games. The list goes on.

This month, while Christmas shopping, I got a kick out of one of those free apps – Google Maps with an assist from Siri, the personal assistant who talks to you. My shopping took me from Four Oaks to Raleigh to Cary. All I had to do was tell Siri where I wanted to go, and she got me there using Google Maps.

I don’t expect the smartphone to be the last great invention, but the smartphone literally puts the world in your pocket, and the invention that tops that will be awfully hard to beat.

Christmas morning

I am big fan of Christmas but not its hectic pace. In our household, where both adults work and the daughter goes to school and works, it’s hard to find time to get ready for Christmas.

It’s not that we don’t try. This year, we bought our Christmas tree on Dec. 15 and actually got it in the stand and watered that day. But by then, it was later in the day, and some households chores remained, so the tree decorations had to wait. The next day, of course, brought work and school, and so did the next four.

To make a long story short, we didn’t finish decorating the Christmas tree until Christmas Eve, after which we still had to clean house and do prep work for Christmas lunch.

But the next morning, none of that mattered. As I sat alone in our living room before sunrise, watching the twinkling lights of our Christmas tree, I felt no rush, no stress, no pressure to do anything but watch the lights.

I love Christmas morning. It’s a beautiful if brief respite from the world swirling around us. I hope it’s the same for you.

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