Photo courtesy Andy Smith.
By Joe Registrato, Contributing Editor
A mutual friend tells me my old boss at The Tampa Tribune, Paul Hogan, isn’t feeling all that great, so I thought I’d write him a get-well column in my new job as contributing editor of AliveTampaBay, which is this newfangled way to put out a newspaper, an online operation, which is nothing like Hogan, or me for that matter, could have possibly envisioned when we went to work every day, every day, every day, including Christmas Day and Thanksgiving Day, because a daily newspaper like the former Tampa Tribune came out 365 days a year, where the block-long printing press rumbled to life every night in the bowels of the place and people who managed to wake up at 2 or 3 in the morning picked up giant stacks of newspapers and tossed them into people’s driveways before first light. (I never thought I’d have a newspaper job that paid even less than The Tribune did, but this is it. Both Hogan and Red Pittman would cry their eyes out if they knew I’m doing this job for even less than my starting salary at The Tribune, which in November of 1971 was $100 per week, gross, that’s before taxes, if you can believe that.
(Please don’t confuse The Tampa Tribune that Hogan and I worked for with the thing now published by the Tampa Bay Times, formerly the St. Petersburg Times, which that organization is taking great license in calling The Tampa Tribune. It’s an insult to all of us old Tribune folks, to tell the truth, but the Times does own the name of the thing since it put up the money a few months back to buy The Trib outright, so if they choose to put out a poor excuse for a Tampa Tribune, I guess it’s their business. But, I digress).
Paul Hogan was managing editor, that’s top dog of the news department of The Tampa Tribune, for right around 20 years. He didn’t hire me, but he did promote me to the position of city editor, a move that at the time was not all that popular among some of the other journalists, most of whom thought I was too young to handle the job. Of course, some of those old timers would have thought anybody with a full head of hair was too young for the job, which brings me to the first thing I remember about Hogan.
In those days, the newsroom consisted of two rather distinct groups of leaders, and Hogan was put in the position of basically being the referee of a daily struggle between these two groups.
In the first group were most of the editors, many of whom remembered vividly World War II and how newspapers were put together in the 1940s and 50s. At least one of them almost died in the Bataan Death March. Included in that group was Bill Dozier, who wore a white shirt and subdued striped tie to work and who ambled into the news meeting every day and reminded us there was still a war going on in Vietnam, and how that needed to be on page 1 no matter what. Most of us younger types would moan over this suggestion because how many times could you tell people we were STILL in a war after about 20 years? There were enough of these “elder statesmen” to weigh heavily on what would end up on page 1 of The Tampa Tribune. Matt Taylor, Harold Bellew, Leland Hawes, Al Hutchinson, Milt Chambers, Kenny Musson, Dave Watson, John Golson, they were all white-haired or at least grizzled old veterans that had hundreds of years of newspaper history under their collective belts. (In hindsight, I would have to admit these old men were correct on virtually every single issue, but hindsight is always 20-20.)
In the second group you had the youngsters. Me, Denise Costa, Manning Pynn, Mike Fowler, Skip Johnson, Bill Handy, Judy Hamilton, Charles McShane, Bill Fuller. We all had a different view of what the newspaper ought to be, although none of us, not a single one of us, ever thought the entire industry would go down the tubes or be forced to convert to an “online” operation because none of us had any idea what “online” was, if you can imagine that. There was no “online” because there was no “Internet,” or if there was an Internet it had not yet caught fire. Our biggest concern from competition was television news, but there really wasn’t much to worry about because if it didn’t have a spinning red light and siren, the television news guys didn’t know what to do with it. That’s probably an exaggeration, but it’s how we used to talk about it.
So here was Hogan, the big boss, sure, but as you learn as you go through life, the boss is sometimes a slave of the help, constantly trying to find the path of least resistance through a maze of conflicting and competing ideas. Often, the best Hogan, or anybody in his spot, could do was listen to all sides, then try to do what he thought was right.
So it was virtually impossible to make everybody happy. But back to Hogan as an editor.
More than anything else, what Hogan wanted was reporters from the old school, reporters who could dig up dirt, reporters who could find the truth, reporters who could get below the surface. He had a formula for the way you start to reach the truth in any situation and it amounts to this: You have find out who’s (being intimate) with who. That’s about the gentlest way I can put it.
He was dead serious about this and although most of us younger reporters just laughed it off, he of course had a point that in certain situations, some high government officials will forget that cameras are turned on and find themselves with their trousers unbuttoned. Take for instance Ted Kennedy, Bill Clinton, Gary Hart, John Edwards, Eliot Spitzer. I could go on.
Hogan used to love to tell this one joke, over and over again. “You know what a Marine is like, Registrato? A Marine is like a banana. They’re born green, turn yellow and die rotten.” Ha, ha, Hogan. Hogan knew I had been in the Marines and he thought this joke was just the funniest joke he ever heard. Now that I think about it, I never heard him tell that joke when his boss, Bob Hudson, was alive, because I don’t think the joke would have gone over that great with Hudson, who had also been in the Marines. But it’s one of the things Hogan used to do and we all laughed about it.
Hogan sometimes patronized The Paddock Lounge, a grimy little gin mill where journalists, printers, pressmen and others would hang out after work, but his favorite place was The Chatterbox, an even grimier gin mill a little ways down the road. If Hogan wasn’t on duty in the newsroom, you could likely find him lounging around The Chatterbox talking newspaper talk or newspaper myth or newspaper gossip with whoever would listen. The Chatterbox is gone, as is The Paddock, demolished and replaced by sparkling new structures.
If he had a business lunch to attend, of course he’d go to the University Club or one of the other exclusive lunch spots on top of one of the tall buildings, but he was not at home in a place like that. White tablecloths and cloth napkins just weren’t his style. He was much more the rough and tumble type.
Hogan had a thing about lawyers. I think he aspired to be a lawyer and he always talked about the lawyers with great admiration. But, the big boss, Red Pittman, Tribune publisher, more or less hated the lawyers because they charged a fee for their services, and just talking to a lawyer could cost you money. So Hogan was very careful about talking to the lawyers, and he wanted to keep a tight hold on that expense.
Another story Hogan used to tell was about Pittman. It might be apocryphal, but I wouldn’t doubt if it were true. Hogan used to say somebody who thought we’d made a mistake in the newspaper called Red on the phone and threatened to sue the newspaper, but said he really felt like “kicking his ass.”
Hogan, laughing almost uncontrollably at this point, would say, “So Red said to him, please, come down and kick my ass. Please.”
I worked at The Tribune for 16 years, and from the time I started as city editor, I spoke to Hogan almost every single day. I don’t remember him ever having a harsh word for anybody, and he always tried his best to make the best of any bad situation. He was a good boss and a good newspaperman, and I think he’d be proud to be known for that.
So Hogan, get better. Please. I’ll buy you a drink!
Joe Registrato is contributing editor of AliveTampaBay.