My “Saddleback College Lariat Rants” are listed here, further down this page: “Saddleback College Lariat Rants.”
If you have an interest in learning where they came from, however, then read on! — BTH
How I Got Roped Into Working
On the “Saddleback College Lariat”
By Bradley Harrington
It was somewhere around late winter of early 1983, and I’d been writing “Letters to the Editor” for the “Orange County Register” since 1980. I’d gotten fairly good at it over that three-year period, and most of my friends were aware by then that I published periodically in that paper every few weeks.
One of them, a guy I had worked with in local restaurants by the name of Dan Crawford, was taking journalism classes at Saddleback College, the local community college in Mission Viejo, California. He was writing sports copy for that school’s paper, the “Saddleback College Lariat,” and he mentioned to me one day that its Journalism Advisor, a teacher by the name of Larry Knuth, was looking for commentary writers.
I asked Dan to bring me a couple of copies of the “Lariat,” which he did. When I looked them over, however, I was disappointed by what I saw. Being used to the appearance of a commercial paper, I noticed that the “Lariat” had no set “Op-Ed” page; that what did pass for the opinion section contained ads; that the section had no artwork or illustrations; and, worst of all, that the commentary was decidedly statist/collectivist in its nature.
I told Dan I didn’t think I would be a good fit for the “Lariat,” and he passed that along to Larry. I then promptly forgot about it … Until a couple of weeks later, when Dan told me that he had talked to Larry about my political inclinations … And that Larry had told him that he didn’t care, he just needed a decent writer, whatever the ideas were.
I remember thinking, “OK, let’s just get this over with right now.” I picked out three or four of the most ultra-right-winger pieces I’d written recently for the “Register,” gave them to Dan, and told him: “Give this guy THESE, tell him to read them, and that’ll be the end of that.”
Much to my everlasting surprise, Dan came back to me a few days later and said: “Larry LOVED them! He wants to meet you, talk to you and find out when you can start.”
Well, what could I say to that? Besides, my curiosity more than piqued, I wanted to meet this character Larry Knuth. So I called him up, we set up a date in his office for the next day, and I went down to meet him.
Well … Larry was one of the most friendly and active-minded guys I’ve ever met in my life. I liked him instantly. He had a very infectious grin. He showed me around the “Lariat’s” production offices, explained all the things I was looking at, and — back in his office — handed me a schedule for the “Lariat’s” spring publication (11 issues, weekly, every Thursday, for the entire semester) and asked me if I would write a column for each week on whatever I felt like ranting about.
“Just like the ones I gave you to look over?” I asked him.
“Yep, just like those,” he replied.
“Are you SURE?” I asked again. “There’s going to be a lot of people in this place that ain’t gonna like it.”
“Then they can write a ‘Letter to the Editor,’ Larry replied, “and I can start filling that hole, too. We can write whatever we want to write here, as long as it’s not libelous. We have complete independence.”
“Alright!” I said. “Just remember, later on — YOU asked for it!”
So, come the Spring semester, 1983, I started dropping off columns to Larry … And it didn’t take me long to develop a tremendous love and respect for the man. He was one of those people that was just a huge amount of fun to be around. So, for anyone who might see a bit of destiny in any of this, you can thank Larry Knuth for all of it, and that’s how I got “roped” into working on the “Saddleback College Lariat.”
I picked up the paper for those first few of weeks, just to make absolutely SURE that what I’d written was actually there, and it was … Until the fourth issue of that semester, that is, when — to my horror — I read my piece for that week and realized that all the paragraphs were out of order, absolutely destroying the meaning and integrity of the column.
Naturally, I went down to the “Lariat” and spoke with Larry about it. It turned out that the Editor had sectioned off the piece into paragraphs for fitting on the page, and then added them all back in incorrectly. They printed a correction the following week, but — from that point forward — I went in every Wednesday, the day the “Lariat” got shipped to the printer, to look over my rant and make SURE it was correctly congealed. I caught the same thing happening twice more that semester, but got the pieces fixed properly each time … BEFORE publication, thankfully.
(SIDEBAR: For those of you who aren’t as long on the years as I am, and who have no idea how a paper was put together in those days: We didn’t HAVE computers and desktop-publishing software, like today. (Such things existed at that time, of course; but not at the “Lariat” offices!) Back then, we typed our stories up on IBM Selectric II typewriters, handed them over to a typesetter (Linda Davies, who could crank along — literally — at well over 100 wpm) — and Linda retyped them into her high-tech, low-drag, whiz-bang, multi-thousand-dollar typesetting machine and printed them out. We had “light tables” with translucent glass tops and light bulbs underneath, with empty, blank paper-sized sheets on them (we were a “full-size” paper) — and we’d take the typeset printouts, run them through another multi-thousand-dollar machine that applied adhesive to the back, and then we’d paste them down on the sheets. We used “pica poles” and Exacto blades to cut straight edges when we needed to section off the story for its layout. Once the paper was complete, it was all bundled up into a carrying case and taken to the printer, who actually printed our work onto newspaper print, bringing us the bundles of newspapers afterward.)
Of course, I wasn’t even doing that for that first semester; I was just writing (and making sure that what I wrote printed in the right order).
I was right, by the way, about my rants sticking in the “Establishment Hacks’” craws … The letters flowed in, almost all of them negative — and I worried, at first, that Larry was going to get himself in trouble and then ask me to stop.
To the contrary: Larry loved the controversy, laughed and grinned, ran the “Letters,” and asked for more.
So, after that semester ended, I asked Larry if he wanted me to write for him in the Fall semester as well … And he said:
“No, I want you to take my Journalism class and be my Opinion Editor instead. And, of course, you can still write whatever you want to write.”
Well … What the Hell do you say to THAT?
“OK!” I said. “And, you’re gonna teach me all the things I need to know in order to make that happen?”
“Yep,” he said.
So, that Fall semester (1983), that’s what I did — and NOW was my chance to give the “Lariat” a REAL “Op-Ed” page. I found a cartoonist and fed him my ideas for what I wanted; he did a great job, so a weekly cartoon began to appear every issue. Additionally, I made sure that our “Editorial Board” met each week for a position to take on our “official” “Staff Editorial,” and we got that hole fixed, too. I also talked several other writers into submitting copy as well.
(SIDEBAR: Working with the “Editorial Board” was my first experience in a “group” environment regarding socio-politico-economic ideas, and I didn’t like it one bit. As with the architects working on the group projects in Ayn Rand’s “The Fountainhead,” any one of the bunch of us could have written much better copy if we’d just been left alone to do it. As Robert Heinlein once opined, a “committee” is “the only form of life with a hundred bellies and no brain.” So, I made up for that by doing my best to pick issues to write upon that stayed away from the need to blend opposing political principles. Was I successful? Sometimes … And sometimes not. I was often overruled by the Editor-in-Chief on the positions to take, and THEN, of course, as the Opinion Editor, it was my job to write the editorial … From a standpoint with which I disagreed, once in awhile very heavily so. I generally found the entire “group” process to be distasteful and a waste of time. Oh, well … After all, I was out to turn the “Lariat” into a clearinghouse for ideas — and, in that, I succeeded. Besides, I still got to write my weekly rants, and, in that arena, MY opinion remained supreme and unaltered.)
And Larry? He taught me everything he knew and we had a blast … While he was still with the “Lariat,” that is. That fall, he got a coaching position for the University of Southern California, and Come the Spring semester of 1984, where I served again as Opinion Editor, Larry was down to a part-time slot. By the end of that semester, he was coaching Track full-time and had left the “Lariat” for good. I still ran into him on occasion, however, several times afterwards, and it was always great to see him again.
To make up for Larry’s shift down to part-time work during the Spring 1984 semester, the “Lariat” hired two other part-time advisors: Bruce Haggerty, a teacher from Saddleback’s “North” Campus (which eventually became its own entity, “Irvine Valley College”) — and Mike Reed, formerly the San Clemente High School “Triton’s” journalism advisor. Coupled with Carol Ziehm (“Zoomer,” as we all affectionately called her), our Instructional Assistant who’d been on the paper since before I had started, that rounded out the “Lariat’s” Advisory Staff.
Bruce wasn’t around a whole lot, but Mike Reed was a different story — and I quickly found, when I got to know him, that I had a friend for life. More critical and “hands-on” than Larry, but just as much fun, Mike’s role was limited that spring — but, come the Fall, 1984 semester, Mike was our full-time advisor … And, about a month before the semester started, both he and Carol asked me if I’d be the Editor-in-Chief that fall.
“Hell, no!” I said. “I need to be the News Editor first! I don’t know enough!”
“You’re it,” they both told me. “There ain’t anybody else. We’ll give you all the help you need.” And that was that.
Well, as Clint Eastwood once remarked, “A good man should know his own limitations” — and at that point in my illustrious “journalism career,” I was more acutely aware of them than everybody else on the “Lariat’s” staff combined. How the HELL was I supposed to figure out what stories to run for news? What were our overall policies to be? How was I supposed to be a “leader,” when I had no idea about how to lead? With a VERY large pit in my stomach, I sucked it up and started tackling the things I needed to learn — and Mike and Carol, God bless their souls, helped me and guided me every step of the way. The love and respect I had felt for Larry Knuth was like a firecracker next to an A-bomb when compared to the feelings I developed for the two of them over the next year.
Publicly-funded community colleges, for those who are unaware, are creatures of the strangest order — and Saddleback College proved to be no exception in that regard. Being paid for via taxes as they were, one would initially think severe limitations would be placed on the operation of a school newspaper, such that forthcoming “opinion” would either:
(1) Be closely monitored and regulated to suit the whims of the “Establishment Hacks” comprising school administration, where the “newspaper” functions as little more than a mouthpiece spouting the pre-programmed, properly-prescribed, spoon-fed “powers-that-be” agenda; or,
(2) Too controversial in its nature to even see tax-funded publication, on the basis that a citizen shouldn’t be made to support opinions with which he/she disagrees. (“To compel a man to furnish contributions for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves and abhors, is sinful and tyrannical,” Thomas Jefferson once opined in his “Virginia Act for Establishing Religious Freedom” back in 1779, and the point certainly applies to newspaper publications as much as it does to religious taxation.) In these cases, the resulting newspaper “opinion” is watered down to suit the lowest common cultural and intellectual denominators.
The truth is, in 38 years of being associated with the field of journalism, I’ve never heard of an example of the second regarding publicly-funded student newspapers on publicly-funded college or university campuses. (Yes, I’ve seen plenty of instances of publications that VOLUNTARILY turn themselves into milque-toast schmoos, so as not to “offend” anyone, but that’s not the same thing.)
No, it wasn’t like that at all … The reality, as I’d been learning over the past year, was the exact opposite: Free reign of “Lariat” editorial and commentary opinion was absolutely guaranteed, without curtailments of any kind except libel laws, under our First Amendment rights — BECAUSE we were funded through “public” money, and because any curtailment of that right would be considered as government persecution of free speech. <!!>
Translation: We could — and did — say whatever we felt like saying needed to be said, as long as it fit that criteria. Which left a whole lot of stuff completely open and available.
And, with former Marine Larry Stevens as the Chancellor of Saddleback College, who wasn’t exactly known for his sensitivity training when it came to dealing with faculty and students (although I must admit I couldn’t help but like the guy’s “straight-up,” no-nonsense attitude, a refreshing break from the “politically correct” twaddle that was already beginning to engulf college campuses everywhere), there was plenty to say on a lot of different fronts. By 1984, Stevens had the Saddleback Trustees, the Faculty Senate and most of his own administration in an uproar. The students of course, mindless drones as most of them were, followed suit and uproared themselves silly as well. Today’s “snowflakes” in the larva stage.
We covered it all, with the invaluable aid of longtime “Lariat” “Reporter-At-Large-On-College-District-Shenanigans” Bob Sontag, who had been on the “Lariat” for years and had developed an expert approach when it came to analyzing the various disparate factors of the myriad news releases and “public information” swill the administration shoved our way … And was even MORE expert at tying all that information together and drawing theretofore-unseen conclusions that would have amazed Sherlock Holmes.
“Hey Brad,” Bob would say. “We’ve got a press release from the PIO that says …” … And off we’d go.
We probably ran more administration/faculty/district stories than a school paper “should” have run — most school papers are warm and fuzzy and fluffy and want to write a bunch of “features” (which have their place, and we ran them often) — but Bob, Mike, Carol and — by extension and training, myself as well — were “hard” news types, and not a lick of non-confrontationalism to any of our constitutions, and we preferred our news “straight.” That’s what we gave our readers, and I’ve never regretted a minute of it.
I was also taking Carol’s News Writing courses through the midst of a lot of this, and she was quite clear and extremely intelligent and objective on just what “news” consisted of: Who, What, When, Where, Why and How. Not necessarily in that order, and not at all like the slanted, agenda-driven, opinionated crap that passes for “news” in most of the media today. She taught me how to distill the FACTS out of a story, to get all sides, to write leads properly, to “pyramid” my story material for cutting purposes, to use quotes as a means of backing up story details and bringing a story to life — the “whole nine yards” as we like to say. Even though our stories were factual in their content, it was an art form to develop them properly, and Carol had that “art” down like a science. I couldn’t have done the news side of the “Lariat” without her.
(SIDEBAR: These lessons, later on down the road when I finally retired from the “Lariat,” were to serve me in good stead as I decided to pass on a “standard” career in journalism. I had absolutely ZERO interest in becoming a political hack and writing the kind of “news” that was already on the ascendancy even in the mid-1980s; I chose to enter the field from an editorial/opinion viewpoint instead, which was much more closely suited to both my emotional and intellectual inclinations.)
At the end of that Fall 1984 run, I’d learned more than a human being ought to be allowed to ever learn about journalism, people, educational politics, public relations, taking complaints, fixing complaints, winning awards, writing and editing copy, stroking staff, yelling at staff, you name it. I’ve never had so much fun in my life (well, the yelling wasn’t any fun, but … It didn’t happen TOO often).
So MUCH fun, indeed, that Mike and Carol told me over Christmas break: “You’re our Editor-In-Chief for Spring 1985, too.”
Well, nobody had ever done THAT before … Been the Editor for an entire year, I mean. I like to think that part of it was that I was getting to be damn good at what I was doing — but, realistically, even though that was true, I knew that the biggest part of it was staff turnover … The STUDENT staff.
Almost everybody that had worked on the “Lariat” the previous fall was brand-new to the courses, so … There just WASN’T anybody else to do it that had the time, training and inclination. That was fine with me. I set out to make the Spring 1985 semester the best one for the “Lariat” that Saddleback College had ever seen.
I lived in the place, basically. Except for my cooking job at Coco’s in Mission Viejo, where I worked the swing shift, I essentially set up residence at the paper itself. I probably worked it about 70 hours a week. Previous “Editors-In-Chiefs” generally took a back seat when it came to the actual writing, content with editing copy and running the overall ship. But not me; that’s never been my style. I wrote editorials, opinion, news, features, and whatever else needed to get handled. We put that paper out and we did the best job all of us knew how to do. And I made more mistakes, particularly in areas of leadership, than I ever care to even think about.
Some things I pulled that were “No-No’s” even then, but would DEFINITELY get me canned now:
■ When one of our sports writers turned in a story that I knew he hadn’t had any time to interview the football coach on, but yet contained quotes from that coach, I called him on it … And he told me, quote, that “the coach said that, I’m sure, I just wasn’t there to hear it!” I fired his silly ass. Carol told me later, laughing: “You can’t fire a student!” “Fine,” I said. “He can still attend class. But as long as I’m running this ship, I’ll never print another line of his copy again.” I started running the PIO’s sports copy instead.
■ Another writer, one of Mike’s students from San Clemente High School, was late for the umpteenth time with his story, and here it was, Publication Day (Wednesday, since the paper got back to us and was delivered on Thursday). I ran a completely blank section on that page under his byline … And never took another line of copy from him again, either.
■ And then there was the time one of the teachers, the Debate instructor, bitched at us because he didn’t like the way we ran a story on his debate team. My perception was that he was just angry because we didn’t toot his team’s horn loud enough to suit him. I stuck up for the reporter’s take and I told the guy that any time he thought he could write better copy he was certainly welcome to turn it in; I’d certainly consider it for publication. He got his knickers in a big twist and hollered to the administration about our poor attitude. Chancellor Stevens told him to go fly a kite, that we were our own men and women. <OOHRAH!>
■ For our final issue in the Spring 1985 Semester, we included a two-page “Saddlecrack College Hilariat” spoof, complete with butt cheeks instead of mountain peaks; the renaming of administration officials’ names in sexual or alcoholic terms (e.g., “Everett Brewster” became “Everready Brewski” and “Constance Carroll” became “Constantly Carnal”); and the inclusion of more than one Hitler mustache on a couple of photos we ran … ONE of them of Yours Truly, which the rest of our staff sure got a kick out of. Could you imagine the hoorah you’d have on a college campus NOW if you tried any of that type of lampooning? Ah, the “Good ‘Ole Days” … <HUGE grin> … They’d be hanging MY silly ass from the nearest lamppost.
■ And, as I’ve mentioned already in my discussion under my “Orange County Register Rants” section, all of this, for years, was accompanied by copious consumptions of alcohol and various other drugs. I won’t bother giving details, names or events; we’ll just say that I’m sure colleges are more prepared these days for the kinds of stunts myself and a few members of my staff often pulled while we were producing our quality newspaper. OR ARE THEY??
After the Spring 1985 Semester ended, I was done running the “Lariat.” I had one more semester of a Journalism class to take, since I’d “advanced” a semester early the year before to the “Editor-In-Chief” slot, so I came back in the Fall to get that final class taken care of — but I was through being our fair ship’s Captain. I happily turned it all over to Kurt Hueg, who did a magnificent job, and I pared my journalistic delights back to my normal socio-politico-economic commentary fare.
And it all ended just in time, too — for, by 1986, I was in so much trouble with the drug and alcohol abuse that I couldn’t function as a “normal” human being any longer. Off I went in the beginning of that year to the first of my many (so-called) “recovery” programs I was to find myself a member of over the next decade or so, and — with the exception of a couple of “Letters to the Editor” to the “Lariat” a year or so later — it was the Big “30” on that front.
As with my “Orange County Register Rants,” I’ve been selective about what I’ve included here. I’ve left ALL news stories out, as well as features, and most of my commentary as well.
So, what HAVE I included? Commentary that was decently expressed and that wasn’t a repetition of something I’d already run in the “Orange County Register”; a series of “News Analysis” rants that prove quite clearly that the messes we currently find ourselves in, have been a long time coming; a series of “Election ‘84” discussions regarding the Reagan-Mondale presidential election that the “Millennial” generation just born back then, or since, might find illuminating or entertaining; and a few staff editorials I thought readers might find useful in their discussions of principles and ideas.
So, as I stated at the conclusion of my introduction to my “Orange County Register Rants”: “For anyone interested in this stuff, here it is. Hopefully, you’ll find at least a small diamond or two mixed in with all the dirt …”
With Love Always,
Bradley T. Harrington
Cheyenne, Wyoming, the United States of America
“Saddleback College Lariat Rants”
“Counsels on Countering Communism”
“Political Philosophy in Crisis”
“The U.S. Economy: A Study in Decrepitude”
“Is Capitalism a Dead System of the Past — or the Rational System of the Future?”
“Editorial: Is an Armed Presence Essential in Lebanon?”
“News Analysis: Why Should We be Exporting Democracy?”
“Reply to ‘Some Points to Consider Regarding the Recent Debate’”
“On United States Foreign Policy: Shooting Ourselves in the Head”
“Space — The Greatest Hope in History of Man”
“Child Care: Best Regulation is the Free Market”
“Editorial: Don’t Tread on Us”
“A Slap in the Face of Academic Freedom”
“Editorial: None of Their Business”
“Gun Control — It Makes Self-Defense Illegal”
“Case Against Nuclear Power in Error”
“We Need to Protect Lives Instead of Avenge Them”
“Election ’84 — Playing the Pray Ploy”
“Election ’84 — Fritz’s Taxing Matter”
“Election ’84 — Democrats and Republicans Threatening Our Survival”
“Election ’84 — If I Were President …”
“Election ’84 — Cant Win for Losing”
“Election ’84 — Crisis in Foreign Policy”
“Content of Ideas Shall Determine Whether this Country Will Survive”
“Election ’84 — Suicidal Victims Hold Breath Until Death, Waiting for Halt of Debaters’ Useless Rhetoric”
“Election ’84 — Attain Liberty’s Truth; Boycott Voting Booth”
“News Analysis: Church and State Prove Fatal Mix”
“Ideology of Capitalism in Need of Major Repairs”
“Answers Given by Use of Editor’s Capitalist Ideology”
“Editor Fires Volley of Shots”
“Radicals Vs. Communists”
“Editorial: This Smoking Proposal Deserves to be Torched”
“Idea Power More Potent than Force”
“News Analysis: Let’s Remake Foreign Policy”
“American Tax System: Form of Legalized Theft”
“News Analysis: Justices Destroy Freedoms Instead of Protecting Them”
“News Analysis: Rent Controllers Abuse Supply and Demand”
“Dear Larry Taylor: What are Your Real Motives in the Recall?”
“News Analysis: Tenth Amendment, not First, Loses Out in Court Decision”
“Editorial: Lariat Keeps Integrity”
“Editor Bids Fond Farewell”
“Private Schools are the Only Realistic Alternative”
“News Analysis: Buy What American Builds? Build What America Buys!”
“Should Prostitution be a Legal Activity?”
“The Basics: Reason, Individualism and Capitalism”
“Are Taxes Really Essential for a Stable Society?”
“Editorial: Seat Belt Law Stupidity”
“Astrology: A Superstitious Pseudo-Science”
“Editorial: The Right Response”
““Gun Control: A Smart Policy or a Dumb Move?”
“Prisons: A Waste of Money or a Necessity?”
“Summit Meeting Between U.S., U.S.S.R. a Joke”
“Lithuania: The Carnage Did not End with World War II”
“The Challenger Explosion”
Counsels on Countering Communism
By Bradley Harrington
In the last couple of years the government has been providing the Chrysler Corp. with “loan guarantees” that amount to well over a billion dollars. (I prefer to call them subsidies, since I doubt very much that they will ever be repaid.) What is the economic illiteracy that supports this legislative buffoonery? We are informed by the learned bureaucrats that it is necessary to keep Chrysler afloat in order to “provide jobs.” If Chrysler goes belly-up, we are told, thousands of jobs will disappear.