Squid Fry 12.08.11
Thursday, December 8, 2011
SAY IT AIN’T SO, JOE… Squid likes to think of Squidself as an ink-stained wretch, but Squid’s journalism stains haven’t been around as long as those of the “thinking woman’s Dan Green,” the lushly mustachioed and well-endowed-in-the-brains Joe Livernois, executive editor of The Monterey County Herald. Through 28 years and four changes of ownership; through a publisher who, lacking a humor gene, required Livernois put a “this is satire” disclaimer on the bottom of his column; through near-daily threats to quit and take on more honest labor, like driving a fork-lift; through threatening one reporter with a letter of reprimand for extreme flatulence; through the Weekly naming him Sexiest Columnist (From a Different Paper) in the 2002 Best Of edition – after which his own staff photoshopped his head onto a model’s hard body and topped it with a thought bubble saying, “I’m too sexy for my journalism degree” – Livernois has been the rock of Upper Ragsdale for almost three decades.
Last week, the rock announced he was stepping down from his post.
Livernois tells Squid it’s not retirement. “I may be a dinosaur, but I’m not a relic,” he says. “I got into journalism as a curious writer and ended up miscast as a newsroom bureaucrat.”
He has stories to tell, and he’s going off to tell them on his own terms (with, Squid muses, no interference from Darth Singleton and his MediaNews beancounters). Joe’s proudest achievement: “Counseling the talent that a great wide world awaits if they have the nerve to step off the precipice,” he says. And sneaking obscure references to monkeys into his humor column – something the editor at the time ordered him to halt (“lose the fucking monkeys,” he told Livernois). That was an order Livernois ignored by making those references even more obscure – a Mickey Dolenz reference tossed in, a sentence that began with “mon,” followed by another that started with “key”; the quirky act of subordination ended up winning Livernois a national award.
With his departure, publisher Gary Omernick (you know, the guy who just outsourced much of the paper’s design work to India) has named Editorial Page Editor Royal “Pain” Calkins as the new Joe. Will Omernick let R-Pain, whose old job was cut to three days a week, work full-time in the new post? Is Gary prettying up the bottom line in preparation for a sale? Can one make plummeting circulation figures – from more than 35,000 daily in 2001 to 23,000 in September – attractive to even the dumbest of buyers? Stay tuned, both for more on the evolving future of the Herald and the next act of that class act, Joe Livernois.