Florence Snyder: Palm Beach Post’s O’Meilia leaves his mark in scrapbooks – and hearts – across America
Florida lost one of its most gifted—and beloved—storytellers Saturday when Tim O’Meilia, 65, succumbed to cancer.
O’Meilia leaves behind wife Debbie, sons Rolly and Casey, and generations of Florida journalists who took instruction and inspiration from the body of work he produced for The Palm Beach Post from 1972- 2008.
A look at the guest book for people wishing to leave condolences on The Post’s website could double as a textbook for what makes a great reporter.
“I had the express joy of knowing him for a decade,” wrote Elizabeth Dashiell of Jupiter. “He covered the Science Museum, and came out for all of our major (and minor!) events. He was a gentleman, brilliant writer and warm caring person. I loved reading his articles and loved even more spending time with him, talking about local places and strange things. He shared my love of the unusual and knew the best way to describe Florida’s uniqueness.”
O’Meilia was a low-maintainence general assignment guy who could always be counted upon to produce a high-impact story.
“Because of his ability to turn a non-story into a great read for the front page, Tim was always picked to handle the quirky piece. He was the “go-to guy” in the newsroom. He never complained — not once — and always turned the story into something worth taking the time to read. He was a real pro, a great guy and I don’t know anyone who didn’t enjoy working with him,” wrote Pete Ebel, one of the many editors who loved to handle O’Meilia’s consistently close-to-perfect copy.
Kathryn Quigley of Deptford, New Jersey “…had the pleasure of sitting next to Tim in The Post newsroom from 2000-2002. I loved seeing his sly smile and hearing his confident, quiet way with sources on the phone. ”
Investigative reporter-turned filmmaker Gary Kane weighed in from New York: “…..Yes, you CAN believe everything he wrote, whether it was a story about a Lake Worth zoning squabble or the mating rituals of turkey vultures. No factual errors. No misquotes. He wrote with a clear, concise style. His storytelling was honest, thoughtful, clever. I imagine that countless stories carrying the Tim O’Meilia byline have been clipped and pasted in scrapbooks or tucked in boxes of mementos. Tim wasn’t a newsroom prima donna. He….wasn’t obsessed with becoming a brand. He was simply a journalist. A damn fine one….”
An especially poignant tribute comes from The Post’s veteran courts reporter, Susan Spencer-Wendel, who reported her own story of living with purpose and joy following a diagnosis of Lou Gehrig’s disease. “Tim made writing look easy,” wrote Wendel, who tapped her best-selling memoir, “Before I Say Goodbye” out on an iPhone, one character at a time. “I loved his stories about a comet buzzing by or the new jaguar born at the zoo. There was such delight in them. He was a true gentleman and a fine and fair reporter.”
Post Director of Administration Lynn Kalber speaks for many others who think “Tim was part of that small, unique percentage of newspaper writers: Everything he wrote was gold. He made it look easy. He made us care about all of it. He taught us all kinds of things without letting us know we were learning. And to cap all of it off, he was one of the nicest guys around….”
O’Meilia, a Notre Dame graduate, could have spent most of his career at bigger papers with bigger audiences for bigger money. But as the condolences continue to pour in from all over the country, it’s hard to imagine any way he could have left a bigger mark.
Florence Snyder is a corporate and First Amendment lawyer. Contact her at email@example.com
From Civil Politics:
One of the most general and robust findings in social psychology is the power of situations to shape behavior. For example, if you are in a situation where you are competing with others, you will tend to dislike them, whereas when you are cooperating with them, you will tend to like them. This is relatively intuitive, yet we often fail to appreciate this in practice, and then we end up amazed when arbitrary groups put in competition end up in deep conflict. If artificially created competitions can inflame divisions (e.g. sports fandom usually pits very similar people against each other), perhaps we can also manufacture cooperation to reduce division.
OK, I don’t mean literal asteroids made of rock and metal. I mean big problems that polarize us and therefore paralyze us.
If you’re on the left, you probably have extremely acute vision for threats such as global warming and rising inequality. You’ve tried to draw attention to the rising levels of carbon dioxide, the rising average global surface temperature and the rising seas. You’ve also grown increasingly disturbed by the percentage of the national income taken home by the richest 1 percent. In fact, I’ll bet you spotted those two asteroids back in the 1990s, when it would have been so much easier to deflect them, and you’re angry that conservatives are still deep in denial. What’s wrong with those conservatives?
On the other hand, if you’re on the right, you’ve probably been tracking our nation’s entitlement spending and the rise of nonmarital births for a long time now. You’ve been ringing alarms about those two asteroids since the 1970s, but liberals have treated you like Chicken Little, completely unconcerned. Caring is spending, they seem to believe. All forms of family are equally good for kids, they assert in spite of the evidence. What’s wrong with those liberals? Read the whole piece online at Tallahassee.com.
Cheers to Lea Marshall, who sent this video along with this note: tis the season. may we all give others a chance to rest their heads (or even their thoughts that maybe aren’t the same as our thoughts) on us peacefully and gracefully…
We’re delighted to be partnering with CivilPolitics.org in our California expansion project. They’ll be producing evaluative measures for us as we experiment with different structures and programs in new (and old) locations. We think they produce the most cogent academic view of our increasingly divisive civic environment – they also care about actually solving the problem. Today, they’ve written about how science says you transcend political division, using Newt Gingrich as an example. Who knew.
The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consiousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom. No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.
In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Seal of the United States to be affixed.
Done at the City of Washington, this Third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the Unites States the Eighty-eighth.
By the President: Abraham Lincoln
William H. Seward,
Secretary of State
Matthew Dowd today on This Week with George Stephanopoulos:
“We also must keep in mind that the Founding Fathers warned against day in and day out, including President Washington, about the power of political parties. And the power of parties to tear apart the government and create this dysfunction. We are at a point now where the political parties and people line up in these tribes and it’s very difficult. As I say, you can’t have the same rules in chess oh we’re going to be fine and all that, as you have in mixed martial arts which is where the situation is today in Washington.
“Where we are today George, where we are today is the president in 2008 and 2007 ran on the idea that he was going to bring the country together, bring Washington together. We’re going to get past the partisan gridlock. We’re going to get past the vitriol. And now we’re at a point where the rules have to change in the Senate because it’s become so polarized, so vitriolic that we can’t get it done.”
OK, here’s my contribution to the “Where Were You When President Kennedy Was Shot?” discussion. It being a Friday, I was driving to the bank in Oklahoma City to deposit my paycheck before heading to work. I had just completed my first year as a reporter for the Daily Oklahoman, the state’s leading daily newspaper. Glued to my car radio for more details, I hurriedly completed my transaction at the drive-up window and raced to the office, which I knew would be in all-hands-on-deck mode.
It was. The newsroom was in bedlam as editors on the afternoon paper, the Oklahoma City Times, frantically tore up their front page to get details of the assassination into at least a portion of the press run. Meanwhile, editors of the morning paper on which I worked, the Daily Oklahoman, were huddled to draw up plans for the next day’s paper. While we awaited our assignments, we reporters eagerly snatched bulletins from the AP and UPI teletypes from the hands of the copyboys whose job it was to monitor “the wires.”
Eventually, my City Editor began handing out assignments. The star writer and a photographer were quickly dispatched to Dallas, which is just 300 miles from “The City,” as Oklahoma City was known. Others were assigned to do the stories on the transition of power to Lyndon B. Johnson, the grieving widow Jackie, the nation in shock and mourning. A couple of reporters were assigned to gather reaction from leaders in our state: members of Congress, state legislators, city and county officials, federal judges and law enforcement officers. Two or three others went out into stores and bars for the man-in-the-street reaction.
My assignment: Write a story about LBJ’s last visit to Oklahoma City. The Vice President had been to the state a few months before, for what I no longer remember. Researching our clip-files for stories on the visit and calling local dignitaries who had met with LBJ, I put together a 15-inch story that was published deep inside that Saturday morning paper. I was grateful to have something productive to do, and the concentration required to report and write the story took my mind off the horror of the events in Dallas. I thought of my sister Joan, who lived in Greenville, just a few miles east of Dallas, and her husband Dick, whose parents lived in Dallas.
Most of us worked all weekend to continue to report what was certainly the biggest story any of us had ever covered. By Sunday, we were wrung-out, exhausted after two days of 12- to 15-hour shifts, thinking that on Sunday there might be time to relax, unwind, maybe even smile. But of course there wasn’t, because Jack Ruby decided to take justice into his own hands in the Dallas Police Station that day.
And the presidential funeral – that terrible day of national mourning marked by a 2-year-old boy’s salute to his father’s passing coffin and a riderless horse with empty boots turned backward in the stirrups — still lay ahead on Monday.
David Klement, Executive Director
Institute for Strategic Policy Solutions
St. Petersburg College