SEPTEMBER 11, 2001
AT THIS VISTA
WE CAME TOGETHER
IN GRIEF AND SOLIDARITY
OUR PERSPECTIVE FOREVER CHANGED
I once told my daughter, Carrick, that these few words would be the most important I ever wrote. They are carved into a stone at an overlook a few hundred yards from our home where we, and a handful of our neighbors, watched the World Trade Center burn and implode 22 miles down the Hudson River.
When the memorial was being planned, a friend who respects the power of words perhaps even more than I do said that anything written would sound trite against the reality of what had happened that day. I wrestled with that thought for a week or so as I struggled to find words that would express the impact of the attack on those of us who witnessed its aftermath. In the end, I felt we needed to bear testimony, as inadequate as our words may be.
Recently, I was talking to another neighbor who saw and felt both planes hitting the WTC from his office a block away from the towers. When it came out that I'd written the inscription on the local memorial, he told me that every year on the anniversary of the attack, he lights three candles on the stone to honor the three people he knew who died that day.
"I love that inscription," he said. "It says it all."
It is my hope that fifty or 100 years from now it also will say something to those who did not see and feel what we saw and felt that day, and that they will be moved to find out more about what happened.
The Hastings 9/11 Memorial is a plaza looking downriver to the New York skyline. I used to stand in that very spot and admire the towers downriver. The inscription is set into the center of the stones that support the railing.
Fred Hubbard, 1927 - 2008
I write a daily commentary, Top of the News, for MediaPost's Marketing Daily. In the past, I compiled Around the Net in Brand Marketing, such as this column the morning after Barack Obama's victory in 2008.
Silent Treatment: Addiction in America
I wrote the lead article and a couple of sidebars for Silent Treatment: Addiction in America, a five-part series produced by Public Access Journalism LLC, supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and syndicated by McClatchy-Tribune News Service.
During my tenure as editor-at-large for NewsInc., which covered the business of newspapers, I enjoyed writing a back-page column about the days when publishing a newspaper was as exhilarating as creating a website is today. Though much of my work has been in online media since 1982, at heart I will always be what my father, grandfather, and great-grandfather called themselves — "a newspaperman."
Getting the Lead Out — Once upon time, before HTML ...
Follow the Reader? — Even "The Thunderer," the Times of London, was not immune to pandering to readers and politicians lusting for a "good" war.
Mean Street Sales — Max Annenberg, a founding father of the dynastic media family, earned his readers the old-fashioned way — with brass knuckles and bullets.
War Correspondence — Embedded correspondents? Pshaw. James Creelman led a bayonet charge for the greater glory of William Randolph Hearst and the New York Journal.
Learning How To Plug In — I had a blast talking to Eddie Jaffe, one of the last of the old-time Broadway press agents.
Message in a Bottle — At the turn of the 20th Century, patent medicines such as Lydia Pinkham's Vegetable Compound for female complaints were big newspaper advertisers. Then came the Food and Drug Act of 1906.
Advertising Age's Point
Dawn Hudson rose through the marketing ranks at PepsiCo to become its president/CEO. In Hudson Steps Up, I profiled her for the cover story of the premiere issue of this monthly insert for C-level subscribers to Ad Age. Alas, both Hudson and Point have moved on.
I wrote a variety of pieces for Symposium, UBS Wealth Management's quarterly publication for its "preferred clients," ranging from how to help your child get into the college of his/her choice to how to build your dream yacht. Every Business Has a Story makes the business case for commissioning a writer (ahem) to help you tell your corporate history, and offers suggestions about how to best work with a collaborator.
Rising to the Top Online — When I was asked to write a story about a small business competing successfully on the Web for this custom publication for Dex Yellow Pages, The Village Hat Shop came immediately to mind. I'd been following owner Fred Belinsky's customer-centric email marketing for a decade — and had even bought a beret or two.
Adweek's Marketing Week
I wrote a series of "Looking Back" features for the magazine that's now called Brandweek. I've always been interested in the history behind major brands and institutions.
How Budweiser Became the King of Beers — At the turn of the 20th century, Budweiser was already a star-spangled brew and a national institution. Then came Prohibition.
Can the Daily News Survive? — It did survive Robert Maxwell, but we still have our fingers crossed. The article explores the paper's folly in trying to follow its upwardly mobile readers into the burbs rather than serve the new immigrants to New York.
Portrait of the Young Diners Club as a Publicist's Dream — Would it surprise you to learn that a Broadway press agent cooked up the official story about how the idea for the first credit card was hatched? That's the scoop in this piece, which gives the real lowdown on how Diners Club got started.
I wrote a lot of cover stories for Agency over the course of its existence, but my favorite was my first assignment — a history of the American Association of Advertising Agencies' first 75 years. Every nerdish bone in my body enjoyed rooting around in the AAAA's extensive collection of documents, articles and books.
In his editor's note for this 1994 story, Geoffrey Precourt writes, "Thom Forbes has been ranting about the potential of cyberspace since I first met him, which was just after he'd worked on a market test of Prodigy (1982)." But don't blame me for Ads in Cyberspace, I was just the messenger alerting Madison Avenue to the reality that interactivity would soon change the way it did business.
As soon as Ads in Cyberspace hit the transom at the AAAAs, its leadership asked for a proposal for a quarterly newsletter that would keep its members up to date with emerging trends in cyberspace. This first issue is dated March 1995; it ran four years and was also, of course, online.
Folio: The Magazine for Magazine Management
"Thom Forbes and Al Gore invented the Internet," a colleague once quipped. Well, even if that overstates the case by a factor of totally, there weren't many writers telling publishers in 1993 that their futures would be online. In fact, it took me nearly a year to convince Folio: to run this cover story, Make Yourself a Big Fish in the Online Ocean.
In the next year, I wrote two follow-up cover stories — one about publishers who were running their own bulletin boards, or BBSs, and another, in Sept. 1994, about Global Network Navigator (GNN), O'Reilly Media's groundbreaking commercial website. It was sold to America Online in 1995 and effectively shot at sunrise, but publisher Dale Dougherty and his colleagues have proven to be remarkably prescient about the future of cyberspace.
In November, 1994, I contributed a piece to GNN myself, Getting Magazines Online, which fittingly was about a panel I'd just moderated at the Folio:Show in New York with three early publishers of online magazines.
Why I Spent Money at a Website — I wrote a back-page column for Folio: called "Web Works." This twelve-year-old piece came at a time when magazine publishers worried that their online presence would cannibalize their print business and never make money.
I Have Met the Enemy and He's Online — Another "Web Works" favorite of mine featured my friend Jahan Salehi, a Mac guru turned online publisher.
While I'm adding documents of strictly historical value to the W3, I thought about this 1995 cover story for NetGuide. I was asked to find the 50 Best Websites. I think I did a pretty good job of rounding up laudable early efforts, but only one site would make anybody's Top 50 list today — Yahoo, which is No. 1 on this list (and is still my home page). This issue also contains a letter from someone, unrelated by blood or marriage, who praised an earlier story of mine as "the very best article I have ever read." I have dedicated the rest of my career to writing something deserving of a similar encomium.
There are photographs of three of my non-related heros on the wall in front of my desk — slugger Harmon Killebrew, who was never afraid to strike out in his quest for the home run; Joe Martin, a relentless New York Daily News reporter who shared a Pulitzer Prize for his reporting about the brutality of the Batista regime in Cuba, and Henry Beetle Hough, longtime editor of the Vineyard Gazette and author of the classic memoir, Country Editor. Deirdre and I travelled to Martha's Vineyard to photograph and interview Hough in 1984, when he was 88. It was one of the last interviews he gave, and I was thrilled to receive an appreciative note from him.