Monday, June 22, 2009

Thomas Hoffer

The Eastpointer

Franklin Chronicle Goes Under

Thank-you Mr. Thomas Hoffer

By Richard E. Noble

For some reason Tom liked me. I always gave him a difficult time – even before he hired me to work for his paper. We became aware of one another way back in my oysterman days. I bought a few season ads for Hobo’s in his new newspaper.
After I sold Hobo’s Ice Cream Parlor and decided to become an internationally soon-to-be-recognized famous author, I brought him a copy of my first book Hobo-ing America. He was very impressed. “You wrote this yourself?” he offered somewhat astonished. I later learned that Tom had a secret aspiration of one day writing and publishing a special book of his own. It was about a famous radical relative of his. Tom, though very conservative, loved eccentrics and radicals. He never became much of a radical himself but he did manage to master the eccentric.
“I’m looking for an editor/proof reader for my newspaper. Did you ever do anything like that? I don’t pay much but if you would like to give it a try, I could sure use the help.”
Reading copy and learning how to find mistakes, I figured was something very important to my success as an internationally famous writer. I figured that if I took this job offer, I could get paid to learn something that I certainly could use as a writer.
Before long Tom was asking me to write copy for his paper. I gave him an essay every week. He rejected 50% of my submissions and paid me nothing for those he accepted. I was not happy with that deal. When he asked me to help him with his in depth coverage of the bi-weekly County Commission meetings, I accepted only if he would agree to pay me by the hour.
So Tom had beaten me out of some free essays but now I had suckered him into paying me to attend County Commission meetings. Actually I think I lost on that deal also. Sitting through County Commission meetings, week after week, was certainly worth a good deal more than he was paying me.
Eventually I learned commission meeting double-speak and I took over the entire coverage of the County meetings. Tom couldn’t believe that I could write so many pages of copy on the local County Commission. He couldn’t even stay awake through one entire meeting. My biggest week, I handed in twenty-seven pages of single-spaced typed copy. Tom said, “I don’t know if anybody is reading this but I hope they are because you are actually making this stuff appear to be interesting.”
Tom did not part with compliments graciously but he gave me several in addition to the backdoor compliment above. I guess the biggest compliment from Tom came one day when I was apologizing for my lack of proper journalistic training. “I know, I’m no trained reporter or journalist but I do the best with what I have.”
As Tom turned and started to walk away he mumbled, “Well, I taught journalism in a college and take it from me you are a journalist.”
One of Tom’s criticisms of me was that I had a tendency to “editorialize.” He demanded that I bring a tape recorder with me everywhere and get in the habit for quoting what other people had to say rather than offering a personal interpretation.
At first I didn’t like that technique. I felt it cramped my style. I felt this requirement to be one of those “boss” techniques to keep anybody from gaining personal notoriety. But after awhile I enjoyed it even more than my previous editorializing and wise cracking. What people actually said turned out to be much better and often times more humorous than anything that I could make up. It turned out to be a great writing (and listening) experience for me.
When the new publisher took over at the Chronicle he offered me the opportunity to return to my editorializing with the Eastpointer column. To my surprise, I won a first place award in the humor category from the Florida Press Association in 2007.
So my thanks go to Tom Hoffer and the Franklin Chronicle, for a great learning experience. I am saddened that the trustees have chosen not to fulfill Mr. Hoffer’s dream of a self-perpetuating local newspaper but I understand the difficulty of the challenge. It is unfortunate that Tom was not able to find people as determined, dedicated and hard working as himself to carrying on his dream.

Noble Notes on Famous Folks is R.E. Noble’s latest publication. It is a book of lite, witty, and satirical essays on famous and infamous folks throughout history from Constantine to Bill Clinton. It is for sale on Amazon along with Richard’s several other works. Richard Noble is a freelance writer who has lived in Franklin County for thirty years. Businesses, bookstores, libraries etc can contact the author at for discounts and special offers.