How to Say It Like It Is

I was saddened recently to learn that one of my favorite University of Montana journalism professors, Robert C. McGiffert, had died last December at age 88. He wrote the textbook, The Art of Editing the News, received UM’s Distinguished Teaching Award in 1982, and received the Montana Free Press Award from the UM schools of journalism and law. He was a stickler for factual reporting, and I remember my classes with him fondly.

As one former student, Ginny Merriam, put it so well in a tribute: “We are the Journalistic Children of Bob McGiffert….From the beginning, we knew he’d be tough. At the end, we loved him….”

And from my fellow classmate, Carol VanValkenburg: “…I, like so many others I have talked to over the years, decided to become a journalist because of him….”

The following is a poem by McGiffert, published in Editor & Publisher and the Montana Journalism Review. It is so titled because E&P paid him $2 for it.

$2 Poem

As any reader knows, a source can

charge, declare, affirm, relate,

recall, aver, reiterate,

allege, conclude, explain, point out,

answer, note, retort or shout,

rejoin, demand, repeat, reply,

ask, expostulate or sigh,

blurt. suggest, report or mumble,

add, shoot back, burst out or grumble,

whisper, call, assert or state,

vouchsafe, cry, asseverate,

snort, recount, harrumph, opine,

whimper, simper, wheedle, whine,

mutter, murmur, bellow, bray,

whinny or … let’s see now

… SAY!

Thanks, Bob! You taught me well. I don’t need to add another thing.

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5 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. This is a lovely tribute to a man who apparently earned your admiration and respect. I hope you share this with his family.

  2. To be loved of his students and produce $2 Poem, he was something special. You are lucky to have had him in your life.

  3. Yes, I was fortunate to have had some great mentors when I was learning the journalism ropes. My copy editor, Ed Erlandson, at the Missoulian newspaper also laid the groundwork for my grammar and punctuation knowledge and expertise in editing. He wouldn’t let a wayward comma go unnoticed!

  4. He sounds like a fine teacher and gentleman. No wonder you miss him.

  5. Great way to honor your former teacher!


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