Today’s #MediaMonday comes to us from Tim Eigo, editor of Arizona Attorney Magazine and president of the Society of Professional Journalists Valley of the Sun Chapter. Tim was a practicing attorney for four years before taking the helm at Arizona Attorney 17 years ago. He’s committed to great writing, community-building, urbanism and historic preservation. But not the Oxford comma.
Tim, time to share:
I think we can blame President Richard Nixon for an awful lot. But it turns out, I can also blame him – and a special time in American history – for my mashup of a journalism–legal career. Or maybe it’s a series of careers, one after the other. Whatever. Thanks, Dick.
In our upstate New York house in 1973, I recall our TV being tuned full-time to the multi-week Watergate hearings. For the first time, I got a good look at American government and politics. Sure, it was pretty ugly. But we knew we were watching history unfold. And among the jaw-dropping revelations, there was something remarkable: hints of heroism, or at least admirable judgment.
Those praiseworthy moments, I realized, were the work of some amazing journalists, lawyers, and judges. Each of them stepped up and did their constitutional duty when history came calling. That event, and the publication of the Pentagon Papers a few years before, were like catnip to a younger generation that had high expectations for their country. Too high, probably – but there are worse things to have, I guess.
(A year later, on the day I turned 12 in 1974, President Gerald Ford ruined my birthday when he granted an unconditional pardon to Nixon. My dad clicked the TV off in shock. I was stunned at the pardon, having watched the evidence against a man and his administration publicly accumulate for 24 months. “He can’t pardon him,” I thundered to my dad. Ashen, he quietly replied, “Yes. Yes, I think he can.” I decided not to celebrate my birthday that year. Yeah, I was a real pleasure.)
Our family also got three newspapers a day: the New York Times, the (NY) Daily News and the (NY) Daily Mirror – which gave me an appreciation for thoughtful, deeply analyzed news, and also for tabloids with bold (sometimes cheeky) headlines and stunning photography. As subscribers, our household was regularly confronted by relentless coverage of our ever-worsening attempts to win a war in Vietnam (as opposed to today’s ongoing war, which is sometimes covered, but rarely on the front page).
I guess, given that background, I never stood a chance of avoiding these often paired professions.
My first venture into journalism was probably in high school’s junior year, when I wrote a theatre review of “How To Succeed in Business” (earnestly acted, bad pacing, “singing voices only a mother could love” – I was not invited back to review the performing arts). I opted for a college degree in English (not journalism – don’t tell anyone) and then grad school at Notre Dame in the same field. After earning a law degree in California, I practiced for a few years (litigation, some immigration) but also started working as a copyeditor at the weekly Orange County Business Journal, where I also got to cover the legal beat.
My days were split between law and journalism, and I soon found that I was enjoying the J work quite a bit more. Besides the OCBJ, I found myself freelance editing and occasionally writing at a number of magazines in the L.A. area – some of which are even still being published!
In the late 1990s, my wife Kathy Nakagawa got a professor job at ASU, so we landed in Phoenix. I worked freelance for a few years while I was a stay-at-home dad to our first daughter Willa (her sister Thea was born five years later). I sighed, thinking that once Willa started school, I’d probably take the Arizona bar exam and get back to law practice. But then, in 2000, I landed the editor job at Arizona Attorney Magazine – where I’m stunned to still be 17 years later.
Journalism and law continue to be an odd couple that mash up remarkably well. Every day, I get to edit, write and interview people on some of the day’s most important issues. Not a bad trade for a ruined 12th birthday.
And if you’re still with me, I should mention: Arizona Attorney Magazine is not a scholarly journal. I mean, we have features, trend stories, profiles, a sense of humor, and one of the best editor’s columns you’ll ever read. Just sayin’.
Maybe because I shifted between professions (and tried to make a living in them in some of the darkest periods for each), I have great affection and empathy for the plight of younger journalists, who must be far more adept and flexible than their predecessors. Maybe that’s made me a lifelong learner, one who early on adopted social media and blogging as a great leveler of playing fields for smaller niche publications. And it’s made me ditch some things that cohorts from my generation hold onto like an old flame – think the useless Oxford comma and two spaces after a period. Ugh. William Hearst called and he wants his typography back.
When I’m not covering lawyers and courts, I’m advocating on behalf of the SPJ for the First Amendment, which needs to be safeguarded – sadly, more than ever. I also am a leader and participant in downtown Phoenix community groups committed to urbanism and sustainable development (see downtownvoices.org). Meet me sometime at the Bikini Lounge, the last great Tiki bar, on Grand Avenue. And you can follow me on Twitter @azatty.