Applying the Seat of the Pants…

I’ve been really lucky to have a few mentors throughout my career.  So I want my first entry to my writing blog to be a big shout out to one of those special people that has influenced my work directly.

So first and foremost, Michael Dorman, Boy Reporter.  Mike was working as a longtime editor at Newsday’s editorial department when we first met via email.   Somehow I found his name and sent him a note and some writing samples, as I’d been interested in writing op-eds at the time.  He must have checked my website immediately, because his first response to me was something like, “You’re a real looker.”  Which in turn, led me to google him to find out exactly who I was dealing with.  I mean, who does that in the 21st Century?

Turns out, this was Mike’s style.   In his late 70s,  Mike was an old-school reporter, one who had covered the civil rights movement in the deep South—had been there, in the trenches–written books about it and was pretty well-known by that generation of journalists. He enjoyed answering the phone by singing out, “Mike Dorman, boy reporter.”  Doesn’t that pretty much tell you everything about this man?

In person, he was a sight for sore eyes.   By the time we met, his overall health had been slowly deteriorating for years. Frail and thin, he was just about five feet and walked with a cane. Still, he was a terrible flirt.  We’d get together for lunch, which for him consisted of chocolate milkshakes and stories about the old days.

Mike told me I was a good writer — an accolade that meant the world to me, because it came from him, a seasoned journalist who had seen it all and written it all.  He introduced me to Newsday’s editorial department, which allowed me the opportunity to write op-eds on a regular basis.  He got a kick out of telling people that he “discovered me for Newsday.”   I’d been writing for other departments for years, but I let him brag because it made both of happy to hear those words out loud.

I only had the privilege of knowing Mike for just a few years.  He passed away on August 6, 2008.  I keep his Newsday obituary on my bulletin board in my office, so I can see him smiling down at me every day.   As I do so, I hear his favorite quotation, which he would repeat to me endlessly when I’d moan and complain about lack of motivation.  “The art of writing is the art of applying the seat of the pants to the seat of the chair.” (Mary Heaton Vorse)

I’m sitting, Mike.  I’m sitting…


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