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Monday, February 26, 2007

Ivins' good examples

By MIKE McILVAIN

Regardless of the political side of the table you might come from, late columnist and author Molly Ivins left some good examples for her profession and the sharp idea of enjoying one's work.
Ivins is gone, but only edging away slowly into what looks like a strong, lingering place in Texas college-level journalism.
Ivins, 62, died of breast cancer on Jan. 31 in Austin. A memorial gathering was held on Feb. 4 at Austin’s Scholz’s Garten – a longtime political gathering place.
“Molly will continue to be an inspiration and outstanding role model for all journalists, especially women,” wrote University of Texas journalism professor Wanda Garner Cash in an e-mail from Austin. “Molly's unique brand of journalism and her natural ability as a storyteller helped me find my own editorial voice. She was fearless about speaking the truth, regardless of the professional or personal consequences.”
Cash said Ivins was both on the page and in person a funny, funny woman and a deadly serious one.
Recently retired Texas Observer editor Barbara Belejack said Ivins also believed journalism should be fun. “It’s hard work, but it can be fun. I’m not sure a lot people get that these days. She truly believed that,” Belejack said by phone from Austin.
Belejack hopes Ivins’ “wonderful wit, sharpness, and larger than life essence” translates into staying power in Texas college and university journalism classes.
“I think it is really important that students take a look at the way she wrote,” Belejack said. “She could get right to it. I like the way everyone has compared her to Mark Twain. I think it’s very appropriate.”
Ivins wrote six books and her syndicated columns were read in some 350 newspapers. She was also known for her work with the Texas Observer, Houston Chronicle, Minneapolis Tribune, New York Times and numerous speaking engagements.
Belejack notes that Ivins reached many people in her career through many appearances where she also spoke directly to people – not at them. Belejack says she received an e-mail from a journalist in Senegal, forwarded through a friend in Mexico, from someone who lamented not having met Ivins.
New York Times columnist Paul Krugman met Ivins out on the book promotion tour circuit and ended his Feb. 2 piece, pointing to another area in which she stands as a good example to young journalists.
“Now, more than ever, we need people who will stand up against the follies and lies of the powerful. And Molly Ivins, who devoted her life to questioning authority, will be sorely missed,” Krugman wrote.
LareDOS publisher Marie Eugenia Guerra never met Ivins, but was lucky enough to be in the right class at the right time to hear a lecture at the University of Texas in the early ‘70s. Guerra remembers it well with the campus pulsating with political dissent, student protests and anti-war sentiment.
“Ivins, well into her no holds barred trajectory across the lofty heights of truth-telling journalism, was far more than Prof. Norris G. Davis, media law instructor and dean of the School of Journalism, had likely bargained for,” Guerra said. “What she was to many of us in that classroom was fresh faced, brazen, and confident, a girl just a bit older than those to whom she presented her view on journalism ethics and the Vietnam conflict. The more she spoke, the more Dr. Davis leaned away from her and to the right.
“The value she said that day 35 years ago that she placed on truth and justice resonates in everything she wrote. Time will remember her as a champion of ideals, one who held government accountable to those who pay for it. Literature will remember how good she was at her craft and that her refined style and stinging sense of humor were a gift to us.”
Ivins is also noted for referring to the Texas legislature as the best free entertainment in Austin.
Ivins was single and never married. She was a Houstonian, growing up in the River Oaks-area, constantly arguing with her oil business father on political issues, which she attributed to much of her feistiness and ability to stand up against authority.
Her father was a right-wing Republican and her politics came from the left. He was president of Tenneco, but also a cancer victim and shot himself to death.
Ivins went to Smith College in Northampton, Mass. Ivins also studied at the Institute of Political Science in Paris and gained a master’s degree at Columbia University in New York City.
She was survived by a brother and sister.

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