My inspiration today comes from the world of journalism, sports and celebrity.
Today a company called the Northeast Ohio Media Group — the people who create The Plain Dealer newspaper and Cleveland.com website — announced that it has hired a LeBron James Beat Reporter.
That's how the announcement (from a website called Gorkana) read, too: in capital letters. LeBron James Beat Reporter.
I guess we have to give them credit for not making it LEBRON JAMES, in all caps. Or writing it in comic sans.
The announcement said the PD's new LeBron James guy — Joe Vardon is his name — “will focus on LeBron James' basketball career, business endeavors and charity work.”
So the Plastics News reporters were having a chuckle about this, of course. And I wondered — who in the plastics industry deserves their own Beat Reporter?
My almost immediate conclusion was “no one.” And I'm sure that's the right answer.
There are many interesting personalities in plastics, and quite a few VIPs too. But no one rises to the LeBron level — someone who would merit a full-time person charged with scrutinizing and reporting on their every move.
Some of the reporters threw out some names of plastics VIPs — SPI's Bill Carteaux. Dow Chemical's Andrew Liveris. And, don't forget, names like Huntsman, Koch and Buffett are prominent in plastics too.
I don't think there's anyone like Stan Gault these days, who ran Rubbermaid Inc. from 1981-91, and made it one of the most respected companies in the world. But even when Gault was holding court in Wooster, Ohio, we didn't devote a reporter to covering just him — or even just the plastics housewares beat.
Maybe that says more about Northeast Ohio Media Group, and the public's fascination with sports and celebrity, than anything else.
All this talk about plastics celebrities reminds me of a story from the early days of Plastics News.
This was pre-digital photography, obviously. PN is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year. So all of the photos we had on file back then were in hard copy formats — prints and negatives, for the most part.
All of the reporters tried to take good-quality headshots of everyone we met in person, and we were always asking sources on the phone to send us photos for our files. But taking and sharing photos back then wasn't as easy as it is today.
We did happen to have a really good photo on file of one machinery company executive — Sid Rains. So whenever a reporter quoted Sid, which happened pretty frequently, the copy desk would hunt down and use that photo.
Even if a story quoted four or five other people, you'd almost always see Sid's photo.
Casual readers must have wondered why we were always writing about this guy. His competitors, no doubt, wondered how they could get all that press, too. I'm not sure if they ever figured out his secret — having a good-quality professional photograph!
So maybe that makes Sid Rains the LeBron James of the early days of Plastics News. They both have roots in Northeast Ohio, after all.
Still, we're not planning to establish a Sid Rains Beat Reporter. So don't ask.