Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Lou Grant Moves to Herndon

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Lou Grant Moves to Herndon

Article excerpt

Hard-nosed Lou Grant, one-time city editor of the mythical Los Angeles Tribune, recently popped back into the news.

In a captivating book, Lou Gran The Making of TV's Top Newspaper Drama, author Douglass Daniel revisits Lou, Charlie, Animal, Rossi, Billie and Mrs. Pynchon.

Has it been 14 years since the bald and burley Grant, played so ably by Ed Asner, last flickered across our TV screens?

Maybe the time is ripe for a new newspaper series. How about one centered on a mom and pop weekly?

But please, not a comedy in a battered office along a dumpy, one-block main street. Forget the typecast editor with ink-stained shirt, hunched over a balky four-page flatbed press.

Instead, our series would be set in a growing suburban town. Like Herndon, Va., a 25-minute Metro ride from the steps of the U.S. Capitol. Demographic profile: Median family income $59,000; 51% college graduates; median age 30; 60% between the ages 25 and 45.

We'd call this operation the Herndon Observer, with two spinoff editions for nearby Reston and Sterling. Circulation? How about 33, 100, free and driveway delivered.

The paper's home would be a bright, six-room suite in a modern office plaza next to a shopping mall. A large restaurant, perfect for power luncheons with news sources, would sit across a driveway. When someone seeks directions, the editor always says: "We're right behind Fuddrucker's."

Lead characters - the mom and pop - would be Betsy and Tom Grein, ages 51 and 53. They'd have an idyllic marriage, three grown children, and a young, 13-person staff that's an extension of the family.

Opening each episode, always on a Monday morning, the camera zooms into the Observer to show a whirl of activities. Two reporters/photographers jam notebooks and extra rolls of film into camera cases. Nearby, three smartly dressed feminine advertising sales reps place folders and proofs into attached cases. Smiling and wise-cracking, they hustle out the front door while almost crushing a matron about to enter with a news report in her hand. Everybody laughs.

The week's drama has begun. An endless lineup of real story lines would turn on major and minor events in Observerland - which might be part of the show's title.

Headline: "Contractor battles to save 100-year-old oak tree." The tree stands on property where he plans to build two homes. But the Board of Zoning Appeals, citing the town code denies a 15-foot variance that would preserve the tree and its root system.

Builder Lauran Adams says: "I'm committed to saving that tree."

Ward Sevila, chairman of the appeals board, counters: "I enjoy trees as much as anyone, and if there is a way to save it, I would."

Eleanor Off, whose home borders the site, chides the board: "It acts according to the letter of the law, but in contradiction to the spirit of the law."

Board vote: 4-to-3 against the variance.

Annoyed with the bureaucracy, editor Grein snaps in his personal column: "Not many people were pleased with the decision. In fact the Board of Zoning Appeals was a minority voice. The unfortunate thing is that decisions are made by these non-elected members. And that's power. Now the town council says that it will have to change some of the ordinances in order to handle situations like this one. Common sense seems a more logical approach than laws."

A story on a possible Major League Baseball franchise for Herndon gets the headline, "Baseball in Our Backyard?" Four issues later: "Herndon on Deck for Baseball." The next week: "Herndon Makes Final Cut for Baseball Site."

Letters from readers, pro and con, jam op-ed pages. Observer office fills with readers advising the editor what to write.

Strike by players stalls baseball moguls' plans to add new franchises "until 1997 or 1998."

Community euphoria sags.

About the 4[cents] tax facing restaurants, the editor writes, "Educational advocacy groups have pushed for passage of the tax as the `salvation of the education system in Fairfax County. …

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