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Greenberg on Jacoway 

Plus: Grim Grelen.

click to enlarge GREENBERG: Turned off.
  • GREENBERG: Turned off.

Strange bedfellows on the front page of the Democrat-Gazette’s Sunday, March 18, Perspective section: a review of a new book that paints former Arkansas Gov. Orval Faubus as something of a scapegoat during the 1957 Central High integration crisis, and a column by famously anti-Faubus editorial page editor Paul Greenberg.

The new book, “Turn Away Thy Son” by Little Rock historian Betsy Jacoway, posits that Faubus was mostly guilty of political opportunism gone awry, and became labeled by history as the major instigator of the crisis because Arkansas Gazette editor Harry Ashmore demonized Faubus to visiting members of the national and international press. The D-G’s March 18 review was written by Stanley Katz, a professor of public and international affairs at Princeton University who happens to be an acquaintance of Jacoway’s.

“Jacoway makes a strong case that Ashmore consistently ‘blur[red] the distinction between news and opinion,’ ” Katz wrote. “That is, Ashmore used the Gazette as a weapon against Faubus and the segregationists in a way that discredited it with moderate citizens of Little Rock and reduced its capacity to provide the sort of news that a city in crisis required.”

A journalism student at the University of Missouri during the ’57 crisis, Paul Greenberg later made a name for himself as a diehard Faubus critic via dozens of editorials he wrote for the Pine Bluff Commercial in the 1960s. A call to Greenberg finds that his opinion of the former governor’s role in the Central High crisis isn’t likely to be changed by Jacoway’s book. “We’ve expressed it in our editorial columns,” Greenberg said. “We believe that the responsibility was largely on Orval Faubus’ doorstep — that he defied the law of the land.”

Greenberg’s column appears weekly on page one of the D-G’s Sunday Perspective section, but he largely has no say over other copy, other than on the editorial page, featured in the section.

Though Greenberg hasn’t finished reading “Turn Away Thy Son,” he said that if reports of its content as seen in Katz’s review are accurate, “it wouldn’t be the first time that Betsy Jacoway and I have had our disagreements.”

I hate to pick on Jay “Sweet Tea” Grelen, professional Southerner and columnist with the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, but judging from the death-tilt of some of his columns in recent weeks it seems he might once again be staring a little hard into the abyss.

On Feb. 15, Grelen wrote of losing a cherished pen once owned by his father (who is still alive, unlike most Grelen topics, though the print edition incorrectly killed him off). From there, it’s mostly been smeared eyeliner and cheap wine (including, most recently, an ongoing three-parter detailing a possibly-cancerous mole discovered on his arm):

Feb. 18: Homeless veteran dies in the woods. None of his relatives show up for the military funeral.

Feb. 25: First of a three-parter detailing a horrendous automobile crash caused by a driver whacked out on crystal meth.

Feb 27: Brain-damaged and chronic-pain-suffering victims from the horrendous meth-fueled crash have their day in court.

March 1: In the finale, the methed-out driver’s grandma tells the court that her grandson has lost 22 percent of his brain. Brain-damaged crash victim tells jury of how horrible it is to be fed, bathed and diapered by her parents.

March 8: Courageous mom loses her battle to cervical cancer.

March 11: Profile of the assistant principal from Pineville High School in Louisiana. Column begins with driving an overdosing kid to the hospital, telling him not to die.

March 18: Three-year anniversary recap of car/dump truck collision that killed three cheerleaders.

March 20: Scholarship fund-raiser for three deceased cheerleaders goes awry when a prankster calls in the wrong information to the venue where the fund-raiser was being held.

One can’t help but imagine a bit of urinal shoptalk over at the ol’ D-G between Grelen and Mike “Eleven-Inch Fall” Masterson:

“No, no, Jay. You’re all over the map. The trick is to find one mysteriously dead white girl and stick with her. Look at me: 218 columns last year on the same topic! Hell, I ran the same piece four times in a row before anybody noticed.”

Our advice for now: Don’t drink the sweet tea. There may be more than lemon in it.

Memento mori

david@arktimes.com

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