Wednesday, March 28, 2012

An Open Letter to CNN Columnist Bob Greene about Your Heartfelt Yet Incorrect Remembrance of the late Jeffrey Zaslow

An Open Letter to Bob Greene about Your Heartfelt Yet Incorrect CNN Remembrance of the late Jeffrey Zaslow....

Dear Bob,

You knew Jeff better than I did, way better, so please take this letter with that in mind. However, at the same time, I was very disappointed in your CNN column about Jeff's tragic death in February. You glossed over some very important factors here and I will discuss them in the next few paragraphs. I knew Jeff, too, not for 25 years like you did, and not in such a close way as you did -- the two you worked together in Chicago long ago when he was an advice columnist there and you were a regular columnist (before you were fired for a sex scandal involving an underage intern, as the news reports reported back then)

The CNN headline said "Jounalist and author Jeff Zaslow, who died in a car crash last month,
brought admirable integrity to his work, says Bob Greene."

That is true.

''Bob Greene says he heard from friend [via email], Jeff Zaslow, 2 weeks before his
death in a car crash.'' Bob, that is true, too.

''He says writer Zaslow's integrity, both personal and professional, was inspiring''.

Bob, that is true,
too.

''He once drove hundreds of miles for a story that he easily could have
"phoned in"'' -- THAT IS NOT EXACTLY TRUE, BOB. I will explain.

''Greene: Over and over in his life, he took extra steps to get it right
-- a lesson for us all." -- Well, BOB, read on. And please understand that i write these words in a spirit of compassion and healing, that i am sure Jeff would understand. I hope you will, too. My guess is you will angry and react is very angry way. We shall see.

"Editor's note: Editor's note: CNN Contributor Bob Greene is a
bestselling author whose books include "Late Edition: A Love Story"
and "Once Upon a Town: The Miracle of the North Platte Canteen." [WHAT THE EDITOR DID NOT SAY: BOB GREENE was fired from his columnist job at the Chicago newspaper where he worked for many years for a work-related sex scandal involving a  legal-age young female intern. Correct me if I am wrong.]

Bob, what you I feel you got wrong in your very warm and heartfelt apprecation of Jeff was this: Jeff (and maybe you too) was an over-functiong American male, in my opinion, who was "driven" by some inner drive to over function all his life. You too? I don't know you, so i cannot say. But from the way you eulogized Jeffrey, it seems you are an over-functiong American male, too (or were, earlier in your life), no?

Bob, you wrote: "On February 10, on his way back to his home in suburban Detroit from a
book signing in Petoskey, Michigan, the night before, Jeff was killed
instantly when, according to police, his car skidded on a snowy road
and was hit head-on by an oncoming semitrailer truck. He was 53."

But Bob, as you know, that BOOK SIGING was way up north in upper Michigan for a wine and cheese book signing and talk at a local bookstore for 40 people. 40 people, Bob! Was that road trip really necessary? To meet and greet 4o peoople when with Jeff's media presence and PR power, he could have had a front page story in the New York Times that day and meeted and greeting millions of people, not 40! He could have been home with his wife and teeange daughter that day. Why the need to drive SOLO with all his wealth and media power and bestsellerdom just for meet and greet 40 book lovers and sign some books? Is a signature worth a life? Did Jeff have to be on the road that morning in winter snowstorm? No.

I believe he was on the road because all his life, Jeff, good man that he was, mensch among mensches that he was, suffered from what another person told me is called OVER-FUNCTIONING: doing too much when doing such much is not really necessary.

Jeff was an over-functioning male and one lesson we might get from his tragic death is that we need to tell men to try to stop over-functiong and cool it a bit, no? Maybe you, too, Bob? Me, I am the opposite, I am an under-functioning male. But i understand people, as you do too, Bob and as Jeff really did, too.

Bob, you wrote: "Jeff's wife, Sherry, his three daughters, Jordan, Alex and Eden, and
his parents, Harry and Naomi, have suffered an unfathomable loss. The
obituaries and tributes written by his friends and colleagues have all
centered on Jeff's never-ending thoughtfulness and compassion. The
tributes have been entirely accurate; the constancy of Jeff's kindness
was one of life's rarities."

Yes, Jeff was one of a kind, one of life's rarities, and as someone very close to him told me: "when they made Jeff, they broke the mold." So true. He was a very endearing and dear man.

But Bob, when you wrote that ''Today, when Jeff should have been arriving for our time together, I'd
like to pass on a lesson from him that I believe can be used to great
effect by anyone, regardless of his or her line of work," I must disagree with your lesson learned.

You wrote: "Some people thought that Jeff got lucky with that book.

But luck had nothing to do with it."

Bob, luck had all to do with that book. You don't know the real backstory. Jeff did not discover Randy Rausch. The PR office at Carngie Mellon called Jeff in Detroit and told him of the upcoming speech. Jeff wanted to go but his editors said there was no budget for a flight to Pennsylvania, so the trip was canned at first. Then Jeff said he would go even if he had to drive there himself. He did. Bravo. He wrote a great column and great followup column the next week. The media power of the WSJ made his story national news. Luck had everything to do with it. Reporters at two newspapers in Pennsylvania also wrote similar stories a day before Jeff's column appeared but the national media did not pick up on their stories ebcause they were not the WSJ. See? luck, media power, a PR call from the PR office.


''As he was reporting the piece, Jeff learned that a professor at
Carnegie Mellon -- Pausch -- was going to give what might literally be
his last lecture. Pausch was dying from pancreatic cancer.'' Jeff got a call from the PR office at Carnegie Mellon. Jeff was an alumn of Carnegie. Connect the dots, Bob. Luck is talking to you here. Listen.

''It was going to be inconvenient for Jeff to go from Detroit to
Pittsburgh for the speech'' -- no it wasn't, his editors did not want to pay the airfare is the true story.


''It would have been much easier just to call the
professor and get a quote, or have the university send him an audio or
video recording of the lecture. Remember: Jeff didn't even know, at
that point, whether Pausch's lecture would warrant a whole column.''

Bob, Jeff knew there was a great column here. Come on! But it was the seond column the following week that cemented the book deal. and good for Jeff. He was a great writer and a great book author for sure! But he was also an over-functiong man as you will realize when you finish reading this letter. If you get that far. I hope you will stay with me, Bob.

"It paid off spectacularly, of course. The column -- moving, tender,
insightful -- was a sensation, and the book that he ended up writing
with Pausch gave Jeff a new career in the top echelon of American
authors, and provided financial security for his family."

Well said. This is so true.

''But -- and this is what is important -- it was nothing he didn't do
all the time. In his work, he always went the extra step -- the extra
hundred steps. He never took the easy way.''

This is true, too, Bob, but there is a difference between hard work and good journalist leg work and over-functioning. Wait there's more. It's coming.

''I remember, seven or eight years ago, well before "The Last Lecture,"
Jeff had come to Chicago to interview an old-time vaudeville
performer. To the best of my recollection, the newspaper story was
going to have something to do with audiences, or audience reactions.
The old performer was going to be one sliver of a longer piece. An
easy phone-call interview.

But Jeff didn't do things that way. He flew to Chicago and, suitcase
in hand (he hadn't checked into his hotel yet), met me at the
restaurant where we had arranged to have dinner. At one point we
talked about why, at this stage in his career, he still pushed himself
so hard. He said he just wanted to look into the man's eyes when he
interviewed him the next day. He felt the story would be a little
better that way.

At the end of the meal we went to the coat-check window; they had
taken Jeff's suitcase down a long flight of stairs to store it on a
basement level. Jeff didn't want the young woman to have to carry it
up the stairs, so he went down to get it. I stood there and watched as
he came up the steep flight of stairs, visibly weary, huffing,
sweating, lugging the heavy bag; we looked at each other and both of
us burst out laughing.

"Look at you," I said. "You look like 'Death of a
[cuss-word-adjective] Salesman.'"

"I know," he said. "Why do I do this?"

Bob, here is the key! Jeff admitted himself, WHY DO I DO THIS? He knew he was an over-functiong male but he could not stop. He was once asked at a dinner party what the secret was to his happy marriage with his wife, and he jokingly said "My travel schedule. I am always on the road."

Bob, that is the sign of an over-functiong too-driven male. See?

"He did it because it was the right way to do
a job." No Bob, he did because he was an overfunctiong male. And we need to sound the alarm, Bob, and wake people up, that many American men suffer from this syndrome. Ask their wives. Ask their kids.


Bob, I want to end this letter to you, which I am writing in the spirit of love and compassion, I also was a friend of Jeff's, and knew him slightly by email over the years, with a note I received from someone who knew Jeff, too, even better than you, sir, who saw my various blog posts on the Net about my feelings about Jeff's tragic death -- google and you can find them all, maybe 12 or so -- and in all of them i questioned why Jeff had to die in that senseless, meaningless tragic fatal way that day -- and this what that person told me:

''Dear Danny,

I know you've gotten a lot of flack from people on the Itternet about your thoughts about Jeff.




I understand what you're saying, and I want you to know that
I can tell that your thoughts were collected
with all the respect and understanding you could muster.

Behind it seems to be your desire to try and help other special
people avoid tragedy.




Self preservation is key. It may not change anything,
but it's important to try and beat the odds, no matter
how dedicated one is to whatever the vocation, avocation or cause.


I am not sure if you knew him, but they truly broke the mold.




Thanks for taking the time to think and write so much about him.''

Bob, to conclude: Jeff was a good man, a great friend, a great everything, for sure. But did he really have to be on the road that day for a small book signing event for 40 people and then lose his life over that? Sure, accidents happen. But some accidents we egg on. Some accidents are the result of over-functioning, being too driven. Some accidents happen sure, fate, destiny, Thornton Wilder's "The Bridge at San Luis Rey" and all that, but what about
self-preservation? Did Jeff pay attention to that part of life as much as he should have. and is there a lesson HERE, in self preservation, that we need also take from Jeff's early passing?
It may not change anything,
but it's important to try and beat the odds, no matter
how dedicated one is to whatever the vocation, avocation or cause.

Maybe someone needs to stand up in America and say enough is enough with over-functiong males, and let's put an end to it, or least to hold it in check. THAT might be a good FINAL LESSON we can take from Jeff's tragedy, no?


NOTE
http://www.salon.com/2002/09/19/greene/
Bob Greene's Dismissal from the Tribune, perhaps also due to an overfunctiong issue?
In September 2002 Bob Greene was forced to resign from his newspaper column after admitting to an extramarital sexual relationship 14 years earlier with a high school student. The student had visited Greene at work for a school project and became the subject of one of his columns. Admission of the affair attracted considerable attention, partly because Greene had made a name for himself as an advocate for abused children and family values, notably in his bestselling Good Morning, Merry Sunshine: A Father's Journal of His Child's First Year. Neil Steinberg said on CNN that Greene was "famous for using his position as a columnist... to try to get women into bed."
The woman with whom Greene had a relationship was 17, legal age in Illinois, and had graduated from high school in the months between their first meeting and his invitation to take her out to dinner. Their sole hotel tryst was euphemistically described in the Chicago Tribune as a "sexual encounter that stopped short of intercourse," and Greene told Esquire that he demurred at going further, telling her, "You should wait to do this with someone you love".
Four months after Greene's resignation from the Chicago Tribune, his wife Susan died of heart failure following a month-long respiratory illness.

12 comments:

dan said...

Neil Steinberg

Friday, Sep 20, 2002


Anatomy of Bob Greene


The Chicago columnist crusaded on behalf of abused kids. Then he got fired for having sex with a teenage subject.
By Neil Steinberg .There is no shorthand to explain Bob Greene, no code. Unlike columnists such as George Will (bow-tied Washington elitist) or Jimmy Breslin (rumpled New York tough guy) or the late Mike Royko (ethnic Chicago wiseass), there is no simple way to describe the deeply weird Midwestern world that Bob Greene built through his column in the Chicago Tribune. That world shattered like a glass Christmas tree ornament hit by a brick last Sunday, after news of his forced resignation was tucked in the lower left-hand corner of the Trib’s front page, in a narrow box headlined, cryptically, “To our readers.” After nearly 25 years in the newspaper, and more than 30 as a Chicago columnist, he was gone, cashiered.

Bob (calling him “Greene” somehow feels wrong, like calling Elvis “Presley”) was the bard of Middle America, the defender of abused children, the relentless nostalgist who seldom paused from keening for the lost world of pre-1964 Columbus, Ohio, to notice anything positive in life today. It was all loss and decay, and a sense of sadness over what was and outrage over what is. In Bob’s world, children were routinely tortured and murdered while the legal system yawned, cherished institutions crumbled, the niceties of life were abandoned, and nobody cared.

dan said...

“Tribune journalists must,” noted an editorial, “under possible penalty of dismissal, abide by 12 pages of policies on ethics and business conduct.”

Now Chicago journalists are wondering how the Tribune — which in the past five years has lost such marquee names as Mike Royko, Ann Landers and, now, Bob Greene — will be affected, and if the Bob Greene story has legs. Midweek of the first week, interest in Bob’s Big Blunder seems to have not yet crested. CNN and MSNBC are preparing programs. Newsweek is investigating. And even his detractors are shaking their heads in amazement and feeling, perhaps, a twinge of regret over the loss of Bob’s warped world. Who will we make fun of now?

dan said...

“We are dealing with one specific allegation, and that’s what we addressed,” said Ann Marie Lipinski, the Tribune editor.

Perhaps the most amazing thing about this entire episode is how quickly the Tribune cast its premiere columnist’s being fired for using the newspaper as a chick magnet into a moral triumph. The newspaper positively glowed with pride, in a flurry of self-administered back-pats.

“I’m also intensely proud of the people who run this newspaper,” wrote metro columnist John Kass. “Because they had the courage to do something painful to repair that trust.”

dan said...

And what did the woman call about, anyway? The assumption is that, if she was actually threatening or blackmailing Bob, that would be somehow exculpatory, and the Trib would have mentioned it. What did she say?

At midweek, we are at the point where, traditionally, the wrongdoing, which initially was passed off as an isolated indiscretion, is found to have been a longstanding pattern of behavior. Radio talk-show phone lines heated up with women claiming to have approached Bob as admiring young fans and left him as despoiled groupies.

So far, the Trib has refused to entertain the issue of whether this was the first complaint or, like the Baby Richard columns, one in a chain of 100.

Anonymous said...

http://www.salon.com/2002/09/19/greene/

Dr. Bob Wright said...

Dan, are you kidding? I find it absolutely befuddling to find any objective data about the things you are saying. Had Jeff Zaslow been grossly obese, had he died from medical conditions where he failed to seek treatment and take action we could conceivably make the case that was an over functioning under self-caring male. The truth of the matter is no one knows about Zaslow and his car accident. So there’s no intelligent way for us to discuss that event unless we were saying he happened to a drug addict, an alcoholic, or in a fit of road rage in which case we might be able to discuss Jeffrey Zaslow. The most we can say is that he wasn’t driving defensively enough. If we knew tha there might be some foundation for your taste. You might, in fact, be right, but given the lack of evidence and the tendency of human beings to project on their world makes it seem to me that you’ve got something to take a look at and it probably has to do with some way that Jeff Zaslow is someone that represents a threat to you. That he’s someone you fear yourself. I’m sure you’ll be pissed off at what I’m saying, but you already sound like you’re pissed off already. All I can say is, Dan, take a look at how you are threatened by Zaslow and that he was living a more purposeful and engaged life, more than you seem to be encouraging others to do.

dan said...

Dr Wright, thanks for your note here. I was hoping to get a response from you and I appreciate it. I do not know the truth of the accident, and I am just asking questions that need to be asked, maybe, and I might be wrong sure. Your letter is very well spoken and I agree with you 99 percent. BUT....i got a personal email from someone very CLOSE to Jeff, very very close, a family member in fact, but i will never say who, and he/she said to me:

"dear danny,:


I know you've gotten a lot of flack about your thoughts about Jeff.


I understand what you're saying, and I want you to know that
I can tell that your thoughts were collected
with all the respect and understanding you could muster.
Behind it seems to be your desire to try and help other special
people avoid tragedy.


Self preservation is key. It may not change anything,
but it's important to try and beat the odds, no matter
how dedicated one is to whatever the vocation, avocation or cause.


Jeff and I were friends forever....

Not sure if you knew him, but they truly broke the mold when they made him!.


Thanks for taking the time to think and write so much about him.



All the best,

______________

SO BOB, what do you think NOW? Am i asking a good question at least, even if i do not know the truth?

dan said...

to BOB

see CAPS for my COMMENTS BACK TO YOU RE YOUR VERY GOOD NOTE

Dan, are you kidding? NO!
I find it absolutely befuddling to find any objective data about the things you are saying. JUST SUBJECIVE ON MY PART. Had Jeff Zaslow been grossly obese, had he died from medical conditions where he failed to seek treatment and take action we could conceivably make the case that was an ''over functioning under self-caring male.'' GOOD POINT. AND HE WAS NOT ANY OF THOSE. YOU ARE RIGHT. The truth of the matter is no one knows about Zaslow and his car accident. TRUE.....BTU DID HE HAVE TO BE ON THE ROAD THAT DAY TO SIGN 4o BOOKS IN A SMALL TOWN WHEN HE HAD FRONT PAGE OF NYTimes at HIS BECK AND CALL FOR PR PURPOSES TO SELL HIS NEW BOOK? So there’s no intelligent way for us to discuss that event unless we were saying he happened to a drug addict, an alcoholic, or in a fit of road rage in which case we might be able to discuss Jeffrey Zaslow. SEE ABOVE. The most we can say is that he wasn’t driving defensively enough. THIS I DO NOT KNOW. If we knew that there might be some foundation for your taste. You might, in fact, be right, THANK YOU FOR UNDERSTANDIGN ME. but given the lack of evidence and the tendency of human beings to project on their world makes it seem to me that you’ve got something to take a look at and it probably has to do with some way that Jeff Zaslow is someone that represents a threat to you. NO NO NO NO NO. BOB. WHY? JEFF WAS MY BROTHER. I AM A 100 PERCENT HAPPY CAMPER ON EARTH. That he’s someone you fear yourself. NO NO NO SEE COMMENT JUST ABOVE. I’m sure you’ll be pissed off at what I’m saying, NO NOT PISSED OFF, I LIKE GOOD CHATS BACK AND FORTH. but you already sound like you’re pissed off already. NO NO, BOB I AM SELF-REALIZED HAPPY MAN, ONE OF THE MOST CONTENT ON EARTH. REALLY. All I can say is, Dan, take a look at how you are [MAYBE IN BOB's POV] threatened by Zaslow and that he was living a more purposeful and engaged life, more than you seem to be encouraging others to do. NO NO, YOU GOT ME WRONG, I AM ALSO LIVING A MEANINGFUL PURPOSEFUL LIFE. YOU WILL SEE LATER. MY CONCERN HERE IS NOT WITH JEFF SO MUCH AS TRYING TO HELP MEN WHO ARE ALIVE TO THINK ABOUT THE ISSUE OF OVERFUNCTIONG......if this campaign can help a few people, great. I am a caring empath, Bob.
BUT ALL YOUR POINTS ARE VALID TOO.

Dr. Bob Wright said...

Dear Dan,

Thank you for the lovely response. Mr. Zaslow’s friend is indeed a sweet heart.

Bob

dan said...

Bob, does this mean you understand my POV better now, even though you don't agree with me yet? do tell.
Dan

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