HETRICK: A final notion for friends and readers of this column

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Long ago, the back section of this newspaper was called “Not Strictly Business.” For two decades, Frank Basile wrote a personal column that filled the upper-left corner of each week’s final spread.

In 2000, when Basile laid down his pen, section editor Tawn Parent e-mailed a query seeking potential replacements. One of my colleagues shared it, thinking I might know someone who’d be interested.

I did.

You see, I’ve been a ghostwriter my entire career. You might’ve heard my words uttered by politicians or corporate honchos. You might’ve seen my stuff in bylined articles, grant applications, cover letters, news releases, white papers, advertisements or even road-closure announcements.

If I were a literary character, I’d be Cyrano de Bergerac, writing witticisms to my beloved for some handsome hunk to deliver. If I were in a musical, I’d be Billy Flynn, the “Chicago” lawyer who crafts razzle-dazzle lines that get Roxy Hart acquitted.

Yes-sir-ee, I’ve run the ghostwriting gamut from birth announcements to eulogies. Truth to tell, it left me with a pent-up pining to have my own say and sign my own name.

So I called Ms. Parent and told her I was interested.

She requested six weeks of column ideas.

I sent her six months’ worth.

She said we’d give it a try.

I told Basile I’d last a year or two. That was 14 years ago.

IBJ gave me 800 words per column. Freedom to write about anything except my clients. And a Tuesday deadline that could, on occasion, be pushed to Wednesday. (I pushed it frequently.)

In my first submission, I promised to “share some business ideas, relate some experiences, comment on trends and whine about wrongdoing.”

But between you and me, I had big ambitions. I wanted to make like Plato: “Be a good person speaking well. Make the truth persuasive.”

I wanted to compose like Hemingway: “It is all very well for you to write simply and the simpler the better. But do not start to think so damned simply. Know how complicated it is and then state it simply.”

Ever the liberal arts advocate, I wanted readers to see connections between seemingly disparate ideas: harebrained hypocrisy and aha moments alike.

So I wrote about a few things you’d expect in a business newspaper, and lots of things that affect people’s lives.

When I started this, I had 11-year-old twins. They’re now 25. So I’ve written about parenting, the funny things kids say, and the bittersweet feeling of an empty nest.

When I started this, I owned a business. After 19 years, I shut it down. Now, I’m a college professor. So I’ve written about clients, management, marketing, hiring, team-building, what to wear, success, hardship, professional rebirth and the rewards of teaching.

When I started this, I lived in suburbia. Then I spent a decade downtown. Now I live in exurbia. So I’ve written about living in different kinds of places among different kinds of people.

When I started this, Bill Clinton was president. Then George W. Bush. Then Barack Obama.

When I started this, Frank O’Bannon was governor, followed by Joe Kernan, Mitch Daniels and Mike Pence.

When I started this, Bart Peterson was mayor. Now it’s Greg Ballard.

When I started this, Democrats held sway in the Statehouse. Now it’s Republicans. So I’ve written about good policy and failed policy, the dedication of public servants and exasperation with elected officials.

When I started this, Lance Armstrong was my hero. Now, he is not.

When I started this, there were twin towers in New York City. Now, they are gone.

When I started this, there was no such thing as Facebook, Twitter or blogs. Mainstream journalism was king. Now, it is not. So I have written about change.

I almost quit once. My wife Pam got cancer. Soon after, we learned it was inoperable and terminal. A year later, she died.

When Pam grew ill, I told my then-editor, John Ketzenberger, that I might need to hang it up. He said I should stick it out. He said it might be good therapy.

So I wrote about love, and sickness, and death, and grief, and love reborn.

But after 14 years, this is my last “Notions” column.

A few years ago, “Not Strictly Business” became “A & E, etc.” My column having been a misfit too long already, it’s time for something, well, artsier and more entertaining in this space.

Rather than writing “Notions,” I’ll write occasionally for IBJ’s op-ed page.

So this is not goodbye; it’s a change-of-address notice.

Most important, it’s a thank you to all who’ve read these essays, commented on them and shared them.

I leave you with one final notion: Recognize how complicated life is, explain it simply, make the truth persuasive and be a good person speaking well. In this oft-angry age of social media, it’s a Plato/Hemingway mash-up that would serve us well.•


Hetrick is a writer, public relations consultant and visiting professor of public relations for the IU School of Journalism at IUPUI. He can be reached at bhetrick@ibj.com.


  • Poignant
    Having just visited the Hemingway House in Key West, I am reminded again how few good writers we are exposed to as print media shrinks. As this is your choice, I wish you well and look forward to future missives.
  • Getting to know you
    When we finally met as fellow moderators of United Way's ABS leadership series, I felt like I already knew you...because I was a faithful follower of your insightful column. Thanks for sharing your compassion and vision all these years. Godspeed!
  • I'm gonna miss you when you're gone
    I am sorry to hear this is the last post here. I have sincerely enjoyed reading your column. I hope you will spring up someplace else for us to follow.
  • Gonna miss this perspective
    Excellent summation (as always), Bruce. You have been the highlight of my IBJs for many years. Thank you for all the thoughtful hours.

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  1. Cramer agrees...says don't buy it and sell it if you own it! Their "pay to play" cost is this issue. As long as they charge customers, they never will attain the critical mass needed to be a successful on company...Jim Cramer quote.

  2. My responses to some of the comments would include the following: 1. Our offer which included the forgiveness of debt (this is an immediate forgiveness and is not "spread over many years")represents debt that due to a reduction of interest rates in the economy arguably represents consideration together with the cash component of our offer that exceeds the $2.1 million apparently offered by another party. 2. The previous $2.1 million cash offer that was turned down by the CRC would have netted the CRC substantially less than $2.1 million. As a result even in hindsight the CRC was wise in turning down that offer. 3. With regard to "concerned Carmelite's" discussion of the previous financing Pedcor gave up $16.5 million in City debt in addition to the conveyance of the garage (appraised at $13 million)in exchange for the $22.5 million cash and debt obligations. The local media never discussed the $16.5 million in debt that we gave up which would show that we gave $29.5 million in value for the $23.5 million. 4.Pedcor would have been much happier if Brian was still operating his Deli and only made this offer as we believe that we can redevelop the building into something that will be better for the City and City Center where both Pedcor the citizens of Carmel have a large investment. Bruce Cordingley, President, Pedcor

  3. I've been looking for news on Corner Bakery, too, but there doesn't seem to be any info out there. I prefer them over Panera and Paradise so can't wait to see where they'll be!

  4. WGN actually is two channels: 1. WGN Chicago, seen only in Chicago (and parts of Canada) - this station is one of the flagship CW affiliates. 2. WGN America - a nationwide cable channel that doesn't carry any CW programming, and doesn't have local affiliates. (In addition, as WGN is owned by Tribune, just like WTTV, WTTK, and WXIN, I can't imagine they would do anything to help WISH.) In Indianapolis, CW programming is already seen on WTTV 4 and WTTK 29, and when CBS takes over those stations' main channels, the CW will move to a sub channel, such as 4.2 or 4.3 and 29.2 or 29.3. TBS is only a cable channel these days and does not affiliate with local stations. WISH could move the MyNetwork affiliation from WNDY 23 to WISH 8, but I am beginning to think they may prefer to put together their own lineup of syndicated programming instead. While much of it would be "reruns" from broadcast or cable, that's pretty much what the MyNetwork does these days anyway. So since WISH has the choice, they may want to customize their lineup by choosing programs that they feel will garner better ratings in this market.

  5. The Pedcor debt is from the CRC paying ~$23M for the Pedcor's parking garage at City Center that is apprased at $13M. Why did we pay over the top money for a private businesses parking? What did we get out of it? Pedcor got free parking for their apartment and business tenants. Pedcor now gets another building for free that taxpayers have ~$3M tied up in. This is NOT a win win for taxpayers. It is just a win for Pedcor who contributes heavily to the Friends of Jim Brainard. The campaign reports are on the Hamilton County website. http://www2.hamiltoncounty.in.gov/publicdocs/Campaign%20Finance%20Images/defaultfiles.asp?ARG1=Campaign Finance Images&ARG2=/Brainard, Jim