This Prince is no frog
I learned a big lesson from a former Pine Logger last week. He was speaking to a group of college journalists, and he advised them to write as if no one will read it. The point, of course, was not to let what others may think about your writing keep you from writing your own personal truth. “It prevents you from considering the story’s effect on your source or your audience,” he said.
As he spoke, I determined to begin my blogging experience writing about the speaker—Jeff Prince. When I was a graduate assistant in the Department of Student Publications in the mid-‘80s, Jeff was editor of The Pine Log, SFA’s twice-weekly campus newspaper. My first inclination was to write about what an innovative writer he is, how well he has done professionally. I wanted him to know how proud we are of him. But then I heard his advice in my head: “Write as if no one’s gonna’ read it.” I realized it wasn’t my job to make him feel good about his career.
So here’s what I remember about Jeff—He was quiet but funny, more serious about his writing than he seemed to be about his studies, hard-living and hard-partying, passionate about the truth, quirky but cute. He had a personal style defined by monogrammed button-down shirts, never his actual monogram, and ragged jeans. When I asked him about the mismatched monograms, he grinned and told me he bought the shirts at Goodwill.
He took his job as Pine Log editor seriously and wasn’t afraid to push the envelope. A series of sensitive profiles on SFA student-inmates at the nearby Coffield State Penitentiary was featured prominently in the Homecoming issue. A laid-back Q&A with Olympic gymnast Mary Lou Retton carried the headline: “Retton makes frog of Prince.” In response to his friend’s faux-outrage that Prince had made fun of the friend’s fellow male choir members, the editor replied, “I can slam down the entire choir football team with one hand tied behind my back.” He always told his truth, even if it was often with tongue in cheek.
After his graduation, he worked for a time at the Lufkin Daily News, and then we lost track of him. At one point, someone heard he was painting houses in Fort Worth. I don’t know if it was true, but it broke my heart. I remember thinking, “What a waste of talent.” I worried about whether he was drinking too much or whether he had “fallen on hard times,” as my grandmother would have said. Later, another rumor said he was working at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. I felt better.
Then, around the early 2000s, his byline surfaced (thanks to Google) at the Fort Worth Weekly. According to its website (www.fwweekly.com,) the Weekly “provides a vibrant alternative to the city's often-timid daily, with award-winning and irreverent reporters who keep readers well informed and the powers-that-be worried.” That’s it, I thought, a great fit for Prince. Alternative, irreverent, worrisome to the powers-that-be. All that sounded familiar and right.
Over the past decade, I have kept track of his writing in the Weekly. From music reviews to long, hard-hitting investigative pieces, he continues to do what he does best—tell the truth as he perceives it. In his reviews, if he loves the music, he’ll let you know; if he hates it, he’ll tell you that, too. A recent exposè about the elderly and guardianship was hailed by a reader as “a must-read” that should be “saved as a reference article.”
On the “About Us” page of the Weekly’s web site, Jeff Prince is referred to as a “veteran journalist.” I second that moniker wholeheartedly.
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