AP reporter Dave Ammons retired yesterday after 37 years at the Olympia bureau, and since his colleagues in the Capitol press corps are all paying tribute to him, I thought I’d post a little tribute of my own.
Ammons hasn’t always been a popular reporter amongst my fellow progressive activists, largely due to the lavish attention he’s heaped on Tim Eyman over the years, but even if Ammons played a significant role in making Eyman’s public career, I’ve always held a special fondness for him because, well… he made mine too.
It was Rich Roesler at the Spokesman-Review who first broke the story of my initiative to proclaim Tim Eyman a horse’s ass, but it was Ammons’ relentless coverage that drove the story to statewide and even national headlines for months, long after my fifteen minutes of fame should have expired. It was also Ammon’s AP Olympia bureau that, in the weeks following the 2004 gubernatorial election, anointed me “the liberal blogger” when they needed a partisan counterpoint to the sudden (u)SP juggernaut.
Political reporting can be godawful boring, but Ammons had an eye for characters like me and Tim who could catch the public’s attention, and he was matter-of-fact about the role he and his colleagues play in promoting the agendas of the people they cover. One day, a few weeks into the unexpected chaos of the I-831 campaign, my phone rings and the voice at the other end jovially announces, “Hi, it’s Dave Ammons… your personal publicist.” Of course, promoting me and my joke initiative was never the motive behind Ammons’ attentiveness, but unlike some of his more stuffy colleagues, Ammons never seemed shy about the symbiotic relationship between political reporters and their subjects.
Having a little bit of insight into the sausage factory that is journalism, I have always considered Ammons’ coverage to be fair, even when not particularly balanced, for while the progressive community may rightly complain that our efforts and issues routinely received short shrift compared to Eyman and his follies, it was not Ammons’ bias that was to blame, but rather our failure to give him a good enough story. And in the end, telling a good story is what every genre of writing—even journalism—is really all about.
Best of luck on your new endeavors Dave. And thanks.