BAYHAM: A Tribute To A Damn Good Reporter

The high and mighty in Louisiana politics knew the late Ed Anderson from the press bunker in the State Capitol, where he spent decades covering six governors and hundreds of legislators.

This grass roots activist knew him from the Louisiana Republican State Central Committee meetings that he dutifully covered for the Times Picayune.

I suspect Ed did not really need to make the effort to cover the quarterly meetings of the Louisiana GOP’s governing body, as political material of interest in this state seems to rain from the sky like manna from heaven, but state politics was his beat and he’d reach out to me personally about meeting schedules and agendas and make arrangements to be on hand for the meetings.

One could argue Ed had more of an interest than most of the committee members, as the scribe had a better attendance record than most of the members of an entity that was at times often frustrated by a lack of quorum.

Ed was the first reporter for a non-college publication I had interacted with on a regular basis.  His articles were a healthy mix of “just the facts” and opposing quotes from individuals who had different interpretation of said facts.

What I really appreciated about Ed was that he made an effort to solicit comments from relevant participants; he never phoned it in as he knew his articles were for all practical purposes the public record on party policy.

And to some degree, Ed’s presence with reporter’s notepad alone probably kept some in the party leadership from overreaching, as they knew that chicanery would not be taking place in a vacuum.

I suspect Ed’s politics were far to the left of mine though you could not find a hint of partisanship in his writings.  Any opinion he’d privately express on the sideline never made it into his articles.  Ed the person had an ideology though Ed the reporter had no agenda, a trait I greatly respected and wished others in his field, particularly on the national level, would emulate.

Though we lost the man on Thursday, we lost the reporter in 2012 when the management of a publication with “progressive” and “social justice” inclinations regarding its political endorsements went full out Gordon Gecko in their internal operations, terminating the employment of some of the best journalists in Louisiana.

Ed Anderson was one of the “faceless” casualties of the Times Picayune’s “restructuring” that saw the daily become a “sometimes” paper, then a newspaper and occasional tabloid to whatever identity it has assumed now that it has competition for the first time in decades.

With the loss of his experience and knowledge of state government and Louisiana politics, Ed’s sacking was the equivalent of a civics book burning as the Times Picayune/Newhouse Family tossed Anderson’s journalistic career on a pyre of self-interest.

Ed had confided in me after he was handed his walking papers that he was stunned by it all and then asked if I could tip him off on any jobs leads as a press guy for a politician.  Fortunately he found work with the Legislative Auditor’s office but the entire experience had to be anguishing for a career reporter who figured that that his age and institutional knowledge were an asset and not a liability to be wiped off the books and replaced with newer, cheaper labor.

It was a source of amusement when not long after Ed’s departure from the paper that the TP braintrust ran a news story on the death of former Governor Edwin Edwards’ brother Marion along with the photo of a very much alive judge in Jefferson Parish of the same name.

Howard Avenue deserved every bit of embarrassment for that mistake when they kicked folks like Ed Anderson to the curb.

Ed was nothing like the DC journalists who mistake themselves for celebrities glamming it up for “Nerd Prom” also known the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, though he did relish having fun at the expense of politicians and other self-important folks at the annual Baton Rouge Gridiron Show, which he did with aplomb.

One of my favorite gridiron skits of all time featured Ed portraying in a less than flattering manner a certain humorless state judge known for being vindictive.

Ed was polite and courteous while simultaneously immune to charm and unbeguiled by spin, a consummate professional who left the politics to the politicians.

Though he wasn’t an elected official, Ed Anderson was practically a public servant for ably performing the seemingly mundane yet important task of letting the public know what their state government and political parties were up to.

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