J's Page

For when I need more than 140 characters to finish a thought on marketing, media or message. Or photography.


Briefly on why ‘Better Call Saul’ probably won’t suck (but I reserve the right to change my mind)

Anyone who knows me knows how I feel about AMC’s Breaking Bad. To say I love it is an understatement. The show was genius on every level, and I don’t believe I’ll ever know television that great ever again.

When it ended, I was among the thousands of fans who were sad and joyous to see it go, concluding exactly the way it should have. A show that good couldn’t live forever without endangering the integrity of the story and the characters. TV has a cringeworthy history of great shows gone wrong because the networks tried to keep them alive. I could not watch this story go on longer than it needed to, and I also knew Vince Gilligan wouldn’t let it.

‘All the days became so long,
Did you really think I’d do you wrong?’

Another reason I was glad to see it end was because I was too involved with the characters. I cried for Hank on the way to work one day — in an off cycle. I called Trey, sobbing: “I’m a hot mess! I’m really scared for Hank this next season!” (We know now that I had reason to be, so I’m not completely crazy.) I also dreamed about the show. During the second part of the final season, I dreamt on a couple of occasions that I had to write the series finale against some crazy-impossible deadline — as the Nazis were on the way to our house. Although this sounds ridiculous in the light of day, as I type this, I remember so many details of that the dream, but mostly I remember how terrifying it was. I can sometimes talk myself out of a nightmare, but I wasn’t able to in this case. (“This is just a dream, this is just a dream, you’ll wake up soon … Oh, my God, no it’s not! THEY’RE COMING!”)

Vince Gilligan’s Nazis invaded my dreams. I’d like to chalk that up to a simple case of fangirldom, but that’s not it: The character development on Breaking Bad was simply that good. The Nazis terrified me just as much as the other characters engaged me. We fell in and out of love with the core characters, just as we do with the people who come and go in our lives. We came to enjoy that uncertainty, never knowing how we would feel about a character from one season to the next. Now, as I rewatch earlier episodes, the ones when Walt was much more likable, I’m angry at his character because I know the destructive path he will pave with his hubris, and I mourn his future casualties. When I watch Hank make one awful joke after the other and suffer paralyzing panic attacks, I’m sad for the jocular boob. He’s the hero I didn’t see coming — the one I didn’t want to lose, even though I knew he had to go.

These are two meager examples of how deeply invested I was in these characters. When I heard rumors of a prequel, based on Saul Goodman’s character, I thought it was a lie. Or a carefully crafted PR stunt by the studio to build interest in the second half of the final season.  As it became more evident there was such a show in development, I didn’t believe and didn’t want to.

And then came the trailers. And the gushing critiques. And now I’m watching it with bated breath, reminding myself that the writers don’t want this to suck anymore than I do. I’m also reminding myself that even before the news of the new series that Trey and I would consult IMDB and then watch all the Breaking Bad episodes that have Saul in them. That’s investment in a character — a character you want to know for a long time.

I’m glad to meet him again.

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#NOVAMKT: 5 things to know about a Vegas trade show

I just returned from the 2015 NAHB International Builders’ Show and the second annual Design and Construction Week. Wow — what a time. I tagged along with my husband, Trey, the editor of Door and Window Market magazine, and I had hoped to live tweet one of the world’s largest trade shows for marketing students at Northern Virginia Community College; however, I realized that what I learned and what I want to share with MKT students is best served in short blog posts.

The first is a quick overview of what you need to know about a trade show in Vegas:

1. You will get lost every time you leave your room to go to the trade show. Convention centers aren’t a high school gym; they’re huge and often have labyrinthine floor plans. Use the buddy system and go with a co-worker. Use the maps provided by the organizers and route out a plan the night before so you’ll know exactly where you need to go. Allow for extra time between appointments. Everyone will be in your way because they are as lost as you are.

2. You will not have time to party like a rock star. Your day will be jammed packed from 8 a.m. (or earlier!) until 5 p.m. with exhibits, education sessions and networking opportunities. You will be exhausted. Our day started at 6 or 6:15 a.m.

3. Your feet will be killing you by the end of each day. Plan to walk more than you ever have in your working life — and feel like you haven’t really gone anywhere. (Note to those who have waited tables: You’ll probably have no problem with this.) Ladies, your cutest heels were not made for walking this much floor space. Be smart about your shoe choices. Guys, that goes for you, too. We saw attendees of both sexes who looked like they were barely walking by the end of the second day.

4. You will not have the energy to party like a rock star. (See Nos. 2 and 3.)

5. Take enough business cards — and get a lot of business cards. You’ll be meeting a lot of really nice people — many of whom might want to do business with you very soon. Take notes if you have to, to remember names and businesses.

NEXT UP: 5 more things to know about a Vegas trade show

LATER: How do I Instagram that??? Challenges of B2B social

RELATED: DWM takes you inside #IBSVegas


Editor’s note: This series is part of an experimental guest lecture on marketing and B2B social media for Northern Virginia Community College, where I am an adviser to the Marketing Department. These posts are written in line with my advisory role, not in my role as audience engagement editor for USA TODAY. Travel, expenses and the consequences of foolish decisions were paid in full by me.

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To my husband, on his last day in journalism

Today is my husband’s last day at USA TODAY, a place where he has spent the past 14 years helping shape the nation’s news — through nights, through holidays, through buyouts and layoffs. Today is also his last day in journalism, just one month shy of his 26th anniversary in the business he fell in love with.Trey Barrineau, USA TODAY

For Trey, journalism was a calling, a profession he believed in, a profession he was eager to praise. Over the past 15 years, as he watched the news industry shift, shake and stumble as it struggles to reinvent itself, he was equally quick to criticize it — and defend it. That flip-flop is part of the love affair with news, something only journalists would understand. Just as only journalists would understand how hard it is to ever consider leaving the newsroom.

Trey’s decision to make the leap into trade publications did not come easily. He loved the newsroom. He loved his co-workers. He loved the news business. “It’s all I ever wanted to do,” he said.keuroac

I understood — and still do, which is why I’m writing this to him today.

Trey, I know how much you love journalism. I also know your talents are many and your versatility is without bounds. I know that you’ll be great in whatever you do after journalism. There is life after the newsroom. A big, beautiful life. Our gifted colleagues who have been bought out or laid off have shown us that time and again. There are so many of them, too many, but they live their lives well — as you will.

But if you’re ever feeling nostalgic for the newsroom, I want you to remember two things:

1) Journalism isn’t the same profession that you fell in love with — far from it. We only have to look as far as the most recent headlines to show us that. Newsrooms around the globe devoted a week to nauseating, ’round-the-clock reporting on Kim Kardashian’s ass, a collective effort that easily proves my point multiple times over.

2) The colleagues you loved most are long gone, ousted by the industry’s cruel economics. The newsroom is not what it once was because so many of the people who mattered most to you are not here.Determine page

Perhaps I’m the wrong person to write this. I’m much too eager to cheer when a colleague or former colleague makes a break for their newsroom’s nearest exit. I do not believe journalism is God’s work. I do not believe journalism is the only noble form of communication, and I don’t believe leaving it means throwing down ethics. And for now, news’ mission of truth tellers and watchdogs lives in some forms — but for how long? Although there are thousands of true believers out there fighting its corruption, we have to wonder at what cost — especially when people we love are on the front lines in the death battle for eyeballs, and their destinies look more uncertain with every quarter’s balance sheet.clinton7

That said, the future — your future — is far from bleak.

Communications is an art. There are endless ways to tell the world’s stories — and the truth. There will always be a need for well-crafted message that inspires and informs, shapes and reforms, deciphers and expounds. You’ve spent a rich career clarifying the muddiest of deadline-battered copy and writing pure poetry in headlines — all the while racing a merciless clock. Now it’s time to take those immense talents and use them well outside a newsroom. And as you go, I have zero doubt that you’ll craft many meaningful messages and tell many beautiful stories, no matter where you are.

Godspeed, my love.


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