Joyce Sharp


Ostrich Act

Your ongoing notes about KTRH radio "staffers" being unhappy with changes made by the new general manager are amusing but, I find, inaccurate [News Hostage, by Richard Connelly, February 10].

I talk to lots of people at the station every day, and far afield from your reports, most people seem happy about the changes. This, even as KTRH's parent company merges to form one of the biggest broadcasting companies in the nation. Parsing your prose, it appears you talked to one or two people, then characterized dissatisfaction as the prevailing mood.

So if you want to find out how the proposed Time Warner-AOL merger is going, you can ask your Warner Cable installation guy. I'm sure he can tell you enough about company-wide morale to rate a graph in News Hostage, right?

Michael Shiloh, production manager


Millar's Encore Column

Houston Press readers might find useful this account of the choices made by Richard Connelly, in his reporting my retirement as the Houston Chronicle's film critic/humor columnist [News Hostage, February 10].

Connelly asked me for response to some "rumors/theories floating out there." Most of what he cited as rumors were unsigned reviews of my job performance by Chronicle staffers. Those are entirely fair game for what Connelly does. I've been dishing out subjective opinions of other folks' job performances since 1965. The recipients had to swallow it; so shall I.

One of Connelly's rumors concerned the chronology of the separation. That is an issue in fact, not in opinion, and I could speak to it because I was there.

"One version of your decision," Connelly e-mailed me, "describes a Monday argument where you snapped 'I quit' and they surprised you by saying 'OK,' so anything you might offer on how long this decision has been in the works would be helpful."

My e-mail reply, following, is condensed.

"I took early (by eight years) retirement," I replied to Connelly. "Two reasons, both simple. More than a year ago, this dawned on me: Thanks to [my comic-strip collaborator] Bill Hinds, one comic strip [Tank McNamara] in syndication for 24 years and another [Second Chances] for two; [and thanks to contributing] for three decades Š to retirement accounts, I may not need a full-time job anymore. I began monitoring my feelings about working for the Chronicle.

"My comic-strip business is growing and it needs my attention. I've been reviewing movies for 34 years, thousands and thousands of them, and I don't want to do that anymore.

"By the end of last year Š I concluded Š I'm done with writing movie reviews. In early January, I proposed Š writing two columns a week for a proportional reduction in pay. The Chronicle thought about it for about a week and passed. I was left with the option of working the same job or taking early retirement. I Š thought about it for a week [and retired]."

Here's how Connelly chose to print my chronology:

"Why the sudden move? Š Millar says in an e-mail that he 'took early [by eight years] retirement' for two reasons: the comic-strip business is taking up much of his time, and he's tired of the film-critic gig. 'I've been reviewing movies for 34 years, thousands and thousands of them, and I don't want to do that anymore,' he says. Millar says he offered to quit as film critic but remain as columnist 'for a proportional reduction in pay,' but the Chron turned him down. So he quit."

I had prefaced my chronology to Connelly with "If you get no story from [God's uninflected truth], my apologies in advance." But there it still was, that sweet, sweet image of onetime "untouchable veteran" Jeff Millar snapping "I quit" to an editor, then his sitting there slacked-jawed as the editor said, "OK."

I know why Connelly chose "sudden move." So do his editors. So do the folk in Phoenix, corporate headquarters of the Press's ownership.

But in fairness to Connelly, let's consider that he may not have printed my chronology because he decided I was not truthful. I have no way of proving what I told Connelly was uninflected truth. I went to those meetings with Chronicle management after a full year's emotional preparation, knowing that my leaving my job of 36 years was a 100 percent possibility.

Later in the same column, Connelly let "longtime Š reporter and editor Joe Householder" get out of dark-and-stormy KTRH with no suddenness at all.

Press readers might consider if Rich holds different respondents to different levels of proof when the personal reward is a Phoenix-pleasin' headline like "Prima donna film critic says 'I quit' in snit; relieved Chron says 'Yesss!' "

But it just didn't happen that way, Rich. Better luck with the next Chronicle retirement.

Jeff Millar


Richard Connelly responds: The move was "sudden," as far as readers and at least some of your co-workers were concerned. Anyone reading the column would, however, come away with the clear idea that in your view, the move was the result of a more thoughtful decision.

The column noted that "Millar Š says all his career talks with the paper were 'quiet, calm [and] professional.' " Note the plural in the phrase "career talks," and let me know how that sentence describes an argument with a snap decision.

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