By Robert Delaney

I never learn.

Sometimes I find a shirt or a blazer selling for such a discount that it seems irresponsible to not buy it. You know the kind. That which you think can be worn at the office and for a night out. It might be just a little off in terms of fit, but of course that’s too small a detail when you’re saving so much.

Then you wear the garment for a full day and the problem becomes apparent. It pulls in the wrong places. It bunches up oddly when you sit. It becomes a low-level irritant that puts you on edge. No matter how strategically you tuck or arrange, the garment subverts those efforts as soon as you take one step.

As I read the obituaries of Fred Phelps this week, packaged with photos of him in ill-fitting garb, I couldn’t help but conclude that the rage-filled man who made homophobia uncool probably made the thrifty fashion mistake far too often.

Mr. Phelps made a name for himself in the 1960s as a civil rights lawyer whose work helped to overturn Jim Crow laws. In photos of him from those days, he wears some decent threads. At least they fit well and probably didn’t ride up and irritate him.

I’m a bit foggy on his background over the next couple of decades, but I’m guessing that business thinned out for Fred Phelps once all of the segregation-era laws were struck down. That may have led him to the discount racks, where he must have thought: “Well, it’s just a little on the big side. If I tuck and arrange strategically, I won’t even notice.”

And that, I bet, is where the virulent hatred anti-gay passions flared.

When I’m wearing my worst-fitting shirt, (which happens when I don’t have time to iron any of the good ones), minor irritants can set me off. For example, I once almost threw my laptop out of my window because PowerPoint refused to resize a shape the way I wanted. Not only did I hate Microsoft that afternoon. I also wanted to go to Seattle to picket Bill Gates with a “God Hates PPT!” sign. Should software really incite such rage? Heavens, no. It was the Kenneth Cole shirt that I got for 70% off. It would simply not stay tucked.

Perhaps, when Fred was at the end of his rope after tucking his shirt in for the 8,000th time, he happened to be behind a couple of guys in the supermarket buying fresh endive, pasta and a nice bottle of wine. Maybe he fixated on these men as he battled his shirt. As much as he wanted to launch a crusade against his clothes, he knew subconsciously that a war on textiles wouldn’t go far unless he was sure they were woven in China.

And thus, the Fred Phelps who will always be tied to hate was born.

So, I think we should keep this in mind when we remember the legacy of Fred Phelps.

And we should hope that his family will make sure that Mr. Phelps’ shirt isn’t riding up when he’s lowered into the ground.

(For more of my thoughts on fashion, read here.)



The Globe Thinks It’s Above the News


By Robert Delaney

“The Globe thinks it’s above the news.”

One of the paper’s editors said that to me just a few months into my tenure there. The comment resonated with me for weeks.

The echo of that comment swelled up in the wake of the news today that The Globe and Mail’s Editor-in-Chief John Stackhouse was replaced.

Elena Cherney, Managing Editor

Derek DeCloet, Editor, Report on Business

John Stackhouse, Editor-in-Chief

All of them, strong intellectually and emotionally, and gone in just a little over two months.

I didn’t work for The Globe and Mail for very long. They hauled me into a conference room just five months after they hired me to do whatever was necessary to bring a “Bloomberg orientation” to a newsroom swathed in union rhetoric, but also to respect the authority that “T-GAM” (as it’s known inside the walls) has among the general Canadian readership.

It was a balance I never managed to find. And so I went. … or so I tell myself even though the official line was that the decision was purely monetary. (Perhaps it was. It’s just difficult not to suspect other factors.)

“We’re not a newswire,” I occasionally heard.

And so I slunk back to my desk and did the best I could to make yesterday’s news seem somehow relevant for the next day’s readers.

“Look, can you have the story to me in one hour instead of taking the time to work it into something that will look great on A1 or A3 or B1 tomorrow? Because no one is going to care then.”

Most of the reporters I worked with understand the urgency and push themselves to publish in accordance with the new reality. But I was wrong. One hour is too much time in the new reality.

The Globe and Mail has played a crucial role in the formation of a nation. It held North America’s torch when it came to social justice, while it strove to provide the news of the day to the farthest reaches of a far-flung population. And to this day, amid a bewildering period of revolving-door management, many of its reporters and editors still produce some of the world’s best journalism. Anyone who doubts this should look at TGAM’s coverage of what caused the Lac Megantic disaster or the account of Blackberry’s downfall.

But those journalists producing the best that “T-GAM” has to offer are fighting against the news organization’s own mythology.

For every one Canadian looking for a good feature story from the country’s most trusted source, there are 10 others in their purchasing power prime, who – because of social media – want to know what’s happened in the last 30 seconds.

It’s an awful reality for those of us who want to put the day’s events into perspective. Because perspectives have changed. If the story doesn’t make sense to a twenty-something who’s juggling an Instagram romance with a divorced parent planning a wedding in Puerto Vallarta and wondering whether to apply for a university program in computer science or the liberal arts – within the first 140 characters –it’s just not a story.

Best of luck T-GAM. May you prevail. Canada needs you.