With a raspy voice that sounds like Ronnie Drew on helium, Tom Waits is one of the coolest American singer/songwriters of all time. His song lyrics are part Hunter S. Thompson, part Jack Kerouac and sucking on a cigarette, in his permanently rumpled suit, Waits looks like a boxcar hero, who has just hopped off a train to be in one of his songs
“Some men are searching for the Holy Grail, but there ain’t nothing sweeter than riding the rail. “
Waits growls out his songs to a cult audience, mostly, but a couple of his songs, “Jersey Girl,” recorded by Bruce Springsteen” and “01’55” performed by The Eagles, brought him a new mainstream audience and his tender paean to “Martha,” has now become a classic love song.
Lucy Gaffney is the Chairman of Communicorp Group Limited, a company with media interests in Ireland, Europe and the Middle East. Communicorp has 40 radio stations across Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland, Hungary, Jordan and Latvia and of course Today FM and Newstalk 106-108, 98FM, Spin 103.8 and Phantom 105.2 in Ireland. Lucy joined Denis O’Brien’s Esat Digifone as an advisor, when it was bidding for the second mobile license. When Esat’s bid was successful, Lucy stayed on and joined the core team. In March 2009, Lucy was appointed as a Non-Executive Director to the Board of Independent News & Media PLC, which owns the Sunday Independent, the Irish Independent and the Herald.
It’s hard to imagine two less compatible fellow -thinkers than Tom & Lucy. Their backgrounds scream at one another, like yellow wallpaper shouting at purple furniture. She’s an inspiration to women, who aspire to shatter the glass ceiling, but he too seems to be well thought of, for the manner in which he gives his wife equal time.
“I collaborate with my wife on the songs, and every aspect of it, really— composing, and arranging, and recording, all that business. We have a rhythm and a way of working it. It’s kind of like borrowing the same ten bucks from somebody over and over again. But when you live together, it makes it a lot easier, the pay back.”
I have been fascinated with Tom Waits ever since I heard what I think is the best opening line of a song, ever.
A cue ball of a moon rolled across the black obsidian sky
The connection between Tom and Lucy came about because I had just finished reading an interview with Tom and then, in one of her own papers, minutes later, I read a report of a speech Lucy made, two weeks ago, yesterday.
Lucy’s speech was directed at journalists and everybody else who works in newspaper industry, suggesting they might ”think the unthinkable,” when planning for the future. It wasn’t quite as alarming as Donald Rumsfeld’s “known unknowns” until the “unknown” became known.
“I think that really what the media companies have to do is focus on new revenue streams and they have to focus on more creative ways of getting more money from advertisers. I think that’s what you’ve got to focus on… and cutting the cost base so that you’re completely lean thinking.”
“Somebody once said in a boardroom -“thinking the unthinkable,” which is the merging of newsrooms. Okay it’s never been done. I think that journalists are very protective of their area.”
News journalists would not be well disposed to “thinking the unthinkable.” Three newsrooms rolled into one sounds like a perfectly good, mathematical solution and Lucy told us how Communicorp with its many different brands, were changing the way they do business.
“We have to look at different ways of doing the same thing.” Lucy continued “We’re certainly doing it in Communicorp, where you’ve very, very, very different brands. But if you’ve essentially got a football match that is taking place…now there might be different ways of reporting on that football match, you know….and views on it… but it is essentially a football match….and it did have a result … and it was one-nil. So how many reporters do you need and journalists do you need to report on that one-nil?”
And that is where Tom Waits unwittingly strikes a blow against the newsroom journalists.
“If two people know the same things” says Tom, “one of you is unnecessary.”
Simple, isn’t it. Instead of having six guys writing about the Champions League, why can’t they operate a system of one match, one reporter.
An impressive fifty four per cent of Irish people read a newspaper every day, rising to an impressive sixty per cent on Sundays. This is a very high consumption figure and Lucy is doing us all a favour in spotting the overkill on football. And, she also reported, like a good journalist, what somebody once said in a boardroom -thinking the unthinkable-which is the merging of newsrooms.
I’ll let Tom Waits have the last words,
“The dog won’t bite if you beat him with a bone.”
Say no more.