Wednesday, March 31, 2010


I was looking at a journalism blog just now and feel a little strange after reading these back-to-back items., Nelson and Rehm Snag Peabody Awards

NPR announced this afternoon that they have snagged to Peabody Awards. For comprehensive coverage of Afghanistan and the excellence of its web site,, the 69th Annual George Foster Peabody Awards will honor NPR's Kabul Bureau Chief Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson and for overall excellence. Additionally, Diane Rehm, host of NPR's The Diane Rehm Show from WAMU in Washington, is... read more>>

In Memoriam: David Mills

Former WaPo writer David Mills died of brain aneurysm Tuesday in New Orleans. A former newsman, Mills moved into entertainment, writing for television shows such as "NYPD Blue," "ER" and "The Wire." Mills attended the University of Maryland and most recently worked for HBO as a staff writer and co-executive producer on HBO's "Treme." He was 48.... read more>>

Soraya Sarhaddi, as I knew her, was one of my journalism students in the mid-80s. So was David Mills, who enrolled in two different classes I taught a few years earlier.

So was this Nelson fellow who gave Soraya her married name some years later. They were all fantastic students because, if for no other reason, they devoted their lives as I had to the school daily newspaper, the Diamondback. There was an implicit deal – mentioned in public last year by another student of mine, David Simon, creator of “The Wire” and “Homicide: Life on the Street,” – by which if the kids who worked like hell on the paper made even a token appearance in my evening class, they were guaranteed a B. If they did the work, an A. The point is that they learned more, by magnitudes, by doing rather than listening.

David Mills and David Simon were collaborators in raising hell on the college newspaper when I was both teaching and serving on the nonprofit board created to oversee publications so that they could be free from University administration control. This board would meet about once a month or so and demand to know WTF they were doing with the birthright of campus journalism we old guys left them. Secretly, of course, many of us were applauding their brand of journalism – and their swagger. They were later collaborators on some of the most riveting television dramas ever produced. And I mean EVER.

Mills was a pain in the ass but not in the way any college journalist should be. He was personally obnoxious to the point of repugnance, inconsiderate of people trying to help him, and through his writing then and later for the Washington Post, a fount of warped racial commentary from the perspective of a very light-skinned African American. The few times I saw him on television, or saw photos of him, he looked like he never lost the edge. He died of an aneurysm.

His death bothers me just as did the death a couple of years ago of a former professional colleague in that I just don’t know what to think or say about the passing of people I really didn’t like.

David Mills was amazingly creative as a television writer, and I hate it when talented people die young because we never know what else might have flowed.

He had a gift for dialogue and for words, in general. I wish I had better ones of my own right now.

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  1. I wish you had better words, too. It is obnoxious past the point of repugnance to write something like this. Perhaps you feel that your harsh words about David as a young man make your praise of his work more credible. And I am not someone who believes that anyone should be false in the wake of someone's death. But this is one case where a tactful silence would have been fine.

  2. P.S. David Simon asked that I send this for him:

    Funny thing, Ira. The manner in which you described David Mills is precisely as you have been described by every editor of the Diamondback from at least 1977 to 1984. I have never been party to a discussion with any Diamondback veteran in which you were described as anything other as vain, arrogant, loud and self-absorbed. I promise you that should you pass before me, I'll be good enough not to recollect any of that, at least not for print. You're a class act -- to the end.

  3. It could be fading memory, but I do not recall knowing anyone by the name TEMonaghan, and it is unfortunate that I can not determine an email address for a private response. I would have said: your opinion is valid; this blog has no more than 20 viewers and serves partly as personal therapy, which allows me to anguish in public; I would not have commented if I was not sorrowful; how David describes me is exactly what I saw in him that made me a huge fan back in the day; and since I am easily findable I am puzzled why he responded through you.