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Cigars in the Newsroom

Cigars are a hot story with local TV newscasters.
Alejandro Benes
From the Print Edition:
Danny DeVito, Winter 96

(continued from page 3)

"It's nice when I go home to Canada; I can get a Cuban cigar. But here in the U.S., [I'll smoke] whatever's recommended as long as it's small," she says. "I don't like big stogies. I don't like to smoke them for very long, just for a half-hour."

Jess Atkinson, a feature reporter for Washington, D.C.'s WRC, likes big cigars, three or four double coronas a week, with the La Gloria Cubana Soberano his current favorite. He just received four boxes shipped to his home in Annapolis, Maryland, where he enjoys a cigar while walking down Main Street or sitting by the city dock with a cup of coffee, watching the boats turn in "Ego Alley," where people show off their boats. Atkinson is pretty philosophical about what he gets out of cigars.

"At the end of the day, if the day's going pretty well, it's nice to have one," he says. But a cigar is also good for "when there's a lot of stress and you haven't done so hot and you need to forget about it for an hour and a half. Every once in a while [I'll smoke] when I'm out on a shoot. For me, being out in the field is kind of a blessing because you can get outside and smoke a cigar."

Before becoming a TV sports reporter covering the Washington Redskins, Atkinson played in the National Football League with the New England Patriots, New York Giants, St. Louis Cardinals, the Redskins and, very briefly, for the Baltimore Colts and the Dallas Cowboys. "I was cut seven times by six different teams. So, I found my way around the NFL a little bit," he says with a chuckle.

"I played one Monday night for the Colts," he recalls. "[Colts coach] Ron Meyer called me up and said, 'Jess, how ya doin'?' I said, 'Fine, Ray.' I lasted five days," he says, laughing over his confusion of the Colts coach with legendary De Paul University basketball coach Ray Meyer. "I tell ya, if I had been a smoker when I was kicking, it's the perfect thing for a kicker," Atkinson says, noting that a cigar makes a fitting ending to a kicker's day whether it's been a good one or not. "That, in a nutshell, is a kicker's life."

For Gerald Kolpan, a feature reporter at Philadelphia's WTXF who says he smokes one cigar a day "in a good week," being in the news business has led to many good cigar experiences. He and some colleagues decided that the best way to get to smoke cigars was to set aside the time.

"It's called 'The First Wednesday Cigar Club.' There're only two positions in this club: the president, who I am, and a bag man. The bag man is the guy who goes to Holt's [cigar store in Philadelphia] and pays for the cigars, and then you pay him for the cigars. We only have two rules: you pay for your food and drink and you take all your fights outside. This is at the Pen and Pencil Club, which is the oldest press club in the United States of America. We give [Holt's] the amount of money we want to spend per person, then we call it in and let them make the decisions. They make up a package and we pick it up. There's two cigars per guy."

Kolpan, who likes Avos, Ashton Cabinets and Holt's house brand, has reported his share of stories about the surge in cigar smoking and cigar dinners. "I did a story the day Dunkin' Donuts banned smoking," he recalls, "which I did with cigar in hand. I have been seen on the air periodically with a cigar in my hand. Of course, the station doesn't like to do too much of that because then they're seen as encouraging what some people would consider to be not a very good habit, and as we know anything done to excess is bad."

Political reporter Scott Talan doesn't have much time to enjoy more than five or so cigars a week, much less smoke to excess.

"I barely have time for lunch. In the daytime I don't even have time to smoke. It's like after hours, after work, weekends," says Talan of KCPM in Chico, California. He received some on-the-job training for his reporter post when he served as mayor of Lafayette, California, at the age of 29. "What I first started smoking cigars, I started hearing about these smaller cigars and I said, 'Well, who would ever want to smoke those?' But now I find with my time constraints that a smaller, shorter cigar is the way to go."

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