The Dispatch Monthly Mailbag with Victoria Holmes

(Photo via Victoria Holmes)

Hey everyone! Thanks for all your thoughtful responses to my Mailbag email earlier this month. I hope everyone who celebrates is enjoying the Easter holiday with friends, family, and tons of food.

By the time you’re reading this, my family is probably cleaning up the confetti from our annual egg-smashing-confetti extravaganza. Personally, I am using this time to rest as much as possible. We started our Easter weekend with mass on Holy Thursday, followed by the Seven Churches visitation. We completed the Stations of the Cross on Friday and attended a vigil service at night. Saturday was spent shopping, preparing Easter foods (potato salad, brisket, and baked beans), and running after my nieces and nephews. Let me know some of your family’s Easter traditions in the comments!

I categorized your questions into a few buckets, so feel free to hop around for the ones you’re most interested in.

On My Faith

John Boland: Please, who is your favorite Saint and why?

It’s hard to pick a favorite saint, to be honest, as I’ve found my answer can change depending on the seasons of life. I love Padre Pio, and my confirmation saint was Archangel Raphael. But going through a season of sickness recently, I found the words of St. Francis de Sales extremely consoling. They were like a salve from Heaven that calmed down a few internal wounds: “Have patience with all things. But, first of all, be patient with yourself.” 

My honorable mention is St. Francis of Assisi because of his radical way of life (stripping naked in a plaza after arguing with his father about selling property and giving it to the poor*) and his writings (including the “Canticle of Brother Sun, Sister Moon”). He was also one of only a few saints to have the stigmata. He is much more than the laid-back hippie pop culture makes him out to be. 

Pkbenham8: How does your Catholic faith inform your professional life?

I am a practicing Catholic and, for a long time, I tried to keep my faith separate from my professional life in an effort to be an “objective” reporter. But I’ve realized that was a naive—and almost cowardly—way to live. I try to be a good person and abide by Church teachings without slamming my religion down other people’s throats. I do my best to go to confession twice a month—it helps me gain insight into my failings and how I can better live a moral life, both personally and professionally.

On Working for The Dispatch

Mark Grapentine: What was the whiplash like going from local TV reporting to an in-depth outlet like The Dispatch?

I enjoyed my time as a local news reporter, but my company didn’t have enough resources to actually mold me into a good reporter. Unfortunately, this is more or less the state of local news these days—most newsrooms lack the senior mentorship that young journalists need. I left disheartened, but not completely disillusioned. I knew there was a newsroom out there that would be challenging and fulfilling. Finally, after about a year of searching, I found The Dispatch

I learn something new every day, from political and legal perspectives on podcast episodes to little nuggets of wisdom from conversations with colleagues. Working here has been incredibly uplifting.

Howmanydiscs3: Which of The Dispatch’s podcasts is your favorite? Don’t duck the question: You have to choose one!

It depends on whether I’m editing or listening. The Remnant is the most straightforward from an editing perspective. But if I’m listening, The Dispatch Podcast roundtables are always really fun!

Andrew Taylor3: What’s the most frustrating part about producing videos for YouTube?

Trying to understand the algorithms. We have a lot of good content that performs well on other podcast platforms but isn’t always picked up by YouTube.

JohnM.: Without going into any kind of great detail, can you please tell us what producing audio and visual content entails for you on a typical production?

Sure. It’s great! (You said you didn’t want me to go into any great detail 😄). 

But really, you have to be patient. We generally record episodes in the morning, and then we edit the audio in the afternoon or evening. Another member of the team will then listen to the podcast and write the title, description, and show notes. The newsier, in-person recordings are extremely exciting. David Drucker’s recent interview with Nikki Haley, for example. 

Jack3: What’s the weirdest thing that’s happened in the course of recording and editing a podcast for The Dispatch?

Probably Mike Pence hopping over one of the cords in his way during an in-person Dispatch Podcast recording.

On Coco

Richard Kennedy: First things first and most important. Coco. Describe, explain …

About a decade ago, an entire litter of abandoned puppies was discovered at a playground near my mom’s office. By the end of the day, each of the dogs had a forever home. 

My mom asked my dad for permission to get one, and was heartbroken when he didn’t respond before all the puppies were claimed. But the next day, one more dog was found. My mom immediately picked her up and took her to the vet. She’s been with us for ten years.

Photo via Victoria Holmes.
Photo via Victoria Holmes.

On Working at Chick-fil-A

Vp3: Long before it became controversial, Chick-fil-A was known for treating its workers better than the typical fast food chain—paying somewhat better, offering educational benefits, investing in training—and having less turnover as a result. (It wasn’t pure kindness, in other words.) But my detailed knowledge of this is decades old. When you worked there, was this still the case?

Before working at Chick-fil-A, I was a Sonic carhop. The incentive to wear the skates was something along the lines of an extra $0.50 per hour, and I decided one accidental trip and fall into someone’s car was sure to set me back any money I made there. Working in a small kitchen during the Texas summer, I often volunteered to restock the tomatoes and onions simply as an excuse to go into the freezer.

My experience at Chick-fil-A (or CFA, as we called it) was dramatically better. I made more in one week at CFA—working part-time—than I did working two full weeks at Sonic. Not only did CFA pay better, but it also offered educational scholarships and training for managers who showed interest in owning a franchise location one day.

Dave K: Being Canadian, I have constantly heard of how wonderful Chick-fil-A is, but I only tried it once about eight years ago when I was in Houston. It was good— certainly better than KFC and a few other fast food places—but I thought it was overhyped a bit …

I could eat at CFA every day—and I certainly did when I worked there—but it is a little overhyped. One of the actual best chicken places is Bubba’s. I highly recommend anyone in Dallas check it out.

Richard Kennedy: I’m sure everyone will ask, but what Chick-fil-A hacks?

I’m only going to give one away, and it can probably be used at other fast-food outlets, too. If you want to ensure you’re getting fresh french fries, ask for no salt. Most fries are seasoned with salt immediately after they’re taken out of the fryer. You can always ask for a side of salt.

On Living in Dallas, Spain, San Diego, Greenville, and Washington, D.C.

SD: Curious about your take on beaches. I think that city beaches might be the best. Completely different feel, but I love the fact that you can be at the beach with a downtown filled with skyscrapers as your backdrop.

East Coast beaches are superior to West Coast beaches. I went to school at the University of San Diego and spent plenty of time “studying” on the beach. Although they were great to lay out and get a nice tan, the water was often too cold to actually swim in—and even if you could swim, the waves would knock you over and the smell of seaweed dominated the air. When I lived in Greenville, North Carolina, I visited the Crystal Coast a lot and fell in love with the calmer waters, cleaner sands, and cheaper dining options.

I have to disagree with you on the point about city beaches. I escape to the beach to get away from the cityscape—to see endless skies and breathe in somewhat cleaner air.

ARS: I hope people got a chance to read your first column for The Dispatch that tells a little bit about yourself. … While regular Dr Pepper is the best, I’ve found I like Dr Pepper Zero much better than the Diet. What’s your preference?

Both are good, but in an anesthesia-induced hangover following a medical procedure a few years ago, my first request was a Diet Dr Pepper. I think that speaks for itself.

Stefan Modrich: Obligatory Texas question: What is your go-to Buc-ee’s order?

The candied pecans.

Mjalderman76: Where and when did you live in Spain? Have you ever made the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela? What is your favorite spot to visit in Spain? Who is your favorite figure in Spanish history (or the one you find most interesting)?

I lived in Madrid in the spring of 2019, but unfortunately didn’t make the pilgrimage to Santiago. I took a five-day solo trip to Mallorca and had a lot of fun reading, swimming, and tanning. Francisco Goya is the Spanish figure I find most interesting because I love a tragic ending.

Danny M: Need the coffee recommendations for D.C. Also, curious if your experiences in Spain have given you a stance on the dairy milk vs. milk substitutes debate.

The Coffee Bar is one of my favorite places to grab a coffee, but their shop is too small to sit down and enjoy. I enjoy Tryst for an evening coffee; it’s an intimate and cozy space, perfect for meeting up with friends after work. Mary Trimble, my colleague and editor of TMD, also turned me on to Filter Coffee House and Espresso Bar on L Street. I used to dislike Gregory’s Coffee, but they have a rewards system, a location next to our office, and pistachio milk, so I’ve started going there more often. I do confess that I need to try more places!

As for the great milk debate—dairy is my preference in general, but it depends on the milk’s source. In Spain, I’ll usually order a whole-milk latte or an espresso with half-and-half, but here I mostly stick with plant-based milks.

On the Great Spanish Wine Debate

As some of my colleagues know, I love stirring up a good debate. And what’s more exciting than starting one with the CEO of the company where you work? White wine is superior due to its crisp taste. Red is too indulgent. Whites complement the meal you’re having, while reds dominate it.

Correction, April 1, 2024: This mailbag originally mischaracterized the nature of the fight between St. Francis of Assisi and his father.

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