It's seemed like the shortest year of my life. I didn't die from lack of stress, nor have I been bored. In the past year the only day that I really wished I was in the newsroom was the day a couple of months ago when Hidalgo County Sheriff Lupe Trevino -- who I never trusted because of the false cult of personality he worked so hard to establish and the fact that he always protested way to much when anyone even HINTED that he might be less than always on the up and up -- resigned in advance of being indicted by the Feds on money laundering charges. He has since pleaded guilty and is awaiting sentencing.
Mostly what I miss is the people I used to work with not just at just my last paper, The Monitor, but at all of the newspapers where I've worked since graduating from Indiana University: The Louisville (Ky.) Courier-Journal & Times; The (Jackson, Miss.) Clarion-Ledger; The Fort Worth (Texas) Star-Telegram; The Cincinnati Post; The (Springfield, Ill.) State Journal-Register; and The (Florence, S.C.) Morning News.
I was fortunate in my nearly 45-year newspaper career to have worked with or under some excellent reporters, editors, publishers and college professors to whom I am grateful for their impact on my newspapering tenure and from whom I learned much. They helped to make me a success. Notable among them were:
* John Anderson, editor of the New Albany (Ind.) Tribune, for whom I worked briefly at my first reporting job shortly after getting out of the Navy in 1966. When I told Anderson that I was thinking about just staying on at the Tribune instead of going back to college, he fired me. He then told me that if I still needed a job after I graduated, he'd be pleased to have me come back to the Trib.
* IU journalism professors Ron Farrar and Ralph Holsinger and hard-nosed journalism school dean John Stempel. They were all demanding taskmasters, but the training they provided to all of their students was invaluable.
* Robert Crumpler, city editor of The Louisville Times, from who I learned what it meant to be a truly great city editor. In the final analysis, I think that Crump and what I learned about newspapering from him was the single greatest influence on my career. In many ways, I tried to pattern myself after him.
* Dick Krantz, who headed the Times investigative team of which I was a member. Dick did more than anyone else to help me hone my investigative reporting skills -- skills that I tried to pass along to those who later worked for me.
* Don Farrell, who hired me at The Clarion-Ledger to head up the paper's fledgling investigative reporting team and then, after just four months, threatened to fire me if I didn't accept his offer to become the paper's city editor -- my first editing position.
* Rea Hederman, executive editor (also known as executive heir) of The Clarion-Ledger who promoted me to managing editor and protected me from the other members of his family who were involved in the upper management while the staff and I worked to transform a paper that had a reputation as being among the 10 worst in America to one that was considered one of the best its size. Were it not for his intercession, the paper would never have been able to win the more than 40 national journalism awards it won between 1977 and 1983, including the a Public Service Pulitzer for the last project I launched before leaving to become business editor at The Star-Telegram and culminating after the C-L was purchased by Gannett.
* Henry Holcomb, managing editor of The Star-Telegram, who hired me as business editor and taught me important lessons in newsroom diplomacy and later promoted me to assistant managing editor for news and projects. And Star-Telegram Executive Editor Jack Tinsley, who overcame some early jangly nerves to stand staunchly behind me and, even more importantly, behind Washington Bureau reporter Mark Thompson, during the firestorm that developed after we began publishing the Bell Helicopter series that went on to win the Public Service Pulitzer and several other major national awards.
* Publishers Barry Bingham Jr. of The Louisville Courier-Journal & Times, Phil Meek of The Star-Telegram, Tom Marschel of The (Florence, S.C.) Morning News, and Ray Stafford and his successor Olaf Frandsen of The Monitor, all of whom unwaveringly supported me and encouraged me to practice the sort of journalism I loved and believed made a difference.
I just hope that some of the reporters, photographers and editors who worked under me feel that I had a strong, positive influence on their careers and that I did an at least decent job of passing along to them the skills I was taught. I certainly know that I am grateful to many of them because their hard and diligent work helped to make me a success. Although there are more of these former staffers than I could possibly list here -- including a significant number who went on to win one or more Pulitzer Prizes and numerous other prestigious journalism awards -- some of the key ones include Rick Tulsky, Mark Thompson, Ryan Gabrielson, Nancy Weaver, Stephanie Saul, Johanna Neuman, Lauraine Miller, Pat Larkin, Dana Heupel, Larry Nighswander, John Liston, Henry Miller, Jeremy Roebuck, Mike Perry, Lee Ann Hamilton, Sara Ovaska, Jared Taylor, Kirsten Luce, Nathan Lambrecht, Delcia Lopez, Frank Kimmel, Ray Wong, Wade Baker, Marci Caltabiano-Ponce and Mike Kelly (deceased).
Many old friends have passed on. Most recently -- about two weeks ago -- Kenneth Bunting, who I became friends with when he joined the staff of The Star-Telegram just shortly before I left my position there as night managing editor to become managing editor of The Cincinnati Post, one of the papers where Ken had previously worked. Ken, with whom I maintained contact as we both moved from paper to paper, was a highly skilled reporter and editor and an all-around great newspapering practitioner, but, even more than that, he was wonderful, warm and caring person whose last job was as director of the National Freedom of Information Coalition headquartered at the University of Missouri.
However, Ken and the others who are gone now still live on in nearly 45 years of wonderful memories of a career that I felt was worthwhile, in an endeavor that I believe actually made a difference in the world around me.