Sunday, February 27, 2011

End of a Column -- commentary

This columnn was my final column with the Jonesboro Sun. I intend to continue posting columns here from time to time.

As all things end, it is time to say a fond farewell to this column. Those of us blessed with attention deficit sooner or later find something that distracts us from whatever useful and enjoyable activity we are engaged in and we find ourselves off on some new adventure. And so, it has happened again.

Pearl and I just returned from a couple of weeks in Mesa, Arizona, where among other things, I finished the motorcycle ride which I started two years ago and that put me in the hospital for 60 days. We shared a toast to recovery with my riding partner, Fast Eddie Copeman, and his wife, Loretta, from Calgary. We then flew to Seattle for four days for the gathering of the Grove clan and my mother’s memorial service.

When we arrived back in Jonesboro, there was an advertisement in the Jonesboro Sun. The Paragould paper was looking for a general assignment reporter. I have been substitute teaching, substitute bus driving, and driving a charter bus for a local company to supplement my retirement income, but mostly to break up the dullness of retirement. Though each of these activities was okay, they didn’t offer much of a challenge.

I looked at the ad for a reporter and thought back on my days in the newsroom from 1968 to 1970. They were interesting, creative times and the more I thought about it, the more the idea intrigued me. There were some things I like about the newsroom. No two days were ever the same. There was always a good bit of commotion and clutter to satisfy the attention deficit. It was interesting to write the town’s raw history and deadlines forced me to get something done. The only thing I didn’t like was the poverty reporters endure. Newspapers are notoriously low pay. So, when a much larger distraction came my way, I shelved the career and chased after it. The irony was that some of the distractions involved even worse poverty

Now that I’m retired following a lifetime of distractions, pay ceases to be an issue. I decided to toss my application in the hopper and see what happens, though I was only willing to make a 12 to 15 month commitment. Our son recently moved from Houston, Texas, to Gig Harbor, Washington. We realize if we are going to have time with our grandkids, we are going to have to move back to the Northwest. We hope to do this in the spring of 2012.

I was offered the job, took it, and here is how it affects this column: The Sun has a policy that reporters are not allowed to write columns. I assume this is to keep the news reporting separate from opinion writing, as it should be. Both the Jonesboro and Paragould papers are owned by the Paxton Media Group and both of them share the work of reporters through the Paxton News Bureau. For the Sun to continue my column would violate their policy.

I have enjoyed writing this column and must thank Editor Roy Ockert for paying me to do something I would probably have done for nothing. When I was invited to write it, my first task was to create a bank of 10 columns that would insure I would not have to miss deadlines and would always have a column, even during periods of writer’s block, which never happened.

That bank has never run dry and as I leave, I still have several columns which I will post periodically on my blog I also can brag that I never missed a deadline in three years, even while lying in the hospital. I intend to continue writing columns and posting them on my blog.

Several times in my life my attention deficit has led me to do-overs. Twenty years after college, I found myself back in college working on an MFA in writing. Twenty-one years after I thoroughly messed up a military career, I found myself back in the military as a navy reservist and then an Army National Guardsman where I managed to get good conduct and commendation medals instead of reprimands. Writing this column was another do-over as I first wrote a column for the “Coeur d’ Alene Press” in Coeur d’ Alene, Idaho, back in 1969.

I am approaching this opportunity as another do-over. Each do-over has been better than the original and I am betting this one will be also. I say a big thank you to those of you who have emailed me concerning the column and those who have encouraged me with positive comments when I would see you about the town. It has been an adventure of a different type. Thank you all.

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