Friday, January 06, 2006

My Father, the Country Editor

My father was editor and publisher of our small town’s newspaper for forty years, beginning in 1948. Sometime in the 1960’s, he extended his business by acquiring the three other newspapers in our county.

During all those years, he frequently wrote a column for the paper. It was thoughtful and sometimes educational; people in our town saw it as a focal point because it gave them the inside scoop on what was happening in town. Too, he often wrote about his personal experiences. He was a quiet, kind man, and he said much more in his columns than he ever said aloud.

He carried a pencil and a little spiral notebook in his shirt pocket so that he could jot down notes about anything of interest he ran across for his column, or anything newsworthy . People learned that what they did or said around him might turn up in his column unless they swore him to secrecy. He went personally to every important event—from city council meetings to Fourth of July celebrations—and reported on the personal side as well as the objective facts. He called himself a simple “country editor,” but he held his newspapers to the highest standards of journalistic excellence.

He found out what was happening if some huge boat or gigantic machine was being hauled through town, if a building project was started, if something was being bulldozed, if somebody caught a fifty-pound catfish or won a prize. He scribbled illegibly in that little notebook. He knew people would wonder, and he thought they needed to know.

After he died in 1988, people told me over and over how much they missed his column—how they felt sort of “in the dark” about what was happening around town. They said something vital was gone, a window was closed. We, his family, felt it, too.

Soon after he died, my mother and I decided we ought to copy down all his columns and make them into a book. But that was in the days of rudimentary computer technology, and we could soon see that it would take us forty years, just as it did him. So we abandoned the idea.

I believe that if he were still alive and healthy today, he might be a blogger. I’ve decided to share some of his columns in this blog. I realize that one reason I write this blog—maybe the main reason—is the old newspaper-column blood in my veins.

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