Press Talk: Of Branton & freeholders

By Lou Brancaccio, Columbian Editor



Let it be known that former Columbian cops reporter John Branton was not just a very good reporter.

He was — in my humble opinion — a king of smoking salmon.

John retired from The Columbian last year and, sadly, died at 66 on Sunday.

John was what I call an old-school reporter. He accepted — well, honestly, he appreciated — an editor occasionally barking at him for one thing or another. He fondly told the story of a city editor who downright scared him. But somehow, someway, he appreciated it.

However John was motivated, he would surprise me with a large, quality in-depth piece on some interesting topic. And I use the word surprise because cop reporters are mostly charged with, well, covering cop news.

He’d always find a way to regularly enlighten readers on a larger topic.

Thank you for that, John.


When John landed in the hospital a few years ago, I visited him to see how he was doing. But before I could ask, he asked me if I thought he should quit. He was off work for several days and was worried that it was having an adverse impact on the paper.

Of course I said we missed him and missed his work, but I added he was crazy to consider quitting. OK, I was being a little selfish, because I knew what he delivered to us and to our readers.

John returned to work and did, indeed, deliver for us.


But back to smoking salmon. Once in a while, John would smoke a salmon and bring it into the newsroom. I never missed those days. We often talked food, and I once wondered how my homemade hot Italian sausage would hold up to smoking. So I brought him a pound, and he smoked it. OK, it was just another one of my bad ideas.

Still, John, bless his soul, thought kindly about the attempt.

Today, I suspect John is up there somewhere, smoking up something good and reporting on some heavenly county commission. It’s likely filled with angels.

We’ll miss you, John.


The Columbian editorial board gave some thought to endorsing candidates in the freeholder races, but with more than 100 people running, it was fraught with possible land mines.

Freeholders are being elected this November to bang out a proposed constitution of sorts for our county. Later, their proposal will be put in front of voters to either accept or reject.

Instead of endorsing candidates, our board endorsed some concepts for the freeholders. But I couldn’t resist throwing out a few names I’m comfortable with.

It’s not an endorsement. I simply like and respect them. There are other good people, to be sure. But here are a few for you to consider:

Garry Lucas: He’s the sheriff, a good man, low key, grounded. A conservative.

Ann Rivers: She’s a state senator. Tough but reasonable. A conservative.

Temple Lentz: Extremely bright, opinionated and will stick to her guns, but a good argument might sway her. A liberal.

Jim Mains: A community conquistador. Creates funny videos. Makes a living doing stuff. A reasonable approach to life. Can’t dance despite taking professional lessons. A liberal at heart.

Two conservatives, two liberals, two men, two women, two elected officials, two common folks like you and me. You see, I don’t believe this freeholder thing should be stacked with one side or the other. I don’t think they should think like me. I think this thing should be stacked with diversity and compromise. So let’s get it right.

Now, vote!

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