Back in 1924, Stanley Walker of The New York Herald-Tribune wrote a short blurb on what makes a good journalist. Stuff you’d expect: He knows everything, he doesn’t need any sleep, he has charm, men admire him, women adore him and — oh yeah — he’s handsome.
But it was the last line that caught my attention:
“When he dies, a lot of people are sorry, and some of them remember him for several days.”
For several days? That’s it?
I suspect most of us want to believe we’ve left such a lasting impression that when we leave, a black hole will develop over our empty desk and nothing will survive.
So though I left the editor’s role a couple of weeks ago, reality — and history — tells me The Columbian will do great without me.
Life goes on.
And today, it’s more important than ever The Columbian and the mainstream media go on.
President Donald Trump’s continued attacks on the First Amendment cannot go unchallenged. His view that the press is “the enemy of the American people” is silly, of course, but if you tell a lie often enough, some of you out there will begin to believe it.
At a gathering a few weeks ago at The Columbian, I was asked what the answer was to Trump’s attacks on the media.
“Truth will win out,” I said.
So keep reading and supporting The Columbian. Truth and the mainstream media will — indeed — win out.
• • •
I thought about the line “some of them remember him for several days” because I’m thinking my several days are just about up.
Still, I’ll continue this column on the first Saturday of every month. That might buy me a few more days!
I’ll also remain a member of our editorial board, which is the institutional voice of The Columbian. I now have the title of editor emeritus, which is Latin for “old guy who can’t quite let go.”
Thanks for the kind words
Look, journalists don’t get into the newspaper business with a goal of making friends.
Eventually, we’re likely to strike a bad note with you, and you’re likely to not easily forget it.
So it was not only humbling but a little surprising when the nice notes started rolling in after The Columbian announced I was stepping down.
Sure, some of the usual suspects gleefully gloated about my departure. As it should be. I respect my critics as much as I respect those who say nice things about me.
So before my editor thing becomes really old news, I wanted to devote this column to sharing a few of those comments:
• “I have been around a while, and I have never seen a better example of how the voice of the people, that is the press, can effect positive change in government.
“Your work in exposing the cancer in the county commissioner’s office was unrelenting, brave and spectacularly effective.”
— From a judge in Clark County
• “You have taken the mission of good journalism fiercely seriously while making the news entertaining and fun.
“You have made me nervous. That is you doing your job. A good thing.
“You have made me think.
“I hope you will have a space in your life to mentor a next generation of truth-tellers. And, yes, you are sometimes annoying.”
— State Rep. Sharon Wylie, D-Vancouver
• “You’ve done your job with class, brilliant writing and humor.”
— Walt Boyd
• “I’m convinced our local government is a lot better off thanks to your efforts in print and to those who supported you and worked to make changes.”
— Douglas J. Munson
• “You’ve made every paper (and the cities they were in) better.”
— Keith Moyer, editor, the Las Vegas Review-Journal
• “You’ve done a wonderful job at so many newspapers, and the thing I really liked, appreciated and envied was that you had so much darn fun doing it. Lots of people learned a whole lot from you.”
— Dick Schneider, former editor, The Pensacola (Fla.) News-Journal
• “Thank you for all you have given to make this community a better place to work and live. While we may not have always agreed on every issue, you have always had my utmost respect and appreciation for the integrity you brought to your role at The Columbian and within our community. Thank you!”
— Paul Montague
• “Rock solid. I appreciate Lou’s commitment, dedication, compassion and love of community.”
— Larry J. Smith
• “Thank you for always backing up reporters in their pursuit of the truth!”
— Erin Middlewood
• “Ninety-nine percent of my subscription reasoning was your refreshing style.”
— Sam Atkinson
• “Congrats and thanks for a ‘must read’ every weekend! Will have to adjust to a monthly chuckle.”
— Peter Mayer
• “You’ve been the first thing we look for in the paper for a long time now. Thank you for doing such a great job of holding folks accountable and keeping us informed.”
— Judy Richards Chipman
• “Watch out Florida, Lou is on his way, the Bocce King.”
— Thom Rasmussen
• “I have always enjoyed your column. Your columns have always been well-written, extremely informative, humorous sometimes, and I have looked forward to reading it each week. You have touched many lives of people, some of whom you will never know. Your reporting has always been very meaningful to me, as well as to my 98-year-old father, who often greets me with ‘Did you read Lou’s column this morning?’ accompanied by a twinkle in his eye.”
— Helen Engel
Lou Brancaccio is The Columbian’s editor emeritus. His column appears the first Saturday of every month. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.