Archive for Wednesday, February 20, 2008

And now, farewell

February 20, 2008

It's hard to say goodbye without slipping into cliches or, even worse, maudlin sentimentality.

To everything there is a season. Everything must come to an end. When one door closes, another opens. Life goes on. See what I mean?

Most people, if they're honest about it, probably feel some trepidation about retirement. It's something that, in one sense, we work for all our lives, and yet, when the time comes, it produces a certain amount of anxiety.

That's always the case with life's transitions - from childhood to adolesence, from that to adulthood, from bachelorhood to marriage, and so on. At each stage, we worry because regardless of how much we plan, we're not exactly certain just what's around that blind corner.

Retirement is, of course, a transition - from employment to non-employment, or leisure, or idleness, or some, any or all of those things put together.

The last week or so, I have on several occasions finished a task only to realize that this will be the last time my job requires me to do it. At each instance, I've mentally marked off another milestone on my way into the void.

For the last five years it's been my duty - and, usually, my pleasure - to edit The Chieftain. This job consists of hundreds (maybe thousands, even) of small tasks that, once all are performed in the right sequence, results in the production each Wednesday night of a new newspaper that is deposited in your mailbox the next day. It starts with assembling a team of skilled people to see various parts of the job through to its conclusion, then devolves into making assignments (or planning), then into execution of those plans, and finally the evaluation and polishing of all the pieces and then assembling them together into some sort of coherent, understandable whole. Then, once one week's is done we start the whole process over again.

Back in 2003, when I first took over as editor of The Chieftain, my first editorial borrowed from William Allen White's introduction when he took the reins of The Emporia Gazette in 1895.

"The new editor hopes to live here until he is the old editor," White wrote, "until some of the visions which rise before him as he dreams shall have come true."

In between, White informed his readers, he expected "to perform all the kind offices of the country editor in this community for a generation to come. It is likely that he will write the wedding notices of the boys and girls in the schools; that he will announce the birth of the children who will someday honor Emporia, and that he will say the final words over those of middle age who read these lines."

White, of course, had a little more time on task than has been allotted to me. He edited The Gazette until his death in 1944. I've only had five years, and so I haven't had the privilege of reporting on the transitions of generations - from school children to young marrieds to parents and finally into old age. Nevertheless, I think we've made a pretty good stab at it, and I have every confidence The Chieftain will continue to do so into the future.

I don't think there's any better job for a journalist than to be the editor of a community newspaper. At the community newspaper level is where you can see and even feel, week in and week out, the effects of your work on the newspaper, and that of the newspaper on the community. But now my part of this is at an end. I'll still be around, of course. I have plans to write a column, and a feature story or some other story every week or so. But now I must say adieu. It's been a privilege and a pleasure.

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