Le Templar: I’ve been thinking a lot about my first professional editor over the past week as I prepare to break away from a career of nearly two decades and embark on a new adventure. I have left the Tribune, my professional home since 1999, and a place that feasted on the glorious energy of chasing the news to get it first and get it right.
“I became a journalist to come as close as possible to
the heart of the world.”
Henry Luce founder of Time-Life Inc.
My first professional editor was Patrick Webb. He could be prickly with reporters when they didn’t respect his time and with readers when they failed to acknowledge the value of his work.
Patrick had a pocketful of bons mots to illustrate both points. Almost every day just before 6 p.m., he’d pass through the newsroom looking for reporters still clacking at their keyboards so he could prod them along with, “Time to get that story in. Deadlines are breadlines, you know.”
He’d explain to someone at the front door why he couldn’t just give away a copy of the newspaper instead of demanding 50 cents, “Ford sells cars and we sell newspapers. You don’t expect Ford to give you a car, do you?”
For good or ill, it was the tutelage of Patrick Webb that cemented my feet to the path of newspaper writing in the early 1990s. Short and whip smart, the Englishman had been trained in the British tradition of journeymen journalists.
So Patrick viewed news writing more as a craft than a profession, with the right skills learned best through daily practice and with careful coaching from an older and wiser hand.
I’ve been thinking a lot about Patrick over the past week as I prepare to break away from a career of nearly two decades and embark on a new adventure. I have left the Tribune, my professional home since 1999, and a place that feasted on the glorious energy of chasing the news to get it first and get it right.
Loyal Tribune readers know of the newspaper’s challenges over the past year — the switch in January 2009 from a metro daily to a community paper with a smaller staff, company bankruptcy in September, the Nov. 2 announcement of a pending closure followed a couple of weeks later by a proposed sale that has yet to be completed.
Today, I have a great deal of hope for the Tribune’s future. But I won’t be there in the Mesa newsroom to see what happens next. I am taking advantage of a rare opportunity to join the staff of the Goldwater Institute, a public policy institution (what reporters used to call a political think tank) that shares the vision and values that the Tribune’s editorial pages have pursued with vigor for so long.
My departure will result in some temporary changes for the opinion pages, as the newspaper seeks the most efficient ways to manage manpower and other resources until the sale is finished and the new owner can set the course. These changes will focus on keeping the opinion pages as a lively forum for debate about issues vital to readers throughout the East Valley.
Starting Wednesday, the Tribune will suspend the “Our View” editorials and move to providing two opinion columns in the print edition from outside contributors.
Many of those writers will be familiar to you: Austin Hill (whose weekly column will move from Sundays to Wednesdays starting Feb. 3), Bill Richardson, former state Sen. Tom Patterson and Linda Turley-Hansen. Former Tribune Executive Editor Jim Ripley will continue to comment on topics such as economic development and community involvement.
Also expect to continue seeing other East Valley voices including elected leaders and everyday readers. The Tribune also asks you to keep sharing your thoughts through letters to the editor and the eternally popular Vent column. Even more commentaries will be posted throughout the week online.
The world of journalism has been fabulous to me. I have sat face to face with governors, federal lawmakers and presidential candidates. I have walked through classrooms and sugar-beet fields. I have told the stories of abused children, of pioneer poetry clubs and of police officers who protect us on the darkest nights.
And journalism brought me here to serve you, the people of the East Valley. You can be critical. You can be cantankerous. You can be dismissive and uninformed. But you also can surprise with your insight. You can take breaths away with your generosity. You can spellbind with your motivation to accomplish great things.
It’s been a great honor for you to let me into your homes, or wherever you read these pages. Thank you, and may the winds of change always blow in the right direction for you.
Le Templar is the former opinion pages editor