Editorials are not supposed to be personal.
They’re not supposed to be filled with the ruminations of the writer. That is journalistic territory reserved for columnists and column writing.
But here’s hoping you’ll forgive this lapse of newspaper decorum and allow an aging editor the chance to say goodbye.
This is the last editorial I will write as editor of The Record. It will not, however, be the last editorial I write.
It’s true that I will retire at the end of the year. But the leadership of the Archdiocese of Louisville has been gracious enough to create a new position for me — it’s called “editor emeritus.”
I think that simply means “old editor,” but be that as it may, it also means I’ll be writing 12 to 18 editorials a year and covering selected stories whenever the new staff of the paper needs a hand.
This retirement marks the end of what has been quite a journalistic ride. It began in 1964 when, right out of high school, I lucked into a position as an obituary writer for the local daily. (The joke goes that I wrote so many obituaries that I talked in the past tense for months after that two-year tour of duty.)
In the nearly five decades of newspaper work that followed, I never won a Pulitizer Prize — as did my father-in-law, the late John Ed Pearce — but all in all, it was an exciting and honorable way to spend half a century. Journalism done well has at its base a firm sense of integrity and I tried never to lose sight of that.
It should be noted here that writing about yourself is a dangerous thing to do; it’s akin to whittling dynamite.
It must be done with great care because it violates one of journalism’s long-standing maxims — never insert yourself into a story. The public doesn’t care how hard you have to work, how long it took or what difficulties had to be overcome to produce a story (much less a career). All they care about — and all they should care about — is the information you provide.
Today’s journalists violate that old rule regularly, but that is another tale for another day.
But just as it was decades ago, the role of journalism, whether it be produced by a daily newspaper of record or by a newspaper created for a community of faith, is to provide information that will, in the words of Franklin Roosevelt, “provide information that will allow people to make intelligent decisions about their own future.”
Our role at The Record is a tad different. We are charged with keeping the people of God informed about the work of the church, the efforts of the archdiocese and its people. That is both our mission and our ministry.
I’d like to think that in the past 15 years — my tenure at the paper — we’ve maintained the tradition of excellence created by those editors and staff members who placed words on these pages before we did. And
I’m convinced The Record will thrive under its new leadership.
Marnie McAllister will be the paper’s editor as of Jan. 1. She will, along with Jessica Able and new staff member Ruby Thomas, keep the paper performing its ministry and mission at an award-winning level.
In July of 1999, this journalist’s career with The Record began with a story about student volunteers helping the poor. In the hundreds of articles produced since then, the work of people helping those in need has been a recurring theme.
Back in that first year on the job, there was also a story produced about West Louisville, about that part of town which consistently gets the short end of both public awareness and public expenditures. That article said “those who live in West Louisville see life a bit differently, and believe they are sometimes treated a lot differently, than residents in the rest of the city.”
A member of St. Augustine Church lamented that there was “not a lot of hope in the West End today.”
That statement, unfortunately, is as valid now as it was in 1999.
But know this: The problems of poverty and inequity will continue to be covered by The Record with doggedness and determination. I’m certain of that, because those problems are addressed daily by the people and agencies of the archdiocese.
We should all be proud of the work of Catholic Charities, of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, of the Sister Visitor Center and the St. John Center for homeless men and the dozens of other groups and organization that exist for the benefit of others.
When I became editor of The Record, I promised myself and archdiocesan leadership that I would make certain that this arm of the archdiocese would continue to function as a real, honest-to-goodness newspaper. I vowed that I would not preside over its dissolution over time into something less — a newsletter perhaps, or a public relations vehicle.
With the help of The Record’s publisher, Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz, and the rest of the leadership of the archdiocese, I believe that promise has been kept and will continue to be.
Its leadership may change, but a real newspaper abides. I have no doubt that The Record’s mission and ministry will continue to be important and professionally fulfilled long after I’m gone.