Good memories and the last calls
If I had to venture a guess, I would suppose that I’ve written more columns for this newspaper than just about anyone else. A dubious distinction to be sure, like Crash Davis’ minor league home run record in “Bull Durham.”
About six years ago, as a sophomore in college, I e-mailed editor Jeff Smith to inquire about the possibility of writing for the Traveler. Now, a third-year law student is ready to graduate and is finally ready to say goodbye.
I can’t do that, though, without sharing a few memories and thanking everyone whom I’ve had the pleasure of working with at this fine publication. In the interest of brevity, unfortunately, I cannot thank every one of you by name, but there are some who especially deserve a few words.
Jeff Smith gave me a chance to get started here. At the time, I thought he was doing me quite a favor. I later came to understand that he thought I was doing him a favor as well. I hope we were both right, but I am sure that I was. Jeff was the first real newspaper person I met. Writing, editing, thinking – Jeff was impressive. He had opinions at editorial board meetings, but was always fair to those of us who didn’t agree. Thanks, Jeff, for giving me a chance.
Denise Malan came to me at the end of my first year on the Traveler staff and asked if I’d be her opinion editor. I imagine this was not as important to her as it was influential to me as I considered the offer, a bit shocked that it was out there. Denise trusted me to steer the page that published the opinions of the paper.
She wanted me, a person she disagreed with about almost every issue we ever wrote about, to take the lead in expressing the thoughts of our newspaper. Aside from that, the gig paid pretty well, so I accepted. Working in the office that year and the next was a time that I enjoyed, and I will always look back on it fondly. Thank you, Denise, for trusting me.
Scott Shackleford was my colleague and is still my friend. As a fellow editorial writer and columnist, Scott was the writer I wished I could be. He has an unparalleled ability to evoke emotion, make subtle suggestions and let his readers know what he thinks without having to spell it out.
Scott was also my favorite person to argue with in our editorial board meetings. He demonstrated those qualities in argument that I value and envy – a strong opinion and coherent, considered reasons for that opinion. Scott and I found ourselves on the opposite side of many issues. Heck, we even created the Traveler point-counterpoint because of our frequent and vocal disagreements.
At the same time, I remember sitting down in the office to write a last-minute editorial, me at the keys and Scott over my shoulder. I’d type, and he’d let me know how to make it better. I always thought we were quite a team. Thanks, Scott, for making me want to be better.
There are so many others – Matt Weaver, Ben Beaumont, Alan Mosely, Chris Peterson, Leslie Yingling, Dusty Higgins, Kristin Netterstrom, Zac Hagins. I know I’m leaving people out, but there have been so many great people, all of them journalists while I was a mere writer.
This job is the best job a person like me can have, though. I had a weekly opportunity to think about an issue and tell a large audience what I thought. A few people even read it. I wrote about Sept. 11, the environment, health care, taxes, presidential elections, birthday parties, road trips, football, baseball and basketball coaches – the list goes on.
I bashed Republicans, Democrats, conservatives, liberals, John Kerry and George Bush. I applauded Republicans, Democrats, conservatives, liberals, Dick Gephardt and George Bush.
I advocated combining Montana and Vermont. I warned everyone about runaway gorillas. I recapped the most unfortunate night of my life. I mourned the loss of our soldiers. I remembered a fellow student who passed away before his time.
My first column ran shortly after Sept. 11, 2001. The importance of the time I’ve spent writing for this newspaper is a humbling one, a frightening one, and a hopeful one. We still live in a world where terrorism is a threat. Recent events have reminded us all that there are other threats as well. Threats of despair, hopelessness and fear right here in the richest country on the planet.
Thank you to everyone who works so hard at the Traveler. It’s hard to find a more idealistic, passionate group than those who decide to use their time to get the news out. Everyone who has a hand in it deserves to be proud. I am. Thanks also to Jose Lopez and Jeff Winkler for giving me one last go-round in this my final year on the Hill.
And so, one last time…
This Week’s GOOD CALL: Survivors of the Oklahoma City bombing reached out to the victims of the recent tragedy in Blacksburg, Va. Last Thursday, on the anniversary of the 1995 bombing, survivors gathered at the memorial where the Murrah Federal Building once stood.
This Week’s BAD CALL: The Virginia Tech shooter was able to purchase his semi-automatic weapons despite blocks in place that should have prevented the purchase. The gunman, who had been hospitalized for mental instability, should never have been able to legally buy the guns he used in his deadly rampage. Instead of proposing new gun laws, let’s work on enforcing the ones we already have.
Reed Luthanen is graduating this semester with a juris doctorate from the UA law school.