I used to say that I was in a declining industry, but fortunately, I was declining faster than it is. I haven’t been so sure about that in recent years. Every day we publish is a great day.
But it’s turned out to be true. I’m retiring; this is my last column. The cancer I’ve been battling for a couple of years seems to be flaring up again. I need to devote more attention to it, and to Pam, who got me through the really hard times. (That sounds a bit too melodramatic. I’m in much better shape than when I was first diagnosed. Odds are I’ll live long enough to die of something else.)
I’ll miss the Post-Gazette. There are some wonderful people here. Too many for me to acknowledge them all in just 660 words.
If you read my column, and Tony Norman’s, you might think we don’t agree on anything. You’d be right. But we’re still friends.
I’ll miss Brian O’Neill, whom I sat next to in the newsroom. Brian is as nice a guy as you would imagine from reading his columns. He conducts the most polite phone interviews I’ve ever heard — even with people he’s about to nail. The only times I’ve ever heard Brian cuss are when his computer malfunctions — which seems to happen at about the same time almost every day. (Mine too.)
I want to thank editorial page editor John Allison and op-ed editor Greg Victor, who edited my columns before John did. They made them better. They’re great editors, even better people.
Mike Fuoco, president of our Newspaper Guild local, is everything you’d want a union leader to be. He always has time to answer your questions (even if they’re stupid). He fights hard for all of his members, especially at contract time. But Mike understands the economics of our industry. He doesn’t regard management as The Enemy.
Speaking of management, I have great respect and fondness for executive editor David Shribman, who was a superb reporter before becoming a first-rate editor, under trying circumstances. It’s fun to be in charge when times are flush, harder when budgets are tight. I’ll miss David, and Linda Parker, whose job title as administrative assistant to the editors obscures her role as the backbone of the operation.
I owe an enormous debt of gratitude to publisher and editor-in-chief John Robinson Block, who brought me to Pittsburgh from Toledo, and sent me to cover some great stories. Among them were the Quebec referendum on independence in 1995; the handover of the Panama Canal; two Canadian national elections, and the creation (out of the eastern half of the Northwest Territories) of Nunavut, the first native-governed (Inuit) province in North America.
Among the things I learned on my visit to Iqaluit, capital of Nunavut, was that this little town of about 5,000 had a major heroin problem. Nunavut is the size of Western Europe but has only about 20 miles of paved road, half of them in Iqaluit (formerly Frobisher Bay).
You can’t drive there. The seaport is ice-free for maybe three, four months a year. Iqaluit is 500 miles north of the nearest tree. You wouldn’t want to walk. There were only two flights a day into Iqaluit, one from Ottawa, the other from Yellowknife. Opium poppies don’t grow up by the Arctic Circle. How was the heroin getting in? How did it get past the Royal Canadian Mounted Police detachment at the airport? Maybe the Mounties don’t always get their man.
In case you were wondering, the Inuit are what some people call Eskimos. They shouldn’t. “Eskimo” is a derogatory Cree Indian term for the Inuit, which the Inuit regard as comparable to the N-word.
So, John, thanks again for your support over the years, and for giving me the opportunity to have some truly memorable experiences.
Last, and most important, I want to thank my readers — even those of you who only read my column to work up a lather of indignation. Happy New Year to you all. Godspeed.
Jack Kelly has been a Post-Gazette columnist since 1998.
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