A farewell column: I’m not retiring, really; just graduating on to the next thing
“Lucky I’m sane after all I’ve been through
(Everybody say, ‘I’m cool,’ yeah ‘He’s cool’)
I can’t complain but sometimes I still do
Life’s been good to me so far.”
— Joe Walsh
So, I pulled that old Joe Walsh song out of the hat at my going-away karaoke bash at the Vaudeville Sunday night.
Hadn’t really planned it when I put together what I thought was a good set of farewell songs. In fact, it was Walsh’s “Rocky Mountain Way” that was originally on the list, but “Life’s Been Good” just seemed to fit.
I wouldn’t exactly say my life has paralleled that of the former James Gang frontman and latter-day Eagles member, but there are a few comparisons.
Just like Joe’s on-again, off-again relationship with the Eagles, I have written this somewhat inconsistent column called “In Defiance” during my recent years as on-again, off-again editor of the Post Independent.
The title of course harkens back to the original name given to the area when Fort Defiance was established near the confluence of what became known as the Colorado (Grand) and Roaring Fork rivers.
Not to mention that I can be a little defiant and nonconformist when it comes to politics and just about anything that I find to be too top-down corporate in its approach.
All in all, though, this 35-year journey as a community journalist bouncing back and forth between the old Glenwood Post, then over to my hometown Carbondale Valley Journal for a dozen years, and then back to the Glenwood Springs Post Independent these past 13, has in fact been pretty good to me … so far.
But there comes a time to take a step back and consider what could have been had I not stayed on that path.
In case you haven’t heard the news, I’m leaving the day-to-day doings of the Post Independent and plan to try my luck at working (or shall I say, selling myself) as a freelance journalist, along with a few other endeavors that might come as a surprise.
Let me be clear, this is not retirement, though that term has been lobbed my way a lot lately. “Wait, you’re too young to retire!” “What? You can’t retire, what will the paper do without you?”
No, this isn’t retirement, though I have to admit I do like the new buzz term, “rewirement.” I could use some re-wiring, for sure — just don’t feel like I’m generating the same charge I once did.
In the spirit of the season, let’s call it “graduation” instead.
Tami and I recently attended our only son Trevor’s graduation from Colorado State. I’ve joked with him only a few times that, once he lands that first job with his mechanical engineering degree, he’ll immediately be making twice as much as I ever did as a small-town journalist.
For me, though, it was never about the money. It was always about writing about the community or communities I chose to immerse myself in all those decades ago.
I’ll cherish those years always.
After all, I was there when an underground fire hammered the final nail in the coffin of the Mid-Continent coal mines, ending an era whose legacy still lives on today.
I was there when 14 brave wildland firefighters who weren’t even from here lost their lives battling that blaze on Storm King Mountain to try to save our town.
I was there when Carbondale folks rallied to kill a big box development, which seemed to be the right thing to do at the time.
My regular column in those days was called “For What It’s Worth,” in which I rarely held back. Yeah, it’s fair to say I let a few developers and other money grubbers have it.
I was unfortunately there when the recession hit in 2008 — brought on by those same money grubbers, by the way — and the difficult decision was made by distant, unattached corporate interests to shut down the cherished Valley Journal newspaper.
I survived, kept on by the daily down the road in Glenwood that was owned by the same company. And here I’ve been ever since, seemingly writing about the same things I’ve been writing about for 30-plus years and editing the work of a revolving door of young reporters who hopefully can keep the passion for meaningful local journalism alive, wherever they may land.
Because that’s really what it’s about, is a passion for sharing useful information about the workings of our local government institutions and telling the stories of our community’s interesting people.
When I committed to this profession as a college student, instead of one of the more-typical minors for journalism students, like English, poli-sci or public relations, I chose sociology.
Why? Because I love the study of people and how we interact to function as a society and work to solve problems — though there doesn’t seem to be enough of the latter, lately.
That’s what I don’t want to give up. The issues and problems are too big and are having too great an impact on our ability to function as a society to go unsolved.
I just feel it’s time to turn the tassel on one way of doing what I love and toward another way.
There was another song I didn’t get to at that Sunday karaoke. It was actually Tami’s and my wedding song, but it kind of speaks to my commencement, too.
“Clouds so swift and rain fallin’ in
Gonna see a movie called Gunga Din
Pack up your money, pull up your tent, McGuinn
You ain’t goin’ nowhere …”
— Bob Dylan
Enough about that easy chair, already.
A note from all of us at the Post Independent: In true journalist fashion, John demurred when we talked about doing a feature about him and his years of reporting and editing the stories of our communities. We’ll let him have most of the last words with this column, but wanted to say we feel truly blessed to have had his expertise, insight and passion for people reflected in the pages of our paper for as long as we have. We hope to run his byline again soon.
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