Cut this editor and he bleeds ink!
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The Spectator
A place for intelligent writers
A place for intelligent readers
founded 2004 by ron cruger
Bill Barth
†The fellow who runs this operation ó Ron Cruger, the Spectator himself ó apparently thinks I can write.
†††You, intrepid readers, will cast the deciding vote on that question.
†††Ron and I go back a long way, some 30 years, to be as exact as my mathematically-challenged brain can manage. He was in newspaper management at the time. His company dispatched him to the chilly gray skies over the industrial river town of Beloit, Wisconsin, where he was to run the paper I worked for as a young journalist with more energy and ambition than good sense.
†††Along the way we forged a productive relationship ó at least it seemed productive to me ó and eventually Ron promoted me to the managing editorís role in the newsroom. I had no idea what I was doing. So I settled on the logical strategy ó I faked it.
†††Apparently, I faked it fairly well because Iíve managed to stay employed all these years in the same newsroom. The title now is ďeditorĒ and the role has expanded, somewhat, but Iím still doing what I love ó telling stories and trying to make a difference, here and there, in the lives of people and the evolution of a community.
†††Thatís a tentative first step toward introducing myself to the readers of this online journal, which seems like a sensible thing to do in response to Ronís invitation to contribute. I always like to know a little something about the folks who create the words I read. In case you share the sentiment, here are the salient points:
†††ē Iím a Midwesterner, through and through, raised on a downstate Illinois farm. Yes, I had a horse. Yes, he and I chased cattle until we were both too tired to continue. Yes, the farm is still in the family and I visit whenever I can. Itís far from any city. The sky there is so black that all the stars rendered invisible by civilizationís omnipresent dome of light burn with breathtaking brilliance on cloudless nights.
†††ē My mom blames Clark Kent for me leaving the peaceful harmony of rural life on the farm. Really, though, itís her fault. After all, sheís the one who made the blue suit and red cape for a five-year-old.
†††ē I love America and Iíve seen an awful lot of it. I donít yearn to see Paris or Tokyo, but I canít get enough of this amazing land we are privileged to call home. Iíve driven the full length of the Alaska-Canada Highway; walked Bostonís Freedom Trail; gazed out at the Mississippi from the Arch; wept at the Alamo; felt small and insignificant along the Rockiesí Trail Ridge Road; marveled at the natural majesty of the Pacific Coast Highway; walked the rocky shores of Maine; explored ancient cliff dwellings in Arizona; strolled from monument to monument in Washington, and even had lunch in the Reagan White House. My soul craves deep roots and traditional American values. I found both along the Illinois-Wisconsin border, close enough to Chicago to embrace that cityís world-class culture (and get my Bears fix at Soldier Field), far enough away for a farm boy to avoid the crush and noise of the urban wilderness.
†††ē Iím a true believer in the indispensability of newspapers. Cut me and I bleed ink. I love the way it smells. The moist feel of the paper, fresh off the press, excites my spirit. The thunk-thunk-thunk of the cylinders turning as the paper winds through the machinery is sweet music to my ears. I have a speech I give the young journalists in my charge. I must have repeated it a thousand times. Part of it goes like this: ďDo you know how lucky you are? Do you realize you have what millions and millions of people, all over this planet, would die to have? You have a voice! You get to make a difference. Every day, you need to ask yourself, what am I going to do with this gift?Ē
†††A little hokey? Maybe. So what? We need more true believers these days. Too many people plod along, shifting with the prevailing winds, unsure who they are and what they stand for. What a waste.
†††As for me, I intend to use my voice, which is why I appreciate Ronís invitation. Iíll be a newspaperman until (1) Iím dead; (2) my bosses boot me out; or (3) the last thunk-thunk-thunk fades from the final pressroom. But writing is writing, and this will be fun, too.
†††I hope youíll join me, now and then. Even better, I hope you will be moved to send in your own comments and thoughts. The American experiment is not a spectator sport, you know, despite the name of this website.
wrbarth@gmail.com
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