FYI, today's column -- the long-promised one about Gresham Barrett (a perfectly pedestrian column that didn't deserve such a buildup, but at least it technically fulfills the promise) is to be found on my new blog, bradwarthen.com.
Also, I've posted a nice (I think) note I got from the governor, which I hope you will help me decipher...
There's not much there -- the new blog is just taking its first, teetering, baby steps -- but I urge you to go check out bradwarthen.com, and watch it grow.
I will no longer be doing THIS blog after Friday, so if you want to continue the conversation, you'll have to go there. Again, that address is:
And I promise, there will be much more to see there soon...
Robert Ariail delivered a lecture last Thursday night, as part of the prestigious Calhoun Lecture Series at the Strom Thurmond Institute at Clemson U. It was about the history of cartooning in general, and at The State in particular.
Today, he dropped by my office to share an anecdote that he told up in Clemson, one which seems particularly apropos to share today, the day the news came out that his career at The State is coming to an end.
It's about the only other cartoonist The State ever actually employed full-time, back in the days of the Gonzales brothers, and why it took 74 years for the paper to hire one after its first experience...
Don't know if you saw Cindi Scoppe's very touching column about me today. I pass on the link in case you missed it.
It means even more to me than you might think because, as she notes, she's not the sort to butter up the boss (certainly not one who's leaving), or anybody else. Cindi refers to herself as the "designated mean bitch" around here, which of course is entirely (or almost entirely) inaccurate. I prefer to think of her as tough-minded, which is what makes her one of the best in the business.
I'll tell you a little anecdote -- Cindi was the first person (and just about the only one) to welcome me my first day on the job here. As Gordon Hirsch (a frequent commenter here) informed me, I was regarded as the "Knight-Ridder spy" because I was the first editor to come from another KR paper. It didn't matter that I had left Wichita the way Lot left Sodom. It was a lousy working situation, and I never looked back. But many here were convinced I was the corporate guy, so I got a lot of suspicious looks. (When I explained to Gordon how ridiculous it was, he shook his head and said none of that mattered. Far as scuttlebutt was concerned, I was the spy, so I might as well get used to it.) But Cindi, all of 23 years old at the time, strides through that cloud of suspicion right up to me, sticks out her hand and makes it clear that she, for one, was glad to have me here.
So it's fitting that she should bid me a public farewell. She didn't care who knew she was glad to meet me, and isn't a bit shy to let folks know she's sorry to see me go. And I've appreciated it both times.
While I'm thanking people, I have to apologize because in all the craziness of last week, I never got around to thanking Bob McAlister for the kind words that he wrote on his blog, which we published as an online-only column (online-only because we had recently run a column of his in the paper, so he was under our "30-day" guideline).
Bob, as I recall, regarded me a good deal more warily than Cindi, upon first meeting me. He was the communications chief -- later chief of staff -- for Gov. Carroll Campbell. It was his duty to be suspicious. But over the years we've fought a few battles together and become good friends. Bob is one of many such friends who have reached out and offered to do whatever they can to help in recent days, and in his case has actually taken action to ease my transition to ... well, to whatever comes next.
Anyway, I wanted to be sure to thank both Cindi and Bob for thinking so kindly of me, from their differing perspectives.
So that you might be fully informed, I pass this on. Can you see me rolling my eyes from where you sit?
You saw the story about Obama's response to the original request, right? The administration told the gov that the stimulus is supposed to be used to save or create jobs. To which it might well have added, "Duh!" Marvelous restraint on the administration's part there.
Anyway, here's the latest letter:
Several of you asked whether my great friend Robert Ariail would be laid off. Well, today you got your answer. The delay because Robert was mulling an offer to stay on part-time, which he decided to decline.
Read Chuck Crumbo's story about Robert here. An excerpt:
Ariail, who joined The State in 1984, said he planned to continue his work through United Media syndicate, which serves more than 600 newspapers and magazines.
“I hope to find another job in editorial cartooning,” said Ariail, whose last day at The State is Thursday. “I’m 53. It’s difficult to remake myself, and I don’t want to.”
Among those laid off was Ariail’s boss for the past 15 years, vice president and editorial page editor Brad Warthen.
“Robert is probably one of the most talented people I’ve ever worked with,” Warthen said.
One of Ariail’s strengths is his ability to needle and criticize leaders of all political persuasions, he said.
“Even people who hate everything else on the editorial pages have to throw him bouquets,” Warthen wrote in a forward to cartoonist’s 2001 book “Ariail!!!,” a compilation of cartoons published in The State.
I'll post more about Robert later. I just wanted to go ahead and get this up, to give y'all a place to comment.
Yes, blog regulars, you did read much of this piece earlier in the week. But people who don't do blogs (a much larger number among newspaper readers) missed it, and there is some new material in it, at the beginning and the end. Not much, I'll admit, but some...
By BRAD WARTHEN
Editorial Page Editor
ONE OF THE tough things about getting laid off in a very public way is that you can’t get your work done — you can’t even walk down the street — for all the wonderful people who come up to you and say kind things. (Never mind the phone calls, e-mails and letters.)
Of course, it’s also the best thing about the experience, so don’t stop, folks. It doesn’t get old.
I’ve heard from everyone from Gov. Mark Sanford (yes, he was very kind and cordial, despite all those things I say about him) to old friends I worked with decades ago, far away from here. And I appreciated every one of them.
For those of you who missed it, I was in the news last week, along with a lot of my colleagues. To quote from thestate.com:
My last day is March 20.
For those of you who ask “why,” the answer is simple: The money’s just not there, and somebody had to go. I was one of the 38. You might say, to borrow a phrase from the Corleone family, this isn’t personal; it’s strictly business.
I’ve tried to keep readers on my blog in the loop about the profound changes going on in the newspaper industry, which have been accelerating. I’ve written about everything from the departures of longtime friends and colleagues who are not replaced, to the horrific news sweeping the industry more recently, with some newspapers going under.
This has not been a comfortable thing for me to do. For one thing, I always wonder how much my readers will care. Someone I respected in college — actually, he taught a course in editorial writing that I took — warned us that when one talks about one’s own industry, one runs the risk of boring one’s audience.
(So, what I try to explain when I do talk about it is that this is about you, too. Newspapers reflect their communities in more ways than simply publishing news and commentary. We also reflect our surroundings economically. Newspapers went into this recession in a weakened condition, and now we’re like the canary in the coal mine. If you’re hurting, we’re hurting. And vice versa, whether you realize it or not.)
For another reason, I recognize my own lack of detachment.
Finally, there is such a delicate balance to strike between telling all that I know or imagine I know, which is my instinct as a journalist, and respecting the confidentiality of things I know only because I’m an officer of this company — which gives me both an unfair advantage and a responsibility to those I work with. It can be awkward.
Anyway, in spite of that, I’ve tried to be frank about the situation whenever I’m asked — and on the blog, even when I’m not.
I leave here with a deep love for this newspaper, which I hope has been evident over the past couple of decades. It seems to have been evident to my boss — President and Publisher Henry Haitz — judging by the kind and gracious things he had to say about my service in his note on this page on Wednesday. (Sample: “He is a remarkable journalist and writer, with keen understanding of the issues most vital to our community and our state.”)
And I appreciate that.
What will I do next? I don’t know. I’ll be spreading my resume around, online and otherwise. In the meantime, give me a holler if you hear of a suitable position. One advantage I have over so many people who are looking for work now — more than 200,000 in South Carolina, I heard last week — is that a huge portion of the state has watched me on the job and formed a pretty detailed impression of my capabilities. (Of course, whether that works for me or against me depends on the individual reader.)
I can tell you this much — I have zero intention of “relocating,” to use an ugly word. When I came to the state of my birth in 1987 after years in this business in Tennessee and Kansas, I did so with the intention of staying for good. My days as a newspaper vagabond were over. Either things worked out at The State, or I would find some other line of work. And the thing is, things worked out very well.
The day I was interviewed here (for the job of governmental affairs editor), I told then-Executive Editor Tom McLean that my ultimate goal was to become editorial page editor. I believed that position offered the greatest opportunity to serve my state, which I believed needed its largest newspaper to have a strong, frank, lively editorial page. Thanks to Tom, I got my chance to do just that 10 years later, and I could not be more proud of the team I have had the privilege of working with, or the excellent job they have done — and that those who remain will continue to do, if I know them. (And I do.)
Obviously, this is a stressful time, but beneath it all is something that I don’t quite know how to describe, a sort of anticipation driven by curiosity. I wonder, with great interest, what will happen next. (That sounds either terribly trite or unintelligible; I can’t tell which, but I explained it as well as I could.)
So much for this subject today. This will not be my last column. For one thing, I promised you last week to write something about U.S. Rep. Gresham Barrett’s candidacy for governor. I was going to do that for today, but I got distracted again. I’m sure you’ll understand.
For now, please visit thestate.com/bradsblog/ for more about this subject and everything else. Watch there to learn about my future blogging plans.
Here I am standing at the bar in Yesterday's. So where are y'all?
This is not the usual crowd. Very young, very green, quite drunk, generally speaking. I'll need at least another pint before I can tolerate them. I think I'll have one of those Bud Lights in the special St. Paddy's green aluminum bottles. I don't like light beer, but one must bow to the conventions of the day.
Anyway, I'm not going to be here all night, so if y'all want to hoist one with me, you'd best shake a leg. Quick's the word and sharp's the action. Time and tide wait for no man, and so forth.
See, I'm just taking a beer break in the middle of cleaning out my office. I'll be doing it all weekend and much of the week -- 22 years of accumulation, or accretion, or whatever (I'm a notorious pack rat) makes a heap o' cleaning up. My task is like that of Hercules in the stables, or, if you're not into classical allusion, that of the noble wee machine, Wall-E.
Some silly bugger knocked his beer over so hard it splashed on my hair -- and worse, onto the Blackberry. Drunk as Davy's sow, he must have been.
Somebody passed the word for Duncan, and he came to join me. I broke the news to him about my leaving the paper. He was disappointed to learn it. Duncan's a great guy. While he was here, a young guy who knows my daughter stopped by to say he's a fan. Of course, he doesn't take the paper -- he reads my column at his parents' house on Sundays. Which is one of our problems.
I'm going to have a Yuengling before I go back to the office. Then I've got a lot of work to do. See ya.
I liked this analogy offered in a book review in The Wall Street Journal Thursday about why we so often call lotteries a "tax on stupidity:"