Until we meet again

By Stephen Fay

This is goodbye.

After 23 years and 1,196 editions of The Ellsworth American, I am shrugging off the ermine robe to marinate in unstructured time, sloth and gratitude.

Gratitude for a long career. Starting out in 1974 as a bureau reporter in Western Massachusetts, I have had the privilege to wander, often blindly, through many eras of newspaper publishing starting shortly after Gutenberg. From hot lead to cold type, typesetters to Trash 80s, beats to tweets, flash bulbs to flash drives, Underwood typewriters to voice-recognition software, desktop ashtrays to desktop publishing.

I have countenanced each dazzling, digital advance and boldly declaimed: “That’ll never work.”

But they did work. Now I nod in agreeable incomprehension as my mates discuss Snapchat, interactive websites, Android apps, search engine optimization, blogging, vlogging and podcasts. Inside, I long for an actual (not a virtual) hard-cover book with pages, a comfortable chair and a view.

To readers of The American, I offer the assurance that the paper has never been in better hands. My successor, Cyndi Wood, is smart, young and local. Technologywise, she gets it. And, in the best tradition of journalism, her allegiance is to the reader and the public interest. Over the years, she’s written some of our best news stories. We all have come to rely on her. As E.B. White wrote of another talented individual, “She is in a class by herself. It is not often that someone comes along who is a true friend and a good writer.”

I am grateful to our former publisher Alan Baker, a rock-ribbed Republican from Orrington, for hiring a love beads leftie from Berkeley. What was he thinking? E’en so, I learned more from Alan than anyone I’ve ever worked with. And the lessons weren’t limited to newspapering.

I’m grateful to General Manager Terry Carlisle, who has been my best friend for the duration. And to so many others — reporters, editors, interns, sales reps, page builders, pressmen, mailroom workers, drivers, cleaning crews, columnists and all of you fine, loyal readers, I’ll sum it up with three words. I love you.

One more thing. I have been a newspaperman for 45 years. I also have been married for 45 years. Trust me when I tell you that the two conditions have zero in common. They do not harmonize. They are, in fact, natural enemies. I won’t go into it. Thank goodness my wife had her own career in journalism. But it took effort and patience and a steadfast nature to abide this newsboy. Thank you, Martha.

OK, I’m leaving. But now I’m sniffling and dabbing at my eyes. I can’t find the words, so I will borrow a few from Winnie the Pooh: “How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.”

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