Retirement begins with a fond farewell, and thanks - Albuquerque Journal

Retirement begins with a fond farewell, and thanks

We sat across the press room from each other in November 2001, two newspaper reporters among a throng of media waiting to cover the last state-sanctioned execution in New Mexico.

She was Leslie Linthicum, the vaunted writer from the Albuquerque Journal. I worked then for the smaller, scrappy Albuquerque Tribune.

She was one of the Journal’s brightest stars from the biggest paper in the state. But I was the only reporter Terry Clark, condemned to death for the notorious 1986 rape and murder of 9-year-old Dena Lynn Gore, had ever communicated with. I got the story no one else had.

As we waited, Leslie asked me whether I had ever considered jumping ship and coming to work for the Journal.

No way, I said.

I’m not the kind of reporter the Journal likes, I told her. I have a different way of writing. I’m stories, not straight news, not short and concise.

“You’d be surprised at what the Journal will let you do,” she said.

Turns out, she was right.

The Journal hired me after the Tribune ceased publication in early 2008. That August, I was named one of four UpFront columnists, which, of course, included Leslie. One of our columns ran each day on the front page, the unconventional idea of then-editor Kent Walz.

Nearly 14 years later, I am the last of the original four. And, now, I have reached my last column. After nearly 40 years in the newspaper business, I am retiring.

It has not been an easy decision. Writing UpFront is the best job in the newsroom and it came with the best readers.

But it’s time for me to see what life is like beyond deadlines and bylines, and other people’s stories.

Besides, I don’t much look like my column mug shot any more, the hair now gray, the wrinkles set.

I leave with gratitude for my Journal editors who allowed me to write in my “different” way, and for taking the heat when that difference was not appreciated by readers.

I leave grateful to you who invited me into your homes and your hearts to share the stories of your lives, of death, kindness, challenges and accomplishments. You are the examples of how shared pain is lessened, but shared joy is increased.

I leave honored to have borne witness to the memories of those souls taken too soon by the evil whims of monsters. Dena Lynn. Linda Lee. Girly Chew. Kaitlyn. Stephane. Sergio. Tara. Terry. Mary. Victoria. Kevin, Matthew and Luis. Ben, Garret, David, Richard and Michael. The women on the mesa. All your lives mattered and will never be forgotten.

I leave inspired by your valiant battles won and lost through disease, suicide, substance abuse, mental illness, car crashes and calamity.

I leave indebted to you courageous people who lost loved ones, but kept on breathing, kept on being buoys of resilience and grace in the dark maelstrom of despair.

When the tables were turned and I was the one drowning in pain over the death of my son in 2017, you were among the first to offer your support. You became my teachers on how to get through the worst imaginable anguish.

Years ago, one of my colleagues deemed me the Mistress of Gloom, and that got me thinking that maybe I should move my column more toward the light. That, many of you told me, was especially welcome when the front page was filled with so much political rancor, bloodshed and COVID-19.

What I learned, what I hope we all learned, is that, no matter how bad things get, there is always good.

For years, the signature on my Journal emails has included my mantra: Be safe. Be brave. Do good.

A couple of years ago, I added two more intentions: Vaccinate. Vote.

If you will indulge me, let me add a few more:

Be informed. Start with reading newspapers, and not just the Journal. A variety of credible news sources. Understand that credible reporters are not enemies of the people. They are not fake news. They are not vultures. Credible reporters are members of your community. They are the bulldogs of democracy. They only bite the bad guys.

Be open. I’ve always viewed this column as a catalyst for dialog, not as a monologue demanding how you should think. I worry that society has become so siloed and stodgy that such dialogs are harder to have. Let us strive to hear each other out without resorting to ad hominem attacks.

Be kind. Start by seeing the good and understanding the bad in everybody. Start with a smile.

As for me, there’s an Adirondack chair and a pint of pale ale on my back deck waiting for me. There’s a stack of books waiting to be read. A big-headed dog named Chako waiting to curl up at my feet. Maybe there’s a few lunch dates finally to be had, a yoga mat finally to return to, a few charities and causes to be considered.

I’ll still be around on social media and, perhaps, in a publication or two. I’m convinced there are more stories to get that no one else has, and I will still tell them, in my different way.

For now, farewell. And thank you.


Reach retired Joline at jolinegkg@gmail.com or on Facebook and Twitter.

 

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