BE MY GUEST, A CONSTANT DURING MY TEACHING GIG

(I decided to share an excerpt from my teaching memoir, “Confessions of a Professor,” after discovering the photo below while discarding stuff stored for decades in the garage.)

He was about 5-foot-6,  wore a visor and several shirts. Papers jutted from pockets on the outer shirt, and a tie hung loosely around his neck.

He approached the front counter of “The Missoulian,” a daily newspaper in Missoula, Montana, where I was sprouting my wings PRINCE ALBERTas an assistant journalism professor. The visitor reminded me of men I had worked with while piling brush and fighting forest fires a decade earlier in northwestern Montana. Several of my co-workers there shared stories about their wanderlust lives and how they would “dry out” while working summers for the Forest Service.

The visitor addressed the receptionist and with a spiel that any salesperson would admire ended by asking for a $5 handout. The request was rejected. As the visitor turned to leave, I excused myself from the editor I was visiting and headed for the door.

“What are you doing this afternoon?” I asked the man as we stepped into the street.

“Nothin’,” he replied.

“Would you like to earn $10?”

“Yeah, I would.”

So, I invited Chuck to be a guest in a newspaper editing class that I was teaching on the University of Montana campus. I’ll never know why I made such spur-of-the-moment decisions in creating a Continue reading BE MY GUEST, A CONSTANT DURING MY TEACHING GIG

FACEBOOK EXPERIENCE LIKE GARAGE-SALE SHOPPING

I liken my six-month Facebook experience to a trek through a never-ending garage sale.

Even though much of the stuff is second-hand, I consider the daily shopping tour worthwhile.

For example, Facebook keeps track and alerts me when my “friends” searchcelebrate a birthday. Unfortunately, my secret will be splashed across hundreds of screens when April rolls around. That is, unless my mug shot and vitals first appear in the obituary section of a newspaper.

The greatest Facebook blessings are photos of family members that show up there regularly, especially those taken of my great-grandchildren by their tech-savvy parents. (I worry, however, that someone will see photos of those beautiful kids and kidnap them.)

The second greatest blessing has been discovering many of my former students, most of whom are retired and are visiting exotic Continue reading FACEBOOK EXPERIENCE LIKE GARAGE-SALE SHOPPING

THE 26TH MOVE OFFERED HIGH-RISE VIEW OF CITY

My wife of 64 years and I prepared to sell our house and to move into a high-rise apartment near the University of Oregon campus where I once taught.

The two-bedroom apartment would be large enough to accommodate our needs as we neared our 87th birthdays. The Patterson Towerapartment complex is a few steps from a city bus line that travels near a pharmacy and grocery store a few blocks away.

The move would be our 26th, but it would differ from those we made while criss-crossing the country attending schools, serving in the military, providing for a growing family and pursuing career objectives.

We have lived in this three-bedroom, two-bath house built in 1940 for nearly four decades. Three of our four kids left the nest here and returned for short stays. Built a deck adjacent to the garage and an 8-foot-high arbor for some of the most delicious Concord grapes ever. Surrounded the yard with a wood fence. Planted trees, shrubs, flowers and a garden. Constructed a smaller deck for two lawn chairs under the grape arbor where we can read, drink a cup of coffee and contemplate the meaning of life.

So, why would we consider leaving this place where we can park a car in a garage, set automatic sprinklers to water the lawn during the Continue reading THE 26TH MOVE OFFERED HIGH-RISE VIEW OF CITY

DECISIONS MORE DIFFICULT AS YOU SHUFFLE ALONG

I recently met a retired journalist I hadn’t seen for awhile outside a building supply store. He had purchased an item needed for home repair, and I needed some flashing to place alongside gutters on our house.

“We just closed on our house, and we’re moving to Hawaii,” my friend said matter-of-factly.

TROPICAL TREEWow, he and his wife were leaving Eugene, a place where they had worked and lived for years.

They had made a decision that my wife and I have been debating for a couple of years: What to do and where to live in our elder years.

I suspect that numerous other retirees wrestle with such decisions, especially when they are in the 80s.

Questions that immediately surface in such a discussion include:

Shall we remain in the house where we have lived for years, knowing that we can no longer physically climb ladders to empty gutters or to make other repairs associated with owning a home. How long can Continue reading DECISIONS MORE DIFFICULT AS YOU SHUFFLE ALONG

REPORTING BAD TIDINGS OFTEN IS WHAT WE DO

When I heard about the gunman who killed and injured students at Umpqua Community College on Thursday, I recalled another incident that occurred 56 years ago in Roseburg that claimed the lives of 14 people and injured countless more.

I received the telephone call at 2 a.m. on August 7, 1959, from a state police officer stationed in Eugene where I was the police/fire beat reporter for “The Eugene Register-Guard.”

“We’re ferrying blood to Roseburg,” he said. “I don’t know why, but you may want to check it out.”

Minutes later I was one of two reporters and a photographer who drove the 71 miles south to be greeted by mobs of people being e1219acfaded58ad454d0d678bb1dd39_f844herded back from the scene of an explosion by National Guard troops.

We learned that a truck loaded with two tons of dynamite and four and one-half tons of ammonium nitrate parked near a building supply company had caught fire and exploded.

The blast leveled eight city blocks and created a crater 53 feet in diameter and 12 feet deep. Three hundred businesses within a 30-block radius were damaged by what became known as “The Blast.”

As I thought about the two Roseburg tragedies, I marveled at how technology has changed the delivery of information and images to viewing and listening publics.

By mid-morning on that fateful day in 1959, I shared my notes with another “Register-Guard” reporter who volunteered to return to Eugene to write the story before the press started shortly after noon. We also needed to transport film taken by our photographer so that it could be developed and printed. He and I were to remain at “The Blast” scene to report follow-up stories.

The community college story was being reported immediately by students to texted and tweeted information to parents and to others. Photographs were transmitted instantaneously. The world knew about the incident minutes later.

Despite the rapid transmission of information and images, I knew the challenges faced this week in Roseburg by journalists who walked into the middle of heartbreak, fear, shock and sadness and talked with survivors and officials in an effort to tell the story.

The names of four reporters and two photographers appeared with stories and images that appeared in” The Register-Guard” the day after the community college incident. Related local stories were written by other reporters. An editorial also commented on the incident.

As journalists, we are often criticized for being the “bearers of bad tidings,” which reminds me of a 1987 conversation with a reporter who covered religion and social issues for “The Los Angeles Times.” I was teaching journalism at Biola University, a Christian college, where the reporter was a guest speaker.

“For God’s sake, what are you doing in the sordid business of journalism?” I asked the former pastor.

“I’m reporting what’s going on in God’s world,” was his immediate reply. “Haven’t you read the Bible?”

He’s correct, of course. As journalists, we are called to report what’s going on in this world, and it’s often bad tidings. As journalists, that’s our calling. That’s what we do.