The problem with retiring from the opinion-writing dodge is that it will make some people happy and some people sad. And they are both the wrong people.
That is, the people who liked reading your work, agree with it or not, will be disappointed. And the people who always thought you were a jerk will be celebrating. Not a pleasant way to go out.
So, I guess I won’t retire. At least, not completely.
Today is my last day as The Salt Lake Tribune’s Opinion editor. That means the full-time gig that involves receiving, selecting, editing and fact-checking of commentary submissions and letters to The Public Forum will end for me.
But I have accepted the newspaper’s very flattering offer to, after a month off, write The Tribune’s weekly editorials. And, probably, a column, from time to time.
My move is the kind of thing that allows an organization a chance to look at doing things in a new and better way without stepping on anyone’s toes. So, instead of just hiring another me, The Tribune will add a new position called the Voices editor.
Sara Weber will take on those duties in June. It will be her job to not only receive and edit the many commentary offerings we are proud to receive each week, but also to engage in more outreach. She will be looking for people across the demographic and geographic spectrums who might not have thought of themselves as pundits, but who have experiences, thoughts and insights to share in traditional or innovative ways. If only someone would ask.
So she will be asking.
Sara was an engagement manager for The Tribune from 2017 to 2020, then pulled some communications duty with the governor’s office and the Huntsman Mental Health Institute. And the fact that I’m not altogether sure what an “engagement manager” is is one big reason why I’m choosing to move on and she’s being welcomed back.
I’ve always thought The Tribune attracted contributions from many real people, not just professional journalists or political activists. People who realized that our Opinion section was a good way for them to express themselves to the community.
That’s partly because they see the pieces we run and think, “Hey, I could do that.” And it’s partly because Utah has a reputation as such a conservative, Republican place that those who feel they don’t fit in are attracted to our pages’ openness and inclusivity. Even our old, white guys are liberal.
But there is always room for more, including some of those conservative Republicans who might not have realized that we want to hear from them, too.
My story at The Salt Lake Tribune started in 2002, when the paper came under new management and wanted some new voices on the Opinion page. I came from Kansas, where I was a mediocre reporter who had evolved into a somewhat accomplished editorial writer and columnist.
I managed to hang on here through several rounds of downsizing, in large part because some of my wonderful colleagues retired at strategic moments, allowing me to be something other than redundant. The Opinion editor title came in 2017, and I’ve been extremely fortunate to interact, if only via email, with many creative and expressive people.
But 45 years is a long time to do anything. I’m ready for a change and, as I’ve noted here before, it seems wise to start drawing my Social Security and establish my claim to it before Mike Lee and company cut it off to any new recipients.
I am told that a change in status such as I am choosing is coming to be known not as a retirement but a “rewirement.” I like that.
For many years, it was a tradition among old newspaper cusses to type “-30-” at the end of each article to signal to their editors it was the end of the piece. That no more pages would be coming and it could all be shipped off to the typesetters. From that evolved a tradition, when those same old birds retired, they would end their farewell commentary with the same mark: -30-
For now, at least, I can’t really say I’m at the end. So, I guess, in the spirit of all this innovation, I should close with: