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How does one compress almost 44 years into about 725 words or so, for my final editorial? Let’s see. “Two score and four years ago . . .” No, that’s taken. Maybe there’s a book waiting. No, wait. My former managing editor Gary MacDougall already hogged that idea.
The time has come to say goodbye to a newspaper career that started at The Guardian on St. Patrick’s Day, March 17, 1975 . . . while wrapping up the journalism course at Holland College. To say things have changed a great deal over those years would be the understatement of this brief century. In 1975, we still had a press running in the building, hot lead was used to create lines of type, typewriters were at every desk in a populous newsroom and smokers had heaping ashtrays at their work stations.
If you can remember those faraway days of hot lead, it’s time to retire and move aside, just like those ashtrays and typewriters.
Rapidly evolving technology has revolutionized newsrooms and newspapers. Getting a story and photo from interview onto the press that might involve 10-12 people, now involves 2-3. Editors, reporters, photographers, paginators, pressmen etc. became casualties.
The basic requirement for any journalist in those early days was, ‘say it right and say it tight.’ It was pretty basic stuff; type up a story and put it on the hook. Now, that same reporter must tweet from the meeting, Facebook the highlights, write a quick story for the website, a complete one for the paper, take a photo, shoot video, download it, slug them and then present the finished product to impatient editors waiting to slot it for earlier and earlier deadlines. Whew!
When Roseanne Macdonald retired in mid-2013, after 22 years or so as editorial page editor, I hesitated over the offer to move from news editor into her position. Having three very politically-active brothers made the decision somewhat dicey because you knew any story or comment would come under close scrutiny. Be fair, and damn the torpedoes.
I take some pride in not having a sick day in over 28 years -- ever since 1990 reconstructive knee surgery. Perhaps my lucky fortune comes from growing up on a busy farm in Morell or that good, clean Kings County air.
Retirement came suddenly. The opportunity presented itself this week and it was over. For that, I appreciate the efforts of our regional president David MacKenzie and managing editor Wayne Thibodeau. My departure will cause scheduling problems for Wayne and news editor Jocelyne Lloyd, and I don’t envy them the added challenges they face in this constantly evolving newsroom.
I’m still trying to absorb it all, but the 5:27 a.m. week-day alarm will be shut off. Meeting deadlines for editorials, letters, opinions and pages ended Thursday. Living with daily, and increasingly tighter deadlines is over.
It was always a rush breaking a story to beat the competition or writing a hard-hitting editorial. Taking the opinions of our editorial board and melding them into a hopefully-coherent article was a daily challenge. And if an editorial made Islanders think, discuss, argue, or just say that McGuire is nuts, then the result is satisfying. Public discourse is the bedrock of our democracy.
My newspaper career came with daily surprises and challenges over many locations. There were stops in news bureaus in Montague and Summerside; 12 years as sports editor; editor positions in Truro and Sydney; and various editorial jobs in Charlottetown. There was rarely a dull moment. I met a lot of people and made many friends along the way. Thanks to everyone for your help.
Islanders need dependable news organizations to combat political spin, fake news and uncensored social media. The Guardian remains a bastion you can depend on. It’s in good hands. Will newspapers survive. I’m sure they will. Change is the only constant but truth is paramount.
It was satisfying helping a young journalist get into the business and assisting them with their careers: Mike Gauthier, Teresa Wright and Mitch MacDonald in Charlottetown; Arash Madani, Brad Works, Joey Smith and Jason Malloy in Truro; Philip Croucher and Laura Jean Grant in Cape Breton come to mind. But there are many others, some young and others more grizzled like yours truly. Many, often earned nicknames along the way . . . Stay in touch.
And where there were only 95 rounds of golf played in 2018, that threshold should fall in 2019. Easily. Maybe I’ll grow a beard. I already forgot to shave this morning. Oops.
Hopefully, new opportunities and challenges await. See you on the golf course, or until then, at the curling rink.
Bill McGuire retired Thursday, Jan. 10 as editorial/opinion page editor after almost 44 years in the journalism industry.