- BY ROGER RUTHHART is retired editor of The Dispatch-Argus-QC Online.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
It’s all about the people. It’s what I miss most about retirement.
I started in the newspaper business 50 years ago as a senior in high school covering sports for my hometown weekly paper.
I met incredible people who were sources for my stories. I was privileged to work with some amazingly talented journalists. I worked for newspapers which were committed to making communication with readers and advertisers a priority.
Early on I was a reporter in the Chicago suburbs, then became a political writer and managing editor of a group of papers that twice won the award as the best weekly newspaper in Illinois.
I went to Streator as editor and had a former mayor tried on racketeering charges and pushed a change in the city’s corrupt form of local government — all while enjoying a daily market penetration over 100 percent.
Then 31 years ago, I came to the Quad-Cities where I have been until my recent retirement. I embraced being editor of The Argus, later adding The Dispatch.
Amazing Staff Members
Staff members have done a wonderful job. They won more than 500 state, regional and national awards while the papers remained deeply connected to the communities they serve. I have also met many talented journalists through the Illinois Associated Press Media Editors, Northern Illinois Newspaper Association and Illinois Press Association.
Many who came through our newsroom have gone on to careers at major metropolitan newspapers at places including Chicago, New York, Dallas, Charlotte, Orlando, south Florida, Cleveland, Indianapolis, Milwaukee, Tennessee and Oregon. Others have thrived at smaller markets in between.
Two former interns, Deborah Nelson at the Seattle Times and Jon Kim at the Chicago Sun-Times, won Pulitzer Prizes. Former intern Christine Romans is chief business correspondent and anchor for CNN.
We made our newsroom more diverse, although I wish we had done more. We also had two foreign journalists on staff — Eric Timmons from Ireland and Nicholas Thompson from Ghana.
Many former staff members have successful careers in marketing, public relations, law, and education. I am equally proud of the work they did and the careers they have built.
Staff contributions didn’t stop in the newsroom. Each time I entered our building in Moline, I did so through the back alley door to remind myself that what we do each day in news doesn’t matter if the paper doesn’t have ads and isn’t printed, inserted and delivered on time.
Part of a Community
I have been blessed and have learned much from the people I have worked with. I have met brilliant and committed public officials and other sources that have enriched my life and those of our readers. I am a founding member of the Rock Island Arts & Entertainment District and have worked with many dedicated citizens on ad hoc committees and task forces.
The readers who have written, called or stopped by, remind me why we do this challenging, stressful, deadline work. I always appreciated talking with you.
A newspaper needs to understand and reflect its readers. Those who have taken the reins remain committed to that.
I’ve also enjoyed the opportunity to address important issues on the editorial page. I believe our editorial voice has been second to none.
It’s impossible to thank all who helped make my career such a joy. I never had a day when I woke up in the morning and dreaded going to work.
Each day was truly a new adventure.
I would like to ask two final favors. First, always remember that newspapers are written and edited by human beings. Despite the best efforts of reporters, photographers, editors and sources, we sometimes make mistakes. But we are quick to correct them.
Secondly, keep reading and advertising in newspapers whether in print, online or through social media and support those brick and mortar advertisers who support us.
Now more than ever we need the well-researched, edited and thoughtful reporting that professional journalists provide.