A longtime colleague and friend has called it a career in print journalism and to be brutally honest, his announcement fills me with happiness for what awaits him but sadness over a revelation contained in his announcement.
Tom Taschinger served as editorial page editor of the Beaumont Enterprise from February 1995 until just the other day. That’s nearly 28 years in the saddle; his career spanned 40 years all told. Taschinger and I didn’t work together in Beaumont; he succeeded me after I departed the Gulf Coast in January 1995 for the Texas Panhandle. We knew each other well, though, as he served as editorial editor of the neighboring Port Arthur News during my time in Beaumont.
I wish him all the very best as he enters an exciting new phase of his life.
But he declared that he would be the “last full-time editorial page editor” of the Beaumont Enterprise. Thus, I feel a tinge of sadness.
You see, when I arrived in Beaumont in the spring of 1984, the then-executive editor, the late Ben Hansen, informed me that I would be sitting “in the catbird seat” writing editorials in a “great news town.” He was so right. Those were the days when communities, such as those served by the newspaper, depended on the opinion pages for leadership, for a touch of guidance … if only to remind readers that they should take the “opposite approach” to whatever solutions the paper sought to offer.
We offered those opinions. We sought to guide the community. We sought to provide a forum for debate and discussion. Now, to hear that my old buddy is leaving a post that will be filled with part-time help leaves me with a sense that he and I are part of a sub-species of journalist that has entered the “endangered” list of professions.
I left Beaumont for Amarillo and worked at my craft for nearly 18 more years. The newspaper where I served as opinion editor until August 2012 no longer publishes a daily opinion page. It has no opinion editor. I don’t even know who writes editorials for that once-vibrant newspaper.
I know it’s a sign of a changing media era. The Internet has consumed much of what Tom Taschinger and I used to pursue with great joy.
I am left, therefore, to shrug and wish my old pal safe travels as he continues his journey toward parts unknown.