Charles E. Richardson

Unplugging the keyboard at The Telegraph

“And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; It tolls for thee.”

John Donne

I always wondered, played with if you will, what I would write as my final column for this newspaper. What to say? How to begin?

I tried several different openings, but decided not to bury the lede. On one of my first training stints to the Miami headquarters of then owner of The Macon Telegraph, Knight-Ridder, the room full of editors were told, “We’re not family.”

The presenter, Marty Claus, a former editor in Detroit, who supervised several newspapers, went on to explain that people don’t trade one family for another the way employees might change jobs — and she said, “It’s up to you to manage your own careers.”

That was quarter century ago and I took those words to heart. Companies, big and small, have to make decisions based on what’s good for the company, not what’s good for the individuals. We are not family.

A lot has changed since I started writing here. Knight-Ridder is no more, bought out by McClatchy. The Telegraph building where I started my career with the company now sits dormant, but the ghosts of Ron Woodgeard, Ed Corson, Phil Dodson, R.L. Day, John Kreuger and Rick Thomas, are probably still running around inside debating the news of the day.

If you had told me then that our administrative offices would be located in a former bank downtown and our newsroom at Mercer, I would have laughed out loud — and I would have had plenty of company.

When I began, I was svelte and had hair. Now, I’m not so svelte and what hair remains is the same shade of gray as my MacBook Pro. I have never been one to resist change and heaven knows the newspaper industry has seen a lot of it. I’d have to take off my shoes to count the number of computer systems and page layout programs I’ve had to learn and use. No need to complain, you just get busy.

All and all, I’ve done pretty well in this business and I’m proud of what I have contributed, but, it’s time to unplug the keyboard, at least the one that’s plugged in at The Telegraph. The newspaper I will cease working for tomorrow is in the midst of a transformation and all I can say is go forward and succeed.

It has been a good ride. There will be some in the community who will say, “It’s about time the paper got rid of him.” To those folks I say, “Thank you.” Nothing good happens without detractors. If I didn’t stir some folks up, I wouldn’t have been doing my job. But even those detractors would have to say — maybe not admit — that whatever I wrote made them think — even if it ticked them off. I have always tried to be fair and factual in my essays and I’ll let history be the final judge. I’ve also tried to give voice to those without one. I don’t know how successful I’ve been, but I’m satisfied with my effort..

We live in a wonderful area full of caring people. Yes, we have a few kooks, too, but I’ve had the opportunity to share your stories and be edified by your wisdom and courage. I’ve tried to make some sense of it all in a very public way and spread that message, not only through this newspaper, but on radio and television. I’m a lucky man.

There’s no doom or gloom for me. The actuaries tell me I can expect, if I don’t get hit by a semi first, to live until I’m 112, so I’m going to be around a while. There are so many avenues to travel and so many people to see and write about. And, there are many folks I might be able to help in some small way. I don’t have a cabin in the countryside like Samuel Clemens, where he stole away to write under the pseudonym Mark Twain. I’ll be right here, because this is home.

Charles E. Richardson: @crichard1020.