The retreat begins with a fond farewell, and thank you
She was Leslie Linthicum, the vaunted writer of the Albuquerque Journal. I then worked for the smaller, rambling Albuquerque Tribune.
She was one of the brightest stars in the Journal of the state’s largest newspaper. But I was the only reporter Terry Clark, on death row for the notorious 1986 rape and murder of 9-year-old Dena Lynn Gore, ever communicated with. I got the story that no one else had.
While we waited, Leslie asked me if I had ever considered jumping ship and coming to work for the Journal.
No way, I said.
I’m not the kind of journalist the Journal likes, I tell him. I have another way of writing. I follow stories, not straight news, not short and concise.
“You’d be surprised what the Journal would let you do,” she said.
Turns out she was right.
The Journal hired me after the Tribune ceased publication in early 2008. In August, I was named one of four UpFront columnists, which, of course, included Leslie. One of our columns appeared on the front page every day, the unconventional idea of then-editor Kent Walz.
Almost 14 years later, I am the last of the top four. And, now, I’ve reached my last column. After nearly 40 years in the world of the press, I am retiring.
It was not an easy decision. Writing UpFront is the best job in the newsroom and it came with the best readers.
But it’s time for me to see what life is like beyond deadlines and signatures, and other people’s stories.
Besides, I don’t look much like my chronicle cliché, my hair now graying, the wrinkles set in.
I leave with gratitude for the editors of my Journal for allowing me to write in my “different” way, and for taking the heat when that difference was not appreciated by readers.
I leave you grateful for inviting me into your homes and hearts to share the stories of your lives, death, kindness, challenges and accomplishments. You are examples of how shared pain is lessened, but shared joy is increased.
I leave honored to have borne witness to the memory of those souls carried away too soon by the evil whims of monsters. Dena Lynn. Linda Lee. Chew Girly. Kaitlyn. Stephane. Sergio. Tara. Terri. Married. Victoria. Kevin, Matthew and Luis. Ben, Garrett, David, Richard and Michael. Women on the mesa. All of your lives mattered and will never be forgotten.
I leave inspired by your valiant battles won and lost through disease, suicide, addiction, mental illness, car accidents and calamities.
I leave you in debt to you, brave people who lost loved ones, but who continued to breathe, to be buoys of resilience and grace in the dark maelstrom of despair.
When the tables were turned and I was the one drowning in grief over the death of my son in 2017, you were among the first to offer your support. You have become my teachers on how to get through the worst anxiety imaginable.
Years ago, a colleague of mine considered me the mistress of the dark, and that made me think that maybe I should move my spine more towards the light. This, many of you told me, was especially welcome when the front page was filled with so much political rancor, bloodshed and COVID-19.
What I’ve learned, what I hope we’ve all learned, is that no matter how bad things get, there’s always good.
For years, the byline on my Journal emails has included my mantra: be safe. Be brave. Do good.
A few years ago, I added two more intentions: Vaccinate. Vote.
If you allow me, allow me to add a few more:
To be informed. Start by reading the newspapers, not just the Journal. A variety of credible sources of information. Understand that credible journalists are not the enemies of the people. This is not fake news. They are not vultures. Credible journalists are members of your community. They are the bulldogs of democracy. They only bite the bad guys.
To be open. I have always viewed this column as a catalyst for dialogue, not as a monologue asking how you should think. I fear that society has become so compartmentalized and needy that such dialogues are harder to have. Let us try to agree without resorting to ad hominem attacks.
Be kind. Start by seeing the good and understanding the bad in everyone. Start with a smile.
As for me, there’s an Adirondack chair and a pint of lager on my back patio waiting for me. There is a stack of books waiting to be read. A big-headed dog named Chako waiting to snuggle up at my feet. Maybe there are finally a few lunch dates, a yoga mat finally to get back on, some charities and causes to consider.
I will always be on social media and maybe in a post or two. I am convinced that there are more stories to tell than anyone else has, and I will tell them anyway, in my own different way.
For now, farewell. And thank you.
Join retired Joline at [email protected] or on Facebook and Twitter.