A week after I revealed that I would be taking early retirement at the end of the year, my heart is full and my head is still spinning.
The dozens — no, hundreds — of you who commented on or liked my blog post about “Life in the middle lane” overwhelmed me with your kind words and good wishes. I was truly touched.
After today, just four days of work remain until I walk out of the newsroom for the last time as an employee of The Oregonian/OregonLive.
I offer my thanks to each and every person who took note of my leaving. And I offer a special thanks to the following people, who each played an instrumental role in putting me on my career path or helping me along:
1 and 2. Catarino Rede and Theresa Flores. Neither of my parents had the opportunity to attend high school, but both made it possible for me to attend college and both encouraged me to pursue a career that required brains, not brawn.
3. Wanda Wilson. The high school teacher who picked me out of a first-year journalism class as a junior and steered me to my first job as a part-time sports writer. In my senior year, she entered me in a regional news-writing competition that resulted in my winning my first journalism scholarship — a tremendous boost of confidence for someone who was first in the family to attend college.
4. Roger Amaral. My first boss. Sports editor of the News-Register in Fremont, California. Roger hired me as a stringer after I passed a tryout — covering a night prep basketball game and writing a deadline story that would land on people’s porches the next morning.
5. Rich Gohlke. My second boss. When the News-Register folded (Fremont really wasn’t big enough to support two daily papers), Rich hired me at The Argus, also in Fremont, giving me a place to continue writing as well as a source of income that helped me pay my way through college.
6. Roger Budrow. Faculty adviser to the Spartan Daily, the student newspaper of San Jose State University. He had my back during my first two semesters on staff, as a reporter and managing editor, during my junior year.
7. Larry Snipes. After Budrow retired, Snipes stepped in as adviser. Following a summer internship as a copy editor at The Washington Post, I returned to the Spartan Daily as editor-in-chief, working closely with Larry, and vowing to focus on the newspaper and my studies during my senior year. But then…
8. Lori Rauh. A first-year Daily reporter from San Francisco with long brown hair and beautiful green eyes caught my attention. We went out for pizza on our first date Jan. 6, 1974, and we’ve been together ever since. Over the course of our marriage, now at 40 years and counting, she picked up and moved with me a half dozen times as I moved up the ladder.
George and Lori in 1974.
9. Bob Chandler. The late editor and publisher of The (Bend) Bulletin hired me for my first full-time job at a professional daily. Gruff but widely respected, he made a practice of hiring young, ambitious journalists who typically spent two years there in Central Oregon before moving on with his help to someplace bigger and better.
10. Steve Bagwell. When I left Bend for Salem, my goal was to cover state government and politics in Oregon’s capital city. I got that opportunity at the Statesman Journal and worked closely with Steve, who not only massaged my copy as government affairs editor but often gave me a ride home after last bus has left downtown Salem — at 6:30 p.m.
11. Graham Hovey. As program director of a mid-career sabbatical program based at the University of Michigan, Hovey had a role in selecting me as one of 12 U.S. journalists for a year-long opportunity of seminars and self-directed study. A retired editorial writer at The New York Times, he was genuinely welcoming to me and my young family, erudite, charmingly forgetful and unfailingly courteous. The sabbatical was a life-changing experience, during which I veered away from political coverage, embraced a broader approach to the news and traveled to Japan with other Michigan journalism fellows.
12. Bill Hilliard. A few months after I returned from Ann Arbor to Salem, this mild-mannered man who overcame discrimination early in his career and became the first African American editor at The Oregonian was the one who hired me at the newspaper. He personified dignity, perseverance and class.
13. Bob Caldwell. A Bob Chandler protege and a fellow alum of The Bulletin, Bob was the metro editor when I joined his crew of assistant city editors. He gave me wide latitude and let me learn from my mistakes as I moved from the night city desk to dayside to regional to Sunday editor. Nearly 20 years later, I would work with him again, he as editorial page editor and I as editor of the Sunday commentary and op-ed pages.
Stanford Chen, a friend, mentor and fellow diversity warrior.
14. Stanford Chen. Stan was someone everyone loved for his cheerful personality and commitment to newsroom diversity. Known for his Hawaiian print shirts and his dedication to young journalists, he invited me to join him as a fellow editor at an annual summer program for minority journalists on the University of California at Berkeley campus. Stan died in 1999 at the age of 51, but his legacy continues as namesake of an Asian American Journalists Association internship grant fund to support college students.
15. Dinah Eng. Through Stan, I met Dinah, who was then a Gannett News Service editor and columnist. Working alongside her at the Berkeley program and other student projects, she offered gentle encouragement and a gracious model of how to treat and lead others. Dinah was founding director of an executive leadership program established while she served as AAJA’s president.
16. Sandy Rowe. Succeeding Bill Hilliard upon his retirement, Sandy became the first woman editor of The Oregonian. She hired me as the paper’s first newsroom recruitment director and years later chose me to serve as the Sunday Opinion editor — the two best jobs in the newsroom, in my opinion. I got a great inside view of how this talented, smart woman thinks and a platform from which to help diversify the newsroom like never before.
17. Peter Bhatia. Sandy also appointed me to a committee to recommend whom she should hire as the No. 2 editor in the newsroom. That was Peter, who would serve in that role for many years before becoming editor himself. Working with Peter even more closely with Sandy, I marveled at his suite of skills, both journalistic and organizational, and the breadth of his professional networking. As a South Asian journalist, Peter’s commitment to diversity and industry connections were vital to our recruiting achievements.
Sandy Rowe and Peter Bhatia, named 2008 Editors of the Year by Editor & Publisher magazine.
18. Joe Grimm. The best recruiter of them all in my book. When I launched as The Oregonian’s recruiter, no one provided more counsel or made more personal introductions than Joe. I always thought I had an advantage wooing job and internship candidates because I could talk about quirky Portland and our innovative newsroom. Joe, on the other hand, had to lure people to Detroit, whose harsh winters and battered civic image made it an unappealing choice for many. Even after leaving the Free Press, Joe has maintained his fervent dedication to newsroom diversity.
19. Jill Geisler. Blessed with the opportunity to attend professional development seminars over the years, I met Jill on one of my visits to the Poynter Institute in South Florida. She is simply the best at teaching and modeling leadership. I got a chance to spend a chunk of time with her in Portland as well when we invited her out to help us with middle management training.
20. Cynthia Coleman. The communications professor at Portland State University who hired me to teach a couple of mini-courses on the blogosphere in the days before social media became a staple of modern life. More than anything, prepping for that course gave me a solid grounding in the subject and prodded me to launch my own blog nearly six years ago, way back in February 2010.
21. Bruce Hammond. My current editor. When I came back downtown a year ago to return to full-time reporting, it meant giving up the autonomy I’d always treasured as recruitment director, Sunday Opinion editor and suburban editorial writer. There could not have been a better match than with Bruce. A consummate professional, he is collaborative and positive, cool under pressure, and a gifted editor. If you read a story of mine that you liked this past year, you should know it most likely went through Bruce.
22. Lori Rede. Yes, her again. The fellow journalism major I was lucky to date and then marry 18 months later. My partner in life is not just the mother of our three adult children but the heart and soul of our family. Without her love, understanding and patience (yes, I know I’ve tested it way too many times), I could not have enjoyed this long, enjoyable run as a journalist. Frequent traveling during the years I was the newsroom recruiter meant she was often a solo parent when I was away from home.
Lori and George on Orcas Island in 2013.
Through all the newsroom changes and technological challenges of recent years, she has been supportive, curious and caring. Soon I will be in a position to begin a long period of payback, where I’m the one doing more household chores, spending more time with our pets, preparing more dinners during the week. it’s been a long time coming to ease the burden of my beautiful wife, who plans to continue serving a loyal base of clients as a personal trainer and independent business owner.
A sincere “thank you” to all on this list and an extra special one for Lori. Couldn’t have done it without any of you.
Photos: Asian American Journalists Association; The Oregonian