So Long But Not Goodbye
By Jean Godden
On April 9, Seattle Times columnist Jerry Large wrote a final opinion column and said goodbye to readers after a 36-year career at the newspaper we hacks called "Fairview Fanny." (Full disclosure: Large is a friend, former colleague and someone whom I greatly admire).
At the Times, they sent Large into retirement with "well dones" and even a few tears. Co-workers called him "the conscience of the newsroom." He is a thoughtful man who wrote perceptively about social issues and daily life in this city. His final column was a joy to read, partly because it explained what it means to accept an assignment to write about tough issues, to help people navigate areas of conflict.
I read him faithfully during the 25 years when he has wore a columnist's stripes (earlier he served the paper as a photographer, reporter and copy editor). I have valued many of his quiet conclusions and have torn out columns to reread. When I served this city as an elected councilmember, I sometimes cribbed his reasoning when reacting to societal issues.
I had my favorite columns. A decade ago, he viewed Seattle on the anniversary of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s assassination. He wrote, "Seattle is still haunted by inequality as it connotes the anniversary. As in the rest of our country, improvements and setbacks and unfinished work define the struggle. We have not crested the mountaintop but neither are we done marching toward a better society."
He once worried in print that "Seattle is getting too big, too fast and losing itself." But he also remembered returning from a vacation in California where he encountered waiters who insisted that diners join in singing "That's Amore." He concluded: "Not a Seattle moment." Then he added, "We got back home in time for Bumbershoot, which is a very Seattle event. Right on cue, rain ushered in and renewed a sense of Seattle as our kind of place."
Losing a well-loved columnist from the city's only home-owned print daily is a sadness, particularly at a time when the media is under attack. News operations are stretched thin. They've lost advertising to on-line enterprises. They've been acquired by out-of-town owners interested only in the bottom line. Worse still, some have become parrots of far-right rhetoric. Many are becoming leaner, losing local perspective and, in some cases, forfeiting credibility.
Even outlets like listener-supported media, the KUOWs of this world, are giving us room for concern. Most recently, the Seattle NPR station followed its spring fund drive by firing seven staffers. I hope it is not a coincidence that those let go were among those who led a successful campaign to unionize the station's staff. At the very least, questions should be answered.
Meanwhile, it is doubly important to treasure and support those resources we do have. There still are outlets, print and online, that deliver news we can depend on. I am honored to write for this publication, Westside Seattle, which offers local news from the perspective of Seattle neighborhoods. I can recommend others such as ethnic publications like Northwest Asian News and reader-supported Crosscut, an on-line resource linked with KCTS-TV. (Confession: I've written for both of them.)
Jerry Large, writing in his last column for the Seattle Times, lamented that "traditional media companies are starved for revenue and are being bought up by companies that don't have good journalism as their paramount goal." Looking ahead, he said he is going to explore life outside the newsroom but added we may again hear from him: "if the urge to share what I've learned gets too strong to resist."
I urge my friend Jerry to do just that. He has barely reached rocking-chair status at 64. His is a maturity of vision that bespeaks wisdom. His voice has long been treasured and we need to hear it repeatedly, slaking our need for dependable news and well-thought-out commentary, our two most valued democratic assets.