The digital age has affected the newspaper business as much as any industry, and a lot more than most.
During my 14 years as a columnist and correspondent for the Globe Gazette, my photos have always been digital, my stories composed at a keyboard, and the results submitted via email.
I’ve only been to the Globe offices a handful of times, and there are folks I work with on a fairly regular basis whom I’ve never met face-to-face.
An exception to these Internet-only connections is John Skipper, who recently stepped down from full-time reporting after a 50-year career in journalism, the past 23 spent at the Globe.
Skipper has been dubbed Mason City’s Walter Cronkite (yes, I’m old enough to understand the reference) for his commitment to fair-minded and ethical journalism.
On the side, he managed to write 16 books covering baseball, politics and the life of North Iowa notable Meredith Willson.
As if that wasn’t enough, Skipper also taught writing classes for a number of years and held an annual weekend writer’s workshop.
Early in my writing “career,” I attended a number of those workshops, the primary way through which I came to know John.
Those events featured lectures in which John shared stories and insights from his own writing experience, guest lectures by other writers, and directed writing exercises for participants.
Attendees ranged from youngsters considering a journalism career to young middle-aged semi-pros like myself to 90-somethings who aspired only to leave behind memoirs for their great-grandchildren.
Some were highly skilled, some not so much. John always found something to like in everyone’s submissions while offering guidance and constructive criticism in the gentlest possible way.
Had he not been too busy being such a fine writer, John would have made a pretty good teacher.
In class or out, anytime I’ve met John or seen him meet others, he’s always been friendly and approachable. He seems to genuinely like people until given a compelling reason not to, and most folks respond in kind.
Above all, John always came across as being quite pleased and content with his work and his life without ever seeming boastful.
He was obviously proud of his journalism, his books, his family, and North Iowa in general, yet made this known in a matter-of-fact style that betrayed not a hint of arrogance.
Mixed in were liberal doses of self-depreciating humor to drive home the point that he didn’t take himself more seriously than was becoming.
There are many ways to measure achievement, but to my mind the ultimate success is to be happy and comfortable in where you live, what you do and whom you’re with.
So while there are better-known and no doubt richer authors and journalists than John Skipper, there aren’t many who are any more successful.
Perhaps this is starting to sound a bit like an obituary, so I’ll remind folks John is still alive and well with plans to contribute to the Globe regularly, most likely much more regularly than I have been of late.
Congratulations, Silly Me, on your well-deserved semi-retirement. See ya in the funny papers!
* * *
Speaking of not contributing so much of late…
My legions of fans (or at least my editor and my mother) have likely noticed my regular flow of conservation/recreation stories has dwindled to a trickle over the past few months.
Blame (or thank) the regional labor shortage.
We once again find ourselves understaffed at the Humane Society of North Iowa, where I currently hold a 40-50-plus hour/week “part-time” job.
As a small nonprofit, HSNI can’t compete with the wages offered by many area commercial employers.
Yet the “benefits” of being loved by animals in need can’t be matched anywhere.
If you have a heart for critters, a reasonably able body and any free time, please consider working or volunteering to help displaced pets awaiting their forever homes.