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Give me a coffee and news on paper


I am a news junkie. Give me a cup of coffee and news to read on newsprint each morning and I am content. Turning in my press card after 49 years, 11 months and 15 days has left me rudderless.

I turned in my retirement notice last month, effective April 30, not realizing that a heart attack on April 27 would derail my plans for a last column in this space for two weeks.

Not a superstitious person by nature, I didn’t consider 2013 as a bad omen because 13 is frequently viewed by many as unlucky. However, so far this year I have been visited by bronchitis, pneumonia, cellulitis in both legs and the heart attack.

As a result, I have been administered enough antibiotics and heavy duty pain medicine to keep a drug addict content. It is amazing how much impact all of the pharmaceuticals can have on short-term memory.

Politicians count on our failing memories. However, many an ah-ha moment is followed by an uh-oh moment. Now and then, we find ourselves wondering how that person could have gotten elected, or, even more startling, how he or she could have gotten re-elected.

Here’s how some of them get elected and re-elected: Politicians depend on our lives being so busy that we can’t think straight.

The cardiologist who treated me following the heart attack inquired if I had job stress. Stress has been my middle name for almost 50 years. As a journalist I fought the urge to shout that some politicians are idiots.

Certain politicians probably think that their recent lousiness will slip our minds. They rely on worse times to remain in office.

This is probably a perfect time to admit some of those faux pas I committed over the years.

In the pre-Internet days, newspapers usually received columns by mail. One year shortly before Christmas the mail was running late and the horoscope columns for the coming week were missing.

I was asked to write the replacement horoscopes in my spare time. I faked it. No one ever raised a question that week about Venus and Mars not being in alignment with the moon.

I suggested the tall, dark handsome stranger a Sagittarius might encounter was not the one to take home and introduce to the parents. I wondered later if I had shot down a possible romance.

At another Arkansas newspaper, reporters were asked to write reviews on books sent by publishers for review and resulting free publicity. I drew a book on the Salem witchcraft trials.

My review was brief, suggesting the author be tied to a stake and copies of the book be piled around her body and set afire. It was an awful book.

The woman who edited the reviews and had assigned the book to me was aghast. If a review was negative, she explained, the publisher would no longer send the paper books the reviewers could keep.

The review was not printed. My comments to the book editor were not printable in a family newspaper.

Since I am no longer gainfully employed by a daily newspaper I can work on my Bucket List of things off limits when you are a reporter:

Erect a sign in my yard signaling support or opposition to a candidate or referendum issue; serve on a criminal court jury; and write a letter to the editor on any subject.

Now I can spend more time with my family, read more often and save to buy my wife a piano and piano lessons when she retires.

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Larry Fugate is a veteran journalist and former editor of The Pine Bluff Commercial. He can be reached by email at fugatel@sbcglobal.net or at (870) 329-7010.