Editor’s note: Jim Butler, once editor, most recently staff writer, at the Beauregard Daily News and Leesville Daily Leader, has been a priceless asset for these papers, contributing strong, ethical reporting for the local community. Jim represents the utmost in responsible news gathering, with verve for capturing the most important local news and passion for reporting it in an accessible and diligent manner. Jim will be missed greatly but is leaving a vast legacy in his wake, having impacted countless readers, and leading by example for this particular editor to learn from. Jim has retired three times, always returning, because “the ink gets in your veins.” Farewell, and well wishes in retirement to an understated icon in our community.
Fifty years of newspapering includes a lot of words.
These are the last ones and frankly are more personal privilege than public interest.
A newspaper career that began midway through one century and ends almost two decades into another spans a range of events almost too broad to summarize.
That likely would be the case of any 50-year period one might settle on, but 1967-2017 happens to be the one of concern here.
What began with typewriter ends with computer.
Trips to the newsroom library/morgue are long gone. Research begins and ends with Google.
Scanning sheets and sheets of negative contact proofs in the photo lab to find a particular image has given way to digital archival searches, with almost instant response.
Story leads now are just as likely to be found on Facebook or Twitter as at the corner coffee shop or neighborhood tavern.
Once written, the stories are as likely to be read on a newspaper’s web site as they are in its printed product, assuming it still has a printed version.
Looking back, would newspapers have been as effective at covering these topics had they been electronic, not printed?
Civil Rights. MLK. Vietnam. LBJ. Memphis. RFK. Chicago. Nixon. Watergate. Ford. Carter. Iran-Contra. Reagan. Shuttle. Desert Storm. Bush. Clinton. Bush. 9/11. Desert Shield. Enduring Freedom. Katrina. Obama. And now Trump.
McKeithen. Edwin Edwards. Treen. Roemer. Foster. Blanco. Jindal. And now John Bel Edwards.
Don’t know the answer, and only time will tell about the stories that are to come.
I’ll follow whatever the coverage might be - printed or digital - as a reader, not as a reporter or an editor.
The notebook, eyeshade and editing pen are being set aside today and replaced with golf clubs, fishing rod and travel itineraries.
Merry Christmas, and thanks for having me in your homes all these years.
Staff reporter Jim Butler has been a reporter and/or editor at several Louisiana and Mississippi newspapers. He shared a Pulitzer Prize for public service journalism for coverage in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.