The Grateful Dead popularized the phrase, "What a long strange trip it's been."
In contrast, my own trip of writing this almost-weekly column hasn't been particularly long or strange, and that's just how I wanted it when I started penning Selma Stories in the spring of 2016. I wanted the columns to be short enough so people don't fall asleep reading. And I wanted it — most of the time — to be as comfortable as a 10-year-old sweater.
Selma Stories debuted on May 4, 2016. That first one was an introduction to the concept of a local column, which I believed we needed on the editorial pages of this newspaper. I was thankful when Enterprise Recorder Editor Joseph Luiz agreed.
I was not an unknown quantity. I had retired from daily journalism in 2009 after 40 years, including 27 at The Fresno Bee, and I had been the Enterprise Recorder sports writer for a year in 2011-12.
I have lived in Selma for more than 30 years. I am like most of you. I shop in local stores, attend church downtown, walk to Selma High for ball games and try to get away from the heat each summer. I have a modest single-family home and drive a couple of used cars.
Still, writing this column was an act of faith. I wasn't sure how I would like taking time from my retirement to write, and I wasn't sure how the readers would respond.
More importantly was the big question: What in the world would I write about?
Joseph and I agreed on one thing immediately: The story would be be Selma-centric. No rumination on affairs national or international.
After that, I simply wanted each week's column to be readable. I wanted people to react with a smile, a nod of the head, maybe a frown or grimace. I wanted the columns to be literate and, for God's sake, never boring.
I also have endeavored to vary my topics. I have written about local politics, sports and the arts. I have told stories of Selma people from school kids to retired folks. I have taken positions on issues, but never in a partisan manner. I have tried to treat every subject of my columns with respect.
I'll leave it to the readers whether I have achieved those goals in 47 columns since that start two springs ago.
I take my profession seriously. We are in a time when journalism itself is becoming a political issue. Where "journalist" is becoming a dirty word.
I'm not ashamed of that title, but I prefer to be called a storyteller, because that is what we all got into this business to do: Tell stories. The best editors I have worked for are the ones who advised us: "Just tell me a good story."
I plan to continue doing that. Like athletes or performers, the best results come from those who love what they do. That is what I always hope for, because if a column is fun for me to write, it might be fun for you to read.
I'll keep writing if you'll keep reading. Send me story ideas, and if you see me on the street, let me know what you think.
Oh, and while I have your attention, let me give a shout-out to the reporting staff at the Enterprise Recorder. Keep supporting this newspaper, and let us know what you like and don't. We need a responsible local newspaper to continue telling stories and to keep our elected officials in check.
Because, like Thomas Jefferson said, you don't really want (local) government without a newspaper.