Daily Archives: December 3, 2009

Editorial writers not missing everywhere

I spotted this blog entry by media critic Al Diamon on DownEast.com (“Maine editorial writers are an endangered species,” posted Wednesday afternoon) and found it interesting for a couple of reasons. I am a former opinion page editor and columnist who has written a fair share of editorials.

And today I am writing a cover letter and preparing a resume package to be emailed to a newspaper looking for an editorial columnist. I really hope I am considered for the job, because, as I wrote in a draft of the cover letter, “Being an editorial columnist – using varied journalistic skills, broad experiences, well-timed wit, and just plain common sense to inform, entertain, and provide context and perspective – may be the very best job in journalism.”

Newspapers are going through a hard and harsh time just now. And there are plenty of things besides personnel being cut, most notably the space made available for news, features, sports and Op-Ed pages. That is very much too bad for the local communities served by newspapers.

Op-Ed pages, as much as local coverage, help make a newspaper vital and relevant to the communities they serve. Op-Ed pages help define a community and help a community define itself. Those pages – through letters to the editor, guest commentary and other submitted copy – give a voice to a whole community. It is on those pages that you find true freedom of speech.

Being an opinion page editor was perhaps the best job I have ever had and I hope that some day I will again work on those pages at a newspaper somewhere. Perhaps I will be considered for some of the openings Mr. Diamon wrote about at newspapers throughout Maine. That is, when publishers for those publications realize just how important it is to have someone at the helm of those pages.

For those who believe in free speech, of expressing your opinions and allowing others to express theirs, saving newspaper Op-Ed pages is vital. And having someone to run those pages is critical to the success of those pages and readers’ ability to voice their opinions.

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Oh, to be a proprietor of a general store in God’s country

There were two general stores in my tiny hometown when I was growing up. My family usually went to Coffin’s General Store – there were gas pumps and the redemption center, and the post office was across the parking lot. You could drop off your empties, pick up the mail, and then find food, beverages, bait, boots, hardware and more.

And usually the latest gossip.

I can recall as a youngster – my chest barely reached the top of the counter at the time – when I tried to charge candy on my parents’ account there and being refused by Mr. Coffin. He did not think my parents would want me charging for a KitKat bar, and he was right. And later, while home from college, I was refused service when I tried to buy beer before noon on a Sunday. My buddies and I went back 30 minutes later – it was 12:10 p.m. by then – and purchased beer for a fishing outing.

Today, only Coffin’s General Store is around; the other store closed some time ago. The Coffin family sold it years ago and there have been several owners since those days when I tried to charge for a KitKat bar. It is up for sale again. Barbara (Cormier) Pitcarin, who baby-sitted me a time or two when I was a child, owns Aroostook Real Estate and its website indicates that the property just listed for $890,000.

Here’s a very brief description from the website:

“Come on in! Charming Country Store – Post Office and Redemption Center. This business provides conveniences to residents, vacationers and seasonal residents in the recreational town of Portage Lake. State licensed liquior store, full menu kitchen offering specialty pizza’s, salads, subs, burgers and FF. Lottery, Souvenior items along w/all convenience store amenities. Kayak & canoe rentals. 4 floors – upstairs is owners living space w/many upgrades, hdwd flrs. Bldgs have been recently painted inside and out. It’s all been done – just waiting for a new owner!!”

If I had the money and a business degree instead of one in journalism, I would be all over it. The property includes the store that is very centrally located with what I must assume are fairly spacious living quarters upstairs. It is on the main drag and across state Route 11 from Dean’s Motor Lodge and the road leading to Portage Lake. It has a view of the lake, for that matter. Someone with the energy, drive and resources could snatch this business up and have themselves in a pretty good position once the economy upticks in 2010. And it will uptick, it has to.

This would not be for someone looking to make a fortune. I doubt it could be had. But there is an opportunity for a good loving.

Listen, the population of the town seems to double in the summertime with visitors to cabins on the lake. In the fall, hunters need to be supplied and their game registered. In the winter, snowmobilers need gas and directions. Motorists need gas all year round and Route 11 is a main north-south road in that region so there is quite a bit of traffic for a very rural area. It might not be a BIG life, but it just might be the right life for the right person or couple.

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