Sunday, March 1, 2009

Calling it Quits

The National Weather Service has shaded Washington County purple to indicate a Winter Weather Advisory. A Nor'easter is pinwheeling up the coast as I write. It is perhaps this winter's last offensive.

But, despite the imminent arrival of still more snow, most of the white stuff has been chased to the colder corners of the fields by a sun that grows stronger every day.

Now is when we see the barren armature of winter's true nature. It is now that the dead, brown earth is laid out for everyone to see. A massive cull has taken place. Trees have lost limbs that now lie like bones on the ground. Here and there a tuft of fur remains of an owl or a fox's hurried meal.

This winter has also claimed the lives of two newspapers; our beloved Main Street and, of course, the much larger Rocky Mountain News.

Main Street was a valiant effort. A weekly with a decidedly leftist editorial slant, it attempted to give a voice to the liberal Washington County dwellers, many of them new arrivals. It was an experiment that lasted longer than many thought it would. At the end of the summer, the publisher of Main Street announced that the paper would no longer be free and that readers would have to shell out a whole dollar to read it.

Its readership disappeared.

There was also a fund-raiser art show held in an old post-and-beam barn to benefit Main Street. Crowds of people showed up to mill about and consume the free wine and local cheeses. I include myself in the this description and perhaps I was representative of the crowd when I say that really I was just a liberal tire-kicker when it came to the art on the walls. Perhaps we were tapped out from writing all those checks to the Obama campaign.

But the art didn't sell and the silent auction turned noisy as local public radio host Joe Donahue attempted to cajole a few more people to open their wallets and support the paper.

Had I realized that the ink was running out, I might have bought one of those watercolors but, then again, probably not.

And then there's The Rocky Mountain News.

My father, Blaine Littell, got his first job as a reporter at that paper and launched a career in journalism that lasted forty years. Part of me thinks that he continues to live as a cub reporter on yellowed newsprint in the morgue at The Rocky. And now that that paper has closed its doors, I feel a small aftershock of loss for him. I often wonder what he would say about the events of the past decade that I have lived without him. What would he have said about the Swiftboating of John Kerry, about the Iraq War, Dan Rather's fall from grace and the triumph of Barack Obama?

When I say goodbye to The Rocky, I say goodbye also to a small piece of Blaine.


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