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Postman on Politics

Chief political reporter David Postman explores state, regional and national politics.

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July 9, 2008 10:48 AM

Another political scribe leaves the biz

Posted by David Postman

The Columbian’s Gregg Herrington has taken early retirement from the paper. He sent an e-mail to friends and colleagues this morning explaining why he was leaving after almost 33 years as the political brain of southwest Washington.

The paper had a mild round of layoffs in late winter, but now more serious cutbacks are upon us, in both personnel and the number of pages and sections in the newspaper itself. My own area, the "Opinion' pages, will drop from two pages a day to one, beginning Wednesday, July 9. The number of staff-written editorials (I have been one of two editorial writers) is dropping from two a day to one. The handwriting was on the wall for me, so I accepted an "early retirement incentive" that was offered to the most senior employees. I will work through mid-August. Others are being laid off this week. Naturally I am sad about leaving The Columbian under these circumstances. It certainly isn't the way I figured I'd depart. Moreover, I'm sad for The Columbian and newspapers in general and for the country, whose citizens are increasingly content to get their information from openly biased sources in talk radio, cable TV, narrowly focused Internet pages and blogs -- or from nowhere at all.

Herrington is looking for his next job. I know how hard it is for a veteran journalist to leave the trade. As an acquaintance told me, “Journalists always think that’s who they are, but it’s just what they do.”

Enough veteran political reporters have left their jobs recently that it qualifies as a trend. The AP’s Dave Ammons went to work for Secretary of State Sam Reed; KING 5’s Robert Mak to Mayor Greg Nickels’ staff; The Herald’s longtime Everett political reporter Jim Haley retired; the P-I”s Neil Modie retired earlier this year and The Stranger's Josh Feit gave up his job to do something new.

I read about Herrington long before I ever met him. He makes a cameo in The Boys on the Bus, the best campaign trail book ever written. That made Herrington a bit of a celebrity in my eyes when I was told he was the same Gregg as the "young AP backup man" mentioned by Timothy Crouse. (The book is largely responsible for me getting into this business, but I don't blame Crouse, or Herrington for that.)

Herrington told his friends today:

I eagerly await the Second Coming of American newsrooms such as The Columbian's where dedicated and professional news reporters and editors trying their damnedest to present the news straight transition increasingly to the Web.

Hey Gregg, let me know when you see that coming.

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Posted by Jim Guthrie

11:41 AM, Jul 09, 2008

Moreover, I'm sad for The Columbian and newspapers in general and for the country, whose citizens are increasingly content to get their information from openly biased sources in talk radio, cable TV, narrowly focused Internet pages and blogs -- or from nowhere at all.

Well, I would much, much rather get my information from 'openly biased sources' than from a self-proclaimed 'objective' source that is anything but.

Not talking about Harrington specifically - though his bitterness is telling - but there's a reason the print media is falling on hard times. And it can't be blamed solely on the Internet taking more market share.

Posted by MichaelA

11:58 AM, Jul 09, 2008

Thanks, David.

We Columbian folks, not to mention thousands of Clark County political geeks, will miss Gregg deeply, too.

Gregg, you make a good newspaperman and you've made good newspapermen and women. Few of us will work at newspapers for much longer, but we'll always be newspapermen and women, some from your training, some from your example and some just from your inspiration.

Posted by hinton

4:03 PM, Jul 09, 2008

Gregg's openly leftist mantra is legendary. That he actually seems to perceive himself as lacking that far left tilt means he's long past his expiration date.

I wish I could say I will miss him. But frankly, the bizarre positions of this newspaper, including their lying about polling on issues such as the unwanted and unneeded multi-billion dollar bridge replacement boondoggle are made even more bizarre by a leftist claiming to be unbiased.

Gregg, you've done far more damage then good. Don't let the door hit you on the way out.

Posted by Terrence Butler

5:38 PM, Jul 09, 2008

Gregg Herrington has more integrity by himself than several newspapers. His stellar career as a reporter, editor and, finally, editorial writer and columnist (those latter two categories are the ones in which people express opinions, Jim and Hinton. Just for your information.) speaks for itself.
We'll miss Gregg, and the better era of newspapers in general, and The Columbian in particular, he represents.

Posted by stilwell

10:49 PM, Jul 09, 2008

Gregg Herrington is a true professional. His reporting was always balanced, in the traditional sense, not the Fox Noise-Hinton sense. For anyone to describe Herrington's editorials as leftist is ridiculous.

The Columbian seems at some risk of a downward spiral here. There are some fine individuals who work there, but the editorial stance has been needlessly and relentlessly pro-Republican, to the exclusion of virtually any progressive viewpoints. I won't subscribe again until they manage to include at least one semi-progressive voice in their editorial rotation.

Here we have a community of over 400,000 people about to be served by a newspaper with an absurdly small staff and shrinking news space. Since Portland media generally doesn't cover Clark County very well, the information vacuum will only get worse.

It would be a bold move if The Columbian would hire about ten or twenty reporters to actually cover Clark County more, but it seems like they are headed in the other direction.

Get ready for a Don Brunell column every day I guess.

Posted by JimD

8:38 AM, Jul 10, 2008

I stopped In Weed, California for lunch yesterday.
I bought two newspapers from the nearby gas station to read while eating - as is my habit.
The cashier said, "Oh my, you want TWO...I can't read newspapers anymore...too depressing."
I joked that the newsstand price keeps going up while the news just gets worse.
She taped the Sacramento Bee with her finger and said, "This one's the worst...the fires, the election, the war...ohhh!....I just can't read it anymore."
Her demeanor changed as the lovingly stroked the Mount Shasta Herald.
"I still read this one grandson plays football...he's in here sometimes...lots of good news...this is a good newspaper."
Another shopper piped-up from a nearby aisle.
"I like television's not as depressing..."
"Oh, yes, "relied the cashier. "Television is much better because they'll tell you something good, you know, before you get too depressed..."
"You need that or you can't watch the news..," answered the shopper.

Point is - aren't these two women typical of a growing trend to rate news and information by the intangible standard of how it makes one feel, instead of its tangible objectivity and truthfulness?
News, opinion, entertainment...I wonder if most Americans even know the difference beyond what they're told they're consuming at the moment, which itself is usually a stretch.

I'd like to think there'll always be a place for the Greg Herringtons.
But they're obviously losing the battle to entertainment, and a conservative political agenda so dogmatic it calls foul on relative objectivity to further it's cause (Hinton) and taking-out the providers of printed news and information - left, right and objective and otherwise - in the process.

Posted by P

12:29 PM, Jul 10, 2008

JimD, perhaps you may understand this about the liberal media! They are depressing because liberals are depressing people, generally. Liberals are very self-centered and complain nearly all the time. If not about their politics, about their parents, their children, their jobs, everything. They believe complaining about everything makes them somehow "interesting". It doesn't. It makes them miserable people who want to make others as miserable as they are.

Newspapers and liberal television are losing readers and viewers because people are sick and tired of being constantly depressed by them.

Another thing is what they print is not the whole truth. Papers were full of Iraq stories, with no balance whatsoever, while things were grim. Now, when the surge has shown to be working, nothing. Not a peep! Instead, they write stories about how the Iraqis government wants the USA and its allies out. Not true, but why allow the truth to get in the way of a good depressing story, eh?

Posted by Jim Guthrie

1:44 PM, Jul 10, 2008

those latter two categories are the ones in which people express opinions, Jim and Hinton. Just for your information.).

Gee. I never knew that. Thanks.

You do realize you just underscored my point, right? That Herrington decries 'openly biased' sources when he - as evidenced by his OPINIONS - is a far cry from being unbiased himself.

Just for your information, of course.

Posted by JimD

6:26 PM, Jul 10, 2008

"...liberals are depressing people...Liberals are very self-centered...miserable people... people are sick and tired...Iraq the Iraqis government wants the USA and its allies out..."

Gosh, could you post a more depressing string of complaints?
But thanks for illustrating my point.
You don't want objective news, you want feel-good, happy entertainment.
Nice :-)

Posted by Naysayer

11:38 AM, Jul 13, 2008

In my book, Gregg Herrington was not the sterling straight shooter you seem to think he is regardless of his minor role in a great campaign story. As a serious and well-qualified candidate (twice) for statewide office more than a decade ago, I found Herrington's manner rude and his preparation for candidate interviews almost totally lacking. It seemed that he enjoyed his position, perch if you will, too much and really was not interested in the facts or the issues involved. This included him ignoring a "scoop" on a national story. Maybe, if there is another media incarnation for Herrington, he will exhibit a little less hubris and stick to the story. That is something everyone in the news business needs to understand. Perhaps, this is the reason that people have gone to internet for news and opinion.

Posted by Jimd

9:36 PM, Jul 13, 2008

"...Maybe, if there is another media incarnation for Herrington, he will exhibit a little less hubris and stick to the story.... Perhaps, this is the reason that people have gone to internet for news and opinion."

Are you connected to the same internet I am?

Posted by a reader

11:27 AM, Jul 14, 2008

Just wanted to point out that another longtime editorial page editor from Western Washington also retired last week... Dave Seago at The News Tribune in Tacoma.

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