An Urban's Rural View 06/15 07:06
Old Editors Never Die, They Merely Fade Away
All good things -- in fact, all things -- must eventually end, and this
columnist's tenure as an executive and employee of DTN/The Progressive Farmer
has been one of the best things he's experienced. But the blog goes on.
By Urban C. Lehner
DTN Vice President, Editorial
In Mark Twain's story "How I Edited An Agricultural Paper" a
vacation-fill-in editor dumbfounds readers with absurdities. He advises
harvesting turnips by sending a boy out to shake the tree. He recommends
planting buckwheat cakes in July instead of August. He talks of a cow's molting
After his first editorial, the real editor feels compelled to return.
"It makes me lose all patience every time I think of your discussing
oyster-beds under the head of 'Landscape Gardening,'" the real editor wails.
"Why didn't you tell me you didn't know anything about agriculture?"
And so, one week into the job, the fill-in was out.
By comparison, when I came to DTN I got nine years -- seven as
editor-in-chief and these last two as vice president, editorial.
Of course, unlike the fill-in, I never equated furrows and harrows, or
suggested domesticating polecats for use as ratters, or proposed playing music
to soothe the clams. But when I started out I was as agriculturally clueless as
Twain's fictional fill-in.
In prior journalistic incarnations I'd covered everything from economics to
automobiles, from finance to international trade, from labor unions to East
Asia. But never agriculture. I've learned a bit in the interim but even now
some would say I know just enough to be dangerous.
One other difference between me and Twain's fill-in: I'm not being ushered
out. My departure is voluntary. I'm doing the R word.
The R word is as momentous a life decision as the M word. "If you can't say
the M word, then you're not ready to do the M word," Steve Martin's lady friend
tells him in the opening scene of the 1984 film "All of Me." Of course I can
say it, Martin responds. Long pause. Deep breath. And finally he blurts it out:
That's how I feel about the R word. I can say it, but only after a long
pause to catch my breath.
Now, mind you, I'm not really retiring. Shedding my executive
responsibilities and my status as an employee, yes -- effective June 30. But I
will continue to write. For starters, I've promised the editors of DTN and The
Progressive Farmer a series of profiles of commercial farmers who are great
stewards of the land. (Please email firstname.lastname@example.org if you'd like to
suggest a profile candidate.)
This is my last weekly column, but An Urban's Rural View will continue in a
new guise -- snippets of commentary a few times a week as opposed to a Friday
essay. Look for it on my blog near the bottom of the DTN or DTN/Progressive
Farmer home page.
Why am I making this move? It's time. I've had a good run at DTN. I've made
some progress toward my goals: building a serious ag-news operation, hiring
some great people, instilling and nurturing a culture of excellence. The chief
editors I've been working with the last couple of years, Greg Horstmeier at DTN
and Gregg Hillyer at The Progressive Farmer, are doing well. They're dedicated
to producing distinctive insights that help ag professionals make smarter
I've enjoyed my 40 years as a journalist for two fine media groups, The Wall
Street Journal and DTN, but I'm ready for a more flexible schedule. My wife is
especially ready for it.
"More flexible schedule" sounds better than "retire," doesn't it?
And who knows? Maybe as an R'd person I'll finally figure out why New
Englanders prefer the pumpkin to the gooseberry for making fruitcake and
"likewise give it the preference over the raspberry for feeding cows."
Follow me on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/urbanize
Urban Lehner can be reached at email@example.com
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