Unfinished Business Makes it Hard to Say Good-bye

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It is with a sense of sadness that I approach the writing of this week’s column, so much so that I hardly know where to start.

You see, there is a good chance it will be my last.

Editor-in-chief Steffanie Petroni is planning to put the Northern Hoot on pause on July 28, the third anniversary of its founding.

I am taking the opportunity to put a pause on my own writing as well.

I have been connected to the new business for 64 years. I began writing sports on a volunteer business for my hometown paper, The Dryden Observer, in 1953. I got my first full-time job with The Trail Times in 1955 and later had stints with The Calgary Albertan, The Regina Leader-Post and The Edmonton Journal before joining The Sault Star as editor in 1975.

It has been an awesome ride.

I had actually written a goodbye piece on this site last year, when I decided I could no longer write for The Sault Star after it declined to publish a column I had written announcing to its readers the outlandish plea bargain that saw the first-degree murder charges against Ron Mitchell, Eric Mearow and Dylan Jocko dropped all the way to manslaughter in the slaying and dismembering of Wesley Hallam.

But Petroni graciously offered me a new home and I took advantage of it, continuing my Saturday ritual, as the journalistic fire still burned deep within me.

A year later I find it is a fire that is almost out.

I see and hear things and think to myself, I should jump on that, and another Saturday comes and goes and I find I have taken the easy way out, touching on subjects that require little thought or work.

I haven’t followed up on the OPP investigation of former fire chief Mike Figliola, the investigation that for a long time I couldn’t confirm even existed.

I haven’t followed up on the status of Stella Melanson, the civilian crime analyst who parted company with the Sault Police Service. Nor have I checked out the word from a local real estate agent that she and her husband, Police Chief Robert Keetch, have their home for sale.

I haven’t gotten upset at getting no replies to my emails from some people within the walls of Fortress City Hall, shrugging this off as just the way things are now, nevertheless lamenting, “where is Joe Fratesi when I need him.”

I find my anger, at the sheer stupidity displayed by our public works and traffic people and some councillors in supporting the traffic-lane fiasco at the corner of East and Albert Streets, dissipating, something I didn’t believe possible.

I didn’t get upset, as I once would have, when reading an editorial by Postmedia Network in The Sault Star last Saturday that said the Canadian government had given $241.5 million to the Clinton Foundation, when a corrected version had been posted two days earlier by The Toronto Sun, the source for the editorial, showing that the total was in fact $20 million and it went to the Clinton Health Access Initiative for use in Africa.

I find I could hardly muster more than a snicker watching people flood into Sears on Friday for a 20-percent sale to start the company’s liquidation process when, if they had done the same when it had sales of 40 and 50 percent, the company might have been thriving instead of liquidating.

I like the idea of a splash pad but believe councillors have lost all reason in pushing for it now, because no matter how much money is received in grants there will still be some of the $575,000 cost coming to taxpayers at a time the city’s finances are suffering because of Algoma’s non-payment of taxes. Yet I remained silent, these being the first words I have devoted to the subject.

Now, in a retreat of sorts, I thank Petroni for giving me a place to continue to express my thoughts, and also for the courage she has shown in tackling stories that others, either because of fear or a failure to recognize the worth of a story, wouldn’t.

I also thank the readers who have followed me through the years. You should know that there were many times that I had thoughts of fading away and it was your kind and appreciative comments that kept me going.

And I especially want to thank my sources who over the years provided me with information that some in high places would have preferred never see the light of day.

I am not saying goodbye here. That would be too final. I am just pressing the pause button.

Who knows, something might come along that I find just too impossible to let slide.

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