Terry Plumb: Farewell and thanks

January 12, 2014 

All endeavors must cease eventually. So it is with this column.

After almost 36 years of writing the Plumb Line – the last 27 for The Herald – this is the final weekly installment.

A few days ago I was informed that the plug was being pulled, for economic reasons.

Because most of my 47 years in journalism were in management, I understand that the decision was painful. By the time I retired as editor eight years ago, 30 people worked in The Herald newsroom. That number since has been halved. Instead of bemoaning what the Internet and social media have done to newspapers, however, I choose to reflect on the satisfaction writing this column has given me for so long.

Finley Peter Dunne, a humorist during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, wrote that it was a newspaper’s duty to comfort the afflicted and to afflict the comfortable. I think I did my share of both.

My writing ruffled feathers on more than a few occasions over the years. For those readers who were offended, I hope they understand my intentions were not mean-spirited. My sharpest barbs were directed at elected officials and other public servants because I believed they should be held to higher standards.

Some readers will rejoice at news of my departure from the bully pulpit, no doubt. That includes the gentleman who wrote a letter to the editor a few years back, offering to buy me a $10 bus ticket out of town. (When I called the local Greyhound station, I was told the least expensive ticket on a bus departing Rock Hill was $12, so I decided to stay.)

Because I felt the focus of a community newspaper should be on efforts to improve the lives of local people, most of the individuals and groups I wrote about never made the national news.

Not long after I took the job as editor of The Herald, Connie Morton, a retired banker and former journalist, asked if he could take me on a tour of Rock Hill. We drove through every mill-hill neighborhood in town while Connie talked about conditions in the mills and how neighbors pulled together when the workers were out on strike. His message was simple: Bankers, politicians and other big shots know their way to the editor’s office. Make sure you listen to the folks who wear suits only on Sunday but spend the rest of the week in work clothes.

Columns about family – especially those about grandchildren – typically evoked the most response. Most readers understood that I wasn’t writing only about my family but about the experiences that bind us together as a universal family.

From time to time, the Plumb Line won awards from the state press association. Those plaques meant less to me than comments from readers. After I had written a column about one of our daughters leaving for college, a woman told me she had taped that Plumb Line to the inside of a kitchen cabinet door so she could read it whenever she felt nostalgic about her own empty nest.

The response I heard most often from readers began something like this: “You know I don’t always agree with what you write…” My standard response was, “Whether we agree or disagree is less important than that you keep reading.”

It’s a newspaper’s mission to set the stage for the community to converse about current events. To the degree this column has contributed to that conversation, I will be forever grateful to readers for holding up their end of the equation.

So long, and keep reading.

Email former Herald Editor Terry Plumb at terry.plumb@gmail.com.

The Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service