Thursday, July 31, 2008

The Flip Side

Earlier today, Mr. Jim Leusner chose to leave a goodbye note in the comment section. It was void of bitterness and condemnation toward the "new" paper, but still (to me at least) spoke of the responsibility of the paper. It seems when the paper fulfilled its responsibility it was a good deal for employees and the community. So, in the spirit of those times, I re-post Mr. Leusner's sentiments.

*If all this makes you wanna gag, because you believe the paper is dying because it has become a liberal publication... then I share this with you simply because Mr. Leusner was regarded one of the best investigative reporters at the paper. So, even if we do not completely agree with his views they should be respected enough to be fully heard.

From Mr. Leusner:

Friends and colleagues:
As you know, today (7/31) is my last day after nearly 30 years at the Orlando Sentinel. I want to thank all of you for being my professional family during that time. What a great run it’s been during the golden era of journalism, the post-Watergate period.

After I was hired here as a 23-year-old in early 1979, I was lucky to meet up with several incredible journalists who helped teach me the ropes. Paul Jenkins, Malcolm Williams, Jim Toner and Jim Squires all shared their vast knowledge or reporting techniques with me, which I have tried to share on stories and special projects or at my Sentinel Newsroom University classes over the years.

I was fortunate to work on so many great stories involving all kinds of subjects: mobsters, bikers, bad cops, serial killers, spies, militias, space shuttle disasters, defense contractors, terrorism/homeland security, corrupt politicians, greedy developers and the pioneers of International Drive. I learned something new every day and got to do interviews at the White House, CIA headquarters, aboard radar planes flying around the Caribbean or on Death Row.

Working with so many other talented Sentinel reporters also taught me a lot. They included: Roger Roy, Dan Tracy, Chris Quinn, Debbie Salamone, Mike Griffin, Sean Holton, Hank Curtis, Pedro Ruz, Tammy Lytle, Anthony Colarossi, Kevin Spear and many others, including the current members of the Breaking News Team.

I was blessed to have worked under the BEST line editors in the company -- Jenkins, Toner, Holton, Gary Gorman, Sal Recchi, Ann Hellmuth, Bob Shaw, Greg Miller and Michelle Guido. So many folks on the copy desk also made my stories better. The graphics folks, page designers and photographers helped illustrate those stories so well. I am grateful to all of them.

To be clear, leaving is my choice. I narrowly missed a buyout last year, but jumped at the chance for a severance package this year so I could go into business for myself after more than 31 years as a reporter.

Despite the rough waters our industry is navigating, you guys need to remember that the work you do is so vital to the democracy -- and history. It's made a difference to many people like my late dad, who educated himself reading the paper -- after dropping out of grade school -- to help his family during the Great Depression.

I wish all of you the best. My thoughts will be with you.
And if this note is too long, at least I was consistent during my Sentinel career!
Jim Leusner


Chris Quinn said...

I cannot imagine an Orlando Sentinel without Jim Leusner. Frankly, I can't imagine journalism witout Jim Leusner. His departure is a crushing blow for Central Florida. He's one of the best journalists I know, and I feel fortunate for having worked with him. I hate to think of the stories that will not be done now that he has departed.
Chris Quinn
Cleveland Plain Dealer

Anonymous said...

Jim is a class act all the way around - He even acknowledged some "journalist" who quite frankly could not hold a candle to his integrity and tenacity - people who hid behind the shield of investigative journalism while giving up their sources for their own benefit - sound familiar Chris?? His departure is a great loss for the community and journalism. As a subscriber and never a member of The Sentinel staff it is sad to see it has come to this. Perhaps The Sentinel needs to look into free distribution because it is now no better than a shopper. For what it is worth as a 50 year plus subscriber I will not be renewing.

Portd032 said...

Tonight crooked politicians and other scamsters in Central Florida can sleep well because Investigative Reporter Jim Leusner has left The Sentinel.
I met Jim when I was hired as a deputy metro editor in 1984.
Beyond any doubt he is one of the best.
Back in the mid-1980s if a big story broke and you needed the real story, and you needed it quick and right, there were three main reporters you wanted to put on the scent -- Jim, Roger Roy and Dan Tracy.
Jim is gone and so is Roger. All hope is not lost because the paper still has a few other great diggers, such as Hank Curtis, Mary Shanklin, Gary Taylor and Willoughby Marino, to name a few. I pray the editors have the good sense to do everything possible to keep them on the staff.
The paper needs them. This community needs and deserves a strong newspaper staffed by journalists who are smart, creative, tireless, fearless hunters of the truth.

brad kuhn said...

A sad day indeed. Vaya con dios Jim. I've always had the deepest respect and admiration for your work. You, Dan Tracy, Manning Pynn, Dick Marlowe, (and others I know I'm slighting) have always embodied the best of journalism. A Jim Leusner byline was like the Good Housekeeping seal of approval. I wish you nothing but the best.

Anonymous said...

OMG! How could I have forgotten Jeff Kunerth ...

Portd032 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Portd032 said...

Jeff Kunerth, indeed, the Sentinel's master story teller and Mike Thomas and Scott Maxwell are the crown jewels of the franchise and the only reason why I haven't canceled my subscription.
We all know the buyouts and terminations have been awful, but they aren't the end of the world if the paper's leadership would use the remaining assets responsibly.
Just like in the Kenny Rogers song every hand is a winner and every hand is a loser, it just depends how you play the cards.
People accustomed to getting their news online aren't suddenly going to ditch their laptops and pick up the paper because the front page has been dumbed down with huge graphics and pointless factoids (such as how many pounds of milk are produced annually by a Florida dairy cow). Please don't read that as me trying to diss Bonita. Great graphics certainly can help tell the story, but they shouldn't take over the story. The writing counts, too!
Loyal Sentinel readers of all ages read it because they truly love a newspaper, the look of it, the feel of it.
I spent three decades as a newspaperman (never liked calling myself a journalist) but now I'm a consumer and what I think ought to count for something.
My daughter, the author of this blog is an 18 year old FSU sophomore, and she reads the newspaper for serious news. Granted she grew up in a newspaper home, but we recently went to Nassau and the first thing she wanted to do was to pick up the local newspaper to see how they handled the news. She has an intense interest in politics and world affairs. So take that as proof that a serious newspaper can attract and hold young readers.

August 2, 2008 7:15 AM