Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The Loss of Another Good Liberal Voice

Dan Radmacher (second from left in this photo of officers in 2010) was elected president of the National Council of Editorial Writers.^

With the announcement by the local daily that it's editorial page editor, Dan Radmacher, is leaving to take a job with a bunch West Virginia liberals who want to save some mountains, my guess is there's a muffled cheer among our conservative brethren. They have been frustrated by Dan over the years for much the same reason they disliked his predecessor, my friend Tommy Denton. He's waaaaay too literate, reasonable and honest.

The newspaper story, which is inexplicably under "Business" on the paper's all but impenetrable Web site (here), says Dan will be with the Appalachian Center for the Economy and the Environment, under whose attention falls mountaintop removal. That is one of the most significant Us vs. Them issues in the liberal-conservative debate nationally. Dan's on the side of the guy who built the mountains in the first place. The coal barons and their personal Congressional representative Morgan Griffith sit on the polluting side, screaming "jobs," when they mean "money."

The most significant criticism I've heard of Dan over the years is one he shares with Tommy: they use big words when they write. Mark Twain once said, "The difference between the almost right word & the right word is really a large matter--it's the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning."

Dan and Tommy, who worked the editorial department for 18 years between them, did their homework and wrote beautifully reasoned editorials in fluid prose. Good writing is a work of considerable craft, regardless of the side of the political spectrum the writer defends. Some of the best editorial writers ever have had views opposite mine and I appreciated their opinions for the same reasons I appreciated Dan's: they were reasonable, thoughtful, researched and based in something besides volume and personal assault.

Dan and I got into a spat over the value of journalism awards at one point and, even though one could have made the argument that I was diminishing an award he had just won (I most certainly wasn't), he never said that. His argument was solid, based in his philosophy ... and wrong. But, hey. We all get one of those occasionally.

Walter Rugaber, the much missed former publisher of the local daily here and a towering journalist in his own right, once said that if this region had a liberal bent, he would have searched out conservatives for the editorial department. He liked to keep things stirred up and Dan fit that mold nicely.

One of the nice little personal notes is that both Dan (who is 46 and has plenty of career left) and Tommy (who is retired, but not inactive) are courtly, gentlemanly, almost shy, kind and good men whom these local conservatives would love as next door neighbors if they knew them. And they can know them if they want. Dan, who was married in October, will continue to live in Roanoke and Tommy's not going anywhere, either.

Good for us to have men of such caliber among us.


  1. Another rat from the sinking ship.

  2. Anon:
    Oooooooo, nice. Very nice.

  3. This is nothing against Dan or Tommy, but I think it would be healthy for the region to have someone who is not a white male of a certain age doing the job next.

  4. The one complaint you can't lodge against this outfit--and about the only one--is that lovely triumverate racism/sexism/homophobia. If there's a purple woman bi-sexual out there who wants the job and applies, my bet is she gets it. But if she's old (like, say, 50) ...