Old-school journalism

Intern alert:
CN&R editors have begun interviewing candidates for summer internships. We are looking for students with some media experience who are interested in reporting, photography or copy editing. Please call (894-2300 x2240) or e-mail me.

To long-time readers of the Chico News & Review, the author of this week’s cover story needs no introduction. But for the uninitiated, here’s a quick synopsis:

Dr. Richard Ek is a former professor and Journalism Department chairman at Chico State University. He has contributed to the CN&R since the early 1980s—and even now that he’s 80, he still writes regularly. The publication of “Breaking the bank” culminates five months of work (interrupted twice by illness).

I’d heard of “Doc Ek,” as he’s long been called, well before I arrived in Chico. One of his former students is the managing editor of the Union Democrat in Sonora, Patty Fuller. When I told Patty I might move up here, she described Doc and suggested I seek him out as a resource. Little did we know I’d end up at the paper he writes for, and he’d seek me out.

During that first meeting, I mentioned this bit of irony. Doc paused a moment, asked if Patty is “a tall, red-headed gal,” then spoke at length about his former advisee, whom he hadn’t seen in years. He subsequently took a spur-of-the-moment trip to Sonora; the reunited mentor and protégé now talk from time to time.

Doc has that deep connection with myriad journalists, and that depth of recall about myriad matters. In a single conversation last week, he relayed:

• The backstory of his 1995 special report on land purchased to enhance Bidwell Park.

• How newsprint used to have cloth fibers, which made the paper stronger and more recyclable.

• Tips on photography, rooted in his love of black-and-white film.

• Details of the first strike vote of Chico State faculty (on which he’s writing his next piece).

The current cover story may well be his last. His memory is sharp, but not quite as sharp as when he was 70, he says, so he finds he needs more and more time to certify the accuracy of every fact. None of his stories here has required a correction—he doesn’t want to tarnish his record now. He’ll continue to write for us, though: essays, commentaries and news stories.

That’s not necessarily welcome news for everyone, particularly city and university officials, whom he’ll doggedly pursue for answers to his questions. “He’s still so passionate about news,” Patty Fuller said this week, “about uncovering wrong-doings.”

So keep your eyes out for the tall, slender gentleman shuffling down Main Street, and for “by Richard Ek” in issues to come.

Readers’ writing: If you have something to say about Doc Ek or his cover story, please write in. If you tend toward verbosity, the editor may edit your letter. Our publication policy says as much, but not everyone reads the fine print.

In just the second complaint I’ve received, Ann Marie Robinson believes the sentences I trimmed from her March 22 letter blunted her point. I’ve posted both versions online (linked through this column); judge for yourself, and tell me what you think.