Dr. Terry Clark switches from pen to palette

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If you don’t know what “-30-” means, you’re probably under 30. Keep reading for the buried lead.

About a quarter-million words.

Near as I can figure, that’s how many I’ve written in this column since May 1996.

That’s when I followed in the footsteps of Dr. Harry Heath Jr., who had written it for 30 years before he died as a result of injuries sustained in a car wreck.

This month marks 264 months I’ve been honored trying to help Oklahoma newspaper people with advice, ideas and information. The columns average a little over 1,000 words, though they’ve grown shorter over time, to match our changing reading habits and digital ability to display more pages and write less. That’s how I figure about a quarter-million words.

In May 2016, reflecting on 20 years of writing the column, how it and times and newspapers have changed, I wrote that I wouldn’t last as long as Harry did. I don’t want to go out like he did, or get to the point where I’m repetitious or irrelevant or out of date (as with the “-30-” at the top of this column).

This is a classic case of burying the lead – it’s time for me to write “-30-” to writing this column. The only time anyone types “-30-” in digital journalism anymore (it used to signify the end of a story, typed on high-tech paper with a high-tech typewriter), is on a journalist’s obit. I’d just as soon write mine on this than have someone else write it.

I’ve reached the point in life when it’s time to let it go. After retirement and with years piling up, I’m trying to spend more time on watercolor painting. The column has never been a chore, but effective writing, as you know, is an obligation demanding time and hard work.

The decision is mine alone. The support and help I’ve received from Editor Jennifer Gilliland and from Mark Thomas through the years has been tremendous. When I mentioned in November it was on my mind, they asked me to continue, but it’s just time. I told them about a year ago I was thinking about it.

This comes with many mixed feelings. I’m thankful for OPA and proud of my work in it beyond the column. Thanks to my many friends and colleagues in papers across the state. Reviewing your papers every month has kept me in touch with real journalism, and what is really going on across the state. That I will miss most.

I’m most thankful for the newspaper people who have read these words, and perhaps benefited from a few of them. I’m convinced newspapers are more important to the state and country than ever before – and the vast majority of you are serving your readers well.

I’ve been associated with OPA since I bought into the Waurika News-Democrat. I still have some of the mugs, but they hold paint brushes now, sort of a metaphor.

There was a time when Harry and I worked together doing OPA workshops. One of my sons “appropriated” this real estate sign years ago. So this also marks the end of better than 50 years of our columns.

Thank you for the great satisfaction of writing for and about you.

I won’t repeat my numerous reflections from two years ago, but if you’re interested, here is the link. Scroll to page 8: https://tinyurl.com/clarkreflects


Before I type “-30-” at the end of this thing, here are the last “Head’em Up” awards from first-place winners from last year, the best of 2018.

Best headline of the year, October, The Journal Record, primary election,

NO BULL, IT’S STITT


Second place, May, Woodward News, the fires,

AN ARMAGEDDON SKY


Third place, August, The Cleveland American, energy project,

GONE WITH THE WIND


Honorable mentions, in chronological order: 

  • January, tie, The Oklahoman, Rose Bowl loss, “Wilted Rose,” The Black Chronicle, jail deaths, “Why The Killings?” 
  • February, four-way tie, Atoka County Times, “You can’t arrest me…Your job is to take reports… I’m not stupid”; The Journal Record, “Legislators waffle at Chamber breakfast”; UCO The Vista, land run mural controversy, “UCO mural runs its course”; Weatherford Daily News, “Social media is a vice.”’ 
  • March, The Seminole Producer, “Woman Armed with 5 Pecans Steals Deputy’s Unit.” 
  • April, too much competition from the teacher walkout headlines to name a winner. 
  • June, Tri-County Herald, lake story, “A dam site better.” 
  • July, four-way tie – Eufaula Indian Journal, “Did dogs eat the man who fed them?”; Fairfax Chief, “What do duct tape and caviar have in common? Paddlefish”; Newkirk Herald Journal, “Phlebotomists find Newkirk”; The Seminole Producer, “Hughes Cty. Sheriff Becomes Unhinged over Murder Case.” 
  • September, tie, The Antlers American, “Come celebrate and have some fun, Dorie Marie now weighs a ton”; Eastern Times Register, “Last Donut Leads to Domestic Assault.” 
  • November, The Oklahoman, on early voters, “FORE CASTERS.”


*Footnote: My story, “Unanswered Questions,” about the sale of The Oklahoman to GateHouse, appears in the January issue of 405 Magazine.

1,100 words, 6,000 words of notes and interviews, including with Mark Thomas and others you know.

Hard work indeed. But I’d rather be painting. Again, thank you.

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EDITOR’S NOTE: If you’ve enjoyed reading Dr. Terry Clark’s columns over the past years,
send him a note letting him know what it to meant to you. Mail cards to Dr. Terry Clark, Oklahoma Press Association, 3601 N. Lincoln Blvd., Oklahoma City, OK 73105. We’ll make sure it gets to him.