In the past 24 years, I have had the privilege of working with some outstanding journalists in The Spokesman-Review’s sports department. Saturday was the official last day for five of the finest.
The company offered an early retirement package and 12 folks in the newsroom, including five in sports, took it. Deputy sports editor Gil Hulse, columnist John Blanchette, and beat writers Dave Trimmer, Steve Bergum and Vince Grippi are now officially retired.
The retirement offer surfaced last summer and before the details were revealed, I thought the sports department was pretty safe. After all, these guys didn’t seem like retirement material. All five of them have been big producers and didn’t show signs of slowing down. I didn’t have to cajole, motivate or arm-twist any of them to do their job. All five of these guys were professionals who made my job easier.
Then the details of the plan came out, and over the course of a month these guys – one by one – decided to retire. It was too good to pass up. It was depressing and I found myself wishing I was a bit older so that I could take the offer. But after the whining and moping, we developed a plan that I believe will make us stronger.
The best and most important part of the plan is that most of these guys will continue to be contributors to the daily sports section.
Blanchette will average two columns a week over the course of the year and continue to write on local topics.
Grippi has agreed to take on a part-time gig as our online producer. He will have daily posts in Sportslink, giving readers a gateway to all the interesting sports news in our area.
I think you will see Trimmer’s name on a lot of Then & Now stories, catching up with former area sports stars, and also covering events when we are shorthanded.
Hulse has agreed to work on the copy desk on a part-time basis, and will be joined on the desk by former sports editor Jeff Jordan, who also took the retirement deal. Jordan has been working as the Voices editor the past nine years.
Keeping experienced guys like Hulse and Jordan on the copy desk, even if it is on a part-time basis, is invaluable.
On Tuesday, the sports department will welcome three new staff members. Christian Caple will replace Grippi on the WSU beat. Caple recently worked at the seattlepi.com and covered the Seattle Seahawks. Prior to that he worked at the Daily News in Moscow and covered WSU football.
Jessica Brown will replace Trimmer, with Chiefs hockey and women’s basketball as her main beats. Brown previously worked for The S-R, covering the Chiefs during their Memorial Cup run in 2008.
Jim Allen will replace Bergum on the Eastern Washington University beat. Allen started at The S-R sports department in 1984 and moved to the copy desk then eventually the Voices.
Greg Lee will continue to coordinate our prep coverage and Jim Meehan will remain as the Gonzaga basketball beat writer and pick up Bergum’s golf beat. All of our writers will be involved in prep coverage, as will our bevy of correspondents that includes long-time area sports writer Mike Vlahovich, who “retired” in 2009.
I’m excited to get things rolling with the energy of the newcomers and the experience of one of the great part-time staffs in the country.