THE HOUSTON POST was killed 20 years ago today. It is perhaps fitting that on this day many former employees of the newspaper will be gathering at a Bellaire church to pay tribute to a fellow “Post Toastie,” Fred King, who died earlier this week.
The “official” 20-year reunion will not be until August, but thanks to Fred, ever the loyal employee, at least some of us will get together on this day.
There will be a lot said and written today about The Post. There will be a lot of good memories shared, but there will also be a lot of negative words uttered, primarily when the name of former owner Dean Singleton comes up.
Twenty years later, there is still a lot of bitterness and a lot of anger about The Post’s demise and about how Singleton handled it – or orchestrated it. I don’t blame people for wanting to retain that rancor. A lot of them suffered much, emotionally and economically, and some have never recovered. You can’t tell people to “get over” such life-changing experiences. Hurt is hurt and pain is pain and no amount of Pollyanna talk is going to erase that.
I have done my share of Singleton bashing, much of which was reflected in a column I wrote for The Houston Press shortly after that fateful day. You can read it here if you want to because I’m not going to rehash it.
And today I will refrain from thinking negative thoughts about Singleton or anyone else associated with The Post’s demise.
I will instead concentrate on thinking of all the good things — and good people — that have come into my life since The Post shut its doors, things that probably would not have happened had the paper kept on publishing.
BECAUSE THE POST closed, I was forced out into the world to invent a new life for myself and I did not end up writing stale, safe, boring and recycled columns as many longtime columnists do.
BECAUSE THE POST closed, I spent close to three years in Austin writing about religion and faith for that city’s newspaper. As an atheist who grew up Catholic, this turned out to be an amazing opportunity to learn about how and why people turn their beliefs into action (or not).
The editors at the American-Statesman were kind enough and wise enough to give me lots and lots of freedom and time to explore the issues that I was curious about.
I learned to love and appreciate the Baptist tradition – not the new intolerant Baptist church, but the church that preached about the “priesthood of the believer.”
I had the joy of discovering a young evangelical preacher soon after he arrived in Austin to start a new church, and I followed him around for weeks as he set about to recruit members. That church, which attracted a handful of people at its first service, is now a strong institution with many followers.
BECAUSE THE POST closed, I was able to try my hand at freelance writing, after I left Austin, and to learn – thank God! – that freelancing is not for me.
BECAUSE THE POST closed, I was able to spend a year in San Marcos, working with an old young friend who decided to use his inheritance money to start a magazine about psychology, mythology and religion (yes, I know, that’s redundant). He is 18 years younger than I but he taught me a lot about writing and about editing. And I got to work with scholars from across the country who were grateful to have an editor who could translate their scholarly writings into readable copy.
BECAUSE THE POST closed, I wrote a monthly column for USA TODAY’s op-ed page for a couple of years. It was through that column that I was able to, finally, convince the White House to honor the late great singer Lydia Mendoza with a National Medal of Arts. (I had tried to get that done with a Houston Post column to no effect, but USA TODAY’s huge circulation made a big difference.)
BECAUSE THE POST closed, I was able to end up at my final job, as a media relations specialist for the American Petroleum Institute. Yes, I know: Big Bad Oil.
Big Oil was berry berry good to me.
It was the best job I ever had. Not only did it pay well enough to allow me to go from near bankruptcy to debt-free in a few years, it allowed me to accumulate enough savings to move back to Houston a couple of years ago to begin a life of comfortable retirement. But more than that, API challenged me intellectually and creatively. My opinion was trusted and my work and talents were valued. I also got to travel all over the country, and even made it to Bahrain and Saudi Arabia once.
But best of all, I got to work with and become friends with some of the smartest and most wonderful and supportive people I have ever known. Many are still friends and will be until I die.
SO, ON THIS DAY, I have a lot to reflect on, and a lot for which to be grateful. I won’t thank Dean Singleton for this. I’ll thank the Media Gods instead.