Well, I guess this is goodbye. I'm moving on — retiring after 40 and a half years at the Tribune.
I hope that wasn't too blunt or quick-to-the-point, but it's not easy knowing how to say goodbye and go away after spending a "lifetime" somewhere.
Before I try to climb too high up on any pedestal, though, let me humbly acknowledge that most of you don't even know who I am, and a large number thought I must have retired long ago.
OK, for the seven or so people who are still reading, let me just say it's been a great ride. When I was hired here on Aug. 12, 1972, the late, great editor John "Spike" Siegel ensured me that I was embarking on a job I would find "interesting and exciting almost every day" and that I "would never get rich" doing it. With that advice and $120-a-week salary, I was on my way.
I found, though, that "rich" comes in many varieties.
After most of a decade as a sports writer, and a couple of years copy reading on the city desk, I spent the decade of the 1980s as a photographer, then finished up with 22 years as an assignment editor, copy editor and page designer, and with lots of managing-editor duties. (I'm not quite sure what my title ended up to be; it's probably on a business card somewhere in the back of a desk drawer — I'll have to look it up.)
This column isn't about me, though, it's really about you. Rather than rehashing details of a small-town newspaper career, let's just visit my "top five stories" of the past four decades — a thumbnail description of the headlines that had the biggest impact on me personally and professionally.
1. I'm giving the top-story nod to the tornado of May 31, 1985. For one of my photo assignments that day, I reported to an emergency-vehicle show at Conneaut Lake Park — but there were no emergency vehicles to be found. Finally, someone told me, "They all went to the tornado!" Read that to say, "What kind of stupid newspaper guy are you?" Well, from that moment, my life was set into motion on a months-long journey of photographing and reporting on this major catastrophe that claimed four lives in our county, dozens more throughout the region, and destroyed so many homes and businesses. The Associated Press used the Tribune as a news hub for a week or so; what a learning experience that became for me. Though devastating, this event quickly became an example of an entire community — you — coming together, helping each other, picking up the pieces, holding each other up and rebuilding.
2. Sept. 11, 2001, changed the face of America, obviously for the worse, but it also became another example of communities — you and the entire nation — coming together, working as one, helping each other.
3. Many local sports teams have brought the thrill of victory to their Crawford County hometowns. When I was along for the ride with the Meadville High basketball teams of the 1980s, I observed and helped report on the fever-pitch these events can generate. They are clear examples of whole communities coming together. So sweet; if they come your way, live them deeply.
4. As a photographer for 10 years, I saw first-hand, day in and day out, the great work that goes on in our schools. The dedication of these outstanding teachers, administrators, concerned parents and school board members was constantly reflected in the kids I saw learning and growing.
5. And on the OurTowns and local news pages, I've witnessed up-close-and-personal the impact of so many fine folks who live here — from the hard work of our governments; of our police, firefighters and other emergency responders; to our great college and the awesome people who study and work there; and the many clubs, churches and organizations that do works of kindness here. I've been lucky to meet and work with so many of you. It's not easy to step away!
Nor is it easy to leave all the fine, talented folks currently working at the Trib. They'll keep telling your stories and doing it well.
Though it's time for me to step away from the Trib's newsroom, I don't really plan to settle down much. I have a wonderful family and I plan — as is the mantra you hear from many retirees — to spend more time with them. My wife, Joyce, and I are both Tribune veterans, a combined total of 68 years! She worked days in Advertising, I was here nights in Editorial. We finally "met" at a Tribune Valentine's party, and a mere 13 years later we married. My stepson Steve and his wife Jill have given us much love and two beautiful granddaughters. Lucky me; I'm not sure I deserve it, but I'll take it!
I'm also hoping there are many photo assignments coming my way. That passion won't fade anytime soon. Granddaughter Malina (at 5-foot-9 and just turned 13) plays for the North Hills Middle School basketball team at Pittsburgh — photos guaranteed there.
The Tribune ran an interesting page-one story a few months ago. A young man on the Allegheny College football team had experienced a personal tragedy. He overcame it, and now had moved on through the years with great success. But when his days were at their lowest, he had some long talks with his coach, Mark Matlak. The coach's ultimate advice was to "play the next play." If you get a dull moment, think about that — it's much bigger than "carry on."
Granted, I haven't experienced any great tragedy. I'm just moving on. It's time for me to play the next play.
As a product of the 1960s, I'm hoping to "live long and prosper." And I wish the same for you, my friends.
A photojournalism graduate of Edinboro University of Pennsylvania, Mailliard retired last night as the Tribune's "assistant managing editor" (he checked his business cards).
Graduate of St. Agatha High School, 1969, where he received 50 cents per game for reporting basketball results to The Tribune.
Photojournalism graduate of Edinboro University of Pennsylvania, 1979.
Amateur Softball Association's Pennsylvania Sports Writer of the Year, 1979.
Six citations from The Associated Press for news reporting excellence, including two Special Citations.
Three awards from National Press Photographers Association, one national, two regional.
Created the Tribune's Our Generation teen page in 1992 and guided it for more than 10 years. It and teen pages of two other newspapers were offered in Pennsylvania Newspaper Association trade journals as models for publications to use. Tribune's OG page was discontinued in 2005.
Several statewide honors for Opinion Page and special section content and presentation in annual newspaper contests.
Had one heck of a good time.