Tuesday, January 06, 2015

Community journalist with a flair for writing, and a style to match, retires after 41 years

For some journalists community newspapers are a temporary stop on a journey to larger papers, or a necessary springboard to a career in other arenas. But there are many rare, unique individuals who find a home at a small-town paper and become lifelong residents of the community. One is Donald Mahler, who after 41 years of bringing his distinctive style and personality to writing sports for the Valley News in West Lebanon, N.H., and White River Junction, Vt.,  has decided to hang up his notebook and sail off into retirement. Staff writer Tris Wykes wrote a nice sendoff for his colleague. (Valley News photo by James Patterson: Mahler reacts to a reader's email; gallery includes photos of him with political figures)

"With his frizzy hair, untamed beard and vintage clothing, Mahler does sometimes appear as if he’s crawled from under a bridge," Wykes writes. "But in truth, his home has been at the Upper Valley’s newspaper for more than 40 years. Since being hired as the second man in a two-man sports department during the summer of 1973, and then taking over as sports editor by 1978, Mahler has chronicled the highlights and heartbreaks, the everyday happenings and the quirky occurrences of the region’s sporting scene."

Steve Taylor, the paper's managing editor in 1965-72, told Wykes, “People may have looked at him and said ‘Who’s that crazy-ass hippie?’ But when they read his stuff, they know the guy was good. It’s not often you get that combination of commitment and irreverence.”

Wykes asks, "Why was Mahler kept around? For one, he was on his way to becoming a community institution. It was also evident that his gentle demeanor and growing work ethic made him an ideal co-worker and an effective, if unusual, leader. Those who worked for him knew he would not only go to bat for them with management, but also that he offered wise and compassionate counsel during difficult times."

And Mahler always set out to try to give everyone a fair shake, Wykes writes. Mahler told him, “My only true disappointment was that I couldn’t give them all what they wanted. It’s a pie, and some people get bigger pieces than others. People don’t understand that if their school’s big game gets (delayed) by snow and moved to another day, now it conflicts with another school’s big game. Other people don’t care about either game. They want us to cover NASCAR and (pro) golf and Premier League soccer. There are just not enough people, time and pages, no matter how much you plan.”

Hank Tenney, Hanover High School's longtime recreation director and a coach, told Wykes, “Don wanted kids to enjoy picking up the paper the next day. He wanted to recognize them even if they weren’t superstars and even if they didn’t score a lot of points in a game. He’s a true professional and legend in the Upper Valley. When he wrote, people paid attention.” (Read more)

1 comment:

Brad Martin said...

Congratulations, Donald, and good luck unplugging from this relentless vocation.
Brad Martin
Hickman County Times
Centerville TN