Big deal, so I 'flunked retirement?'

Write to the Point


Last updated 2/27/2020 at 4:38pm


Staff reporter

SPOKANE — Under cover of darkness. Sneaking in the back door. Or better yet, call it making good on a pledge.

Quietly, my old byline that was officially retired to the Cheney Free Press archives Dec. 31, 2018 has returned.

After a little over a year in my self-imposed role of a “recovering journalist,” the request came from CFP managing editor John McCallum asking what it might take to coax me back into the game in a relief role following the departure of Lee Hughes.

BTW, Lee heads “home” in more ways than one. He revisits a past career path with the Washington State Department of Transportation, plus he gets to do so where he grew up in Port Angeles, Wash.

John was pretty certain the deal maker, not breaker, would be sure to say there would be none of those late Tuesdays, sometimes into Wednesdays. That’s where final production of the paper is done to have the issue ready for press at dawn’s early light each Wednesday.

Currently that’s “penciled in” so-to-speak and so is my schedule that could extend through the finish of the school year.

I spent 12 of the best years of my Social Security check generating days at the Free Press. And when I had a chat with owner Bill Ifft as those final working days turned to hours I said should there be a need in a pinch I could be available.

Unless, however, I was pre-scheduled to hit one of my “bucket-list” rafting rivers like the Owyhee in Oregon or Hells Canyon of the Snake, both of which I floated last year.

Never got selected for a river permit on Idaho’s Main or Middle Fork of the salmon. There’s no new deck to craft from the ground up as I did in 2019. With just one wedding on the calendar and my EWU football book moves ever closer to seeing ink on paper, heck I can maybe keep decent focus.

As is the case with many things we do in life — or just happen to us on our journey — serendipity skips into the path in front of us.

For me, that was while pursuing the notion of becoming a sports broadcaster but needing an extra English credit in 1971 at Spokane Falls Community College.

It just so happened that down the hall and around the corner from the radio broadcasting classroom was Bob Winkel’s newspaper class. The lure was immediately magnetic and tore me away from talking into a radio microphone.

Now that is as much of an endangered career path as is the newspaper biz.

At the Free Press I was immersing my whole body into a career that began almost 50 years ago. The timing then was right with kids grown and nights away from home not as objectionable.

Up until that point I tested the water with toe dips. Twenty years with the local daily as a part-time columnist was more like wading.

I joked when I was applying for an opening in the summer of 2007 that while I was certain newbies out of journalism school were probably the preferred fit that it wouldn’t hurt to talk to the self-described “old guy” at a pretty fresh age-54.

Like back in college, the allure of telling stories — the true ones that is — was enough for me to suffer the shame of “flunking retirement.” That’s how my good friend Pat termed my situation when I told him I was returning to work.

Paul Delaney can be reached at


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