As this week draws to a close and, with it, brings a calmness in the wake of Monday’s Iowa Caucus madness, we at the Clinton Herald wanted to mention the passing of former Herald Editor Bill Baker on that same day.
This month marks exactly 20 years since Bill retired from the helm of the Herald’s newsroom. There are still a few in the Herald building who worked with Bill on a daily basis, but time has a way of replacing former co-workers with new ones who do not know much to anything about those who paved the way before them.
Many in the community who knew him firsthand through his professional and civic involvements also have moved on or passed away, leaving fewer to recall the memory of one so involved.
However, the great thing about working in a newsroom is how the words one cranks out daily become a foundation upon which others build. So whether your work spans 5 years at the Herald, or as in Bill’s case, 25 years here, you leave footprints that others through the years will follow.
Today, recent textual history is preserved through modern computer technology, making it easy to find stories of local interest written in the past few years.
But what about the stories that have been covered by the ghosts of newsrooms past?
They are banked in libraries and newspaper morgues such as the Herald’s, where multitudes of old file clippings and microfilmed newspaper editions full of a writer’s works — such as those of Bill’s — can be found. It is there the stories of the beginnings of this community have been stored and updated throughout the years.
Through his work, by both writing and decision-making, Bill played a major role in shaping the Herald’s news coverage from December 1970, when he began as city editor, and into the stretch when he served as editor from 1976 to 1996 — only the third person to serve in that role over a 75-year time span.
When he retired in February 1996, a front-page story was published that caught Bill’s dry sense of humor. When asked about all the changes he had observed at the Clinton Herald over his 25 years here, he said, “One thing hasn’t changed much — the furniture is nearly all the same as back then.”
But, on a serious note, he said what he would miss the most about the Herald and the communities it covers are the people: “I have always felt strongly about keeping an open-door policy for anyone who wanted to come and talk — and they did. I’ve made some excellent enemies and also some very good friends.”
Today we, as friends, recognize him for the work he did and the words he left behind.
Rest well, Mr. Baker.