By Jeff Radford
Among the memorable retirement gifts bestowed at the “Jeff Radford Day” celebration at Perea’s Restaurant June 1 were abundant donations for a travel fund; a large bowl crafted by Santo Domingo’s Manuelita Lovato; another by an Acoma potter; a large Pendleton “Circle of Life” blanket with an appended label bearing the Comment masthead; an epic poem by Carol Merrill; a song about the retiring journalist by Ben Daitz; a cartoon portrait by Kent Blair; a 1908 copy of Benjamin Franklin’s autobiography with a title page notation from my arch-hero reading “I would rather have it said ‘He lived usefully,’ than ‘He died rich;’”a wire sculpture by the late Andrew Nagen which resembles me; an enormous banner with the Comment masthead; a mountain plateau-size birthday/retirement cake; and a plethora of high praise from a multitude of well-wishers.
What I was not given, thankfully, was COVID. Under instructions from my physician, Alyson Thal, I tested for the coronavirus two days later and emerged negative.
Primary planners and organizers for the party in the restaurant parking area were Marg Elliston and Fred Harris; Mick and Suzanne Harper; Chris Allen; Sam Thompson; Carol Merrill; and Karen Dunning and Howard Higgins.
My son, Ben (named after the aforementioned role model,) recounted what it was like growing up as brother to a home-based newspaper. One of the party-goers recalled learning about Corrales Comment when a kid was hawking papers outside the old post office.
I fell short of living up to another role model who I encountered early in my career as a reporter on the world stage. On my first or second reporting trip to Ethiopia, I went to the Addis Ababa office of the Reuters wire service to file a dispatch. There, the only person was an old guy busily tapping out a news article —with one finger, which was not so unusual. But then I noticed he had only one arm to work with. From some misfortune, probably a stroke, his left arm was completely limp by his side.
Then I noticed that he had only one eye. And still he pecked out the story with the frenzy of an old, one-eyed, one-handed newsman. I never learned his name, since he was too busy.
I was pretty sure back then that one day that would be me.
For at least a decade, Corrales folks have known that I can’t hear anything through my left ear, and increasingly I can’t see worth a damn either. My typing fingers are gnarled; the finger that produces the letter “L” drags so that unwanted “Ls” appear regularly. Still I persisted, until it was clear that the time had come to retire.
So after 40 years of publishing Corrales Comment every other week, I am stepping down as editor and publisher next month. A new owner and publisher have been found, offering assurances that this community newspaper will continue.
They have requested that details be delayed until later this month, although they have said they intend to retain the current Comment crew including long-time reporter Meredith Hughes, editor-reporter Stephani Dingreville, graphic artist Katie Neeley, advertising traffic manager Michele McDonagh, ad salesperson Bonnie Mitisek and cartoonists Kent Blair and Adam Wick.
During a transitional period, I have agreed to continue most of my usual editorial functions, but without the burdens of ownership. I hope to continue suggesting what articles should be written and what photos might be taken. But I won’t work until two or three a.m. in the future. At least I hope not.
I did my share of those during my undergraduate years at Syracuse University where I majored in journalism and international relations. Having been editor-in-chief of my high school newspaper in upstate New York, I won a scholarship from that university’s Maxwell School of Citizenship. Some Comment readers may see a continuing thread.
While there, in 1962 I won my first national journalism award, along with two other students; we used the prize money to launch an off-campus magazine, The Sword of Damocles, specializing in investigative reporting.
Other awards followed, including a fellowship from the Interamerican Press Association to Brazil in 1970; a “best feature story” trophy from the Albuquerque Press Club in 1978, and a “Top of the Rockies” competition first place for environmental investigative reporting in 2010 presented by the Society for Professional Journalists for the region covering New Mexico, Colorado, Utah and Wyoming.
My reporting career included a rapid rise within the Associated Press wire service, culminating as an editor on the AP World Desk at headquarters in Rockefeller Center. I resigned in protest over the AP’s self-censorship on reporting from Saigon in 1970.
But the reporting of which I am most proud was done in apartheid Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) in 1968, in Chile under President Salvador Allende in 1971 and in Costa Rica in 1975.
Add to that a 40-year body of work that is Corrales Comment.
After relinquishing the editorship here, I’m headed back to Chile with my son this fall, possibly back to Bolivia and Colombia, and then on to Mozambique and South Africa where I have strong, emotional memories of past struggles and victories.
About six months before she died in 2016, Evelyn Losack summoned me to her kitchen to tell me “I’m going down, Jeff.” Together, we had fought the good fight for a long time, but I was going to have to carry on without her.
Well, I’m not going down anytime soon.