There comes a time to ramble on

Columnist Dave Rasdal, who started at The Gazette in 1979, announces that he will be moving on in March

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Will Rogers or Mark Twain or some lesser known wise guy first said, “When you come to a fork in the road, take it.”

I’ve come across a lot of forks. In other words, I’ve gone one way when I could have gone another. Sometimes it was my choice; sometimes it wasn’t. You know what I mean.

I was 15 when dad moved our family from Marshalltown to Spencer for his career. I didn’t want to go. It turned out to be the best for me at that point in my life.

After I’d been sports editor at The Spencer Daily Reporter for a couple of years, I mistakenly told my boss I was looking for another job. He hired my replacement before I’d found anything. It worked out for the best when I became city editor at the Cedar Valley Daily Times in Vinton.

After my first seven-and-a-half years at The Gazette, I resigned in 1986 to try other pursuits, among them writing “The Great American Novel.” I wound up in California, where I learned perfect weather isn’t everything. I was laid off from a great job in public relations (eight of nine people in the department were let go), I hated earthquakes and I longed for Iowa.

I also missed the newspaper business. So, I jumped at the chance to return to The Gazette, to work my way into writing Ramblin’ three times a week. I loved it.

You see, there’s a saying in newspapers: Once the ink gets in your blood, it’s there to stay. But, sadly, the ink isn’t what it used to be.

As computers hit the market some 40 years ago, experts predicted the impending death of newspapers. For a long time that seemed to have been greatly exaggerated.

Today, you can read on your computer how newspapers have died, how they’ve cut back on staffing, how they must refocus.

In Cedar Rapids, that has eerily coincided with the Floods of 2008. Necessary changes in newsroom philosophies and management at The Gazette have emphasized online delivery of news, more community-contributed stories and photographs, news delivered on a 24-hour cycle rather than once each morning. The newspaper is referred to as a Legacy Product.

To me, legacy means old and outdated. I love history, but this saddens me. I am worried because newspaper journalists have traditionally been the ones to dig deeper, to explain the “why,” to give you local news you weren’t always sure you needed but were glad to receive. Who will carry that torch now?

As I’ve rambled around Eastern Iowa, I’ve introduced you to thousands of people you may not have otherwise met.

We’ve cried with some, laughed with others. Always, though, I have found their stories fascinating and loved being able to put my twist on them.

These are your friends and relatives, the people who make Eastern Iowa the best place on Earth.

In the past few years, some of my friends and co-workers have left for other pursuits, retired or had their jobs eliminated. Nine of them were let go last month.

I too am leaving The Gazette, the newspaper business, behind. Sometime in March I will write my final Ramblin’ column. So, I will be here a while longer.

For now, I have come to another fork in the road. I know not where it leads.

Click here to read more entries from Dave's column, "Ramblin with Rasdal" or to buy his book, "Ramblin’ Reflections of Hidden Iowa."

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