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Pat McDonell's Blog

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Wednesday, April 26, 2017
One of the best ever

One last time
This issue marks my final edition as Editor of Western Outdoor News after 34 years. My choice, my timing, and it’s time to move on and let someone else make the decisions.

A retirement it is not, but rather a refocusing on a priority list of goals that, frankly, I have to stop adding to unless I plan on living to 120. I certainly plan on being active with CCA, which I have put off due to my inability to give enough time. I also plan to fish more, on my skiff and party boats as time allows, put my dive gear to use, play some golf, and continue to hunt and fish with friends and my family. And there is the matter of my 18-month grandchild Claire who is growing up in St. Louis, and I miss her a ton. Time is running out. When you lose both sets of parents, you come up on your 40th wedding anniversary and you undergo two hip surgeries, you start to think a little differently about working full-time, making that drive on Interstate 5.

It’s been a great ride as editor. I came in as a 28-year-old sportswriter from a small daily newspaper where our small staff was covering high school, college and professional sports. It’s a great gig and I met and interviewed some of the greats in sports in that era, but I wanted something else in life; better hours for a family, more pay, a chance to travel and a whole lot more. All of that was possible thanks to the late Burt Twilegar who hired me, and his son, Bob Twilegar, who has been my boss for about 20 years. As people often point out, rare is the person working in the private sector who works at one job for 34 years, and I know that, and am grateful for it and to all the people I have worked with here. I can’t name them all here. There’s a bunch of great people who I know will carry on the WON tradition of 63 years.

Readers will still see my byline in WON, especially each week handling the Baja reports. That region has always held a special place in my soul as a fisherman and over the years as the director of the WON Los Cabos Tuna Jackpot Tournament now in its 19th year. I have some other ideas for stories, I’ll be writing some features and hosting trips to Alaska and Cedros. So, I won’t be gone, but I’ll be in a different role.

So, what has it been like as editor? It has never been dull. And I have seen a lot, and met thousands of people, learned to fish with the best captains, and hunt with the top guides while holding a proverbial pen in one hand and a rod or gun in the other. There is no better person than a sportsman, really. They seem to understand life, and reality and consequences of actions more than others when it comes to the environment, true conservation and our place in this world.

It is funny, but my career as a journalist from my beginnings as sports editor of the campus paper The Corsair at Santa Monica College spans the technological age of print media. The old college paper actually used lead type, likely in its last years. Then there was the cold type world of waxed galleys and cut and paste layout, then we went to digital, and now we are in a world which is, frankly, thrilling and a little scary at the same time.

A few times I have been told, likely due to my turning 63 this week, that I am a journalistic dinosaur. I looked at one person and said, “Really? Well, I read my news digitally, I have a digital phone, three computers, an iPad, write for three Facebook pages, have a blog, grudgingly communicate with family via texts and Instagram, post to two websites (the first one I created for the Cabo Tuna Jackpot in 1999) and have not opened a real book in five years because my iPad is far more convenient. But one thing about our advancing technological revolution is that the real information we require for our democracy to flourish will always be a reporter with a recorder or a pen and paper, digging out and writing the truth. And I think you should pay for that information.

Conservation has been important to me here in my tenure and will continue to be. I was among those that pushed Assemblywoman Doris Allen’s AB-1 that spurred a coalition of sportsmen and conservation organizations to support Prop 132 that banned nearshore gillnets in the 1990s. There have been other victories, over longlines, and defeats too, like the MLPA.

Oh, it’s been a lot of fun, too. I’ve been fortunate to have traveled a great deal, to Brazil’s Amazon River, Costa Rica’s coasts and rivers, Panama’s Coiba Island, Australia, mainland Mexico, Alaska, British Columbia, Baja California and throughout our great country, fishing, exploring, and writing stories.

Outdoor journalism in its many forms has been a great way to make a living. And I’m not through yet.

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