A column by Mike Myer, executive editor of The Intelligencer/Wheeling News-Register
WHEELING, W.Va. — When Al Molnar embarked upon his career in journalism, newspapers still produced type with molten lead. Writing was something of a physical effort because reporters used manual typewriters. The communications worldwide web on which most people relied was the telephone, plugged into the wall.
Al’s last column was found on his computer after he passed away last week. A family member sent it to me via the Internet. Clearly, times changed.
During his long time in the Fourth Estate, Al had to alter much about how he did things. But he had the most important component of journalism down pat decades ago.
He always understood the key to good journalism is not the technology but, instead, people.
Al liked people and enjoyed getting to know them better. Many local residents seemed to sense that about him. He was interested not just in the news they might generate, but in them.
He made an enormous number of personal friends that way. At the same time he became one of the most knowledgeable journalists who ever pounded a beat in the Ohio Valley. He knew the inside stories on politics and where to find white squirrels in St. Clairsville. He knew who was about to open a new business and who had the secret to growing beautiful Christmas trees.
As nearly as it is possible for a human being to really know the people he served as readers, Al did, I think.
Don’t get me wrong. Al was not always the most enjoyable person to be around. Woe be unto the reporter who left too many holes in a story Al was editing. And if he sensed you were involved in something crooked in government, he could be your worst enemy.
That, too, endeared him to the overwhelming majority of people. They knew they could count on Al to be straight with them.
He knew reporting done well is hard work. He never shied away from it.
I learned much about our profession from Al, who taught as much by example as directly. And I learned something about how to live a life well outside the workplace, too.
I will remember him – and miss him – as one of the best newspapermen I’ve known in many years. Al would have understood the difference between being referred to that way instead of as a mere journalist. There’s a difference.
But Al was something else, too. He was a very good man.
Myer can be reached at: [email protected].
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