He sat the next tube over in the old Daily O newsroom, decades ago, before it was made over, then downsized, then abandoned. Pretty much every day, one or the other of us, John Dodge or I, would ask, roundabout the time it should have happened: “Did we publish?”
Someday, sooner than we know, the answer will be no. Back then, the answer was always, “Yes, I believe we did.”
An old sportswriter friend of mine, when asked what he did for a living, used to say, “I’m in publishing.”
Publishing is about the only thing newspapers get right pretty much every day, until they don’t. For a pro like Dodge, being a part of the daily event meant reporting like it meant something, and he did it for 40 years. The local rag keeps limping up to deadline every day, and the presses spin somewhere (Tacoma? Sacramento? No one’s sure). It’s printing, every day, but these days it’s without its most respected voice.
Three years after his retirement from The Olympian, John is still in publishing, and here’s the good part: He’s still reporting.
The work product today is not one of the definitive pieces of environmental journalism or the quietly paced columns we came to know from the newspaper Dodge. Today, it’s a book.
Every journalist who ever worked a beat thinks he/she’s got one in ’em. Way very few do the legwork and sit their asses in a chair long enough, often enough, to get one written. A fraction of those play the publishing game with enough patience to see one through to print.
John’s book is the work of six years, fifty-six years in the making. “A Deadly Wind” (Oregon State University Press, 2018) is the story of the 1962 Columbus Day Storm, the most monumental wind event in the history of the Pacific Northwest region of Grey Goatee Nation.
You can buy the book at Browsers Bookshop in downtown Olympia, among other brick-and-mortar places, and you can find it on the big-ass mega-bookseller/retailer on the Worldwide Web, if you want to. You can meet the author in person at a book launch party at 7 p.m. Oct. 8 at the Capitol Theater, also downtown.
Somebody else could have written this book, sometime in those 56 years, but maybe the book was waiting for just the guy to write it. No other reporter in our generation has written more or better on Northwest weather and the environment than John Dodge, and if he was too young in 1962 to report on this storm, you won’t know it from reading the book.
For me, John has been a co-worker, a basketball teammate, a mentor (don’t tell him I said so) and a friend, and he’s been my standing date for 32 years in front of a television set on the first Monday night in April … come rain, come storm.
John did the hardest work in publishing in writing “A Deadly Wind.” The easy part, the reading of it, is all ours.