| News

Larger text Larger text Smaller text Smaller text | Order Photo Reprints

My last words ...

Email Newsletters

Click here to sign up for one of our email newsletters.

Letters home ...

Traveling abroad for personal, educational or professional reasons?

Why not share your impressions — and those of residents of foreign countries about the United States — with Trib readers in 150 words?

The world's a big place. Bring it home with Letters Home.

Contact Colin McNickle (412-320-7836 or

Daily Photo Galleries

'American Coyotes' Series

Traveling by Jeep, boat and foot, Tribune-Review investigative reporter Carl Prine and photojournalist Justin Merriman covered nearly 2,000 miles over two months along the border with Mexico to report on coyotes — the human traffickers who bring illegal immigrants into the United States. Most are Americans working for money and/or drugs. This series reports how their operations have a major impact on life for residents and the environment along the border — and beyond.

By Bill Steigerwald
Sunday, March 15, 2009

No one sane ever went into journalism for the money, and neither did I -- which was a good thing. I've made my first million as a professional newspaper writer/editor but it took nearly 36 years.

Like many in my financially and technologically battered business, I went into journalism because I wanted to be a writer. But I also felt a duty to try to right the left-liberal imbalance of the news media, which were even more lopsided in the early 1970s without talk radio, cable TV, Fox News and the Internet.

I've not won fame or big prizes. But I've had a lucky and rewarding career as a feature writer, reporter, columnist, letters editor and book/ TV reviewer. With time out for bartending and a brief stint at CBS in Hollywood, I've worked, in order, at a suburban weekly in Cincinnati (1973-1977), the Los Angeles Times (1979-1989), the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (1989-2000) and the Trib.

By my rough count, I've written at least 1,000 words a week -- nearly 2 million career words. That includes more than 1,000 newspaper opinion pieces. Only my mother has read and liked them all.

As a reporter, I've tried my best to be accurate, fair and truthful. I've always been aware of the difference between news and opinion, between balance and bias, and between being a government watchdog and a government lapdog. And I have always known that every journalist and every editor I have ever worked with was helplessly subjective in their politics and in their definition of what news and bias were and were not.

Trust me, big-city daily newspapers don't go out of their way to achieve ideological diversity. About 90 percent of my work mates over the years were either avowed liberal Democrats or didn't know it. Reagan Republicans were virtually nonexistent. Until I got to the Trib, I was always the staff's lonely libertarian.

I've had a long pleasure cruise on the now-listing ship of newspaper journalism. I've had adventures only journalists can have: A trip to Peru to ride a freight train into the Andes. Chasing tornados for a week at a time in Kansas -- twice. Flying through Hurricane Bonnie in 1998 at 10,000 feet and then waking up in her eye when she came ashore in North Carolina.

Weather didn't provide my scariest moments, by the way. Nor did interviewing Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis face-to-face. Nor did spending an hour alone with actor James Woods. It was meeting Michael Jackson's father.

In 36 years, I've watched a dozen movies being made. I've spent quality time with or interviewed too many famous, important or smart people to recount -- from actor Jimmy Stewart and Timothy Leary to Tommy Lasorda and Milton Friedman. I've shaken hands with Hillary Clinton and Karl Rove when neither knew I was a working journalist. I've helped elderly John Kenneth Galbraith down a flight of stairs and I've been helped on with my raincoat by William F. Buckley Jr.

Sadly, this is my final column as an employee of the Trib. I've decided to take a modest buyout. I'm not retiring. I'm just leaving daily newspaper journalism to see what happens to me for the last third of my life.

I've tried my best to make newspaper journalism more interesting, entertaining and politically balanced. I had my fun. I afflicted my enemies and comforted my friends. I have no regrets. Now it's time to freelance, teach a journalism class and write some books, including my memoir, which has the working title "Confessions of a Subversive Newspaper Man."

Thanks to everyone for reading my words. Especially you, Mom.

Subscribe today! Click here for our subscription offers.



Show commenting policy

Most-Read Stories

  1. United Airlines hack coincided with incursion into government employee data
  2. Pirates acquire pitcher Blanton from Royals for cash
  3. Starkey: Garoppolo baffles Steelers
  4. Inside the Steelers: Williams’ quickness out of backfield evident in drills
  5. Peduto blasts Wolf’s plan to borrow $3B to shore up pensions
  6. Steelers notebook: LB Dupree sits out backs-on–backers drill
  7. McCutchen, Pirates cruise to interleague victory over Twins
  8. Area coaches prefer staying put for camp
  9. Pirates notebook: Melancon bails out Watson with extended outing
  10. Gameday: Pirates at Reds, July 30, 2015
  11. Steelers’ Bell unsure why NFL reduced his suspension