DTN VP/EDITORIAL LEHNER ANNOUNCES HIS RETIREMENT
Jun. 18, 2012
by Urban Lehner, VP/Editorial, DTN dtnprogressivefarmer
In Mark Twain's story "How I Edited An Agricultural Paper" a vacation-fill-in editor dumbfounds readers with absurdities. He advises harvesting turnips by sending a boy out to shake the tree. He recommends planting buckwheat cakes in July instead of August. He talks of a cow's molting season.
"It makes me lose all patience every time I think of your discussing oyster-beds under the head of 'Landscape Gardening,'" the real editor wails. "Why didn't you tell me you didn't know anything about agriculture?"
And so, one week into the job, the fill-in was out.
By comparison, when I came to DTN I got nine years -- seven as editor-in-chief and these last two as vice president, editorial.
Of course, unlike the fill-in, I never equated furrows and harrows, or suggested domesticating polecats for use as ratters, or proposed playing music to soothe the clams. But when I started out I was as agriculturally clueless as Twain's fictional fill-in.
In prior journalistic incarnations I'd covered everything from economics to automobiles, from finance to international trade, from labor unions to East Asia. But never agriculture. I've learned a bit in the interim but even now some would say I know just enough to be dangerous.
One other difference between me and Twain's fill-in: I'm not being ushered out. My departure is voluntary. I'm doing the R word.
The R word is as momentous a life decision as the M word. "If you can't say the M word, then you're not ready to do the M word," Steve Martin's lady friend tells him in the opening scene of the 1984 film "All of Me." Of course I can say it, Martin responds. Long pause. Deep breath. And finally he blurts it out: "Marriage."
That's how I feel about the R word. I can say it, but only after a long pause to catch my breath.
Now, mind you, I'm not really retiring. Shedding my executive responsibilities and my status as an employee, yes -- effective June 30. But I will continue to write. For starters, I've promised the editors of DTN and The Progressive Farmer a series of profiles of commercial farmers who are great stewards of the land. (Please email firstname.lastname@example.org if you'd like to suggest a profile candidate.)
This is my last weekly column, but An Urban's Rural View will continue in a new guise -- snippets of commentary a few times a week as opposed to a Friday essay. Look for it on my blog near the bottom of the DTN or DTN/Progressive Farmer home page.
Why am I making this move? It's time. I've had a good run at DTN. I've made some progress toward my goals: building a serious ag-news operation, hiring some great people, instilling and nurturing a culture of excellence. The chief editors I've been working with the last couple of years, Greg Horstmeier at DTN and Gregg Hillyer at The Progressive Farmer, are doing well. They're dedicated to producing distinctive insights that help ag professionals make smarter business decisions.
I've enjoyed my 40 years as a journalist for two fine media groups, The Wall Street Journal and DTN, but I'm ready for a more flexible schedule. My wife is especially ready for it.
"More flexible schedule" sounds better than "retire," doesn't it?
And who knows? Maybe as an R'd person I'll finally figure out why New Englanders prefer the pumpkin to the gooseberry for making fruitcake and "likewise give it the preference over the raspberry for feeding cows."
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Urban Lehner can be reached at email@example.com