Rick Casey retiring from Chronicle, to be replaced by Patricia Kilday Hart

Yesterday, Harvey Kronberg noted that Chronicle metro/state columnist Rick Casey will be retiring, to be replaced by Patricia Kilday Hart.

There won't be much change in ideology, as both are reliably left of center, nor is the Houston focus likely to improve (Casey always came across as the San Antonio careerist he was when Jeff Cohen brought him over, and Hart has long covered the Austin/statehouse political scene). However, Hart probably will bring a little more energy to the column, and she doesn't appear to be a demonstrated plagiarist like Casey, so that represents an upgrade for the Chronicle.

Chronicle editor Jeff Cohen sent out a memo to staff about his favorite columnist's retirement. Parts of it are so over the top that we've reproduced the whole thing after the jump. Enjoy!

From: Cohen, Jeff
Sent: Wednesday, August 31, 2011 4:23 PM
Subject: Rick Casey

One of the great moments in an editor’s day is when a columnist knocks on the door and asks if you’ve got a minute. That’s how the writing process begins. For the next 15 minutes, as you talk it through, you get a sneak preview of the next day’s piece.

Sitting in front of me last week, Rick Casey outlined where he was headed with a column I don’t want to read. He was talking about his final column. It’s the one that will appear Sept. 7 in the City & State section.

After 40 years as a journalist, Rick is transitioning to something he’s calling “self-underemployment.” He’ll be splitting time between Houston (where his daughters went to high school), San Antonio (where he has a Friday night PBS show) and his Hill Country ranch on a bucolic piece of land near Bandera.

It was 33 years ago this summer that Rick and I met on the splintered bleachers of a minor league baseball stadium on the campus of St. Mary’s University. Rick was a writer for SA Magazine. I was a baby reporter. The two of us spent many nights in that ballpark watching players like Orel Hershiser and Fernando Valenzuela while talking about city life and politics.

When I was promoted into a hiring role at the San Antonio Light, one of my first jobs was to recruit Rick to be our lead columnist. I hired him a second time not long after becoming editor of the Chronicle.

There are three Rick Caseys: the storyteller, the reporter and the watchdog.

Rick honed the storyteller’s skills in a loud Irish family of six kids, where you had to spin a good yarn in order to get recognized.

The newsroom sharpened the reporter, and few do a better job of baiting the hook, setting it with unassailable facts and pulling it all together with an ending that sends a sharp message. Opinions are like belly buttons. Everybody has one. What sets Rick’s columns apart is good, old-fashioned reporting. He works the telephone and the town harder than a cub reporter 40 years his junior. Casey never stops the reporting – digging, digging, digging.

And then there’s the watchdog. Here’s where you really notice Rick’s range. This is not easy work two or three times a week. On any given day he’ll mesmerize us with an interpretation of city life. The next day he might make us laugh. But Rick has always been at his best in the watchdog role – hounding scoundrels, whether in business or government, who push the ethical lines.

Many of Rick’s targets will be popping the champagne corks when they hear about this announcement. But they shouldn’t celebrate too long. After all, when one columnist goes, another one arrives.

What happens next?

One of Rick’s trademarks is the cliffhanger ending. So as a tribute to him, let me simply say that the answer to that question will show up in a memo tomorrow.

Until then, the best advice I can give you is to offer to buy Rick a pint at the State Bar. You’ll hear some of the best stories of your life.


Posted by Kevin Whited @ 09/02/11 06:32 AM | Print |

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