| August 01, 2007

This is my last column as editor of the Independent. After five years, 265 issues and countless calls and e-mails from flacks, fans, African lotteries and annoyed readers, it's time to move on.

Which is not to say that I haven't treasured every minute of it. I have. The Independent is a remarkable institution that may look smooth and polished from the outside (well, most of the time), but is every bit the feisty, hands-on institution you'd hope a truly independent, locally owned community voice would be. It's put out by writers, editors, designers, ad reps, delivery people and business types who have one thing in common—always trying to do more than anyone has any right to expect. But we recognize how important the job is—as much these days as when Jesse Helms was the reigning power at our founding nearly 25 years ago. If you have any doubts, just imagine the Triangle without it. Something very essential would be missing.

The critical job we do was brought home to me last year at an altweekly newspaper convention in Little Rock, Ark. Gen. Wesley Clark spoke about what he believed were the three most important problems facing America (besides this horrible war): the corporate takeover of government regulations; the failures of our health-care system; and the assault by communications conglomerates on the Internet.

I realized then that those had been among our local priorities, too. Interim Editor Jennifer Strom investigated the development industry's takeover of an obscure state board that had veto power over the state's environmental regulations (when she wasn't chronicling developers' attempted takeover of Chatham County). Reporter Bob Geary hammered at the failures of the state's mental health reform, and a retired UNC med school professor wrote about the ways UNC Health Care put money ahead of patients. Fiona Morgan emerged as one of the nation's most insightful reporters on media consolidation and the fight for control of cable, broadcast and the Internet.

Then there's the war. Months before it began, we started questioning all the pronouncements—lies—about weapons of mass destruction and strategic goals, and we pointed out the rest of the media's failure to do their job ("Remember the Maine? Remember the aluminum tubes," I wrote in March 2003).

And we have hammered at issues that are just as important closer to home: urban sprawl, sustainable agriculture, gay rights, the death penalty and cities' support for big-ticket projects over artists and small businesses.

I'm proud of keeping my hometown of New Orleans on people's minds—from commissioning a frighteningly prescient story in 2004 about FEMA called "A Disaster Waiting to Happen" to periodic reports from a local Katrina refugee.

So thanks to all at the Indy and the flacks, fans and annoyed readers who made the job so rewarding. Now it's time to go—I think I just won an African lottery.

Comments (8)

Showing 1-8 of 8

This is the worst thing to happen to journalism since Richard Harding Davis passed on.

Posted by wr hearst on 08/21/2007 at 5:19 PM

I was so disappointed to read about Richard Hart leaving. We have been blessed to have a local voice helping us access more of the truth about so many vital issues and concerns. I had one of those "oh my God" moments as I read Richard's words. The readers have lost a wise and caring voice. Blessings,gratitude and well wishes to you Richard. Paul McAndrew

Posted by health moves on 08/09/2007 at 10:07 PM

Thanks for your years of service to the Triangle. The Independent is an important part of life here for many of us, and your work there will be missed.

Posted by RaleighRob on 08/07/2007 at 3:21 PM

Your voice will be missed. Huzzah, my friend.

Posted by TSQ75 on 08/06/2007 at 9:05 AM

I was distressed to hear of Richard's leaving the Independent. Since he took over as editor, the Independent had seemed to me to be in the best of hands. I know I speak for the whole community in thanking him for all that he brought to the job -- the excellence in his writing and the sincerity of his dedication to the values that we in the liberal community hold in common. Richard, you will be sorely missed. Our appreciation and affection go with you.

Posted by Carol on 08/02/2007 at 12:56 PM

Richard always did such a nice job putting the local news in perspective with key issues around the world. Indy's got some very big shoes to fill.

Posted by bennc on 08/02/2007 at 9:06 AM

"NO-O-O-O-O-!!!!!!" Wow, I was lulled into thinking that Richard Hart would always be there for the peaceniks and for the gays and for the plain joe and jo citizens. You were there for me, Richard. Your humor and your insight was a big bonus to reading the INDY every week. Please say it ain't so. - Pam Campa

Posted by Pam Campa on 08/02/2007 at 8:40 AM

For the past five years, each time I have picked up the Indy, the very first page I have turned to is Richard's column. Whether he's writing about homegrown tomatoes, his children, George Bush or the latest scandal, I could always trust Richard to tell it straight, cut through the bull and back it up with facts -- always with a terrific sense of humor. I hope that Richard's brilliant influence on his Indy staff will continue for many issues to come. -- Wendy Livingston

Posted by Wendy Livingston on 08/01/2007 at 9:15 PM
Showing 1-8 of 8

Add a comment