From the Editor

My Summer Vacation

It all started back in April, when the virus was young… I had big plans for making this the summer of exploration, intent on getting away from the quarantine/hunker down mentality and surrounding myself with the beauty of nature. The first plan was renting an RV in June and driving to Alaska via the Alaska …

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Never Let a Good Crisis Go to Waste

By chance, in early January, I watched a Netflix series called “Pandemic,” so my sensors were attuned early for the virus news from China. I was initially surprised that people were slow to give it credence and that financial markets blithely reached all-time highs Feb. 19. Soon enough though, as virus news swept the globe …

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Pittsburgh Tomorrow: Facing Facts and Seizing Opportunity

Editor’s note: The following column was published in the Spring issue of Pittsburgh Quarterly, just before the coronavirus changed the landscape across the world. It was part of an overall package entitled “Pittsburgh Today & Tomorrow” dedicated to considering changes that we in the Pittsburgh region might undertake in order to overcome consistently tepid economic …

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The Migrations of Hunting

“Nature is a wet place where large numbers of ducks fly around uncooked.” —Oscar Wilde I didn’t grow up in a hunting family. When it came to wild animals, we enjoyed simply seeing them, not killing them. And the least likely kind of hunting for me might have been ducks. I liked the book “Make …

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Lost and Found

Some days are memorable for obvious reasons: births, deaths, weddings and funerals. Occasionally, however, a day is noteworthy not for any dramatic event but for what you suddenly understand. For 58 summers in a row, I’ve gone to a little town in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula called Cedarville. What has turned out, in retrospect, to be …

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The Seeming Vastness of Summer

During a 15-minute break from a recent Friday night poker game, a friend and I were discussing medical things when the question arose: What would you do if you found out you had two years to live and would be in basically good health until the end? The conversation soon attracted a wider group, and …

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Fairy Tale or Future: The Choice Is Ours

The Amazon HQ2 spectacle was a grand 21st Century fairy tale. It had everything: the world’s richest company promising happily-ever-after status to the city that would win its second headquarters, $5 billion in investment and 50,000 jobs. For 17 months, people murmured throughout the land. Some whispered that Amazon’s move was a brilliant marketing stratagem; …

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A Turning Point for Troubled Times

By almost any objective measure, life in America has never been better. We’re not at war. Poverty is low, unemployment’s even lower, and stocks are sky high. Homicide rates are about where they were in 1950 and half of what they were in 1980. And medical care is better than ever with dramatic breakthroughs occurring …

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The Last At-Bat

Early one morning this summer, I was fishing with my friend in northern Michigan. The fog was thick, and Dave asked if I could tell where I was going. I know those waters and predicted that in about 30 seconds a point with a white boathouse would come into view. It did, and we rounded …

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Lessons from the Farm

Out at the farm, there’s an old trailer that my parents bought about 30 years ago after the farmhouse we’d been restoring burned to the ground. I’m sure that when Mom and Dad were alive and used it on weekends, the trailer had enough of Mom’s touches to make it seem homey and nice. But …

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Man’s Best Friend

There once was a dog named Stormy. When he was very young, a man became his friend and carefully introduced him to all sorts of people, places and situations. He kept little Stormy away from frightening things, and Stormy grew up to love people and the world. Every morning of his life, he jumped as …

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Looking Inward, Way Inward

Until about six weeks ago I never fully appreciated that, just like all the strange characters in science fiction movies, I am a mutant. It all began in June when a friend mentioned his results from a genetic testing outfit. A few years ago, I’d considered paying one of the services to find out my …

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Sailing into the Fray

In May, my older sister emailed, wondering if I’d be sailing in the nationals, which this year would be where we spend summers in Michigan. I’d been considering it, but there were two impediments—pulling together a four-man crew and the spinnaker. No problem with the crew, but flying a spinnaker loomed in my mind like …

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The Lure of Fishing

One of my earliest memories was Christmas Eve at my grandmother’s big home with its very high ceilings in Cincinnati. I was 4, and my aunt gave me a tackle box. As I examined the various fishing lures, my father said, “Be careful that the first fish you catch isn’t yourself.” I didn’t understand him …

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Journalism 101?

I’ve been a reporter or editor almost continuously since taking over my high school newspaper 39 years ago. So when President Trump called journalists “among the most dishonest human beings on earth,” it did get my attention. But journalists get attacked so often that rather than take it personally, I considered whether any truth lurked …

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Gettysburg: The 150th Anniversary

On a beautiful April Sunday, I got up early and drove to Gettysburg. July marks the battle’s 150th anniversary, and I had signed up for a two-hour horseback battlefield tour. I’m not a history buff, but I am an American, and Gettysburg has always held a unique gravity. We had a relative who disappeared during …

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The Sky Is Falling

In June I bowed to the demands of my three college-aged children and got the whole family smart phones. As I waited in line at the AT&T store, a guy behind me suggested I should get the “Siri” iPhone. “You can ask it anything, and it answers,” he said. Perhaps I should do that, I …

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Changing the Cottage

In April, my wife and I made the 600-mile drive to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula unusually early. We went to meet with contractors to begin fixing up the old cottage. What we call “The Big Cottage” was completed for the summer of 1908, the first built on LaSalle Island along the northern shore of Lake Huron. …

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A Remarkable Time for the Region

Twenty years ago, when newspapers were strong, the coin of the realm for ambitious reporters was winning awards. A slightly caricatured general rule was: The more intractable, insoluble and depressing the issue you wrote about, the more awards you’d win. Newspapers were in the business of problems, not solutions. In 1995, I marked 10 years …

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A Pittsburgh Original

At a civic event 11 years ago, I saw an unusually dapper fellow—navy pinstripe suit, rep tie and perfectly combed white hair. The fact is, I thought he was someone else. I went over and introduced myself, and he said, “Bill Dietrich.” The name meant nothing to me. But after chatting for a minute or …

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Into the Wild

What could be nicer than a family trip with all three kids just before they head off to college and my wife and I become empty nesters? This, at least, was my thinking when I signed up for a three-day, two-night pack trip into Yellowstone Park this summer. Ride in on horseback, do some fishing, …

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The New News

It’s said the stock market climbs a wall of worry. Equally so, society. And for the past several years, there’s been great concern about journalism. The common wisdom is that, with newspapers significantly weakened, citizens no longer get the information they need about their communities, and public officials who would be held accountable by the …

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