September 2007 Issue
One of the many rewards of a career in journalism is that, for all the competition in the field, we who practice the craft are a pretty tight-knit group. Because we often move around, we tend to have friends all over the country. Among journalists, the proverbial "six degrees of separation" is more like just one or two. If we don't know a colleague directly by having worked with him or her somewhere, chances are good that we know someone who has.
So close are we, in fact, that it sometimes seems there are only five of us in the business. And with the current squeeze in the newspaper industry, at any given time there seem to be only four jobs. Not surprisingly, then, we are pretty good to each other.
Still, sometimes you lose touch and it is a pleasant surprise when a colleague from the past crosses your path again. Which brings me to Joe Mackall, author of Plain Secrets: An Outsider among the Amish, a fascinating peek into the life of a Swartzentruber Amish family in Ohio. We present an excerpt this month, beginning on page 126.
Joe and I worked together a couple of decades ago at The Morning Journal in Lorain, where he distinguished himself as a young reporter on his way to accomplishing great things. We ran into each other again at Cleveland Magazine, where his outstanding skills as a writer and editor made him a leader in Cleveland journalism.
Little wonder that he now has distinguished himself as a writer and editor across the state and beyond. His articles have been published in many newspapers and magazines, including The Plain Dealer in Cleveland and The Washington Post, where he wrote for two years.
Today he is Dr. Joe Mackall, having earned his PhD. in English from Indiana University of Pennsylvania. It is the good fortune of budding writers and editors at Ashland University that Joe now serves as a professor of English and journalism at Ashland, where he is co-director of the creative writing program and director of the journalism program.
In addition, he is the co-founder and editor of River Teeth: A Journal of Nonfiction Narrative and co-editor of The River Teeth Literary Nonfiction Book Prize Series. And his memoir, The Last Street Before Cleveland: An Accidental Pilgrimage, was published just last year.
He brought all this talent and experience to bear in his new book, offering a glimpse of a life that is far too often misunderstood. Among the lessons he gleaned from his study of that life, Joe says: "I've learned that there are alternatives and values other than those projected by the mass media and our consumer culture."
Discovering something new is, of course, the hallmark of journalism. We're happy to have rediscovered Joe in his current role, and we're pleased to bring his latest discovery to you.