Jim Franz mug

BELOIT—Everybody has his or her pet peeves, and in that respect I think I rank right up there with the late Andy Rooney.

Of course I’ve had an inordinate amount of time to become irritated. I’ve been covering sports at the Daily News for 42 years.

One of the things I like least is change and 2020 has been an absolute killer in that regard. I’m not just talking about COVID-19, either. The ramifications of that would be bad enough.

First, there was that whole moving of headquarters from that drafty old brick building on State Street over to our cozy new confines in the former Hilton Hotel/Goody’s II/Turtle Creek Bookstore location.

That’s nothing compared to the shock of having my boss of those 42 years, Bill Barth, announce during a conference call recently that he’s ready to ride off into the sunset on his Harley.

Bill Barth retiring just wasn’t something any of us expected. I guess we all just presumed we’d find him someday slumped over his laptop with a half-written editorial on the virtue of bipartisanship in front of him. He’s joked about that being the way he’d probably sign out on more than one occasion. Thankfully, that won’t be the case.

That doesn’t mean I have to like that he’s hanging it up. Like I said, I hate change and this one I’m really not OK with. Bill has been the conscience of the paper since I’ve been here. He has steered this bus capably and he taken us and the community along for a smooth and entertaining ride. He has taught scores of young journalists about writing and, once they’ve earned it, trusted them enough to leave them alone to do their jobs. For the most part, anyway.

Perhaps that is what we in the Sports Department have enjoyed the most. We’re all terrible at being micro-managed so seeing a lot of autonomy over the years has truly been appreciated

To his BDN staff, Bill has seemed a lot more Will Rogers than George Will over the years. The southern Illinois native always has plenty of folksy stories to illustrate his point. But make no mistake, Bill can write editorials with the best of them. He has the awards to prove it. I hope he still drops some occasional future prose our way.

Those that have known him a long time would probably agree that Bill has mellowed some over the years. When I first was grappling with the long hours involved with a salaried position at a newspaper his response sounded a lot like Lou Grant (Google him if you need to). He’d say, if you’re an editor, you work until the story or the job are done. He’d also say that no one picked this profession expecting to be a millionaire. Or that the real payoff in this job is doing something fulfilling that you believe is significant. He isn’t wrong on any of those scores.

Lately, though, Bill has spent time reminding us on a fairly frequent basis that there is more to life than toiling at your job 24-7. He’d tell us to enjoy time with our family and for God’s sake take care of yourself, physically and mentally.

Hopefully, he is taking that advice to heart now and post-COVID he’ll plan out a dream trip somewhere he has always wanted to visit, whether it’s on that Harley or not.