By GLENN REDUS
(with DUTTON PEABODY)
As the founder of this iteration of The Shinbone Star, some staff members thought it would be appropriate that I be the one to provide some kind of mission accomplished statement.
So here it is: Donald Trump lost the election! Yay!
While I am acceding to their request and understand the logic behind it, the truth is that I couldn’t have gone much beyond four days — much less four years — without the help of a whole lot of people.
Yes, it was I who came up with the zany concept to hitch our wagon to an old Western movie, “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance,” but even before getting to that stage it was a conversation with former Houston Post colleague Lin Lofley along the lines of, “Hey, we oughta do something,” that moved me to act.
The Shinbone Star was thus reborn from the movie screen and onto your computer screens. Lin went on to author 43 articles for us. Thank you.
There’s no nice way to put it, but I became a real asshole in those early days, signing on new staff members from my 33 year career in newspaper journalism then casting them aside when they couldn’t meet my demands that they submit articles, articles and more articles.
Some would argue that I was an asshole long before that and remain one to this day, a charge I won’t deny. I expected an awfully lot from people who were never paid a dime.
In those early days I felt driven that The Shinbone Star should be less like a blog and more like a daily newspaper, even if each issue contained but one article. I thought we needed to establish ourselves and that failure was inevitable if we couldn’t meet that once-a-day goal.
I still think I was right in that assessment.
Though our no-holds barred style was a far cry from traditional journalism, I decreed that there would be no misspellings and no bad grammar, though bad words would be allowed, even encouraged. I wanted The Shinbone Star to look as professional as we could make it, given our limitations. Any mistakes you found that lend evidence to the contrary were probably my fault.
Looking back, I’m sorry for any hurt feelings, but with Donald Trump denigrating my profession and set to wreck our country, I truly couldn’t understand what I perceived as a lack of motivation to take our old skills out of mothballs and counter him in whatever way we could.
In those early days, my hard-driving style was matched by former colleague Gaynell Terrell, who became my right hand, authoring 137 original articles in just 15 months. She ultimately changed her screen persona to Bluebird, and until her tragic death, she almost single-handedly kept us afloat. Her loss was a blow to our operation and to me, personally. I still think about her often and wish she could be celebrating the end of the Trump presidency along with the rest of us.
Sadly, it was not to be.
Into the void stepped Masta Talka, who became my new right hand and remains so to this day.
Where Gaynell was easily my match when it came to cracking the whip and insisting on more and better material from herself and others, Masta Talka brought a kinder, mellower tone to our behind-the-scenes operation. He took over our “morning report,” which consists of an electronic message in a private Shinbone Star chatroom on Facebook.
There would be no more demands, no more ultimatums, but by now our little enterprise was well established with thousands of loyal readers. If we missed a day once in awhile it no longer mattered so much. It was clear The Shinbone Star wasn’t going anywhere, we were in it for the long haul.
Masta Talka provided so much more than just gentleness and an annoying eternal optimism that lightened the mood during the darkest days of Trump. Not only did he frequently talk me off the ledge, but along the way he also authored 256 weekly Trumplandia columns, each graced with original artwork from his wife, Skye Hunter.
I cannot express enough gratitude to those two. Without their contributions — both seen and unseen by the readership — we could not have achieved what we did.
I would be thanking people forever if I listed everyone — there were more than 30 contributors to The Shinbone Star — but I’d be remiss if I didn’t give special thanks to the following:
- Fred Bunch for his writing and unquenchable rage.
- Macinelli for his insightful writing and ideas for new features like All Hat/No Cattle and the COVID-19 update page.
- Anne-Marie for helping with the editing and for her humorous writing on the “Young and the Beautiful” serial.
- Nathaniel Helms for his writing, military expertise, and his service to our country during the Vietnam War.
- Deconstructing Doctor for her writing and healing of the staff’s bruised typing fingers.
- LarryBndc for writing and sharing his deep and personal knowledge of racism in America.
- Deborah Quinn-Hensel for writing and keeping the pot boiling during newsroom meetings.
- Denise Shabazz for writing and remembering the children.
- Robin Dalmas for writing and being the reigning Queen of Links.
- Chris Lavin for writing and for her lighter view of hell.
- Debbie Dowling for writing and setting the scene from mid-America.
- Andrew Prendimano for his artistic talent.
- Don Lessem, for his writing and for being the creator of Trump on a Toilet.
- And let’s not forget our “foreign bureaus,” with Madmegsblog, Robert Ott and Yashodhara Sirur providing coverage from Canada, Israel and India, respectively. Ours was not their fight, yet they joined it anyway.
Each staff member, including those not mentioned, contributed something to our operation, not just with articles or artwork, but also with support tasks like editing, spreading our material through internet links, or just talking things through during newsroom chats that took place almost every morning, afternoon and night for years.
But enough about the individuals, what about that thing that together we created, The Shinbone Star?
Well, as Dutton Peabody himself said at the top of our recent “Fearless Forecast” column, it’s time for us to fade into the sunset, though we will stick around at least until Joe Biden takes the oath of office on Inauguration Day, Jan. 20, 2021.
We want to last the full four years — we didn’t start our run until shortly after Trump stood on the steps of the Capitol on Jan. 20, 2017 and lied about preserving, protecting and defending the Constitution. Four full years for us will come on Jan. 29, 2021.
They say the Internet lasts forever and there are no plans to delete The Shinbone Star out of existence. Our more than 1,500 articles will remain a history lesson for anyone who — during what we hope will be kinder, gentler days — cares to read about our undying resistance to Donald Trump.
I’ve informed the staff that the site will remain in existence for any one of them who wants to say something, though they’ll have to learn to do it by themselves. Before I go, I’ll flip the switches and turn all who remain into site administrators, free to write and post in unedited bliss. Just be careful which buttons you push, guys!
As for myself, I think I’m done. I have my own writing — too long ignored — to go back to, and it shall have nothing to do with politics. I’m an ex-journalist, after all, retired, and it’s time to get back to acting like it.
While searching for a way to end this column, which has been entirely too long already, I add a final thanks to you, our readers. Without you, none of what we did would have mattered. You read, you supported, and most importantly, you voted. It is you who saved our country. You who preserved our democracy.