Looking Back; Looking Forward

Outdoors with Forda Birds—By John Andreoni

As I look back over my writing career and watch it start to wind down, I try to reflect on why I spent 50 years putting pen to paper. First, I was always interested in the outdoors and felt a drive to write about it. Next, I found that people appreciated what I had to say once I gained their respect. I felt responsible to be as factual as possible since many people believed just about everything they read, especially if they agreed with it. I took my writing seriously and tried not to cater to any special crowd or lean to any particular agenda. I met Chet Huntley one time at an informal dinner and during the conversation I mentioned that I just wrote for a small-town newspaper. He felt I was apologizing and jumped up reminding me and everyone else at the table that no matter how large your market, you were still obligated to tell the truth, state the facts, and try to determine which was which.

Today, everyone seems to be loose with the truth and selectively picking and choosing information that proves them right. That’s why we now have phrases like fake news and alternative facts. There might be biases in journalism, but if they’re evident, take their information accordingly. My greatest concern isn’t the dedicated journalist. It’s every person in the world who has access to modern electronic media that selects what sounds good and passes it on as truth. I like the word truth. Heaven knows I may have stretched it once or twice, but I never put anything in print that I didn’t believe or couldn’t defend. It may have taken a bit, but I learned that telling the truth meant I didn’t have to remember anything. I also learned that just because I believed in something didn’t make it true. Finally, the hardest lesson was realizing that knowing the truth doesn’t always work out for the best.

Where is this philosophical bear scat going? I just finished writing the last book of a series that covers 50 years of my columns. I’m reading through all of them again and finding the information to both factual and truthful. If I’m stating a fact, it should be evident. If I’m stating an opinion, that, too, should be evident. If I’m writing what some call fake news, alternative facts, or plain BS…responsible journalists don’t, and if nothing more, I tried to be responsible. However, today, everyone is cynical. They know everything. They saw it on the “internet machine.” They know what’s true and what isn’t. They can fact-check with a click of their phones, but that doesn’t always work. I remember having a conversation with another outdoor writer about trap shooting, and he was bragging about how fast he shot. For whatever reason, I said I knew a guy who was probably the fastest trap shooter there ever was. He shot at 27 birds a minute for 60 minutes straight and broke 95% of them. Today, not one in a hundred would believe that story if they saw it on the internet. When I wrote about it in 1972, no one doubted it. They didn’t have a reason to disbelieve or the desire to check it out. People trusted their journalists.

In 1974, I wrote a story about GLSM stating that something was going to be done to reclaim the lake. The ODNR Director at the time made the statement that lakes as big as St. Marys can’t be built because of the cost. He said, “Lake St. Marys is in store for a face lift because it’s already here.” Of course, that didn’t happen at the time, but the intent was there. I wrapped up that story by saying if this renovation didn’t take place, “Our Lake would soon become a giant cornfield divided by cheap, damp, housing developments.” Many didn’t believe what the Director had to say, and no-one believed the prediction I made. There was some common sense, and it wasn’t April 1.

We had a big gas shortage in 1974. We had a dove season for two years in the 1970s and then it was outlawed. It didn’t come back for almost 20 years. I wrote a column about turkeys in 1972 and said that one day they might even be seen in Auglaize County. That was a hard one for sportsmen to swallow, but most thought it would be a good thing. We really pushed for a levy to build K.C. Geiger Park in 1972. It was defeated, but the park was built anyway with different funding. If the same issue was being considered today, there would probably be two groups, one wanting to build the park and the other to bring back the landfill. That’s the way society seems to operate in 2020. I wrote these five books as a reminder that looking back can produce valuable information and moving forward might be easier if we learn to accept facts and search for the truth.