This is the kind of news you hate to write.
This time, for sure, I get to scoop arch-rival Joseph Young of The Washington Star on a major story. And I'm hating every minute of it. This is the bad news:
After cracking out more than 7,000 columns -- some of them masterpieces under fire -- and lots of front page stories, Joe is calling it quits. He will retire effective Thursday.
Joe's departure from the federal beat is the end of an era spanning three decades, and thousands of big, and little, stories.
Joe, an old Chicago hand, joined the Old Evening Star in 1942. He covered the government for a few years then took over the Federal Spotlight column in 1948.
For 32 years, rain, shine, good times and bad, Joe has probed the complicated world of the bureaucracy. He explained -- in English, yet -- the who, what, when, where and why of big events and little ones. He covered the day-to-day working conditions, and the careers of a lot of people in that time. He earned millions of readers, from clerks to cabinet officers and newspaper reporters who tried to do what Joe does so well.
The public Joe was more reporter than columnist, more fact that opinion. He helped write the record, from Roosevelt to Carter, and managed to keep a lot of high officials nervous, and honest, with his spotlight.
President Eisenhower cancelled a staff plan that could have wrecked the merit system when Joe broke the story, and Congress got into the act. Lyndon Johnson sought to plug leaks tht appeared in Joe's column about plans LBJ had for politicizing top federal jobs. Richard Nixon once asked his news staff to find out "how he (Young) finds out these things."
Joe foretold strikes in government back when that was considered science fiction, and he prodicted the four-day week long before Uncle Sam decided to experiment with it. There isn't enough room here to begin to go over what he did.
It is hard to write the federal column in a federal town without making enemies. Even so, Joe's enemies could probably all fit into a telephone booth. Well, maybe two. But this town isn't big enough to hold all the friends, and admirers he made.
Joe could make sense out of a press conference that was jibberish to the attendees, and sometimes even to the people who called the press conference. If there is such a thing as a nose for news, Joe owns one of the best.
Never an Olympic class athlete, Joe could move very fast when necessary. At deadline time Joe could emerge from a room, fake the opposition like a good football running back, and be in the lone telephone booth dictating while his competitors were still fishing for dimes.
The private Joe is even better then Joseph Young the columnist. He acted as father-confessor and teacher to a long-line of reporters trying to understand the federal fudge factory. He didn't have to go out of his way to help the youngsters, but he usually did. Some of the names you may recognize: Like Pulitzer Prize winner Haynes Johnson and Carl Bernstein, to name a couple.
Tom Scanlan, editor of The Federal Times, said Joe served the public well because "he recorgnized nonsense when some federal bigwig tried to convince him of nonsense. Joe Young is a superior reporter and a superior man."
In typical low-key fashion, Joe planned to announce his retirement quietly Thursday without fanfare. No fair.
Joe has earned a rest from the daily journalistic grind. Few readers, fans or competitors begrudge him his retirement. We just wish he would stick around another 30 years or so.