After nearly 16 years, it's time for a change

June 24, 1999|By Liz Douglas Medcalf

After 15 years and 11 months, I'm leaving The Herald-Mail, Washington County and journalism, after a fashion. Talk about a life change.

I'm also putting my house on the market and am looking for a place to live that will accept four cats. I may have hit the red zone on the stress meter. Just writing this column is doing a number on my blood pressure. How do you condense nearly 16 years into 18 column inches?

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For the record, I've taken a job with Frostburg State University in Frostburg, Md., as associate director of News and Media Services. I'll be providing a variety of public relations services for the college and its branches from the campus in Allegany County.

I'm actually going home. I'm finally admitting after all these years that I'm a homebody. A native of Cumberland, I was determined to get away from home at least for a little while. I went to Spain, then college in southwestern Virginia, with a little jaunt to Ireland and England, then settled into Hagerstown for a while. That turned into nearly half my life.


It's been fun. Journalism is fun. Reporters get to meet all kinds of people in all kinds of situations. Most have at least a short list of celebrities they've encountered.

Mine include Broadway, television and movie actor Charles S. "Roc" Dutton, alumnus of Hagerstown Junior College, Yale and Maryland Correctional Institution. He says the latter two look a lot alike. I met him just as he hit Broadway for his Tony-nominated role in "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom." Nice guy. Great interview. But I had to wait until he was finished talking to Bryant Gumbel. Go figure.

Because of Dutton, I also had a brief encounter with Coretta Scott King, widow of the Rev. Martin Luther King, who was at the play when I met Dutton. She said, "Hello." My response was something like, "Duh." Or, at least, that was the closest thing to a word I could produce. We're never intelligent when we want to be.

I also got to chat with a very pleasant Ed Harris when he was here making "Sweet Dreams."

Both actors have done real well since they met me. Maybe they should thank me. Maybe not.

As both editor and reporter, I've been able to participate in plenty of other interesting things over the years, including Leadership Hagerstown, in which I learned all sorts of fascinating things about the community and met a lot of nice people, including, incidentally, the man who became my husband, Travis Medcalf. Thank you, Herald-Mail.

Especially for the last couple of years in Lifestyle, it's been a particularly nice part of the job that I get to talk to people at some of the happiest times of their lives, the birth of children or grandchildren, when they get engaged or married or when they're marking 50 years or more of marriage.

It certainly beats the conversations you tend to have in what is known as the "hard news" part of the paper. Then I often was speaking to people who were experiencing the worst times of their lives - a death in the family, an arrest, an embarrassment - and I had just put that information in the paper for everyone to see.

Then there was the case of "be careful what you ask for." The Daily Mail has a habit of running pictures of all sorts of weird vegetables and occasional other oddities. With a feature like that, you deserve what you get.

What I got was a gentleman who wanted to show me something remarkable that he had found. I agree, it was remarkable, but I'm sure our readers are grateful I decided not to run a picture of his offering - two mice caught in one trap.

I've determined that you can't wrap up 16 years in 18 inches, even though both went by a lot faster than I expected. I guess I'll just say thanks for the memories.

Liz Douglas Medcalf, one of our own celebrities, will be greatly missed by the Lifestyle staff. We wish her the best.

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