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The Last Word

For 38 years, he’s been Cleveland’s voice, its greatest storyteller and its common-sense conscience. Now, as he retires, Dick Feagler looks back on his writing life and the history he witnessed.
Interview by Michael D. Roberts
Lunch was at Pier W in Lakewood’s Winton Place on a cold, gray day. Quite by chance, we were seated facing downtown Cleveland, a hazy outline that rose like a ghost above the frigid lake.
 
The view was made for a photograph. Dick Feagler said it before I could.
 
The symbolism was apparent: Cleveland was Feagler’s city. It belonged to him more than it ever belonged to the politicians and businesspeople who governed it. Feagler, 70, spent a lifetime preaching common sense to a city that always seemed short on it.
In January, Feagler’s last regular column appeared in The Plain Dealer. Probably no columnist in Cleveland’s history ever captured the town as Feagler did in his 38-year career, a time when newspapers were the soul of the town.
 
At lunch, he picked up the check, as he’d done for a writer doing an advance on his obituary. Feagler never saw a lead he didn’t write. He penned more than 4,000 newspaper columns and worked as a reporter, magazine writer, talk show host and television anchorman. He will remain the host of Feagler & Friends on WVIZ-TV.
 
Feagler and I go back to the days when ties were an inch wide and cigarette butts littered the newsroom floor. We were once competitors, he a reporter at The Cleveland Press, I at The Plain Dealer. My memories of those times are not so much nostalgic as anxious — wondering where the Press would strike next. As a reporter, I worried about getting scooped on my beat. Later, as city editor, I feared the Press was on to some screaming headline that would humiliate us all, down to the lowest copy boy. Nobody thought about money then, just a good Page One story.
 
So on this cold winter day with the city a mezzotint of gray, we talked about those times and about Feagler’s long career.

Check back Feb. 1 for our Q&A with Feagler


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