It's literally the end of a Bull City era in print journalism: Jim Wise has covered his last City Council meeting.
A dedicated student of Durham and regional history, Wise has always had the unique opportunity to take something out of the current headlines and tie it back to some other time in history -- even back to the 19th century hardscrabble founding of the Bull City, when needed.
And his voice will be missed.
Wise, who started writing for the Herald-Sun in 1981 and moved to the News & Observer in 2005 after new owners Paxton Media cut a quarter of the staff after their $125 million acquisition of the Rollins family's paper.
(Yes, newcomers, someone paid that much for a newspaper in an MSA of less than a half-million people. In 2005. That's half what it would later cost Jeff Bezos to buy the Washington Post in 2013, and almost 50% more than what it cost to buy the Boston Globe that same year. Timing's a, well, you know.)
He was a great pick-up for the N&O, as Wise has ably anchored the reporting crew and contributed great commentary to the McClatchy outfit.
A Duke (class of '66) grad himself, Wise stuck around Durham for almost his entire adult life. Over the latter stretch of his career, Wise became known as much for his writing on Durham and regional history as for his newspaper work.
His works include Durham: A Bull City Story, Durham Tales, On Sherman's Trail, and Murder in the Courthouse -- along with a stint editing Tar Heel magazine and Duke's alumni publications.
City Council members briefly feted the scribe during the opening remarks portion of last night's Council meeting -- with Mayor Bell even offering Wise the mic if he wanted to say a few words. Wise, true to form, smiled but didn't take him up on it.
But Durhamites would do well to read Wise's commentary in the Indy from back in 2005, during his last career transition. His words on the importance of a vital local press resonate more strongly now than they did a decade ago, even.
And in talking about the value of local ownership of press outlets, Jim hit upon a phrase that has meaning well beyond his specific topic at the time, something that Durham has discovered across so many dimensions during our revitalization:
"As place-specific elements go, a community loses a character of its own, its Sense of Place. As everywhere becomes anywhere we end up nowhere."
We, too, are losing a character of our own, at least from the newspapers. Here's hoping Jim sticks around in places besides "the funnies" to share his unique wisdom about our region's history.
N&O editor Mark Schultz announced a retirement party for Wise on Friday, June 19, from 5-7 p.m., at the Durham History Hub downtown.
Photo h/t Jim's Twitter feed, @jaydubdum.