I am saddened by the passing of Richard Finnell, mentor, friend*, possessor of grizzled wisdom, proponent of no bullshit, long caretaker of, adviser to and tireless advocate for The Daily Texan.
Richard didn't teach me how to write a lede, or how to edit a news story, but I learned more from him about the ineffable qualities that make a good journalist than from pretty much anyone else I ever worked with in the field. He encouraged me to run for editor of the Texan. He encouraged me, once editor, to pick my battles and to fight like hell to win them. He encouraged me not to fear authority, but to always conspire against it.
When last I spoke to Richard, in the late summer of 2009, he was on the verge of retiring from Texas Student Media, a place that he somehow seemed to love just about as much as it infuriated him. Richard saw and railed against the mismanagement that turned the once profitable Texan into a shadow of its former self. In 2009 he aptly described TSM as “absurd and tragic.”
As the Moody College of Communication takes the lead in saving TSM from itself, I do hope they honor Richard's legacy by granting the Texan the autonomy it has so long deserved. Nothing would be a better tribute to Richard than to resolve the bureaucratic dysfunction that brought him such angst.
*I am using “friend” a bit ironically here because one of the last emails I ever received from Richard was back in August of 2009 and titled “Facebook signups." That email read, in full: “There has been a flood of people signing up to be my ‘friend’ on Facebook. Do you know why this flurry has occurred right now?” For Richard, there always had to be a motive.
— A.J. Bauer, Daily Texan Editor, 2005-2006