Alma Bowen is back in town, and I'm sure she brought that infectious laugh of hers with her. But her homecoming to Gainesville this time brings with it a serious side, too. She has taken on the responsibility as editor of the local daily newspaper, and for those of us who remember Alma and her teammates in what we would consider the "Golden Era" of local journalism, that is going to be a challenge. We have high expectations, maybe even higher than can possibly be met, but if anybody can reach that height, Alma can.
I think it is fair to say some very good journalists have come and gone on the local scene during the past few years, but there was a time when Gainesville's daily newspaper was the pinnacle of local journalism. It was a great local newspaper, and it won the awards to prove it. But it wasn't the awards from journalistic outsiders that gave it credence; it was the people on the staff. They were immersed in the community, part of it, understood it, had high hopes for it, and understood the importance of their part in it. There are names: Lou Fockele, Sylvan Meyer, Johnny Vardeman ... I shouldn't have started this, for there are too many to name them all. I remember a newspaper acquaintance of mine, who had made it to New York, asking me one day: "How on earth did someone from a paper in a town your size win a Neiman Fellowship to Harvard?" And I answered him: "that was the second one." Some who came through the ranks of the Times left here, and won Pulitzer prizes. We weren't surprised; we expected it.
Alma Bowen was not as seasoned then as she is now, but she was part of that generation, a part of that team. Times have changed, especially in the news business, and it may be that our expectations are too high ... that it is simply impossible to re-create that "Golden Era" of local journalism we once enjoyed. But if anybody can do it, I am of the opinion Alma Bowen can. Yes, Alma, you can come home again.
This is Gordon Sawyer, from a window on historic Green Street.