A Farewell Column From Ken Herman in the Austin American-Statesman: “That’s All, Folks”

From a farewell column by Ken Herman in the Austin American-Statesman where he worked for 26 years, the last 12 as a columnist. During the George W. Bush years, he worked in Washington as White House correspondent. He was with the AP from 1979-1988, with stints in Dallas, Harlingen (Texas) and Austin. From 1988-1995, he was Austin Bureau Chief for the now-defunct Houston Post. Prior to AP, he was with the Lufkin Daily News from 1975-77.

That’s all, folks

Pardon the college sports reference, but after 26 years in various roles (reporter, White House correspondent, columnist, office nuisance) and in various places (Mongolia, Uruguay, Afghanistan, Cleveland) for this fine newspaper, I am entering the transfer portal.

Like most college athletes who enter the transfer portal (which means they’re looking for a new place to play), I’m grateful to my soon-to-be-former home and look forward to whatever’s next, which is unknown.

The marketplace will decide whether this is retirement.

Why am I leaving? Let’s call it voluntary with an asterisk. I’ve had a great situation here at the paper, left free to write however I wanted about whatever I wanted. That’s far more than any journalist should expect. I know that.

It’s been a wonderfully broad portfolio that’s allowed me to write about whatever interested me in hopes that it would interest you and the editors. In 12 years of column writing, there have been politics, sports, obits, weird stuff, happy stuff, sad stuff and the unrivaled joy and optimism of centenarians jumping out of airplanes.

I’ve also shared with you the abuse I’ve taken, from folks at the Texas Capitol and from a resident president at the White House, for wearing a seersucker suit I’ve worn just enough to get abused out of ever wearing it in public again.

I was granted a small section of this newspaper’s print and pixels to write about whatever. It was nothing to which I was entitled. Nobody is. But that was the deal, with paychecks and benefits, under the editor who gave me the job (thanks, Fred Zipp) and the subsequent two editors who put up with me and continued to give me broad latitude (thanks, Debbie Hiott and John Bridges).

At a time when the newspaper industry is struggling through a challenging present en route to an unknown and decidedly iffy future, I’ve been fortunate to have a great job while mourning journalist colleagues we’ve lost along the way to buyouts, layoffs, and salaries and situations that, for them, became unsustainable. I’ve had something akin to survivor’s guilt.

This newspaper, like many, has undergone significant evolution in recent years. Ownership changes have meant new direction under new leadership. Later this year, the American-Statesman will move into a new building. I hope you’ve noticed some new bylines from some relatively new staffers who bring new perspectives to the paper.

That’s a lot of new. And new things are good, and needed, in an industry in which about the only thing we know for sure is that many of the old things aren’t working anymore. The journalistic goals remain the same, but the business model that produced so much profit and so much employment for so long is so kaput, disrupted into a new frontier in which success is far from assured and must be earned.

And the way we’ve covered our community at times has evidenced an overly narrow definition of our community.

The newspaper’s new editor, Manny García, brings new energy and focus at a time when both of those are valued. He has a different vision from the one I have for the job I now hold. His is a good vision, one that will benefit this newspaper. I look forward to reading the work of whoever gets this privileged job.

I leave this newspaper with the satisfaction of believing I’ve satisfied people in the two categories that mattered the most, the people who signed my paychecks during all those years and the readers who’ve shared their feedback about my columns.

A little something about that last demographic. I divide the world into three categories. My favorite is folks who read my columns and tell me I’m great. My second favorite is folks who read my columns and tell me I’m a numbskull. My least favorite category is folks who don’t read my columns. (Actually, there’s a fourth category: Folks who don’t read my columns and tell me I’m a numbskull.)

So that’s the deal, and this is the end. I’m hoping the next person who gets the privilege of typing stuff in this space does so in ways that help make this good community even better. We are a community of great success and heartbreaking failure. That gap always will exist. But it can be narrowed.

And maybe along the way the new columnist can induce a chuckle or two. Laughing is good. Especially at ourselves.

Please continue to support this newspaper. For those of you who have the print newspaper addiction and are forking over the ever-increasing price of a subscription for a daily paper with unfortunately early deadlines, thanks. You might want to look into the more economical digital subscription, which includes the e-paper, a reproduction of the print edition pages with which you might be more comfortable.

Great things are coming for your hometown newspaper that’s now under new Mannygement.

h/t to Connecting, a newsletter for current and former AP staffers.


  1. Jennifer Kim says

    Thanks for the work, Ken. Best wishes to you on your new adventure.

    Jennifer Kim

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