June 21, 2018
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Kent Ward writes last piece for BDN after 45 years of column-writing

By Nick McCrea, BDN Staff

BANGOR, Maine — Kent Ward’s weekly column in Saturday’s paper ends with “-30-.”

The now seldom-used “-30-” is a reporter’s traditional signal to editors and typesetters that the article has concluded.

Ward, who turned 80 in May, filed his last column for the Bangor Daily News on Friday morning, 50 years after he joined the BDN staff as Rockland bureau chief in 1962.

Ward, of Limestone, left the BDN in 1991 after accepting a retirement offer during a round of cuts to newspaper staff, but he continued writing his weekly columns, which have been in publication since 1967.

The longtime member of the Maine Press Association, Maine Journalist of the Year and 2004 MPA Hall of Fame inductee said Thursday that his interest in journalism grew early in life while he worked as a stringer for what was then WAGM radio in Presque Isle.

“I always thought, well geez, that’s the best job in the world,” Ward said. “Not only do you get into an event free, you get the best seat.”

The Aroostook County native began his journalism career in 1954 after returning from an Army tour in Korea to edit his hometown paper, the Limestone Leader.

Ward moved from Rockland to the State House bureau in 1967 and began writing his column, which initially focused on politics. He held the position of associate managing editor from 1982 until his retirement.

Writing each week for 45 years, Ward filed more than 2,300 columns, not counting the day-to-day articles he wrote when he worked at the bureaus.

He’s widely known inside and outside of newsroom circles as “the Old Dawg.” The nickname was born on a golf course back in the 1960s, before most would have considered Ward to be old, when a friend who was just six or seven years Ward’s junior coined the nickname.

The moniker was a good one for the old-school journalist.

Ward said he misses “the noise and the clutter and hubbub — especially on election nights.”

He fondly recalls the old newsroom setting, which “was just a zoo. Typewriters clacking, people talking, copy boys running around.”

“It seemed to be a lot more fun then,” Ward said.

When computers started entering the newsroom in the 1980s and early 1990s, Ward found he missed the noise but enjoyed the convenience of the newer technology.

While at the Rockland bureau, Ward often had to send film to Bangor so photographs could be developed for use in the paper. If he missed the bus, he had to flag down a passing postal service or beer truck and pay the driver to drop the film off at the Bangor office on their way through.

“You never know what you’re going to run into when you come to work,” Ward said of his time at the BDN. “That’s the beauty of it. That’s what kept me going, anyway.”

Ward said he’s choosing to stop writing his column at age 80 because “it’s a good round number and it’s 45 years later.”

“There comes a time when we have to hang it up … before someone grabs a hook and drags me off,” Ward said.

One thing Ward said he won’t miss is sleepless Friday nights. After he hits the “send” button, passing his story into the hands of BDN editors, the stress starts. He worries he might have mixed up a name, forgotten to double-check a bit of data, mixed up a word in a quote.

Ward said he’ll use the time he used to spend writing columns walking, mowing his property, going to sporting events and remodeling his house.

He walks three to four miles each day — as he has for the past 21 years — and has 3 acres worth of yard work to keep on top of.

“I don’t do much but watch the grass grow,” Ward said with a laugh.

Ward’s announcement drew words of appreciation for his service to the paper from top managers.

“I want to thank Kent for the many contributions he has made to the Bangor Daily News over the years,” said Richard J. Warren, publisher of the BDN. “His columns never failed to inform and entertain readers. I wish him well in his retirement.”

Editor-in-Chief Michael J. Dowd praised Ward for his talent and tenacity.

“There are few journalists who have touched the lives of Mainers the way Kent Ward has over his remarkable career with the Bangor Daily News,” said Dowd. “I read his news stories and columns in my youth and I was later fortunate enough to work in the newsroom with him before he retired as an editor. Then he just kept writing. I, like many others, will miss the insight and humor he provided readers every week.”

Ward thanked BDN editors, copy editors and other colleagues who have helped him over the years.

“I can honestly say I can’t think of a day when I didn’t want to go to work,” the Old Dawg said.

Correction: An earlier version of this story said that Ward served as president of the Maine Press Association. He was never president of the organization but was a longtime member.

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