Variations: Good times

OVER a decade ago, Saipan municipal council members took it upon themselves to commend every single human being, group or organization on island. Every time the three members held a session, they would adopt a resolution praising someone for something, which could be anything, including the mere act of breathing.


They would then arrange for a photo-op featuring the council members, of course, and their chosen one, who might as well be anyone. 
Stung by this newspaper’s refusal to report these groundbreaking events that were not a waste of taxpayer money, not to mention everyone’s time, the council decided to adopt a resolution…applauding this newspaper. The inevitable photo-op was arranged, but we still didn’t cover it.
Why? one of the council staffers asked me. Don’t get me wrong, I replied. We appreciate your appreciation, but you’re giving it to every one listed in the phonebook, and that only cheapens your applause and casts doubt on your sincerity. To have value and meaning, a commendation should be for the commendable only.
The Legislature, to be sure, also has a habit of giving away commemorative resolutions like nobody’s business, but recently, the outgoing House of Representatives honored someone who truly deserved it.
“Our Helen Thomas,” was how then-KMCV anchor Travis Coffman described Ruth L. Tighe, former Variety reporter, former Review editor, former columnist for the Star, the Observer and the Tribune. Thomas, the dean of the White House press corps, is one remarkable lady, but Ruth is more than just a journalist. She’s an environmental and community advocate, a supporter and promoter of programs and activities that celebrate culture, including local arts and crafts. With the other members of the Society of Professional Journalists, she organized events that 1) helped reporters improve their craft; and 2) allowed newsmakers and the local media to sit down and discuss the day’s burning issues. 
She is, moreover, the CNMI’s pioneer, and remaining, online commentator. “On Her Mind” has been in cyberspace since 1997.
I don’t always agree with her commentaries. There were even times when I never agreed with her on anything. But I’ve always believed that if every citizen of a democracy is as open minded, inquisitive and concerned as Ruth, this will be a much saner world.
I first met her almost 15 years ago. I’d been on island for close to two years already, editing the Marianas Observer, one of the several weeklies on island. The Variety was the only one printing five times a week.
When I first set foot on island, the Marianas Review was about to croak. (Its offices were located at what is now known as the Century Insurance building on Beach Road.) The Tribune was a free newspaper owned by Larry Hillblom, and its offices could be found at the Family Bldg. on what is now called Garapan Street, across from the Bank of Saipan, which used to be the office of the Observer. The Pacific Star was nearby, at what is now known as Movie Station, across from J&G Ice and Water.
The other weeklies were the abominably named Guam-Saipan Balita (I no longer recall where its office was), and Voices, which was in San Antonio. Locator magazine was still alive and there was this glossy, and short-lived, publication owned by now Rep.-elect Daling Ogumoro. The Chalan Kanoa Diocese was still publishing its excellent journal of the humanities, Umanidat.
Saipan also had reporters from two cable TV stations, two radio stations and PDN.
We used to have a real press corps here and so many sources of news.
Ruth, together with Donna Warren and Charles P. Reyes Jr., wrote columns for the Star. John Del Rosario Jr. was the Variety’s resident columnist while Mark Broadhurst penned “Mark My Words” for the Trib, before then-Gov. Lang Tenorio hired him to be PIO. I wrote a weekly column for the Observer which I titled, because I was so imaginative and creative, “Observations.”
Every Friday evening, in a conference or living room somewhere on island, I would join Ruth, Nancy Weil, Tim Thornburgh, Sam Gugliotta, Jean Rayphand, John Biehl, Nick Pichay, Beret Strong and John Tweedy. We would read our literary output, share feedback, talk shop. It was this group that organized a writers night at Coffee Care when it was still located in Garapan, near DFS. The place was packed and there was an open mic. Ruth read one of her pieces in her calm, matter-of-fact voice, and like her best writings, it was clean and clear. It was about her wish to be buried on island and her search for a suitable gravesite, and I was struck by how dispassionate she was about this subject and how business-like her tone was.
I’m mentioning this now because in her latest online column, Ruth reported that even though it was predicted (by her doctors I guess) that she would not see 2010, she’s still with us.
Good news indeed, but Ruth, you must also know that because of your writings, your good heart and your advocacy for these islands you love so much,  you will always be with us.

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