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Whatever the reason, Hill reporting will be missed

I may never write a column about a journalist’s retirement again, but the point of this space is to try to get behind the headlines and in this instance I think I can offer something here to readers about a man who has had a not insignificant impact on Louisiana politics – and one who some have come to vilify – for now the chief capital correspondent of Louisiana Gannett News Service, John Hill.

Until perhaps the last decade, for reporting on Louisiana government and expressing some opinion about it, for the previous 20 or so years prior if you didn’t live south of I-12 in Louisiana John probably would have been almost your only source of information and commentary. As such, he fulfilled this need in the world of Louisiana politics for many. As part of that job, John has interviewed me on many occasions but I am fortunate enough to know him outside the two sides of an interview and can offer some additional insight into his career (perhaps other than what he’s about to tell the world over the next couple of weeks.)

John’s a great writer and in some matters he did an outstanding job of distilling complex details of stories into good, readable news copy. I’m not sure he would agree with me on this, but I think his best job was on trial coverage, especially the Prisoner #03128-095 case that landed the four-term ex-governor in jail. That was an extremely complex case but John had a knack of boiling it down into understandable prose for the typical reader.

As John has written before, perhaps his work there and subsequent conversations with and stories about Edwin Edwards may make Edwards the most identifiably-linked political person to John when all is said and done. You have to know that they make somewhat of an odd couple because John’s not been happy about political corruption in the state and Edwards has been perhaps its most proficient practitioner.

But the fact is that John is, at the end of the day, a man of the left in the political world who, as he said, “grew up in the generation hoping to make a difference. And I've always felt like we should be the citizens' representatives when we're sitting in a meeting room or covering a press conference.” In his later years, in my opinion, in his reporting one read a frustration that a different attitude than his about the purposes of government, and of the media, was taking hold in the state, and it did affect what he wrote and wrote about.

It may have been fueled by a vocal set of opponents who, through talk radio and the Internet as their reaches proliferated making available more information about Louisiana politics than provided by just John and the few traditional media outlets that had dominated state political discourse for so long, became very critical about John’s reporting. To some, he represented everything wrong with Louisiana media and its relationship to state government; unfortunately, a few in their zeal to criticize got more to attacking the messenger than in concentrating on the contents and kinds of stories published under his byline.

So, for a rather varied set of reasons, John’s contributions to Louisiana politics will be missed.

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