Recorder says ‘goodbye’ to longtime editor

  • Editor George Forcier retired Friday after working for the Greenfield Recorder for 39 years. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Forcier, then city editor, in this 1981 photo. STAFF FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 3/28/2019 11:36:05 PM

When George Forcier arrived at the Greenfield Recorder in 1980, it was a time of change, he said, and he’s retiring today under the same conditions.

Forcier, 65, who has spent 39 years at the local newspaper, was for many years its managing editor, making sure reporters were on track each day to get the paper out.

When former Editor Tim Blagg left after 27 years at the helm in 2015, Forcier took over, leading the Recorder through many changes over the past four years.

Blagg said he worked with Forcier for nearly 30 years, and leaned on him for his local expertise, patient approach to news coverage, and — above all — his thoughtful, common-sense approach to dealing with the myriad problems newspapers have to handle in the course of business.

“For years, we bounced ideas off each other as we produced an award-winning local newspaper in difficult times, and I could always count on George to resist quick, easy answers to difficult questions,” Blagg said. “One thing in particular sticks out — his response to big, breaking stories. If a big fire would suddenly be announced on the police scanner, for example, George would begin to deploy reporters and photographers like a general marshaling his troops. Or, if the story was a large, complex one, over the next few days, weeks or months, he would systematically cover every conceivable angle, making sure our readers were well-informed and able to reach their own conclusions.”

Blagg said Forcier is a reliable, intelligent and informed newspaper editor, and he will be missed — not only by his peers, but by Franklin County readers.

Forcier’s successor is Joan Livingston, who also worked at the Daily Hampshire Gazette and more recently The Taos News in New Mexico.

Longtime Recorder reporter Richie Davis, who retired in February after 40 years at the local newspaper, said Forcier was largely responsible for the sterling reputation the Recorder has earned over the past four decades.

“The bylines on its stories may make the names of reporters familiar characters around Franklin County, but those of the editors tend to escape much public notice in a business that tries to call attention to the news of the day, rather than to itself,” Davis said. “Except for readers who’ve had occasion to call either with a complaint or a suggestion about those stories, then, George Forcier received little public notice during his nearly four decades as a vital part of delivering the news each day to Recorder readers — other than when he became the paper’s editor nearly four years ago.”

He said Forcier worked closely with staff members, demanding excellence, but also guiding reporters with questions that helped them hone their skills and ask the questions they needed to be asking themselves and sources to fully understand the stories they were writing.

“(George) seemed relentless at times in those questions, which we took to be as much to satisfy his own curiosity about the story, as to be a surrogate reader, anticipating what questions were left to be addressed to make the story complete, or to test the reporter’s level of understanding,” Davis said.

“Write calmly, cleanly,” Forcier once wrote in a memo to reporters. “Use strong active verbs. Avoid adjectives. Be specific, but put in context. Tell me why and what it means. Give me good writing and solid information. Stories should have facts, logic, objectivity, clarity, fairness and not be libelous. Be sure. And check, double check and triple check.”

Those are guiding principles for any newsroom, Davis said.

Forcier, who is married with three grown children, lives in Conway. He began his career straight out of college, when he was hired by the Concord (N.H.) Monitor after a nine-month stint as a full-time reporter intern and summer reporter at the Gloucester Daily Times newspaper.

Forcier, who had applied to small daily newspapers across the country, was offered the job at the Concord Monitor in New Hampshire as its City of Franklin bureau chief in 1975. Later, Forcier was transferred to Concord, to be the city reporter. After a couple of years in that post, “I started to wonder about what was next,” he recalled recently.

What came next was a call from the editor of the newspaper in Westfield. While the paper would not have been his first choice, the job was for a city editor, and Forcier took the job because he and his wife were looking to move to western Massachusetts and Forcier was curious to try on the larger role of an editor.

He moved to the Daily Hampshire Gazette in Northampton a few months later, working as the Easthampton editor in the late 1970s, and finally, got a job as city editor at The Recorder in 1980.

“I came in as things were changing,” he said. “It was just after Al Hutcheson became publisher, and many of the editors there were on the verge of retiring or leaving.”

Forcier was later promoted to managing editor, holding that position until 2015. As city editor, he managed between seven and eight reporters and a couple of full-time photographers, along with some freelancers. Later, as managing editor, he also had general oversight responsibility for the work of the paper’s other line editors who worked with him to get the paper out every day.

“George served The Recorder well,” said Greenfield native Denny Wilkins, now a journalism professor at St. Bonaventure University Jandoli School of Communication. “He led it through tumultuous times with grace and wise management. While he was news editor, I served as copy desk chief. Friction between us was non-existent in getting the right news into the right place in the newspaper.”

Wilkins said Forcier served Franklin County well. He said over the years, Forcier immersed himself in understanding the county’s people and their issues. He said his direction of coverage was admirable.

“The staff has changed many times over the years,” Forcier said, calling The Recorder a teaching paper. “Many have moved on to other newspaper jobs with papers as prestigious as the Washington Post and the New York Times. Some have gotten out of the business.”

He said he takes pride in some of the stories that were written under his guidance over the years.

“Unfortunately, the ones you remember most tend to be the more awful stories,” he said. “But some of the series — addiction, affordable housing — and the stories we wrote about the Montague police chief, well, those you take a lot of pride in. I guess you take a lot of pride in the in-depth stories because you put so much into them.”

Forcier said you take pride when you know you’ve made a difference.

For instance, he said he once wrote about his son who was born prematurely. He said out of that story came the creation of a western Massachusetts support group for parents of premature babies.

“This was pre-internet, so the newspaper was the way these people found out about each other and were able to come together to form the group,” he said. “That’s when I realized people were reading our stories and making life decisions based on them.”

Forcier graduated from University of New Hampshire with a degree in English, but knew he wanted to be a journalist. He started working at the school’s newspaper when he was a freshman, and became its editor in his senior year.

“I liked writing, and it became even more exciting and engaging when I started working in Gloucester — I was hooked,” he said.

Forcier said the best advice he ever got from anyone in the news business was to “tell it like it is.”

He said he will miss teaching new reporters how to be the best journalists they can be.

“It feels good when you know you’ve had a hand in advancing someone’s career,” he said.

“George was my first real editor,” said Mackenzie Rigg, who started at The Recorder fresh out of journalism school in 2007. “He gave me the foundation to be a good journalist. It taught me to write something for what it’s worth, to write so the general public could understand, to be objective and fair. He pushed me to be the best I could be.”

Rigg said she appreciates that Forcier was a “really involved” editor.

Chris Shores, a former Recorder reporter, said, “The Recorder was my first job out of college. George was intimidating at first, but only because he held all of us to a very high standard.”

Shores said Forcier challenged him to not think of himself as a rookie, but as a professional reporter who could succeed in the job to serve the readers of Franklin County.

“I’ll always be grateful for the two years I worked for George; the interviewing and analytical skills he taught me have helped me greatly in my new career as an I.T. business analyst,” Shores said. “I was sad to hear George was retiring, because I know firsthand the dedication he put into his job each day to make the paper and county a better place. It is a well-deserved retirement, and I wish him the best of luck.”

Forcier, who trained reporters who ended up at the Wall Street Journal, Boston Globe, Boston Herald, Washington Post and Los Angeles Times, said it will be interesting to see where newspapers go in the digital age, adding that the core mission, he hopes, will remain the same — content gathering and reporting.

What’s next for Forcier? He said he has dabbled in a lot of different things and now he’ll spend more time on some of them. He said he’ll continue teaching journalism at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, and will spend more time making furniture, do some maintenance to his old farmhouse, raise bees and chickens, learn to play the piano and continue learning other languages that he’ll use as he and his wife travel.

“I’ll eventually do some volunteering, but first, I’m going to sit in my side yard and watch the world go by,” Forcier said.




Greenfield Recorder

14 Hope Street
Greenfield, MA 01302-1367
Phone: (413) 772-0261
Fax: (413) 772-2906

 

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