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Chet Diestel: Remembering Ross Farrow

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Posted: Thursday, May 22, 2014 12:00 am

This letter is to express my sadness at the recent death of former News-Sentinel reporter Ross Farrow — a man who dedicated his life to the profession of journalism and who always held a deep respect for the readers he served during his long career which included more than a decade at the News-Sentinel.

During my years as the newspaper’s city editor, I had both the pleasure and honor of getting to know Ross and found him to be the type of reporter I could hand any story to with the knowledge that it would be done — and done well.

In reading about his passing, one such story assignment came readily to mind: One day several years ago the News-Sentinel Circulation Department received nine letters that had been mailed in the early 1990s — they all contained checks by subscribers and had been stuck underneath the bottom of the newspaper’s drawer at the Lodi Post Office for almost a decade.

Knowing there was a story there, I walked the letters over to Ross’ desk and handed them to him, gave their history and told him to get hold of the post master and as many of the senders (using their names on the return address as a guide) and turn out a story for the next day. Ross looked at me like it was the most foolish thing he had ever heard, but he gamely tackled the story and ended up turning out a wonderful reader’s piece — a fun feature that made the News-Sentinel’s front page and was one of the best-read stories of that week.

Another good example of Ross’ abilities was when it was decided to make Ross the paper’s religion editor. To say that Ross was not the most religious person around is an understatement, but once again he put everything he had into the job and took what had, in reality, been a couple of pages of listings and wire stories every Saturday into a real reader’s treat filled with profiles of local pastors, stories in which area clergy addressed the pressing social issues of the day and expanding coverage to include such faiths as Islam, Sikh and Buddhism, etc.

Additionally, beginning with the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, it was Ross who worked as the newspaper’s lead reporter in reaching out and covering Lodi’s large Muslim community, opening doors and building some very necessary bridges while doing so.

Finally, in my 30 years as a reporter and editor, I never knew a reporter who was more open and generous with his time in helping his fellow writers — especially those new to the staff — in explaining the history and contemporary status of the various communities served by the newspaper, and who the movers and shakers were who would be vital in covering their beat.

Ross was especially dedicated to the city of Galt and the various rural fire districts which he covered for many years. So, in closing: Goodbye, Ross — you were a good, kindly human being and a credit to your profession, who always tried in every way he could to make the News-Sentinel a better newspaper for its loyal readers.

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