After 24 years, John Schneider will publish his last column in the Lansing State Journal on Sunday.
At 63, Schneider has penned hundreds of columns, notably helping “the little guys” sort out their problems. Many of his columns have dealt with family life, including the tragic drowning death of his daughter and the last years of his mother’s life.
Like hundreds of others, he’s accepting a buyout from Gannett, the State Journal’s parent company. He’ll be replaced by Mark Mayes, who already has written a few columns.
WKAR's Scott Pohl spoke with Schneider about his work…and what comes next.
JOHN SCHNEIDER: I’ve always enjoyed writing columns about people who are in trouble in some way…needing an operation, or not being able to get an agency of government to respond to their needs…and be able to use the power of the State Journal to change the tide.
The other category I’ve always liked is my Sunday column, in which I write generally about my family…my kids and my mother and occasionally my wife. I try to write those in a way that they’re sort of universal as opposed to writing about my individual situation. I try to write it in a way that other people can identify with, and that seems to have worked. People do identify with those columns. It’s always very rewarding.
Passing the torch to Mark Mayes
SCOTT POHL: Are you leaving a few things hanging? Issues or stories you’ve been following that are unresolved at this point? And if so, is Mark Mayes, who is taking the column over…is there some sort of intention to your knowledge that he’ll follow through on those stories after your last column?
SCHNEIDER: Yes. In fact, Mark’s main role will be to continue the watchdog role. The editors, when they hired Mark, insisted that he this grassroots theme that I’ve created.
POHL: When you took over from the former Onlooker column, there must have been something in that transition that I’m going to surmise you’re probably doing now to help in the transition to Mark taking over a daily column in the State Journal.
SCHNEIDER: Yes. Jim Hough, of course, wrote under The Onlooker column for 27 years, and his column was different than mine. It was folksier. He grew up in the U.P., I grew up in the city of Detroit. Naturally, we brought different perspectives to the world, and when I agreed to take on the column, I asked the editors if I could make it my own, because I knew that I couldn’t do what Jim was doing, and they agreed that they would (allow that). But there are things that I’ve continued in Jim’s tradition, and that is, as he used to put it in his folksy way, there always should be a place in a newspaper, no matter how big and important it gets, where we can tip our hats to the little old man who shovels the snow so that the little old lady can get to the bus in the morning. That was his way of saying all these little heroic deeds that go on day to day, that nobody ever notices, should receive some notice in the newspaper, and so I’ve continued to do that.
Mark Mayes, my successor, stated outright in Sunday’s column that he’s not John Schneider, he doesn’t want to be and never will be. He’s Mark Mayes, and he’ll continue some of the things I’ve been doing, and he’ll discover new avenues on his own.
What's in store for John Schneider's future?
POHL: What’s next for you? You’re too young to stop writing. You must have some plans to continue.
SCHNEIDER: Yes, I’m going to write my own blog, and you can find that at johnschneiderblog.com. Probably, it’ll be somewhere between my blogs now and my Sunday columns, and I’m entertaining some other offers. I don’t know whether those will pan out or whether I’ll just sort of work on my own for a while, maybe write a book. I’ve got some ideas in mind, but I just want to take some time first to not have anybody to answer to, and just see where my writing takes me.
I can’t imagine quitting writing, ever. As long as I’m able to punch a keyboard, or even dictate into a microphone, my intention is to keep writing, always. I don’t think I could stop even if I wanted to.