Feathered Bastard

Richard Ruelas's column whacked at the Arizona Republic!

Rep. columnist Ruelas is all smiles, despite the killing of his column.

Following on the heels of the news of Jon Talton's imminent departure at the Arizona Repugnant, I now learn that my other favorite columnist at the Rep, Richard Ruelas, has also had his column cut. Unlike Talton, however, Ruelas isn't saying goodbye. According to the response I received from him this a.m., he says he's staying on, and that the change will be a good thing for him. He even gets in a couple of digs at this feathered Mound of Renown and the New Times. Take a gander, and note that I'd written to him as his "biggest fan" at NT:

Stephen: I'll resist my sophomoric urge to make a pun around the "biggest fan" comment. And thanks for the compliment.

The column job was great and fun. But it was never really my column. It was the newspaper's. I was only borrowing it. Obviously, I was hoping to keep the job. But I understand the selections. Coming in behind Montini, Roberts and Clay isn't a big blow to the ego. And it means I won't have to endure having my sexual orientation or legal status questioned in phone calls or E-mails anymore.

I'll be fine. The new job ain't chopped liver. It's writing long profiles. Kind of New Times length, without 12 jumps and the stereo ads. The day after I got the job, I came up with a list of six or so I want to start tackling right away. It might be a slower pace than I'm used to and I'll probably toss in some shorter stories just to burn off the nervous energy. But, whether you believe it or not, the new Information Center will still produce lengthy, engrossing stories worth reading. If not, I hope you let us know.

take care give my best to Mr. Tatum. Richard Ruelas

Well, first off, I have to say that in no way does Ruelas come in behind snoozefest E.J. Montini, soccer-momish reactionary Laurie Roberts, or even the very amusing Clay Thompson who does the Rep's "Valley 101" column. Ruelas can write rings around Montini and Roberts, and he usually has something to say that goes against the grain of the anti-immigration hatemongers here in the PHX. I'm sure, for instance, that the rednecks over at Rusty Childress's Thursday night KIA-dealership Mexican-bash-o-rama will be poppin' bottles at the news.

Ruelas puts a positive spin on the loss of his column, which the Republic's editorial geniuses usually buried in the back pages, despite it being one of the best columns in the Valley. I hope he does get to write longer pieces, but still, he won't be able to editorialize in long profiles, and I suspect that's why the Rep has made this shift. Ruelas's calm logic on the immigration issue pissed off many a reader, and no doubt many an advertiser. (Does Childress advertise in the Rep, one wonders?) Moving him over to writing profiles, no matter how long they are, may neutralize his voice. I hope this is not the case, of course. Still, I'd trade a boatload of Montini and Roberts columns for just one Ruelas column any day of the week, no matter how short.

As far as Ruelas's comments re: the dreaded Information Center, it should be noted that already the Rep's IC reorg has resulted in the removal of two of its best columns. And that's not a plus in my book.

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Stephen is a former staff writer and columnist at Phoenix New Times.
Contact: Stephen Lemons