Original Scatterer Barry Johnson takes a flying leap

… into the next great adventure of his life.

Barry, who had the idea of Art Scatter in the first place and was the doctor on duty who slapped it on the bottom in the delivery room and sent it off squawking into the world, has told his many friends and followers he’s leaving The Oregonian as of Dec. 18.

Barry JohnsonHe made the announcement today on his Portland Arts Watch blog, where for the past year or so he’s, well, kept watch on the arts in Portland. Lots of terrific ideas and elegant writing have spun out of PAW in its print and online versions.

Truth is, though, Barry’s been doing this sort of thing for the past quarter-century at the O, where he and I worked together pretty much all that time until I left two years ago. There are still a few editors there who can’t tell us apart. The biggest difference: Barry did a better job of keeping his cool when bureaucratic insanity struck.

Sometimes he was my editor, sometimes I was his editor, sometimes he rolled up his sleeves and cooked up a big pot of Kentucky burgoo. Always we were friends and colleagues, talking things over, parsing the paper and the arts scene, coming up with plots to Save the Journalism Business that never got out of the batter’s box, much less to first base.

Barry wrote — continues to write — about art, theater, dance, architecture, planning, music, books and other things with wit and insight. Art Scatter readers have seen plenty of evidence of that in his many posts here: Just click his name under “categories” at right and you’ll get a sense of the breadth and insights of his vision.

This is a big loss for The Oregonian, which like most newspapers continues to shrink precipitously. A lot of gloating’s going on about that in a lot of corners of the blogosphere, but in fact it’s an American tragedy. Without the good, hard, basic reporting that newspapers for all their flaws have done better than anyone else, this fragile experiment called the American Democracy stands a much lesser chance of thriving or surviving. And without the newspapers, where will all the blogospheric pontificators — me included — get our raw material?

Barry’s departure is also a big loss, at least temporarily, for Portland’s arts scene. But this is no retirement. It’s a recalibration. Barry has ideas — plenty of ’em — and we’ll let him spin them out himself when he’s good and ready. Who knows? Maybe he’ll even post something on Art Scatter!

Welcome to the outside world, Barry. The water’s fine.