So, what happens now?

It’s safe to say we’ve taken a hit, lost a true champion of the scene. I sat next to him. I should know.

Every week around this time, Mike McInally would be headlong into The E, orchestrating it from his newsroom desk or from the sanctum of his office, where he conducted the 217 weekly interviews he then poured into an already dense mix — singing, perhaps, Kacey Musgraves’ “Keep It to Yourself” to himself. ’Twas a sight to behold. Superhuman, even. I admired his dedication, and despite the load he carried, he truly loved what he did. In fact, that’s what I loved most about him. Therefore, it’s quite natural for readers of The E to wonder about the good ship’s fate, now that its most recent captain has decamped.

At this point, I don’t know its future. But as heartbreaking as its loss or decline would be, I’m certain no one would feel it as acutely as I. Because The E and I go way back. Back to when it was called The Entertainer. Back to when it was a strictly Corvallis-centric tabloid, and I was across the river, draining verbiage into the Albany Democrat-Herald’s own local guide, Fanfare. Which prior to that was called The Weekender. Its blood is my blood. There were years we spoke the exact same language.

I lived for entertainment coverage, man. Most of my generation fell for journalism through “All the President’s Men” or, if they were cool, “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.” My bona fides were Rolling Stone subscriptions, frayed back issues of Creem and Crawdaddy!, and books by Greil Marcus, Nick Tosches, Lester Bangs, Chuck Eddy, Pauline Kael and Nick Kent. Hunter S. Thompson, too, though I preferred “The Great Shark Hunt” to “Vegas.”

When I arrived at the Democrat-Herald in 1991, in my youthful naivete I set about to upgrade its entertainment coverage, assuming we’d be a thriving mecca of gaiety and wingdings by the New Millennium. We didn’t quite make it, but I wouldn’t trade those evenings getting my eardrums clawed to bits at downtown Albany’s Venetian Theatre for a roaring flood of 2 Towns — well, maybe Imperial Apple (this unlikely scenario is negotiable).

In the late 1990s, when the Democrat-Herald and Corvallis Gazette-Times fused beneath the Lee Enterprises umbrella like continents signing an armistice through gritted teeth, these twin entities, Fanfare and The Entertainer, were the first to be merged into one. A group of about four of us, including editor John Baur, myself, Rebecca Waldrop — whom I’d christened Baxter Waldrop; she’s Rebecca Barrett now — Mark Peterson, and photographer Karl Maasdam, retooled and revamped those suckers into The Entertainer 2.0, more expansive, more self-aware and by far more attitudinal. I’ll never forget that first issue, if only because it gave me my first brush with every ink-stained wretch’s dream. I’d gone into the pressroom to grab its first copy. To my horror, I noticed that its cover font had reverted to Courier. So I tugged a passing shoulder and shouted: “STOP THE PRESS!”

Ah, but enough war stories. We’ve gone to war plenty since then, and now we seem to fight them all the time. It killed me when we went from a tab to a broadsheet form (or, in layman’s speak, that smaller doohickey you could set in your lap to your basic standard newspaper page). No more sprawl. No more in-depth coverage. But in Mike’s diplomatic hands, it remained exactly that — four, five stories per ish, most written by him — and it’s indeed a tough act to follow.

Professionally, I’ve lived my life by the following maxim: If you feed a town’s culture, it feeds you right back. This applies to everything from the sweatiest pizza-joint punk show to the swankiest pinkies-out gala of swells. It’s all worthy of acknowledgment. We still think it’s important, because it’s always been important to us, long before we were ever even journalists. We’re music fans, graphic-novel readers, TV bingers, sci-fi aficionados, film buffs, fact freaks, book hounds, proselytizers of the weird and mighty. We still love The E, and we’re going to do our damnedest to keep it singing.

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