Transitions and Passings

Longtime Portland newscaster Mike Donahue will be retiring after a 40-year gig at KOIN-TV.The first quarter of the year is barely over and already we’ve lost, or will soon see the departure, of memorable characters having a huge impact on the regional public-affairs world. We at CFM, as well as many working in the public policy realm, interacted with the following personalities. Three recently have died and one will retire after 40 years at the same job. 

Mike Donahue to retire after 40 years with KOIN-TV

 If there is a favorite son in the Portland TV News world, it is Mike Donahue. He is retiring from the Portland CBS affiliate this spring after a 40-year-career.

KOIN TV News Director Brad Neuhoff watched and listened as the telephone calls rolled into the newsroom following the retirement announcement. Neuhoff told The Oregonian:  “I think it speaks not only to the kind of journalist Mike is, but also the person he is.”

Except for a few years in the U.S. Army, Donahue has worked at KOIN since 1968. It is a rare accomplishment for a TV reporter/anchor to stay at one station so long. He anchors the noon news show, but accomplished a legacy by anchoring the 5 p.m. and 11 p.m. news during parts of the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s. 

Donahue says he may have a continuing role at KOIN after he gives up his day job, 

Heart attack claims Bob Caldwell 

We simply knew him as Bob, one of the most affable editors ever to hold the job of editorial page editor at The Oregonian. Robert J. Caldwell died from a heart attack last month. 

Bob’s job was to guide editorial writers and help set the tone and position of the newspaper as it commented on key community issues and colorful personalities. Says CFM Partner Dave Fiskum, “He was one of the good guys in the editorial realm... always open to conversations about editorial policy.”

According to The Oregonian, Caldwell, 63, grew up in the northeastern Oregon town of La Grande. He joined The Oregonian in 1983, working his way up to the senior editor of the news department. In 1995, he became editorial page editor.

It was while the editorial page was under Caldwell's direction that The Oregonian won a Pulitzer Prize for editorial writing in 2006. The editorials, by Doug Bates and Rick Attig, won the award for their persuasive, richly reported examination of the abuses inside a forgotten Oregon mental hospital.

Cancer overtakes Gail Achterman, 1949-2012

Lawyer, environmental activist, transportation advocate — Oregon lost one of its most intriguing characters earlier this year when Gail Acterman, 62, died from cancer. 

A few of her accomplishments include serving as chairwoman of the Oregon Transportation Commission and founding the Deschutes River Conservancy and the Institute of Natural Resources at Oregon State University.

"She is just a really remarkable person in many, many ways in terms of service to the state,” noted Governor John Kitzhaber. 

Achterman will be remembered for her passion for the natural world, her lifelong commitment to Oregon, her mentoring of others, and her brilliant mind, Susan Hammer  — Acterman’s friend for 53 years — told The Oregonian.

Final exit for Ron Abell, 1932-2012 

A journalist, author, writing teacher and political activist, Ron Abell ended his life in February under Oregon's death with dignity law. He was suffering from leukemia, emphysema, and other age-related ailments. 

Abell worked for numerous newspapers in Oregon and on the West Coast. In the early 1970's, he was a prolific freelance journalist in the Portland area, and was editor of Oregon magazine from 1979-80, according to his obituary. 

Willamette Week publisher Richard Meeker recalls Abell:

“Though never formally employed by Willamette Week, Ron could lay claim to being a member of the original gang. By the time WW published its first issue in November of 1974, he’d been involved in Oregon politics in just about every way imaginable — as newspaper and television reporter, as staffer in Salem, as campaign worker for Wayne Morse and Neil Goldschmidt, even as delegate to the Democratic National Convention in 1972.” 

 “He wrote numerous humor columns, but his true calling was political reportage. In the mid-1970’s, when this paper was getting its start, few knew Salem better. He was utterly clear-headed about what it took to jam through legislation and run a state government; at the same time, he genuinely liked, appreciated and — mostly — respected the people he covered,” Meeker wrote.

See CFM Blog: Ron Abell’s complaint here.