Chuck Doud: My friend and ‘partner’
When the phone rang at 10:30 a.m. Jan. 6, the caller ID said “Chuck Doud Cell.” I thought Chuck and I would have another conversation like many he and I conducted every two weeks or so since 2004, talking about this newspaper and its doings.
I knew Chuck had been ailing for some weeks, but he had been ill other times, so I didn’t think much of it until he began by slowly saying, “Tom, I’ve had a serious heart attack.” He was in his office in early December, he said, and stood up from his desk, the most routine of movements. “Suddenly I had this terrible pain in my chest, like nothing I ever felt before. It felt like my heart was going backward.”
Chuck’s voice was weak, his words came slowly. Still, we talked and even laughed a little. After eight minutes, he said, “I can’t talk any more. Too weak.” Eight hours later, Chuck was gone. I was stunned, and very, very sad.
Chuck Doud was an interesting man and always one of the best-meaning. While we worked together, he wanted only good for the newspaper, its staff, and his beloved adopted hometown, Madera.
Our real relationship began with another phone call that started routinely. Then, in 2004, I was checking in with editors of newspapers carrying my syndicated column on California public affairs. Chuck was one of them as editor of the Tribune. Previously, we had known each other slightly while he edited the Ridgecrest Independent in the desert east of the Sierra Nevada.
“Tom,” Chuck said that time, “They’ve offered me the paper.” “They” were Pacific Sierra Corp., then selling off several small daily and weekly newspapers from Gilroy to Merced, Turlock to Madera. “They want to sell soon. Would you like to buy in?”
Soon Chuck and I were more than client and columnist; we were now “partners,” part of a small group of shareholders in a new company called Madera Printing and Publishing, which has published the Trib for almost 17 years. We quickly became friends.
Before the current pandemic, we tried to have company board meetings every three months or so. In between, Chuck and I talked every couple of weeks for an hour or so about the state of the paper, the nation, theology, politics, the arts and sometimes even our kids.
We discussed situations and how to handle them. Chuck was ever the editor and publisher in those talks, critiquing and praising people, but always appreciating their hard work and accomplishments. He sometimes heeded comments from other shareholders like me, sometimes not. He knew a newspaper should contain more than one point of view.
Partly because of his own beliefs and partly because of Madera County’s political conservatism, his columns often espoused conservative views when they didn’t detail the activities of his cat or his late beloved and talented wife, Annette Nordine Doud.
He delighted in the Trib’s frequent tabloid sections concentrating on subjects from the senior farmer of the year to the annual “Welcome to Madera” edition, always a gold mine of information about the county, the opportunities it affords and its interesting people. Back when the Trib still appeared almost every day, he told me he intended it to be “a weekly newspaper published daily.” He reveled in living locally, where readers could buttonhole him in grocery stores and city parks. He loved schmoozing over good meals in places like the Vineyard and Farnesi’s.
He listened carefully to waitresses and bankers, tow truck drivers and farmers, always tracking the tenor of the Trib’s readers.
Chuck never expected everyone to agree with him, but he did want everyone to be informed. That’s why he was so glad to start the company that kept the Tribune in business when Pacific Sierra was set to close it and leave Madera a “news desert.”
Madera never became one of those and hopefully never will. That is largely thanks to my friend and partner, Chuck Doud.
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Thomas Elias writes a twice weekly column on California.