Steve Bouser: Rose was gutsy lady, national institution

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, October 26, 2011

I loved Rose Post. It didn’t start out that way. When I came to The Post in 1982, full of ideas and with a mandate from Jimmy Hurley to shake things up, somebody predicted that Rose and I would be like the proverbial irresistible force meeting the immovable object. Better ships than I had broken up on those rocks.
I decided that Rose was a tremendous resource and that covering school board meetings, as important as that was, was not her best and highest use. It seemed like delivering mail with a Formula One race car. I wanted to do something sexier with Rose. I wanted to turn her into our daily section-front columnist.
The idea scared Rose. She said — get this — that she wouldn’t have enough ideas. She was afraid she couldn’t keep up the pace. Yeah, right. Fact is, the column thing worked, and we came to terms, and Rose became even more of a superstar than ever. And, to my knowledge, she never came close to the bottom of her idea pile.
Editing Rose’s copy was a job in itself. You felt like one of those guys wearing a radiation suit and handling uranium rods with special tongs. For one thing, her stuff was usually so good that you hesitated to tamper with it at all. Then there was her skill at writing double-interlocking paragraphs that practically defied you to whack anything out of there.
Rose won all the awards, and she was probably the best interviewer I’ve ever known. She could get people to go on the record with thoughts they didn’t even know they had about the most private and anguishing aspects of their lives. Then she put them in the paper. And she always got her quotes dead right.
Writing a daily column is one of the most demanding jobs in the world. My friend Dot Jackson used to write columns for The Charlotte Observer. I asked her once how she did it, and she said, “You’ve got to keep one foot in the road.”
Rose somehow managed to keep one foot in the road and one ear permanently grafted to the telephone. She was always ready to go out and experience something — like the time she let a guy knock a tin can off her head with a slingshot. When the Gulf War broke out, it wasn’t a male reporter half her age who volunteered to go over and cover it. It was Rose Post. And she would have gone. I think she even got her shots.
Rose was a gutsy lady and a national institution. She is my personal candidate for Most Unforgettable Character I Ever Met. She was also a hell of a writer. One of the things I learned from her about writing was that it is often a good idea to try and leave a piece by the same door you came in. So, at the risk of repeating myself:
I loved Rose Post.
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Steve Bouser, editor of The Pilot in Southern Pines, was editor of the Salisbury Post from 1982 to 1993.