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Bill McClellan On 39 Years In St. Louis And The Joy Of Journalism

September 17, 2019 Bill McClellan
Evie Hemphill | St. Louis Public Radio

Bill McClellan has been entertaining and enlightening the readers of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch for 39 years, all but three of them as a columnist. In recent months, even as he battles cancer for a second time, he has continued to file regular dispatches that probe the city’s past and its future with insight and good humor.

McClellan joined us on Tuesday’s St. Louis on the Air to talk about the future of daily newspapers, the columns he’s lived to regret and the reason he continues to write, despite enduring regular chemotherapy treatments. 

“It’s fun. I still have this thin veneer of being a reporter. It’s getting thinner and thinner, admittedly,” he said. “But I can still call people up and say, ‘Why did you do this?’ And I can still go to trials. If I didn’t have this thin veneer of being a reporter, I’d just be another nosy old guy.”

He added that he feels lousy for a few days after chemotherapy, but overall, he feels good enough that he used to worry his physicians had mixed up his medical files with another Bill McClellan. 

“This is not a question of dragging out of the house,” he said. “I feel good. And the second thing, it’s such an addictive habit, being able to spout off about stuff. So if I didn’t have that platform once a week, I’d probably be on the street corner yelling at people — ‘I have a thought I want to share with you!’”

McClellan also talked about falling for St. Louis.

“Coming here from Phoenix, I just felt that St. Louis had more character than Phoenix,” he said. “I enjoyed Phoenix; I love Arizona. But the city is just new developments going out into the desert. They don’t have old neighborhoods. St. Louis is like the old boxer hanging around the gym who could have been a champion, and fought a couple of big fights and still wants to talk about it. And the way people remember the past with such reverence. I just thought, ‘There’s character here.’”

St. Louis on the Air” brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is hosted by Sarah Fenske and produced by Alex Heuer, Emily Woodbury, Evie Hemphill, Lara Hamdan and Alexis Moore. The engineer is Aaron Doerr, and production assistance is provided by Charlie McDonald.

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Sarah Fenske served as host of St. Louis on the Air from July 2019 until June 2022. Before that, she spent twenty years in newspapers, working as a reporter, columnist and editor in Cleveland, Houston, Phoenix, Los Angeles and St. Louis.