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Len La BarthWhen a friend takes his life, you wonder whether you could have helped him find some hope, whether you missed a sign or ignored a cry for help.

In this case, I wasn’t that close a friend, more like a friendly colleague. And I did help. But I didn’t sense his despair. And still I wonder.

In my American Press Institute days, my biggest client was Freedom Newspapers. I managed annual evaluations of their newspapers (I can’t recall how many, but it was dozens). I wrote a quarterly evaluation called the e-Tuner that cited highlights of the past three months and identified points to work on for improvement, a chore that involved reading a few samples from each of the papers and perusing their websites. (I think the e-Tuner might have been the first place I told journalists about the value I saw in Twitter.) I led three regional seminars for Freedom and was a speaker for three editors’ conferences and a webinar.

One of the best Freedom newspapers was the Appeal-Democrat in Marysville-Yuba City, Calif. I frequently praised the paper and its editor, Len La Barth, in the e-Tuner and I enjoyed meeting Len at the conferences. At my last Freedom editors conference, in San Antonio in 2008, we enjoyed a jovial dinner with a few other editors.

Len appears to have killed himself, perhaps jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge. His car was found parked nearby in March(more…)

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