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High ideals flourish in a low-key guy

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His days are down to single digits now and please don't remind him. A lot of people can't wait until they retire. Doug Palmer isn't one of them.

Still, he's going to do it. He's got places he wants to go, things he wants to see, people he wants to look up. He'll turn 65 Friday, and the following Thursday, on the last day of the month, he'll walk into accounting and find out just exactly how (or if) 40 years as a Deseret News reporter translates into lifetime security.

Then he'll walk through a phalanx of reporters, editors and publishers who will part and give him a standing ovation on his way out the door.

This will not happen, but it should.

The truth is, a lot of the staff won't even realize Doug Palmer is gone. Not immediately, for sure. He hasn't exactly been the Charles Barkley of the newspaper. Forty years he's been among us and not one newsroom tantrum to show for it. No outbursts. No threats. No telephones slammed down and thrown across the room.

Yes, we have often wondered if we're really related.

For four decades, Doug Palmer, mild-mannered reporter, has been like the very best of the basketball referees. You're not even aware he's around — but his calming, effective, positive influence is reflected everywhere.

Somehow, here is a journalist who has dealt with newsmakers and news stories and deadlines virtually every day of his adult life and has not become jaded, cynical, disillusioned, or caught up in his own self-importance.

On the contrary. As his career has moved along, he has grown fonder and fonder of the people he covers.

One of my favorite Doug Palmer stories dates back to the time several years ago when an LDS wardhouse was bombed in Marion, Utah, and there was a subsequent siege situation at the nearby John Singer farm where the suspected perpetrators were holed up.

The Singers weren't exactly in a talking mood, but when Doug Palmer called, Vickie Singer got on the phone and talked to him for an hour and a half straight.

Finally, the FBI burst into the newsroom and asked Palmer to get off the line so they could talk to the Singers.

Some journalists become alcoholics. Doug Palmer became a social worker.


Early into his 25-year tenure on the social services beat, he wrote a series of articles called "Welfare — A Human Crisis" that was so compelling and so moving that it won him a federal grant to go to graduate school at the University of Utah and get a master's degree in social work.

Since 1973, he has been a registered social worker as well as a reporter.

It hasn't stopped him from writing about the bad as well as the good. Palmer's had his share of stories about embezzlers and abusers and corruption, and he writes them straight. Look them up. Nowhere in his copy will you find an apologist for bad behavior or a champion of the victim culture.

Instead of seeing a conspiracy under every rock, he tends to see people who need the rock lifted off them.

A rare breed in our business? You'd better believe it. For 40 years, Doug Palmer has walked a beat less traveled, maintaining faith in people no matter where they've been, what they've done, or why they did it. A man for whom the job's only downside has been, as his wife, Joan, reveals, "sleepless nights when he has to write something negative about a person."

In nine days he'll take his leave of us, without an ulcer, a drinking problem or a pending lawsuit.

Adopted. Definitely adopted.

Lee Benson's column runs Sunday, Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Please send e-mail to benson@desnews.com and faxes to 801-237-2527.