They say you can't take it with you, but Joe did.
Well, not into the next life, maybe. But when Deseret News science writer Joseph Bauman packed his desktop effects into the proverbial cardboard box and retired April 11, he took his beat along with him.
There are a couple of reasons he could do that.
First, Joe brought his passion for science to his job, often developing stories for the paper by using his own tools: his telescope, his camera, his four-wheel-drive and floppy canvas hat that bounced with him into the desert when he was hunting for a story.
Second, he could take science with him when he left because, unlike a major sporting event where a reporter needs press credentials to get a good view, one doesn't need a press card to search the stars or hunt fossils.
But the latter example is why newspapers need people like Joe who are willing to "discover" science and be the spark plug to keep editors interested and readers apprised of important events happening in, and to, the world around them.
"Science isn't always an easy thing to interpret for a lay audience, and that he did it so well for so long says a lot," said Patrick Wiggins, NASA ambassador to Utah and eastern Nevada.
The lead from one of Joe's columns in 1995 is telling: "Discovery is the heartbeat of science. Nothing happens without it, and nothing is more exciting to a scientist than a major find."
Rewriting that last part slightly: "Nothing is more exciting to the science writer than the scientist's major find."
How would you describe the angry assault of a peregrine falcon, swooping down on you with outstretched wings? Joe called it "exciting."
Joe's 1987 book, "Stone House Lands," the summary of a years-long exploration of the San Rafael Reef, showed that his work for the paper was only part of the way he expressed his passion for Utah's historic expanses.
Twice Joe was given extended assignments as the paper's environment reporter. He also covered federal court, where political issues affecting land around us were hammered out. Joe also spent a number of years covering the military.
Last year, he traveled on assignment to Bosnia reporting on a Bosnian family that returned home to bury their son, Sulejman Talovic, who went on a deadly shooting rampage at Trolley Square. In scientific terms, that story project was about social anthropology.
A perhaps less-than-scientific curiosity at this point is whether Joe will stay retired. The fact that he is already working on another book suggests not; the real question may be in the wait to see where his work shows up.
"I think Joe would come out of retirement to cover the miraculous story of the federal government designating as wilderness the entire San Rafael Swell. Or it might convince him to stay in retirement to work on a follow-up to his 1987 book," said Joe Hadfield, a science and technology specialist with Brigham Young University's public affairs department.
Retirement means Joe will miss covering the scientific breakthrough "that green Jell-O actually adds brain cells," muses Mary-Ann Muffoletto, public relations specialist with Utah State University's College of Science.
That good humor that some scientific outsiders may not see is front and center when Joe's science contacts talk about him. Wiggins says Joe's retirement may actually leave Earth in peril when the first contact is made with alien life. "Trouble is, if Joe is not there to answer the phone, ET may just hang up and call Zaphod Beeblebrox and leave Earth to the tender mercies of the Vogons."
When asked to consider the hypothetical scenario of what an archaeologist 500 years from now will conclude upon finding Joe's collection of notes or other personal effects, Muffoletto said they'll conclude that "If their ancestors had paid a little closer attention to the science Joe was conveying to the masses, doomsday might have been avoided."
Giving a hint to Joe's current book project, Wiggins said Joe's massive personal collection of tintypes and Daguerreotypes of American Revolutionary War veterans will demonstrate to future historians that Joe's photography collection may well eclipse his science writings.Get to work, Joe. We're waiting for that next book.
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