Remembering Idaho newsman Chuck Oxle

By Shea Andersen

More than 100 people gathered in Boise’s Municipal Park in early October to celebrate the life of Chuck Oxley, an Idaho newsman who died in a car accident on October 3. He was 46.

Oxley, like many reporters, worked for several news organizations in Idaho, and made an impression on most of those with whom he worked. At the memorial, several reporters and editors spoke about his good humor, his idealism and his dedication to the craft.

Oxley had made a rare transition back into news after a time spent in a partisan position, working as a spokesman for the Idaho Democratic Party. In the summer of 2009 he became the managing editor at the Blackfoot Morning News.

In his column in the Idaho Statesman, Opinion Page Editor Kevin Richert wrote, “He seemed to be enjoying the new job. In an e-mail a few days back, sent to “close friends, family and colleagues,” Chuck wrote with a sense of purpose about an editor’s responsibilities – of having a say in what readers saw about their community every day. He wrote with joy about his newest pursuit: learning to fly. He wrote with determination about other things he vowed to do in his life.”

Richert was among several of Oxley’s friends who wrote tributes to him. These include Boise Weekly News Editor Nathaniel Hoffman, who wrote about the advice Oxley gave him while the two were covering the Idaho Legislature. Oxley was then working for The Associated Press and Hoffman, writing for the Idaho Press-Tribune, was trying to second-guess the session’s outcome:

“Chuck, who was juggling three or four stories at the time and had his characteristic sweaty brow, sports coat pockets overflowing with papers and pens, stopped a minute in the hallway and said something to the effect of: “Just write it as it happens.”

At the memorial, Statesman Managing Editor Bill Manny talked about Oxley’s idealism, saying Chuck “believed in causes, even if they were not the newspaper’s causes.”

Oxley, Richert wrote, “was always smart and opinionated, good-natured and sharp-witted. It didn’t matter whether he was a fellow newspaper editor, a candidate for state Legislature or a spokesman for the Idaho Democratic Party – and I got to know Chuck in all of these roles. At his core, he was always the same person.”

Anthony Duignan-Cabrera, a friend of Oxley’s from journalism school, wrote on his blog that when Oxley took the job in Blackfoot, he was as happy as he’d ever been.

“Chuck, even right up to the end, believed in the future. Maybe it was naively romantic, but he wanted to believe in it. He would be beaten down by doubts and mistakes and depression, yet he kept getting up and kept setting new challenges for himself.”

He is survived by his daughter Susannah, brother and sister-in-law Chris and Suzan Oxley, mother Janet Still, father Bill Oxley, and friend and former wife Jennifer.