A few months ago, we announced we were having a baby. Maybe not the cleverest metaphor, but that’s what it felt like, taking over the Twiner-Herald.
Unlike walking away from a kid, you can leave a job that’s not fulfilling, particularly when you’re 66.
That’s what Karen and I are doing. Our last issue as editors will be next week’s April 4 edition.
This wasn’t an easy decision for us, and there are many factors involved. We’ve learned that the grind of running a weekly newspaper today involves working long days and nights as well as weekends, and to continue would likely damage our health.
Journalism in 2018 is a 24-7 job, and it’s a young person’s game. It’s not enough that we need to cover school boards and city council meetings and sports—often at the same time—in two towns, but then we have to rush and post the stories online and Facebook before our “competitors” do, those newspaper folks who have been our friends for 25 years.
Newspapers are in desperate straits. You don’t have to tell anyone that.
Small-town weeklies as well as larger dailies have to compete online—that’s the nature of the modern industry as print papers decline.
The result is that good reporting and writing isn’t valued as much as technology skills, particularly at the weekly level. Investigative reports on an opioid crisis or the need for a community wellness center aren’t nearly as important as digital skills.
But then I’m a geezer. Depending on how you do the math, Karen and I have the better part of a full century in this business: I started working for the Twiner at 14, and in her 20s she married into the Bloom family, which bought this paper and the Herald-Observer during World War II.
Which is why this is so hard on us. We don’t want the paper, introduced in the 19th century, to die on our watch or ever. Early on, I looked at the grind as our cross to bear. You have to be willing to die for something, right? Real newspapermen understand that.
But I don’t believe that now.
After a half century in the business, you would think I’d have a thicker skin. But to be completely honest—and how else should I be, this likely being the final column I write—I’m tired of the griping about what gets in the paper, and what doesn’t.
Case in point: the first two emails I opened on Friday.
A Woodbine reader, disappointed at our coverage of STEM Festival Night and Literacy Night, was “dismayed there were two, maybe three pictures and not an entire pages like Logan” and its Read Across America literacy activities. “I realize it is difficult,” she went on, “but something a bit more equal would be great.”
Okay. Clicked out of that and opened this, from a Logan reader:
“This week’s paper was, once again, light on Logan news. I can’t imagine that it’s because nothing is happening here,” she wrote, then listing a half-dozen or so story ideas.
Sincerely, a big thanks to her, and the story ideas were timely and legitimate. But where was she when we set up a table, week in and week out, in the Fourth Street Mall and made ourselves available for the express purpose of gathering Logan news?
This reader works in Omaha, so she couldn’t visit then. But any number of others might have reached out.
The only visitors we saw in three months, week in and week out, were Gary Guge and Paul Wilderdyke (Paul, I hope you found your cell phone).
Some Logan folks were angry and frustrated—as could be expected--when Berkshire Hathaway placed the Twiner-Herald office in Woodbine.
Now that’s a double whammy.
So going forward, the hybrid has to be Logan’s newspaper as well as Woodbine’s.
Some advice for the next guy or gal coming out of the gate here: get together with interested residents from both Logan and Woodbine and talk about expectations for a newspaper that belongs to both towns. In Logan, teacher Ben Tompkins, who has coordinated the solid efforts from Lo-Ma students to write sports, is an excellent resource. There are many others, too. Lo-Ma Superintendent Tom Ridder, his staff and coaches have reached out and tried hard to accommodate us.
The reader lamenting a lack of Logan news pointed out that both towns are working together with many sports activities. She is correct, too, pointing out that instances of working together is a story that needs to be told more often.
I’m not going to end this column, likely my last in this newspaper, on a sour note.
It’s tough to remember all the kind words of friends and strangers who have stopped by in our short stay here. There were two things I adored and will sorely miss.
The first is getting reacquainted with folks whom I might not have seen in 40 years. I often remembered faces but forgot names. Or, sometimes, knew a name but didn’t recognize the person.
And, second, writing about these same people and others. Before November, I would never have imagined reporting—in the same publication-- on the Ron-Dels, Dr. Susan Hickey, Chuck Long and Duane Mann.
Karen and I aren’t going anywhere. This unexpected development—our decision to return to Woodbine less than five months ago, then leaving the paper—has left us moving a household and unpacking boxes as we permanently retire here.
So stop by and say “hello” or “goodbye.”