Loving what I do
October 7, 2020
A few weeks ago the 1st grade class from Saratoga Elementary School was getting a tour of downtown Saratoga from Sherry McCay, a volunteer with the Saratoga Museum. As they made their way down Bridge Avenue, they stopped in front of the Saratoga Sun where Sherry began telling them about the newspaper.
Even though it was a Monday, deadline day for our small weekly paper, I opened the door and asked if the students would like a tour of the newspaper office.
Fortunately, their teachers appeared to be okay with the offer and a flood of students entered my office. I walked the students through a quick process about how we lay out the newspaper now and then a brief–hopefully brief–explanation of how the newspaper used to be laid out.
A week or so after that, I had the opportunity to provide a tour of the office to Cynthia Lummis the morning of her meet and greet in Saratoga. I showed her the archive of Saratoga Sun newspapers and provided a brief history of the Sun and the Platte Valley Lyre. The Lyre, a once competing newspaper in Saratoga, was eventually acquired by the Sun but was the first newspaper in the state to have women owners and a woman editor.
Given half a chance, I will take the time to discuss what history I know about the Saratoga Sun and its place in Saratoga’s history. I will also talk about the importance of a newspaper to its community and the importance of a community to its newspaper. These are both things that I have had first hand experience with since working for the Sun.
Why do I do this?
Easy. I love what I do. The downside to loving what I do, however, is the limited amount of time I often spend with my family that is not work related. More than once, I have taken my son, Jareth, with me to a basketball game or volleyball game that I had to cover. I’ve also brought my wife, Telitha, as my plus one to a dinner or event that I was attending for work.
In fact, just last week when Telitha and I had one of our rare moments of absolute “us time” she told me she had calculated the time each week we get to spend with each other. Not counting sleep, for obvious reasons, or when we’re spending time with our son the total amount of time we got to spend with each other was three hours a week.
That’s not a lot of time.
Between putting the paper together at the start of the week, attending meetings throughout the month and covering sports I am lucky to see Jareth before he goes to bed during the week. When we get time during the weekends, I try to spend it with him. Often, though, the weekends involve prepping for the upcoming week by working on articles ahead of Monday.
I know that while I spend an almost obscene amount of time in the office or out on assignment, my staff is putting in just as much time themselves.
There’s a lot that happens in our corner of Wyoming. Just this weekend we had a groundbreaking ceremony in Saratoga, two Volleyball games, a football game, an open house in Rawlins and homecoming games in Hanna. We were, amazingly, at all of these events.
I bring this all up because this week is National Newspaper Week. The idea of this week is to help people understand how truly important a newspaper is to their community. There is, of course, the role that we play as watchdog by attending multiple town council meetings and reporting on commissioner meetings. We also provide a permanent record for legal notices for people to be able to see where their money was spent and why.
Our role, however, goes beyond that.
I have had more than one conversation with a coach who stated that their players enjoyed seeing their name in print. On Monday, my reporter, Mike Armstrong, told me that putting a photo of HEM’s Madison Campbell on the front page was a hit over in his neck of the woods. When Coach Jason Williams presented his state championship basketball team with keepsakes this summer, it included a framed collage of Saratoga Sun articles from their historic win in March.
I can’t speak for the rest of my staff, but hearing those comments help make doing this job worth it. Knowing that a photo or article will be cut out and scrapbooked or placed on a fridge is something that brings me joy.
The same goes for when I walk into a business I have written an article on and see the article framed on the wall. When I get food from the Grumpy Italian or the Bear Trap, I see these framed articles and it always makes me feel a sense of pride.
Often, it is those clipped-out articles that I keep in mind on a late Monday when we are putting our paper together. Most Monday’s, we rarely see the sunlight except what comes through the windows in the front of our office. While we talk with each other and make wisecracks or jokes about a misspelled word in our copy or a song on the radio, we are all hunched over our computers as the din of keyboard typing fills the air.
Some might look at us and think we are all just a little crazy. We put our all into a newspaper, send it out into the world and then turn around and do it all over again. Some Monday mornings, I wonder to myself if I’m not a little too obsessed with this job. There’s a simple reason why we do what we do, though.
We love our community and we want to do the best we can for it.
If that means holding up a mirror to show its mistakes, then so be it. If that means that we rush back to Saratoga from Casper to get photos of a championship team being greeted by fans at midnight, then so be it. If that means that we stand for hours out in the sagebrush because we want to get photos of firefighters hard at work, then so be it.
That’s what your community newspaper is here to do.