It was a difficult year for journalists
It has been a difficult year.
I believe most journalists would agree with that after a year of being called “the enemy of the people,” where our credibility was regularly under attack, where five of us were killed at a newspaper in Maryland and the murder of a fellow journalist was ignored by our own president.
You could make a case for rock bottom.
You had to wonder how much worse it would get in a new year, and how much more we could take.
I know I did.
A few years ago I started saving emails from readers, figuring someday I might want to write a memoir about life as a small-town newspaper editor.
I wanted to remember their words — both good and bad — and the impact our work had on them.
Some of the emails were complimentary and still make me smile, but more often these days there has been criticism and angry attacks on the work we do.
I usually respond in some way to either justify my reasoning or question their facts.
It tends to be futile, although there are some exceptions.
There have been times this year when the debate has weighed heavily on my mind. There were weekends when an email disrupted my time at home with my family and left me in a foul mood.
There were other days when I didn’t want to face the wrath and didn’t feel up to fighting the good fight.
Another journalist I know told me the public simply doesn’t want the truth anymore, and maybe they are not worth saving.
I don’t believe that. I can’t believe that. And it usually wasn’t long before I was lifted by a reader’s email, or buoyed by a great story from one of our reporters that made a difference in our community.
It often felt like I was on the front lines of a war where truth was being held hostage.
The day after Christmas, our receptionist told me there was a woman up front who wanted to talk to me.
I was busy. I didn’t know what her beef was, and I really didn’t want to deal with it, but I went out to talk to her anyway.
“You’ve been at the newspaper a long time, right?” she said.
“Thirty years,” I told her.
She explained she wanted to come in and tell me something. She paused and struggled to get to the point before finally saying my articles “gave her hope.”
First there was relief, and then a hint of a smile came over my face.
I joked she was probably one of the few people to think such a thing.
I told her she had made my day. I should have told her she had made my year.
It was a reminder of why so many of us are in this news business.
It was a reminder to me of the dozens and dozens of people during the course of the year who reach out to me with a letter to the editor, an encouraging word on the phone or a pat on the back, telling me they appreciate the work and the effort.
And sometimes they walk through the front door.
Each time, it buoys me to face another day.
But in this case, it was something more. I’m now ready to face another year.