Over the course of my career as the editor of the Jeffersonian-Democrat, I have written approximately 1,460 Views from Main Street. This will be the last. I am leaving the paper at the end of this month.
Departing is not an easy thing. I have enjoyed serving as the editor of one of Pennsylvania’s oldest weekly newspapers. I take pride in the fact that I have been the second longest serving editor in this newspaper’s history. Only the founder, Major John McMurray, served longer than I have.
It has been a journey filled with many long hours, many frustrations and a deep sense of satisfaction. I have written about two wars, confronted the Ku Klux Klan, sat in on far too many murder trials and dealt with social inequity.
That journey started at the sports desk in 1986 when The McMurray brothers, Don and Bruce, took a gamble and allowed Joe McLaughlin to hire me. I had ambition but absolutely no experience. The only brush with journalism was back in high school working on “The Beam.”
Undaunted by my own ignorance, I picked up the pen and went to work. I learned very early on that the only way to really cover an event was to be on the sideline, camera in hand, digging out the story. I learned in sports that you really needed to nail a deadline and that people can become very emotional when their children are involved.
Sports was a great place to start a career. Joe, Bruce and Don allowed me to grow. I was able to use my free time to write stories that had absolutely nothing to do with sports. I was having fun with my new career.
Then Joe left. Bruce and Don took me out for a conversation over a shot of whiskey and told me what they expected. I was, honestly, not prepared for what lay ahead. I learned as much as I could from Joe before he left and I learned a lot more in the years ahead.
I never stopped learning. I learned when to shut up and when to ask questions. I often asked questions when no one else would. This is not the way to win popularity contests. My wife once told that if I do my job right, I won’t have many friends when I retire.
There have been many times that I wished that I did not have to tell a story. I knew the story would be printed at a cost. I have been shunned because of my views but that was to be expected. I know of no other way to do this job than to be true to my on core values, regardless how unpopular those opinions may be.
I have been cursed on occasion because the story did not agree with the view of the facts held by the subject of the story. At one time I kept a file of threatening letters but, after a time, I realized that if someone wrote a letter they were probably not going to do anything radical. They were a few intense evenings when I brought a weapon with me to work, just in case.
My wife laughs when someone kids her about her husband working only one day a week because, well, it is only a weekly paper. She knows how often I have been called out in the middle of the night for an accident or a fire. She knows how many weekend plans had to be postponed because of some newsworthy events. She knows how many dinner plans were canceled over the years when the job took priority. I have been blessed to have her by my side through the decades.
I have also been blessed to have known some extraordinary people in my journey. There have been presidents, governors, senators, representatives and one general who have crossed my path but it is not the powerful who have made this journey so enjoyable but the common people who consistently rise to meet a challenge. The firefighters, police officers, nurses, doctors and the common man, who is uncommon by their nature. There are simply too many individual acts of courage to list them all in this space.
I have tried to tell these stories with honesty and integrity over the years. I know I have failed in some aspects but I hope that I have succeeded more than I have failed.
I have benefited from my association with some very professional people in this office. No one could have done this work without strong support. My support has come from two very dedicated individuals: Patti Slaughter and Rich Rhoades. This news team brings over a century of experience to the pages of the Jeffersonian-Democrat. That level of experience is rare and may never be found again. The news staff at the Democrat are dedicated to serving their community. A simple thank-you does not come close to the gratitude I feel toward Rich and Patti.
I am also in debt to the stringers, or correspondents, who add to the newspaper. Laura Lynn Yohe has been with us for more than a decade providing a look at levels of government no other paper can even attempt. Jess Weible is a freelance writer whom I have come to rely on for stories of every description. I have come to regard Alex (Alexandra) Nelson as the “office child.” Alex started with us when she was in high school and she is now attending class at Clarion University. Alex is the latest in a long line of student reporters we have fostered at the Brookville Area High School. In fact the current student reporter, Carlie McManigle, is the younger sister of Lindsay who is now married and pursuing a medical career. It has been a pleasure to see the development of these one time students into mature adults.
I started in this business when the typewriter was the main tool for a reporter. I watched the first computers come into the office. In fact I still have a Macintosh Classic in my office. From the era of film cameras and typewriters, to the digital age, one thing has remained unchanged. It still requires a dedicated person to chase down the news. The Jeffersonian Democrat is fortunate to have a staff that will continue to pursue the news.
In the days of the telegraph, operators would sign off with the numeric “30.”
So, to you my friends, “30.”