By Jenny Neyman
I have always been one to appreciate the wisdom and witticisms of others.
My refrigerator, desktop, computer monitor and other flat surfaces I spend time around tend to accumulate favorite sayings, poems and quotations. My message T-shirt collection is extensive. In college, my car was held together by bumper stickers. Perhaps that’s why I like being a reporter — it’s an excuse to find out what people think and have to say.
“You can’t depend on your judgment when your imagination is out of focus.”
— Mark Twain
Yet, a little over a year ago, I found myself launching into an endeavor that required me to ignore much of what I was told. I started a newspaper.
Common knowledge, conventional wisdom and the raised eyebrows and held tongues of friends and colleagues — some more successfully restrained than others — were rife with reasons why I shouldn’t do it. And that was even before the economy took a powder.
“If you can find a path with no obstacles, it probably doesn’t lead anywhere.
— Frank A. Clark
The prevailing wisdom is that the newspaper industry has one foot in the grave, and the other has a nasty case of gangrene. Newspapers all over the country are downsizing, going belly up and shutting down. Why would anyone, anywhere want to start one? Much less in an area already served by print media?
There was more to it than that: Because I love reporting and writing, for one. And because smaller, weekly, community-based newspapers across the country are still holding strong. And because I believe every area deserves its own, local, community-focused journalism. It serves to connect people in a common dialogue, whether that’s celebrating moments of levity, creativity or generosity; recognizing times of tragedy or sorrow; or just providing mediation for long-running debates. This area is a perfect example — there are more stories here worthy of being told than there is time to write or even read them.
“A good newspaper, I suppose, is a nation talking to itself.”
— Arthur Miller
But to be even more honest, for me, personally, this endeavor boiled down at some level to just “because,” in all its stubborn glory. If I had kids, the sentiment would evoke the royal mother trump card: “Because I said do.” Since I don’t, it feels a little more like the arms-crossed, eyes-narrowed, shoulders-hunched, lower-lip-stuck-defiantly-out response of a 6-year-old when asked why on earth they thought it would be a good idea to cut their own hair, then stuff it down the sink along with a wad of toilet paper and a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
I wanted to. Because I felt like it. Because I’m not getting any younger or more energetic. Because in a depressed, uncertain economy, you might well lose your savings, job and/or your shirt even if you play it safe, so why not take a risk? And because it’s my dream, so don’t tell me I shouldn’t pursue it.
“Listen to the mustn’ts, child. Listen to the don’ts. Listen to the shouldn’ts, the impossibles, the won’ts. Listen to the never haves, then listen close to me… Anything can happen, child. Anything can be.”
— Shel Silverstein
So, here I am — one year, 49 editions, over 1,000 stories and only God and Juan Valdez know how many cups of coffee later. Feeling justified that my rational reasoning about community journalism and this area’s interest in it was sound. And still having moments of arm crossing and eye narrowing when I need to invoke some stubbornness as my personal antidote to the occasional dream-crushing challenges life throws at you.
“When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro.”
— Hunter S. Thompson
I am also left with deep gratitude for all the people who have helped the paper get this far: The talented writers who lend their perspectives, curiosity and expertise to these pages. The advertisers who support this endeavor by seeing the value of reaching out to prospective customers in their community through a venue dedicated to and about their community. Those who have contributed their time and innumerable talents in selling ads, graphic design, Web design, editing and delivering papers. My family, who are very good not to ask questions they don’t really want answered — like, “How much sleep are you getting?” — and instead convey support and concern through much safer topics, such as the mechanical health of my car and the weather.
And my friends, who have helped keep me fed, focused, dressed in matching socks and, if all else fails, entertained.
“Laughter and tears are both responses to frustration and exhaustion. I myself prefer to laugh, since there is less cleaning up to do afterward.”
— Kurt Vonnegut
— Dug the dog, Disney-Pixar’s “Up.”
The paper is still young yet, and I hope this community will continue to watch it grow as enthusiastically as it has so far. I fully expect some terrible twos and tantruming toddler periods to get through as future anniversaries are reached. But that’s the price to be paid for, as Hunter S. Thompson put it, buying the ticket and taking the ride.
“You can’t have everything… where would you put it?”
How do I know?
“Some people never go crazy. What truly horrible lives they must lead.”
— Charles Bukowski
Jenny Neyman is the editor and publisher of the Redoubt Reporter.