By Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter
According to standard developmental milestones, 2-year-olds should be able to form two- to three-word sentences, be understandable at least half the time, use pronouns (such as I, me and you), draw vertical lines and begin to understand abstract concepts (such as sooner and later).
Phew. We’re not doing too badly then.
As of this edition, the Redoubt Reporter turns 2. As with human 2-year-olds, the paper is developing its own personality, sometimes in spite of what its “parent” intended it to be. Like a real parent, I went into this with two sets of standards that were light years apart:
Little Jimmy will cure cancer and be an Olympic athlete and solve the Sunday New York Times crossword puzzle and never leave his dirty socks on the floor and listen to public radio and master the flaky pie crust and always use his turn signals. Barring that, Little Jimmy will have 10 fingers and 10 toes and be healthy and whatever happens in between those expectations is fine by me.
For the paper, I will admit to entertaining some, perhaps, overenthusiastic idealism about the potential of community journalism. This paper will right wrongs, celebrate the community’s uniqueness, commemorate its history and milestones, shed light on the ignored, encourage healthy dialogue, foster cultural growth, bring information and perspective to complex issues, and be posted on people’s refrigerators, all while allowing me the ability to sleep an average of seven hours a night, still go on the occasional camping trip and not have to search under my car seats for enough spare change to buy a cup of coffee.
On the other hand, I’ve worked in newspapers long enough to know you’ve got to cover your bases first — get the thing out on time, have something in there people actually want to read and, for God’s sake, make every effort to spell names right.
Two years into its existence, the paper has ricocheted between my expectational extremes. Some weeks it comes closer to achieving those warm-the-cockles-of-your-heart idealistic goals. Other weeks, I’m just happy to have time to spell-check words like “cockles,” squeeze in enough sleep to at least get my own name right, and send the thing off to be printed without having to resort to sprawling, freehand sketches depicting the view of my office parking lot to fill up space.
Ninety percent of journalism is a moving target. It’s an always-shifting mix of people, information, issues, ideas, resources, time, challenges and subjects that all has to be nailed down in accordance with the 10 percent that’s set in stone — deadlines and the fundamentals of accuracy, clarity and relevancy.
Another constant, for this paper, is my continuing respect, esteem and may-I-kiss-your-feet appreciation for everyone who makes the Redoubt Reporter possible — the crew of talented writers, editors, photographers, ad salesmen, graphic designers and paper deliverers; story and information sources and interview subjects; advertisers; supportive friends and family; and, of course, readers.
In honor of those contributions, I hope to always do my best to put out the Olympic-athlete, crossword-solving, flaky-crust version of the paper you deserve. Part of that, I believe, is knowing what you want to achieve.
On some stories you’ve got days to do interviews, revise drafts, tweak lead paragraphs, update information, hunt for accompanying art and polish the finished product. For others, the excrement hits the air conditioning and you’re left with maybe two hours or just 20 minutes to do a story that deserves two days worth of attention. In those situations, the danger becomes settling for done, instead of well done.
“Good enough” may occasionally, unavoidably be the result, but it should never be the goal. Journalists should always squeeze the most they can out of whatever time and resources they have available to make their product as good as it can be. That may not always be as good as it should be. If you care about what you’re doing and recognize the never-ending potential for improvement, it will never be as good as you want it to be. But it should always be as good as you can make it.
No matter the challenges, it’s important to keep the ideal in mind, even when it isn’t reachable. If you don’t know what you’re shooting for, you don’t know where to aim.
I haven’t lost sight of the goals I’ve set for myself and the paper. If anything, they’ve solidified and expanded over the past two years. In one sense, that’s daunting, but in another, it will be fun to see what of those expectations the Redoubt Reporter can reach as it embarks on year 3.
Hopefully, six- to seven-word sentences, cooperation with others, correctly naming colors and beginning potty-training will be in there somewhere.
Jenny Neyman is the editor and publisher of the Redoubt Reporter.