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The Good Life: Itís hard to believe, the Citizen is four years old
May 23, 2013 Lisa Betz   

Read more by Lisa Betz
Today as I write this, my thoughts turn to the last four years at the Gering Citizen. On May 20, 2009, the founding staff of the Gering Citizen eagerly awaited the first ever printing of our paper. We used a printer in Greeley, Colo. at that time, and arranged for the papers to be trucked to us via NTC; however, on that first press day, Jim Headley drove to Greeley and personally received the papers before zooming back to the office with the ink drying on the pages. What an exciting moment it was for all of us when that first paper arrived.

There are moments in life one never forgets. Do you remember the first time you ever held a Gering Citizen? I do. It was surreal. Our faces were plastered with permasmiles; our hearts were beating double time. We were so proud of our first edition.

For the first six weeks we didnít have to label the papers unless they were going to subscribers outside of Gering. We mailed them to every 69341 address for free, hoping that Gering would enjoy its new newspaper enough to subscribe, and many did.

None of us knew quite what to do after we had sat down and read the first edition, complimented each other, and savored the historic moment. I remember Jim Headley saying, now what? What should we do? And I said, letís go to the golf course and hand the paper out to everyone we see! And so we did.

I remember that Ken Meyer was one of the first people in the community to hold a Gering Citizen outside of our staff. Bob Unzicker was also there, sitting with Ken and a group of men. Jim and I handed the papers around, then we sat at a nearby table, ordered iced tea and watched as other people looked at the paper for the first time, feeling that nervous excitement of someone holding your newborn baby. We were elated, proud, nervous, excited, many emotions ran though us that day. After the first congratulations by people at the golf course, to be honest, we were just plain exhausted by all of the excitement. None of us was able to sleep that night.

Helping Jim to found the Gering Citizen, buying the paper when it was seven months old, learning to lead the paper after Jim left, and finding my legs as a publisher/editor, has been one of the greatest challenges of my life. When I completed my masterís degree in theatre in 2005, I remember having a conversation with a fellow classmate. She acknowledged that we had gone through the fire and posited that nothing in our lives will ever be as difficult as what we had gone through in three years at the Hilberry Theatre. As a result, now we could do anything, no matter how difficult because nothing could ever be this hard. I thought she was brilliant and agreed, how could anything challenge me as much as those three years had done?

Sometimes I revisit that conversation and wonder, was I shaking my fist at God and asking for it? Perhaps so. Challenges like my graduate program and the experiences Iíve had at the Gering Citizen test oneís mettle in a way that teaches you how strong you are. It has developed great strength in me to persevere with the Gering Citizen as we have done.

It brings me joy to know that I follow in the footsteps of my third great-grandfather Martin Gering in helping Gering to thrive, that through great adversity (and there has been a lot of that in our four years), good people in our community have supported our efforts and embraced us despite the odds against us, a tough economy and fierce competition.

Now the Gering Citizen is no longer a baby. We have found our legs. I still have a lot to learn as a publisher/editor. I have made mistakes at times. For instance, it has been difficult for me to recognize that when I offer my opinion now, it is perceived as the Citizenís opinion, when sometimes, it isnít. I have lost my individual identity somewhat and have to think carefully about how what I say might be perceived in the context of the paper. This is new for me. I have the ability to see many sides of an issue, and my personal opinion isnít always that of the Citizenís editorial voice. My personal feelings represent just one voice in the mix of ideas that make up the Citizenís stance on any issue. The staff discusses issues facing the community and the paperís voice is an amalgamation of those voices.

What a fascinating ride it has been these four years. Thank goodness that Jim Headley is still our friend, and offers mentoring and advice when needed. Our involvement in the Nebraska Press Association has been invaluable too, providing a source of guidance and friendships that are supportive and helpful when things arenít as easy as they could be. Friend and publisher Amy Fredrick, who publishes three newspapers with her husband Jason in central Nebraska, helped us to design grad ads this week as we recover from the loss of our data. Many blessings to you, Amy.

Though four years have passed, I still marvel at our accomplishment. Such an amazing amount of work goes into the paper each week. It boggles my mind how many people contribute to the Citizenís success every single week.

While the Citizen has been a personal journey for me, as well as a shared accomplishment with Jim Headley, Jerry Purvis, Nina Betz, Ken Kurtz, Andi and Brian Hale and many others too numerous to name here, I thank you, our readers, for your continued support of the paper. And I thank every writer, columnist, photographer, advertiser, my uncle Dick Littell who delivers the paper across the Valley, and his back up, Tara Bordeaux, friends who have offered support, solace and encouragement, the current staff, Elizabeth Gross, Doug Harris, Jon-Lee Campbell, Mitzi Cawthra, who do a great deal every week to contribute to our success. We are alsofortunate in our partners at Torrington who print our paper each week through the Business Farmer, thank you for having my back sometimes, and for being our friend.

Weíll have an open house to celebrate this year on June 6 at the office and we look forward to seeing you. Next year, weíre planning a big party for our fifth birthday, but first things first. We have yet another year of putting the Gering Citizen together with love and the joy of serving our Valley, sharing your stories, hopes, dreams and even despairs. We love this Valley and thank each one of you who co-creates our lives here.

Thank you again for your support of the Gering Citizen, we promise to continue to earn that support to the best of our ability. And as this is a shared accomplishment with you, our readers, let us know from time to time how weíre doing. Your expressions of appreciation and kind words over these four years have often come at just the right time to fuel our resolve. And we appreciate feedback that isnít so positive too. As I always say, a trained actor (what I studied in graduate school) is a professional criticism taker. I have the hide of a rhinoceros and I value your feedback.

With great appreciation to you, our readers, advertisers and friends, thank you from the bottom of my heart.

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