|The Good Life: What a wild ride it’s been|
|May 22, 2014 Lisa Betz|
Everything we do in life is merely the ground in which we test ourselves. Like a seedling, the Gering Citizen had to be planted well, watered, given sunshine and see a bit of luck to get going. At times, managing the Citizen has had elements of a jump off the high dive, a ride on the scariest roller coaster and even sometimes, sleepwalking, especially on Wednesdays after a long night in production.
Five years ago, Gering was ready for a new paper and the community was ripe for a weekly newspaper that covered the whole valley. Our baby has weathered many storms, and believe me, there have been quite a few.
What does it take to start a newspaper? The answer is a lot of guts, love, and the hide of a rhinoceros. My first job in newspapers was in Washington, D.C. at a bi-weekly tab-sized newspaper called The Georgetowner. The paper was 45-years-old and it was in the emergency room, having missed some publication dates and made many of its advertisers angry. When I was hired, it was my job to sell the advertising, design the advertising and be the final eye for the pages before they went to the printer. I also covered the gala season, wrote a column and attended many social events with the new publisher/owner, Sonya Bernhardt, who taught me a great deal. In those days, we cut and pasted the stories, ads and all content onto a board with a highly toxic product called “spray mount.” The editor, Robert Devaney, would drive the boards to the printer where a photo was taken of them, (this is where the term “camera-ready” comes from), then he would stay at the press until the paper was printed and bring back the finished product in the wee hours of the morning.
Although I was paid next to nothing and nearly choked every deadline day because of the cloud of spray mount in the air, I distinctly remember saying aloud once, “I wouldn’t mind owning my own newspaper someday.”
Be careful what you wish for. I thought I was done with newspapers in 2001 after leaving my sales job at The Spectator, in Raleigh, N.C. but when Jim Headley needed help in 2009 with sales for his about-to-be-born Gering Citizen, I couldn’t say no.
It takes a unique type of person to run a newspaper. One of the most important people on the staff is the editor. I knew nothing about being editor when the title and its duties fell in my lap. For at least a year, I had little idea of what I was doing but through sheer force of will, I learned. I ignored snarky criticism when I heard it because I was doing the best I could. I never thought that I was the best candidate for the job but for a long time, I was the only candidate and I did my best for our readers and the community with the help of dedicated people like Nina Betz, Jerry Purvis, Jon-Lee Campbell, Terry Gaston, Ken Kurtz, Sheila Weber, Philip Eckerberg, Dick Littell and others who have passed through our doors at the Citizen.
When Kay Grote suggested one day that we should go out for coffee, I was full of trepidation. I thought, what could she possibly want to talk about? There was a lot going on at the time, so we delayed the meeting for several months. When we finally sat down together, I was unsure but willing to listen. I learned that Kay had the same love for Gering that I did. She has a sincere desire to serve our community, our schools, and the valley’s people. After just a few months of working here as a part-time reporter, we offered her the job of editor last December, and thankfully, she accepted. I don’t think there is anyone I admire more in this business. Kay has been a saving grace for the Citizen, and we couldn’t ask for a better editor. Many of the fresh ideas you may have noticed on our pages are hers.
Now I have time and energy to give to the sales side of the paper, which is just what we needed.
During the five years I’ve spent at the Citizen, it has been a great pleasure to meet so many people in the community. Along the way, I’ve met some of my dad’s old friends and heard stories about him. My dad died when I was 25 years old and I treasure these unexpected moments with people who knew him. I’ve also heard wonderful stories about my ancestors and yours, people who made the valley what it is today. I’m so proud to be able to provide a forum to the people of the valley, a place where we can all share our stories and preserve our time together on this planet for generations that follow us.
One of the greatest compliments I’ve received about the Citizen is that people feel good after reading our paper. Our community has its share of crime, of tragedy and loss and we have to report that sometimes but a newspaper does have a choice about which stories to print and where in the pages to place them. An editor can choose to make good news, positive stories and inspiring stories more important than who got busted for what drug infraction and that is what we’ve chosen to do at the Citizen.
Whoever said that newsworthy stories are only the ugly bad stuff? With so many good things happening every day in our community, we choose to tout the good, the inspiring and the beautiful. We’ll always have to report on unfortunate events too, but the Citizen is our lense on the community, how we see life in the valley.
Thank you for contributing to the good in our community. It is you and me and all of us who make our valley what it is. Keep up the good work and thank you for reading the Gering Citizen. Here’s to the next five years of serving you and the highest good through the pages of the Gering Citizen.