So you’re probably asking yourself what’s an Iowa farmer’s daughter doing in New Mexico.
The answer isn’t complicated. I have been in love with community journalism since my fifth grade class took a field trip to visit our local newspaper.
My mother said I came home from school so excited and I couldn’t stop talking at supper about all the exciting things happening at a newspaper. Yup … I was destined to work at a newspaper.
For almost four decades I have practiced the trade in four, now five, different states. I started as a news librarian in charge of the newspaper morgue and writing obituaries at the same daily newspaper I visited in fifth grade. I’ve covered everything from government meetings, the agricultural crisis of the 1980s, gang murders, embezzlement of public funds as well as interviewing presidential candidates during the Iowa caucus. And yes, I have interviewed President Trump.
I’ve reported on the many of the warts and triumphs in our country. But it’s the stories of people in the rural America that I love to write.
There’s the story of the Iowa farm wife who lost her husband in a farming accident. The couple had six children and she wanted to make certain her children grew up loving the land as much of their father. She quit her job as a registered nurse and became a farmer working the fields alongside her husband’s family … which included milking a herd of 100 dairy cows each morning.
How about the story on the athletic director at a northern Minnesota high school who lost both of his sons on the same day in a duck hunting accident? Instead of being angry at the world, he became an advocate across the state for youth hunting safety.
Then there was Jennifer. Her mother was the queen of the local gang who was now in prison for the next 60 years for murdering a young man in an abandoned taconite mine pit. She didn’t hate her mother. She hated the choices her mother made as a young woman. We all make bad choices Jennifer said. Unfortunately, her mother made a choice not only to end someone else’s life but the relationship with her daughter. It’s hard growing up, Jennifer said, without a mother’s love.
And … who could forget about Veda Ponikvar? She was first woman newspaper publisher in Minnesota at the age of 26. But what made Veda world famous of the Minnesota Iron Range was her potica – a pastry filled with walnuts and honey – that she served to politicians who visited her office for an interview.
I’ve always believed that everyone one has a story to tell and it shouldn’t be told in their obituary. I’ve written too many obituaries about people who’ve lived an extraordinary life that would have made great stories for the local newspaper.
So what brought me to Socorro? It’s an interesting tale. Like Scott, I was tired of the furloughs and corporate downsizing at the daily newspapers. There was a time I thought I’d say good-bye to journalism. However, if I decided to go back into journalism I wanted to work for a family-owned community newspaper.
After several of months of job seeking I saw an advertisement that intrigued me. I took a chance and applied. A month later, I was in Albuquerque and Socorro interviewing for a job. The rest of the story is history.
Last week my beloved dog, Hopalong Cassidy, I made the trek from the cornfields of Iowa to the mountains of New Mexico. Later in the week, the movers will be arriving with my furniture … and stuff.
So now the work begins. I can’t pomise you will like everything I write. Nor can I promise you I will always say your name correctly or you’ll pronounce mine correctly.
What I want to you remember about your community newspaper is this: We are not your best friend. We are your candid friend.
Community newspapers, like El Defensor Chieftain, are the last refuge of unfiltered America – a running documentary of the stories of real people. We’re like the homemade bread served at your table every week.