As we get older, we like to recall the many individuals who have shaped our lives, as well as our view of life.
This past weekend, I turned 60. Yes, I’ll admit it …. I am getting older.
And you know what? I’m OK with that. But entering into my sixth decade of life, I started to recall some of the highlights of those past decades.
My first two decades in life were spent growing up on the farm in Iowa. While it taught me some valuable life lessons, it also nurtured my character. It was there I learned that sometimes life will throw you a curve ball. And that was OK, as long as you came out swinging again. One can’t always hit a home run every time at the plate. You have to learn to be humble and take criticism.
When I was in my 20s, I graduated from college and started my career in a newsroom full of mostly diehard newspapermen who loved to smoke while typing their stores as the deadline approached. There were only three women in the newsroom … and I was one of them. My chief responsibility was writing obituaries in addition to gathering hospital admission reports, birth announcements, livestock reports, as well as keeping the newspaper’s morgue up to date. It was a great training ground for a young journalist. As I rose through the journalism ranks, I was trained and mentored by many hard core editors.
I got my first editor’s gig was when I turned 30. The decade prior, I had covered every beat imaginable in the newsroom. When I arrived in the tundra of northern Minnesota, I had to cover one of the more challenging stories of my life. Two young men were duck hunting and were caught up in a horrific early winter storm and died. Covering that tragic event taught me, as an editor, the need to be sensitive to the family and local community on how we reported the events. A newspaper can report events, but we can help our community grieve, too.
That life lesson served me well when I was promoted to editor at one our company’s larger community newspapers in Grand Rapids, Minnesota, during my fourth decade of life. There was growing anxiety in the community, when a local gang tried to destroy its local fabric. Every week the police and sheriff’s report would note the destruction. Civic leaders demanded law enforcement crack down on the hooligans before someone was killed. Unfortunately, it was the brutal murder of a young man that awakened the community to what was happening to their youth. For three years, my life centered around covering a murder trial. It ended with the conviction of 14 individuals.
It also was during my 40s the company promoted me to publisher/editor of a small weekly newspaper in Hayward, Wis. I later would become publisher of a daily publication in Hibbing, Minn., the home of Bob (Zimmerman) Dylan. It was there I learned how cyclical jobs can be in the mining industry. In a period of one week in 2008, unemployment in our local community went from two percent to 28 percent. Our community remained strong and banded together to help those mining families survive during the darkest times in their lives.
When I entered my fifth decade in life I lost my father, 10 days after I turned 50. It also would be the decade I would be diagnosed with uterine cancer and the era where newspapers began to downsize. The newspaper company where I had worked for 27 years had been sold to investment bankers. Their goal was to downsize the company’s management structure. As result, it the first of three times I would be laid off due to company downsizing. However, during each of these experiences, I learned to survive and move forward. As my old hunting partner would constantly remind me, “Get your lip out of your boot and move forward.”
Near the end of my fifth decade I celebrated it with a wonderful opportunity to move to New Mexico and work for Journal Publications as the editor/publisher of your local newspaper.
Today, as I move into my sixth decade of life, I can’t imagine being anywhere else. It’s a place that has been welcoming and challenging. Plus, where else would I have the opportunity to manage one of the state’s oldest newspapers, rich in history.
Yes, I get frustrated with people who say newspapers are dying or forget we even exist. We’re reinventing ourselves on how people want to receive their news.
We are alive and well! And like El Defensor Chieftain, I’m ready to tackle this decade of life with vim and vigor.