This is probably the hardest column I will write to our readers of El Defensor Chieftain.
Last week, I was named the Vice-President of Advertising for the Albuquerque Journal. Which means only one thing … I will be relinquishing my role as the Editor and Publisher of this newspaper.
It won't be an easy task to say good-bye to the wonderful El Defensor Chieftain employees as well as to many of our readers in Socorro, Magdalena, as well as those in the rural areas of Socorro County.
When I accepted this honored position back in late 2018, I had been laid off again by one of the bigger corporate newspaper chains. Thus, when I started to look for a position at another newspaper, I had one stipulation – it had to be family-owned.
At the time, my younger brother urged me to get out of the newspaper business. But I didn’t have the heart to do it. 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 four decades, I have practiced the trade in 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 (thank goodness I wasn’t there to witness that fiasco this year).
I've reported on the many of the warts and triumphs in our country. But it's the stories of people in rural America that I love to write. Lucky for me, I saw an advertisement on journalismjobs.com looking for an editor/publisher of a small newspaper in rural New Mexico.
A week after I sent my resume, I received a call from the owner of the Albuquerque Journal ... Publisher Bill Lang. We chatted for more than an hour about what I thought made a good community newspaper. Two weeks later, I was traveling to New Mexico to check out Socorro and New Mexico's oldest weekly newspaper.
Today I can tell you this; I will never ever regret saying 'yes' to become the editor and publisher of your hometown newspaper.
We've tried something different things to make this newspaper feel more like a "community" newspaper than one peddling regurgitated news from the big city. We added a more vivacious community calendar, more feature stories like "52 Faces," honoring the hard-working folks in our community as well as the law enforcement report, etc. We've stepped our advertising game as well, with new special sections, school pages, business bulletin board, pet parade pages, etc. Perhaps the most important special section created was the Veterans Day section honoring all the service men and women from Socorro County. I can't tell you how much it meant to me to see so many proud veterans, as well as their family members, stop by the office to place the picture of themselves or their loved ones in the section. Coming from a family that honors service to our country – I felt beyond blessed to produce this section.
In my first column back in November 2018, I said I couldn’t promise you that you’d like everything I wrote. Nor could I promise you I will always say your name correctly, or you'll pronounce mine correctly. As a matter of fact, I still have problems with the pronunciation of many Hispanic names. But I'm told I'm getting better.
The greater community of Socorro County is lucky to still have a weekly newspaper. This year El Defensor Chieftain celebrates its 153 anniversary – a feat that only a few communities can say about its local newspaper. And we’re proud of the fact that we’re still kicking and thriving.
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 homemade bread ... made from scratch and served at your kitchen table every week.