Merry Christmas, Herald Times

Kaye Sullivan

MEEKER | To Niki Turner and all your hard-working staff, on behalf of all your readers, I say thank you and a very special Merry Christmas.

You faithfully churn out the news every week, get the advertising included, attend meetings for us, produce the fun pages, re-create Days Gone By news, write an editorial, edit submitted articles, and no matter what, get us our beloved newspaper. In a small, remote town like Meeker, the paper is THE news, and our household reads it every week.

Holidays do not exist in the world of journalism; it is 52 weeks a year work. The clock is always ticking. As soon as one issue goes to press, it’s time to focus on the next week. Deadlines are fixed times with no exceptions, not soft schedules. Once the copy and layout are off to be printed, there is no recall or do over.

A newspaper is, well, “news.” Sometimes breaking stories occur right at press time which can result in a quick shuffle of headlines, adjustments to the layout, and little time to fact check or research new content.

Did I mention photography? The paper’s staff attends many events to capture them in pictures. Regardless of weather, personal schedules, simultaneous events, or long drives, photography is part of news reporting.

Fortunately, some stories are seasonal or routine – the hunters always come in fall, the high school graduations occur every spring, and holidays are predictable. So, an editorial calendar can be created to anticipate these routine stories.

2020 has been a stressful year for everyone but imagine harnessing all this diverse news into concise articles. Every piece of news must be transformed into copy understandable to readers in relatively few words. One challenge of a good writer is to condense a complex story into the essential words. Or lean on the editor to cull and gain focus. It’s not as easy as it sounds.

Newspaper writing also has a certain style – short sentences, frequent paragraphs, leading with an attention getting phrase, starting with the bottom line, and making articles newsworthy. Correct grammar, punctuation, spelling (especially of names), and identifying people with their proper title are all required. Spell check does not catch everything so a good grounding in the proper use of the English language is essential.

Today, many newspapers including the Herald Times maintain an extensive and simultaneous digital presence. It’s double the work to produce an online version of the paper, podcasts, and social media posts plus keep up with how to be competent on many platforms.

All of this must be accomplished with a sound economic focus. As you know, newspapers have been closing across the country. Sometimes they’re merged; often they are reduced to a fraction of their former size. In difficult economic times, advertising and subscriptions shrink, creating an even tougher bottom line.

Journalists must have thick skins because people complain all the time. Any missed fact, child not recognized, or perceived bias is often criticized. Letters to the editor can be harsh, comments on Facebook mean, and gossip petty. It is not an easy job to remain afloat and steadfast.

I am grateful to the Herald Times for including my stories, officially called, “Op Ed” articles because they are usually on the page across from the editor’s editorial. My small contributions are just personal stuff, hopefully uplifting stories, and reflections that are not the hard news. If you read them, thank you.

But the greater thanks goes to Niki and her staff for their continuous hard work on behalf of all us in Rio Blanco County. Merry Christmas HT!