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Dawn’s Column - The Final Countdown

POSTED June 17, 2014 5:41 p.m.

It’s been a while since I’ve written a column for The Leader, and this is my last one before saying goodbye to my coworkers and colleagues in the community.

I resigned from my post at the newspaper to take care of a number of pressing projects outside of work. Needing the extra hours to get things done, I’ve been trying to keep my head above water for a while now. By the time this column runs, I’ll have just a couple more days in the office.

It’s been nearly 10 years that I’ve worked at The Leader and as I’ve notified some of my contacts, sources, friends, and good acquaintances, I appreciate their kind words of support and their acknowledgement of the role I’ve filled as a local reporter. For those I haven’t told, I apologize and I hope to run into you around town, or even in other towns.

I’ve experienced fun and drama in “the newsroom” with colleagues and other people who’ve come into the office, called on the phone, and e-mailed me. I’ve got some great stories to tell: occasionally scary, sometimes laughable, at times humbling, and frequently offensive – in both humorous and not-so-humorous ways.

One tends to get jaded about certain aspects of life in this line of work. We see the good stuff and meet a lot of great people but we also see the underbelly of our town and of humanity – much more than the average citizen. We try to keep each other in line sometimes. Due to the nature of our work, we also talk and laugh about things in this office that you’d never dream about doing in other lines of work.

You have to have a thick skin in this business, as criticism comes with the territory. Sometimes it’s deserved, sometimes it’s just sour grapes, but we always appreciate when someone thanks us or acknowledges the time and effort we put into an article.

While I know that not every story I’ve written has been pleasing to everyone, I did my best to be impartial and not color it with my own views. I feel personal bias plays too much of a role in the media today, and very unapologetically so, in much greater ways than ever before, and I believe that it plays a role in the weakening our profession and our nation.

There were times when people mistakenly thought something I’d written was personal, when it was merely a statement of fact of what took place – no ulterior motives. I’ve tried pretty hard over the years to not get tangled up in the differences between certain personalities in the community.

There have also been times over the years where people would have completely opposing views about the same story – some would think the report would be too harsh or negative, while others would think the same article was too nice or only told the good news. There were cases where no one representing any side of an issue was happy with what I wrote. I believe I was probably at least fair in those instances. While we have to write about bad news, writing good news is something we like to do here. I’ve had plenty of opportunity to do that as well.

One thing is for sure, it’s always been interesting. While my regular beat in recent years has been the school district, the irrigation district, agriculture, different community news stories, and obituaries, in the past I’ve also covered the city planning commission, the hospital board, police stories, including a heart-wrenching murder-suicide shortly after I began working here, and a few feature stories. Certain things have really stuck with me.

Once in a while the auto-correct or spell check on our computers has nailed a few of us in print. When I was in college, one of my journalism professors once relayed a story about the dangers of spell check, it was both horrifying and hilarious, so I personally never use it but auto-correct is different. When you’re on deadline, sometimes it gets you and sometimes it’s just that your fingers are moving too quickly for your brain – and we’ve all been victims. Words such as ‘public’ have been made ‘pubic,’ while ‘tips,’ ‘as,’ and a few other words have turned into vulgarities not fit for print. Sometimes we’ve tried to use certain words or phrases on purpose but our editor vetoed them and, shockingly, she approved a few we thought would never get by.

Packing up my desk and office area is the very next thing on my “to do” list, as soon as my assignments are done. It’s a somewhat daunting task. While I did experience one or two moves to different locations in the office over the years that required getting rid of extraneous miscellany, I’ve been in my current spot for about six years or so. That means at least six-years-worth of accumulation.

Some of these items include stuff to be packed up and go home with me, stuff to be “willed” to my coworkers, and stuff bound for the circular file. Some of the more random items currently include a squeezable pig that resides in a coffee cup, a Burger King crown, an “Ice Age” Happy Meal toy to top my pencil, paper napkins, Christmas decorations, and some expired protein bars in a desk drawer. Interestingly, much of this “stuff” is also occasionally scary, sometimes laughable, at times humbling, and frequently offensive – in both humorous and not-so-humorous ways.

Thanks to all of you who I’ve worked with and who’ve worked with me over the years. I’ve enjoyed being your reporter.

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