It’s been a tough year to be a journalist.
I share on the pretty regular how much I love my job; that’s true fact.
While the exterior of our building looks exactly the same as when I first stepped into it back in 2002, the similarity stops there. The team which once worked tirelessly to produce three products has shrunk significantly. As our staff count has shrunk, our responsibility has increased – no different really than a lot of businesses.
The “tough” part comes by way of a limited staff, trying our best to keep up with communities which have not only grown in size but activity. Man if I thought we had to hustle in 2002, I had no idea how we would hustle in 2019.
When I first stepped into this building the editorial team of the Oakdale Leader (alone) consisted of a Managing Editor, Assistant Editor, full time City Reporter, Education/Community Reporter, Sports Reporter and a part-time Society girl (that was me).
As I type this today the Oakdale team consists of myself, our Editor, a Sports Reporter and a few trusty freelancers who help us grab photos on occasion. Population of Oakdale then (2002) – roughly 11,000.
Responsibilities now remain the same regardless of staff size, the community expects its local news and well … we do our best. Reporters now maintain uploading websites, Social Media posts, as well as contributing work to multiple additional print products, such as the 209 Magazine.
As much has changed inside this old building, so too has the community. Gone are many of the community members who once “made sure” we knew of upcoming events. Gone is the value we once had for many in the community. Often times when reaching out for a story, I’m detoured to a Facebook page or website to get my story details. Needless to say, if you know me, you know … I just don’t roll that way.
Perhaps I’m too old school for my own good. I still thrive on human connection and face to face meeting; perhaps that’s why I’m run down by the final key stroke each Tuesday afternoon. Perhaps it’s why my once thick skin has begun to soften as criticism comes from community members on what we “missed.”
Perhaps it’s also why I’ve come to find such joy in the hand written note, phone message or kind words in passing. Truthfully, I’m not completely sure.
What I learned this year however, is the recognition of our readers has meant more to me personally than ever before. This year, I’ve been treated to the knowledge that quite a few male readers park their eyes here and actually take in my two cents on things.
Recently while covering an event, I even had a gentleman stop and inform me he reads my ‘musings’ faithfully adding, “a bit soft and feely for us guys, but you do a good job.” To say that left me beaming the remainder of the week would be an understatement.
There are also the readers who actually take the time to make a phone call. Greeted more by my voicemail than my actual voice, makes no difference – kind words are left. Handwritten notes cause my eyes to leak and out of the blue texts cause my car to stop.
In short, I have no idea how much more time I have in this seat. My seat is tired and while my heart remains committed, I’d be lying if I didn’t share there are days I wonder how many really care.
The good news of course is that I didn’t sign on to this gig for the accolades. Heck complete transparency would be, I was a relocated Military wife bored and tired of decorating my new home – that’s how I landed here.
And so with that said, I will continue on as “Teresa from the Leader,” chase the stories I think people need to see and graciously smile with a chuckle and the thoughtful who take the time to recognize we do indeed do this each and every day for our communities.
Happy Holidays and thank you for (continuing) to read.
Teresa Hammond is a staff reporter for The Oakdale Leader, The Riverbank News and The Escalon Times. She may be reached at email@example.com or by calling 847-3021.