For Dr. King and the love shared by Rufus Valentine

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(As editor of a small community newspaper, I feel we have a responsibility as journalists to inform readers as well as inspire conversation about the things that matter to us as a community and as Americans. To this end, we have devoted a large portion of today’s edition to Martin Luther King Jr., offering perspectives on his message, his legacy, and how the echoes of his speech from 51 years ago are returning to us with even more relevance today. Along with columns from other local writers, activists and letters from readers, I’m offering this very personal piece that is equal parts inspiration and regret…)

As I’ve mentioned here before, I lived in the South for 10 years, with six of those years spent in the suburbs of Atlanta. In the early 1990s, I was a restaurant chef operating in one of Georgia’s largest shopping malls — three stories of glass, sale banners and merchants spanning six football fields’ worth of mall space.

As you can imagine, I’ve dealt with as many personalities as there are seats in a 280-capacity dining room. The fact that Rufus Valentine dug such a deep groove in my memory should tell you a little something about the man’s character.  Continue reading

Trust, partnership with you are worth striving for

My first editorial of 2017, which appeared in our Jan. 4 issue of Siuslaw News, was inspired by an unanticipated trip through our local history while sorting through old newspapers — and an opportunity to underscore the importance of trust and integrity in journalism…

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January 4, 2017

imageI spent part of my New Year’s weekend here in the newsroom, tackling a re-organization project of files and materials that have been staring at me for nearly a decade — the gaze of which grew stronger after becoming editor in September.

The project entailed sifting through boxes of old newspaper issues, special publications, documents, journalistic guidelines and historic reference materials that had been collecting along a wall of shelves in our newsroom since the late 1990s.

With 2017 looming, it seemed like the perfect time to sort through the past in order to benefit our newsroom’s future. Coincidentally, it also got me out of washing the dog, but you didn’t read that here.  Continue reading

Don’t let disappointment keep you from voting

imageAfter becoming editor here at Siuslaw News in September, I began writing an Opinion piece a few times a month called “From the Editor’s Desk.” It had been several years since our newspaper had a regular opinion piece written by its editor. Being that most of our readers knew me only as a humor columnist, I felt it was an opportunity to show a different side and, hopefully, connect with the community in a different way.

I also saw it as a way to build an ongoing dialogue with our readers so that they don’t just read the newspaper, but feel like they are a part of it. The response has been terrific and, over the last several weeks, our Opinion page has become a lively, respectful exchange of viewpoints and insights.

If only I could say the same about this year’s election.  Continue reading

Making a preemptive strike on our Opinion page

As the elections grow more tense the closer we get to November, the climate of unsubstantiated facts and accusatory rants is slowly spreading from the political stage to social media posts, lines at the supermarket, between pews at church and in the letters we’ve been receiving for our Opinion page at Siuslaw News. For today’s editorial, I felt the need to remind people about the the purpose of the Opinion page, why it’s so important to our democracy… And why, as editor, I have to protect it before it gets too out of hand.

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This Just In! A weekly newspaper edition to my blog

NNW 16 2As National Newspaper Week continues (where have you BEEN?!?), I took the opportunity to write about some of the reasons I’ve enjoyed my 17 years here at our small-town newspaper as a columnist and journalist — and now as its editor.

Over the last several years I’ve heard many people comment how the newspaper industry is a dying institution thanks to the digital age and access to instant information. While it has certainly impacted the larger news formats, I have to disagree with their prognosis when it comes to the continued relevance of small-town papers. I believe they provide our communities with perspectives, information and a voice like no other resource. More than news pushes and canned feeds from automated sources, small-town newspapers offer the most true reflection of their readership and the commuities they serve.

Here’s why…  Continue reading

Returning to normalcy (but consider the source)

imageAs you probably noticed (if not, please pretend you did) that I have been absent from my blog the last few weeks.

While I’d like to say it’s because my vacation spot in the Caribbean was too remote for Wi-Fi, it actually had less to do with banana drinks and tanning lotion, and more to do with a “perfect storm” of life-changing events that I am just now getting a handle on.

The short version? Over the last three weeks I was promoted to Editor at our newspaper (See the card? That makes it official!), my new book was released and I become Membership Chairman for the National Society of Newspaper Columnists (NSNC).

Oh, and somewhere in there I turned 50.

So what does all of this mean? Essentially it means I’ve been getting my butt kicked. For example, just moving into my new office meant going through 17 years of accumulated crap important journalistic files, moving furniture, painting, hiding graffiti about the previous editor, etc…  Continue reading

Warning to Watsonville: This week, I’ll be eating all your fruit

Spring Break Road Sign with Dramatic Clouds and Sky

Over the years, my editor has offered to send me to many places. Usually in a raised voice. And often to a destination that is physically impossible for anyone who isn’t a skilled contortionist.

However, maybe it’s because of the unusually good weather we’re having in Oregon (not raining), or that she’s going on vacation soon, or possibly because there’s been another mix-up between her blood-pressure medicine and someone else’s painkillers.

Whatever the reason, she has given me the “thumbs up” to visit Watsonville, Calif., this week. Naturally, this was exciting news! At least once I got over the creepiness of her actually giving me a “thumbs up” sign.  Continue reading

This Just In: Madman in charge of newsroom this week

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…TAT-tat-tat-TAT-TAT-tat-tat-TAT…

[Breaking News from another strangely irrelevant moment in our newsroom…]

Our editor is on vacation this week. That means I’m in charge. And by “in charge” I mean putting my feet up on the editor’s desk and yelling “Someone get me a photo of that menacing wallcrawler SPIDER-MAN!”

Because this is a nonsmoking building, I do this while waving a giant chocolate cigar around. Yesterday for added effect, I slammed my hand down on the editor’s desk for emphasis. That’s when I realized the cigar had liquor inside. When our office manager came in and found me licking the desk, it got uncomfortable for everyone.   Continue reading

This Just In…

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…TAT-tat-tat-TAT-TAT-tat-tat-TAT…

[Breaking News: from another strangely irrelevant moment in our newsroom…]

The term “news hole” is often used by journalists. This shouldn’t be confused with another, similar-sounding term that is just as often used by journalists, usually when they think the editor isn’t listening. In this case, however, “news hole” refers to the space remaining in a newspaper after the ads have been placed. It’s our job as journalists to fill that space with stories, press releases and, when some newspapers find it necessary, my humor column.

As I’m sure you can imagine, a “news hole” gets larger or smaller, fluctuating in size depending on how tightly packed it is with advertising.

Ok, it’s probably a good idea to stop using your imagination now. Continue reading

Skippy the rabid squirrel is coming to a town near you

Skippy the Rabid Squirrel's last known location.

Skippy the Rabid Squirrel’s last known whereabouts.

Everyone needs to get away sometimes. Even rabid squirrels. For those who noticed The Box was missing from last week’s line-up, there’s a good explanation for that — and you may or may not like it, depending on your proximity to a blogger named Kerbey at I Don’t Get It. That’s where Skippy was headed last Tuesday when, following my weekly cry of “RELEASE THE SQUIRREL!” he skittered out the newsroom door and hopped aboard a casino shuttle headed to the Eugene Airport.

As many of you know, Skippy is a crucial part of helping me make a weekly random selection from The Box, which contains dozens of submitted photos that have remained unclaimed and unidentified in our newsroom since the 1980s. To ensure impartiality, I wait until my fellow reporters are deep in thought (deleting all traces of inappropriate Google searches) before spreading the photos on our newsroom floor and releasing Skippy. The photo closest to the first person to scream is selected as our mystery photo. Continue reading