While at a local baseball game recently, the conversation drifted into a pretty deep one about newspapers and the newspaper business in general.
Through the years I’ve been asked several times if it ever was a career goal of mine to one day work at a “big time” newspaper. “Of course,” I reply. “I don’t think anyone who has ever entered the journalism field hasn’t had that dream at some time or another.”
For me that dream was most burning when I was in college actually. Most college students, regardless of the field they decide to go into, have the delusion of being able to “save the world.” I was the same way. I think it probably goes more so for aspiring journalists.
My goal was to work at the “big time” paper in Atlanta. Heck, maybe even one day work my way to The Washington Post or The New York Times or something similar. It’s funny how times — and one’s mindset — can change.
After being in the business for a few years, I began to find myself enjoying what community papers (the one like you are holding in your hands) had to offer. If produced properly, community newspapers can be a vital tool for the counties they serve. Likewise, a community newspaper which doesn’t do its role properly can also be a disservice.
I’ve worked at several community newspapers during my career and have found this side of journalism to be my calling. I’ve had opportunities to move to “bigger” papers but, quite frankly, I’m where I want to be and where I will always be as long as I stay in this business. Plus, newspapers have changed so much, even in the time I’ve been a professional journalist, that those dreams I had at one time don’t really hold the same lure as they once did.
Plus, when you consider all the news we have going on in Winder and Barrow County right now, where else would a journalist want to be? We have more “dirt under the fingernail news” than you will find that most five counties have. From illegal meetings of city officials, to the ongoing circus which has become known as the county commission meetings, to the school board trying to keep its head above water on budget issues to dealing with lawsuits against the local police department and local school system, Barrow County is really a journalist’s dream area to cover.
And while it may not seem like it at times, we actually do have some good things going on locally as well. The Apalachee High School football team advanced deep into the state playoffs last fall, the Winder-Barrow High School boys basketball team qualified for the state tournament this winter, the Diamond Doggs appear set to return to the state tournament this spring, we have a strong local arts program and believe it or not some of our leaders in the municipalities within the county borders aren’t trying to hold meetings while keeping the citizens in the dark.
It’s never a dull week around here. And that’s what keeps us all on our toes. From the good to the bad to the in between, being a community journalist can be every bit as much fun — and challenging — as working for a big-time publication. Besides, many of the big-time publications are really not so big-time anymore.
We’ll continue to be here for you. We hear all the feedback you give us letting us know you are glad we are holding officials accountable and that we continue to look out for the taxpayer’s interest. Journalism is journalism and when done right it doesn’t matter whether it’s The Washington Post or a community publication. Barrow County readers have a paper now which has a team of journalists which will never forget why they are here.
Chris Bridges is editor of the Barrow Journal. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.