Anyone who knows me–really knows me–knows that the red blood that courses through my veins is actually tinged with liberal doses of white and blue.
I place my hand over my heart when I hear “The Star Spangled Banner.” I cry at Veterans Day parades. I’m the loudest voice during a community singalong of “God Bless America.”
I love this country and I am ever so thankful for the men and women who have fought and are fighting for it.
That’s why when the Williston Pioneer took a tongue lashing and harsh criticism over its failure to publicize Memorial Day events, I took it personally.
The paper was accused in not-so-subtle terms of not being patriotic, not caring about veterans and not loving this country.
I was so angry I could have bitten the heads off ten-penny nails.
Of course, I couldn’t say what I was thinking–that’s not professional. I decided to wait a while, calm down and address it here, all the while hoping that those harsh critics will step backward and take another look at what goes on at their hometown newspaper.
Let’s begin with publicity.
When the May 23 edition of the Pioneer rolled off the press, it contained a graphic on the front page about remembering those who died in the line of duty. That’s what Memorial Day is–a salute to war dead. However, the tradition most of us hold now is to remember all deceased veterans and to decorate graves of our loved ones.
In my house, I can actually memorialize one relative who died in the line of duty–my cousin, Timothy Ray, killed in Vietnam.
But I can honor scores of men and women who served, both in war time and peace time. That list includes family and friends alike.
The captain’s ledge in my den bears three folded American flags, all encased behind glass, as a memorial and daily reminder of freedom. It is a shelf that honors heroes–my father-in-law, a career Army man, who served in three wars; my friend, Ken Dougherty, who served in Vietnam and my own father, who braved the frozen tundra of Korea in 1950.
Don’t tell me I don’t love this country and I don’t appreciate sacrifice. I owe my life to my father–shot twice, bayoneted 16 times and left to die in -50 degree temperatures–and I owe my career to the Constitution, as outlined in the First Amendment.
An unsigned letter blasted the paper for not mentioning a ceremony at Orange Hill Cemetery.
The fact of the matter is, 2013 marks my fifth year in Williston and only in 2009 and 2010 did someone contact the paper about coverage.
For three years, no one asked if we could attend. Last year, I asked our ad sales person if he could just show up at the cemetery. He did and eventually, a ceremony did take place.
This year, no one called with pre-publicity and so the three of us–yes, there are only three of us in this office–made plans to be out of town.
The letter writer averred we should have called around and tried to get information. “Isn’t that what reporters do?” he asked.
Indeed. But fact of the matter is, the Williston Pioneer has no reporters.
If you’re a regular reader, you already know that.
I am the sole writer in the building. We depend on our sister paper in Chiefland for school board and county commission news. The sales person does his best to fill in the sports gaps. But there is no one reporter who can spend time calling around.
On more than one occasion we’ve referenced this is YOUR newspaper. The majority of its content is submitted by readers–people just like you. That’s one of the Williston Pioneer’s biggest attractions–it’s a community newspaper that is driven by the community.
Because of our limited resources in these trying times, we’ve told folks, if we can’t be at your event we’d appreciate you taking pictures and sending them in.
The three of us work very hard to get your paper to you every week. Days off are few and far between. We have to time vacations to coincide with holidays or slow days because there is no one to fill in for us when we’re off. Our work doesn’t get done when we’re not here. Our jobs don’t end at 5 p.m. They carry over sometimes until the wee hours. We deserve a three-day weekend just like everyone else.
To allege we don’t love our country and we aren’t thankful for our veterans is a slap in the face and for me, a personal affront.
Stones were hurled but the mark was missed.
Remember we share this responsibility of a community newspaper and that makes us all targets.