I stopped keeping count of exacts a long time ago. I couldn’t tell you how many newspapers I’ve helped put out, how many ball games I’ve broadcast or how many late nights at the office made me want to jump off a bridge. But keeping up with the years is somewhat simple to do – for now at least.
About two weeks ago (told you I stopped keeping up with exacts) marked three years for me in the editor’s chair of this newspaper. Much to the disdain of some, yes I’ve made it three years. Pretty soon I think I’ll have about 80 percent of this job half figured out. I’d give it a 50-50 chance.
No, seriously, it has been a great opportunity to bring the news to you (if you’re still reading) over the past three years. Yes, at the ripe age of 27 (26 and 11 months, actually), my hairline has started to recede and it is most likely due to this post. But it has been worth it. I’ve been able to at least learn some of the ropes. For instance, I’ve learned this is a thankless job. I’ve also learned it isn’t a good spot to make new friends. Acquaintances – yes. Friends – no.
I got a phone call once from a friend I’ve known since little league. I hadn’t heard from him in months so I was excited to get a call from him. He didn’t want much to do with me.
“Hey man,” he started, “I need a favor.”
Of course he does. Why else would anyone call me?
“This real tight friend of mine got arrested. I need to keep his name out of the arrest reports. We could pay you if you’d make that happen.”
I like to avoid confrontation, so I remained quiet for a minute to collect an answer that didn’t feature my best four-letter words. Then I took a deep breath: “man I wish I could help you, but you know I couldn’t do that and live with myself.”
He seemed to understand and moved along. Because of instances like that, I quickly learned that not only does this job block any opportunity to make friends; it turns people who were friends into casual acquaintances, apparently.
I’ve gotten more than one call like that, by the way. And no, I’ve never faltered off my stance.
Instances like that, though, make this job almost heartbreaking to see how people work and how quick they will be to try and use you for what they want with complete disregard to you as a person. I think it scares me to think of what would happen if I wasn’t the editor and someone else was put into that situation. I almost feel a sense of responsibility to you, to the integrity of the information. Unfortunately, that can’t be said for all news people and it gives us all a bad name.
I may not have learned everything in the last three years. In fact, I know I haven’t. I’ve made people so mad they couldn’t speak and I’ve pleased others to the point of multiple thank-you notes, phone calls and brownies brought by the office. I think that comes from a sincere effort to be fair.
As I continue to grow as an editor and a person I will make mistakes and continue to learn. I’ll get calls from “friends” to try and get a story pulled or a realty transfer “lost.” I’ll have more late nights and take my fair share of tongue lashings from someone thinking I’m a racist because I put the picture of the Hispanic baby below the picture of the white baby (Yes, that really happened. The only time I’ve ever hung up the phone on someone).
I may not get it all right but I think we do a pretty good job here at the Times and put out a product that has a little something for everyone.
And I may not know it all (who does) but I do know how to make an effort to be fair.
And I’ll do that as long as they keep giving me ink and paper.
Josh Peterson is the editor of the Manchester Times. He has won TPA awards for his writing and photography. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org by telephone at 931-728-7577 ext. 105. Follow him on Twitter @joshpeterson29