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Editor's Notebook
April 7, 2020

3/23/2020 12:57:00 PM
It's been a tremendous honor
Editor looks back on 22 years of serving PD&S readers
This image of a bald eagle inside the City of North Vernon was captured on film by one of our readers on March 21, 2006. The editor is just now getting around to writing about it—Photo by Chet Wooldridge
+ click to enlarge
This image of a bald eagle inside the City of North Vernon was captured on film by one of our readers on March 21, 2006. The editor is just now getting around to writing about it—Photo by Chet Wooldridge
What a ride it has been.

For the last two decades and two years, I have faithfully served as editor of the Plain Dealer & Sun. At least I've tried to do the job faithfully.

That includes the last couple of stormy weeks with the escalating coronavirus crisis. This is definitely not the way I wanted to go out, but that's a whole different story.

By my count, I have helped put out 2,280 or so newspapers in North Vernon. It took a lot of keyboard strokes, dictionary thumbing, camera clicks, phone calls and texts, emails, firetruck chasing and more including collating inserts into newspapers and delivering newspapers to newsstands and retailers. In a small business, one has to do many jobs. It's all hands on deck most of the time.

I didn't do it alone, heaven's no, not by a long shot. I am so grateful to publisher Barbara King, who gave me independence, advice, leads and direction. I can't thank the current staff enough, especially Tracy Eder, Bri Barger, Alex Talkington, Sue Ross, Mary Porter, Sherrie Barkes, D.J. Bennett, Mark Ramey, J.C. Porter and Kylan Higgs.

The same goes for former members of the staff, especially Donna Skelton, the late Lilian Carmer, Sharon Hamil­ton, Josh Taylor, Kathy Ann Welch, Susan Wag­oner, Ronda Smith, Gail Ross, Dano Hughbanks, Patrick Morley, Tonya Goul and Heather Pad­gett.

I've worked with numerous interns over the years and those I will never forget for their good work are Katy Dudzik, Calin Neely, Amanda Gee, Faye Row­ell and Heather Robbins. Photographers Jeffrey Everroad, Braden Rouse and Jamie Tomlinson have been a joy to work with, too.

I have to also mention Edipurr, the office cat, who joined the newspaper staff a couple of years ago. She is a character and, incidentally, a great mouser.

So many to thank

Government officials, church ministers, law enforcement officials, emergency and firefighting leaders, school administrators and educators, musical artists, farmers, industrial leaders, attorneys, community theater people and so many more have been enormously helpful to me.

The ones who I give my eternal gratitude more than anyone are you, our dear readers. You are the ones I have also worked to serve, to get you the hard news be it good or bad, to give you the feature news, to give you my opinions, though only on the editorial pages, to hopefully make you laugh, make you think and make you want to read the next issue of the newspaper.

Among them is Chet Wooldridge, who used to be my neighbor. He is another what I would call "a character."

It was 14 years ago after an early spring snow storm that he got a photo of a bald eagle right outside his home right in the middle of one of North Vernon's residential neighborhoods (see photo above). I mentioned Chet in a couple of my Editor's Notebook columns, but not about his close encounter with the magnificent eagle.

How Chet got so close to the eagle is against the law, but I think this won't get him arrested. His motives were benign and I'm not disclosing how he did it, even though the statute of limitations has passed. Chet only wanted to get close-up view of an eagle and snap some photos. He was quite successful. I'm glad I finally got to write about this amazing incident.

And I'm glad I got to write about some of the wonderful local talent in the performing arts and, of course, a venue where many of them entertained audiences - the magnificent Park Theatre Civic Centre. North Vernon is exceptionally lucky to have this place.

North Vernon is lucky, too, to have musical artists like Franny Hall, Tracy Thompson, David and George Daeger, Allie Summers, David Ertel and many others who I have had the great joy to interview and write about.

Sports and hot type

It was quite rewarding as well to reconnect during my duties with the PD&S with Mike Broughton over his 10-year tenure as the Jennings County High School athletic director that recently ended. Mike and I go way back, to my previous job in nearly 20 years as sports editor at a small daily newspaper in Jeffersonville - then The Evening News and now known as the News & Journal.

Mike was boys basketball coach at Jeffer­sonville High School when the Red Devils won the state title in 1993, the ultimate in Hoosier Hysteria - especially before class divisions - and I got a front-row seat to cover this extraordinary feat. Mike was such a solid coach, obvious by his Hall of Fame record.

My background in sports journalism goes way back to the 1970s when as a high school and college student I worked part-time at the Plain Dealer & Sun with my father covering high school athletics, including the glory days of JCHS basketball with Danny Brown, Billy Har­mon, Bobby Woods, Randy Ramey and Don Schroeder.

My background in newspapers goes back even farther - to the 1960s and the days of "hot type" when issues of the Plain Dealer & Sun were produced using Linotype machines, zinc photographic plates and letterpress printing.

I even did some hand typesetting at this newspaper back in my teens, on a contraption called a Ludlow that was used for setting headlines.

News hound and editorial writer

On the news side, the bulk of the work I've done these last two decades, I always strove to be objective and fair. I learned a long time ago that editorializing was for the editorial and opinion pages, which was another part of my job.

"Why did you say that 'So-and-so' is inept at his job?", or words to that effect, were among the types of feedback I would sometimes receive.

My response, in paraphrase, "That was a direct quote or attributed to the person who said that. I merely wrote what was said, and indicated that in the story."

So often, many resorted to the age-old exercise of "shooting the messenger for the message." I know that is human nature and we all have even been guilty of it at one time or another, but it can be maddening when as the messenger you get blasted for reporting inconvenient truths or an official's quote.

Writing editorials is an important part of being editor, something my late father taught me years ago.

One day a year-and-a-half-ago in North Ver­non, I got to spend a few moments talking face to face with U.S. Sen. Todd Young.
Before he was elected to the Senate, Young served in the U.S. House of Representatives for the 9th District that during part of that time included Jennings County.

I had talked with Sen. Young several times when he was a congressman, including once when he came to the Plain Dealer & Sun office.

So this day in 2018, I asked Sen. Young point blank about President Trump, who Young has strongly supported.

"Why is the president calling me 'The Enemy of the People'?" I queried.

"You are not the enemy of the people," Young answered.

I was pleased by the senator's support but in hindsight I should have responded, "Tell that to the president."

Among those I've dealt with in Jennings County, I have never really been treated as an enemy of the people. A vast majority of the time it has been just the opposite. Otherwise I wouldn't have stayed in this job this long.

Thanks to all for reading over the years. And don't stop just because I'm leaving. This newspaper is in good hands with a strong staff, doing its utmost to keep you informed. I'm proud to have worked with them and for all the Plain Dealer & Sun's wonderful readers in Jennings County and well beyond.

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