About 15 years ago I began a good, honest career by slightly dishonest means.
As a senior at Lock Haven University, I dusted the rural landscape with resumes, hoping to land something at least equal to typing obituaries and press releases for minimum wage.
Then came the call — for a graphic design and copy editor position. Right, I did put that on my resume. So, armed with a Netscape (not your time, Google. Not your time) and a few days, I brushed up on a hobby of designing a few pages for my weekly college newspaper and walked in full of confidence (that I could fake till I make it).
Make it I did. Weeks later, when the first of many surly co-workers walked out the door, another opened for me. I began full time weaving stories and photos into accessible pieces of journalism — being the final link between the storytellers and the audience — and being humbled by the stories I would help tell.
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In that time, I told stories of war, and the people who came back incomplete, losing limbs — or worse — stories of a girl poisoned by the sun, a family grappling with the loss of their son taken during the Virginia Tech massacre, of countless people forever changed by circumstance or rash decisions.
It’s true, readers, that at times I started the day so earnest and full of vigor and left shattered and shocked about what just happened in my town. Worse, I felt shattered my faith in the human condition.
But, in the times that my community ached, always nearby was another Emily Whitehead, a girl who beat cancer and helped lay the blueprint for other kids to do the same. Army senior combat medic Adam Hartswick, who lost his legs saving a life in Afghanistan in 2013 while trying to tend to wounded soldiers from an ambushed U.S. platoon, but returned to teach lifesaving treatments to emergency responders. Or Christian Brady, who helps others grieve after losing his 8-year-old son, Mack. Our community is filled with heroes.
I hoped that these positive stories would inspire you to greatness, that they would restore your faith in the human condition. And, the bad ones I hoped would be your call to act. Your chance to right a wrong in this life. To begin another good news story.
In 15 years, we’ve made a lot of things better.
That’s the beauty of the news cycle. One story about 19 deranged killers committing the deadliest act of terrorism on American soil ends there. What follows are countless tales of courage, compassion and love for fellow man. One moment of darkness is dwarfed by countless and perpetual rays of light.
Film director and animator Andrew Stanton (“Finding Nemo,” “Wall-E”) says the first time he felt at home was studying animation, surrounded by people who “all thought our bike was cold in the rain, that our fish was lonely in a fishbowl, that a leaf would be afraid of heights when it fell.”
It’s how I feel in a newsroom. I love shouts of answers to questions needlessly posed to a large group and the chorus of keystrokes that follows those rare moments of silence. I love being surrounded by people in a perpetual quest for the truth, by those who have literally combed every tiny hamlet of this county in an endless search for — among the finer things — the best pizza or cheeseburger.
Once, when I had my footing in this business, a friend asked if I ever aspired to do more, to move on to a larger market. He asked if I dreamed of working for, say, The New York Times. Truth is, as someone who’s made a living asking questions, I’ve never been more confused by one. Why would I want to be a part of someone else’s community, I answered.
My dream has always been to surround myself with like-minded individuals who aimed to truly understand their community and to make it a better place. So, I did that because I thought that was all it took to produce quality journalism — my first of many mistakes in this business.
I forgot about you.
Truth is, we’re here to watch over this county, but we need you to watch us. The government watchdog — the fourth branch of government — needs constant eyes on itself. Your scrutiny and your voice make your community — our community — a better place. Your quest for the truth — to sift through all the unfiltered musing of the internet with skepticism — is required. Demand that your community newspaper be in a constant state of betterment.
We need your investment, too. Every time you renew a subscription, or click on a story online, or find a new dentist or buy windows because you saw an ad in the CDT means the lights stay on. It means that someone sits in on your borough council meeting, because, breaking news: CNN will never be there.
I could get a jump start on my new career and tell you about all the exciting research going on at Penn State, but that’s for another day. Today, I work for you. Until then, thank you for being a part of my community and allowing me to be a part of yours.
David Kubarek is a former senior designer and copy editor for the Centre Daily Times. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.