Follies is approaching; I’m getting out of town
With Truckee Follies, 2004 coming up, I figured it is time for this editor to bow out, and make way for some new blood. That’s right, I’m joining the masses, and moving out of town (and some of you thought the masses were moving into town).
The Follies marks a good exit point for me because that was my introduction to Truckee. After wandering for four years in the deserts of Nevada, I made Truckee my new professional home in April 2002. The weekend before I started, I attended the Follies with Jody Poe, my then-new boss.
I’ve been to a few small-town follies events in my day, but nothing could have prepared me for what I saw in Truckee. It is by far the best production, bar none, but it can be a little, well, vulgar at times. My first impression: This is a town with attitude; I’m going to like it.
But then, as the show rolled on, I began to key in on something else: Every other sarcastic, crude, relentless, obscene skit hit the same target, the Sierra Sun. The famous Follies program (immature adult reading only) had a full-page ad for the Sun portraying a reader with the “latest” issue in his hand. The headline read something like “Who’s the editor now?”
I was starting a job on Monday that was the butt of everyone’s jokes, and I still hadn’t learned how to do page design.
And it was about as bad as I could have imagined. The Sun had been without leadership for a long time. Many employees had decided to move on, so institutional memory was thin. I had to juggle learning a new job and new computer skills with staffing a newsroom I knew little about. We were even without a sports reporter for an extended period of time, so things were pretty meager in the beginning.
But many “townies” who had an interest in the perseverance of this paper came forward, and offered to introduce Jody and me to town life. Slowly, we warmed to the issues our readers care about, and in the editorial department, after a few come-and-go reporters, we developed a solid news staff that is here with us today. Eventually we added a position, calendar editor, which Paul Raymore has filled well. And Renee Shadforth has become a solid assistant editor.
I have appreciated all of you who have given me, and the paper, the benefit of the doubt during the rebuilding process. Being within 15 minutes of five ski resorts is pretty cool, but the coolest thing about this town is the people. It is what sets Truckee apart from our neighbors, and it is why so many people are making Truckee their home.
In the past couple years we’ve gotten better, I believe. Some don’t like us coming out two days a week, but that was a necessary response to the growing readership in Truckee. And I am proud of the work our staff has done during the transition. New deadlines are tough for a small staff, and with limited time to read and reread, there will be typos and mistakes, but the paper has gotten cleaner since we introduced the Wednesday edition. Generally, though, there is more news, more often, and people like that, even if they think it’s indicative of a small town losing some of its small-town feel. I can see both points of view.
As Truckee continues growing, the paper will respond. It is a certainty. But one thing I’ve learned about Jody is that she understands where, as a newspaper, we cannot compromise. The Sun will continue to cover stories about you, and your neighbors, your kids and your life in this mountain town. That focus will never change, even as Truckee evolves.
Working here has given me a new appreciation for what a newspaper does, and the purpose it serves in a community. By trial and error we have built a staff that cares about this community, and strives to follow stories that will improve life here. In my judgment, journalism is one of those unique professions that can do that, and I feel honored to have worked with so many people, at our newspaper and in Truckee, who see it the same way.
So this year, while the Sun is getting roasted at the Follies (I will warn the new editor to sit in the back row, with me), keep in mind that the people here are driven to do good. Oh, and we can also laugh at ourselves.
Jim Scripps is the former editor of the Sierra Sun.
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