2009-03-14 / Viewpoints

Word by Word

BY TERI MCDOWELL

Twenty-three years ago this month, began working as a full-time news reporter at what was then the Potter Enterprise. My involvement with that popular and respected weekly newspaper dated back to my high school days.

Apart from a couple brief periods away - both times in the aftermath of the publication being sold -- I've worked for the same newspaper for more than a quarter-century. "Staff reporter" evolved into "managing editor" and then "news editor" when I returned from a stint in public relations.

I left other positions that I very much enjoyed, and went back to the newspaper both times because I believed I was needed. The first time, a key reporter quit and the spot had to be filled. The second return, nearly a decade later, was an attempt to help repair the damage done by an out-of-the-area editor who remade the newspaper— by then under corporate ownership— into a format that readers just couldn't abide.

The "news editor" job was one of less authority than the managing editor position I had left, but it suited me. I loved being an important part of the "community newspaper" I grew up with.

But that satisfaction began to wane a couple years ago. Perhaps it all started with the decision to use profanity that is universally taboo in every other community newspaper in the country in a page-one headline.

That exposed a professional environment that not only made me uncomfortable, but diminished the quality of the product and tarnished its image among members of the community.

I also considered coverage of sexual abuse and other sensational cases to be irresponsible and insensitive, serving to further punish the victims by trotting out the blow-by-blow details for all to see.

Professionally, it went downhill from there and, ultimately, I realized that this "in-your-face" approach to community journalism was not for me.

Having such a long and positive history with the Leader Enterprise and the most journalism experience on the staff, I believe my opinion should not only have been welcomed, it should have been solicited and respected. For the past couple years, it has not. And with so many moral and ethical boundaries being stretched and people being hurt as a result, a "voice of reason" was needed. I believe I could have been that voice if given the opportunity.

That lack of such consideration made the decision to leave the Leader Enterprise a littler clearer, but not easier because I have good friends there who are difficult to leave behind.

As the months passed, I began to listen to members of the community who commended and appreciated the traditional, upbeat and positive style of the Endeavor.

When Bob and Britta (the owners) approached me and offered me a position, I was hesitant, but ultimately my heart told me it was the right move.

My responsibilities here will be similar to those I had at the Leader-Enterprise. I look forward to those duties because I am much more comfortable now in an environment where I'm regarded as part of a team.

That's the spirit that not only ensures responsible reporting, but also delivers the kind of service the community needs and deserves.

It's my hope that working with the Endeavor News team will enable me to again affirm what's good about the community and effect positive change in places where it's needed.

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