From the Editor: Newspaper jobs offer challenges

Farm Forum

Kimberly Wynn is the assistant managing editor at the American News

A seventh-grader slunk through the door of her English class, belying the adrenaline rush that her lip gloss and Charlie perfume covered. The previous five minutes had been spent hastily penning a forgotten English assignment due that day.

Crisis had been avoided: Marie Antoinette had kept her head and shared her cake, Romeo and Juliet texted each other on their plans and didn’t have to kill themselves and an essay was written and successfully handed over with a sigh of relief.

When the teacher announced every student would read every essay and vote on the best, the girl looked at the door to the hallway for a dramatic exit — maybe something along the lines of “Gone with the Wind.”

She stayed and read the assignments. The winning book report was about the persecution of the witches in Salem. It was hers. It was mine.

No one knows what transformation that girl with the blue eye shadow underwent that day — from budding teenager to novice writer and, eventually, to newspaper editor. Only a small smile gave away her — my — satisfaction in finding her life’s vocation.

That is not the end of the story. It was only the beginning of what has become a difficult journey, with challenges never dreamed of 30 years ago. Who knew I was attaching my life to what people today nonchalantly call a dying industry?

The past decade has been a perfect storm of new technology, lost manufacturing and globalization of fates culminating in consequences we haven’t even begun to understand.

My piece of the puzzle fell from the table when I lost my job as a copy editor at the Grand Rapids Press in Michigan nearly three years ago — as have thousands of journalists across the country as newspapers downsized their staffs, their pages and their bulk. Unable to sell the house in which I raised my children, I rented it to strangers. I moved to another newspaper job in another part of the state, where I was paid half of my previous salary. I chose to work, not collect unemployment checks.

Moving out of the family home, I was out of time, out of money and out of room for an accumulated life of which much was thrown into a dumpster parked in the driveway. I was also out of patience when I lashed out at my then 18-year-old son, “Why is this stereo still here? I’ve been telling you for a month to move it to your father’s house.”

He blinked and said in the quietest of voices: “Because I don’t want this to happen.” No one stopped the presses for that headline.

Nearly three years of scraping by ensued. No cable. No Internet. No money to contribute to my son’s college. My mother bought me clothes I could no longer afford. My eldest son co-signed the lease on my new car when the old one broke down.

Now, I’ve been hired as the assistant managing editor for the American News. It’s a new beginning. I’m here (sans the blue eye shadow) because I believe in the importance of your community newspaper. And now that you know my story, I hope to discover yours in the coming weeks, months and years.