The tabloid-sized paper, printed in black ink, is a little crumpled. “Ramblings” sprawls across the top and “By Rebecca Miller” hovers on the top right side. Articles and photos fill the space, all written by the high-school version of me.
Just a little more than 20 years ago to the day, I created this paper, after a week spent shadowing Farm and Dairy newsroom staff.
That single sheet of paper has been squirreled away for years, but I pulled it out this week. I still remember the experience, the impact it had on me then — and the impact it has had on my career path.
What a week
It was a whirlwind of activity. I had a desk with the reporters in the newsroom. I toured the building and the printing plant, where the printing press churned out fresh copies of the week’s issue.
I covered stories and interviewed staff for that mini-newspaper. The stories I wrote were earnest and a little wordy. My photography was solidly mediocre. The headlines a little cheesy. One even had an exclamation mark. “85 Years and Still Going Strong!”
Precision was not paramount in some things, apparently. There is no date or issue number. Oops. Thank goodness for that headline.
I had chutzpah though. I placed an ad for my own 4-H club lamb flock at the bottom. “Quality lambing with proven bloodlines.”
The writing tips editor Susan Crowell dispensed stay with me even today — if a sentence reads just fine without the word “that,” you didn’t need it in the first place. Her mentorship then has been the foundation for a friendship that has spanned decades.
Above all, I still remember the clarity that week, and my little newspaper project, gave me.
I always loved storytelling. Journalism gave me a vehicle to put it into practice. It is history’s first draft, and I’ve found immense fulfillment in the many stories I’ve had the privilege to cover over the years.
My career has taken a winding path, but it circled right back to this very newsroom. Part of me isn’t surprised. Life is like that, when it’s meant to be.
Staying the course
I am humbled by the opportunity. It’s a challenge, as any newspaper job is these days.
My dream job, to be a sports reporter for The Rocky Mountain News, in Denver, Colorado, derailed during the media slump about a decade ago, when the paper folded. One newspaper I worked at in New Hampshire shut its doors suddenly, not long after I left. All over the country, local newspapers have closed, merged or limped through the past decade. Large newspapers haven’t fared any better.
Through it all, Farm and Dairy has continued to do what it does so well: provide you information you need and celebrate the way of life you treasure. It’s a testimony to the commitment of our leadership and the tenacity of our editorial staff.
“From my observations, journalism requires commitment, imagination and a healthy dose of curiosity. Reporters are a breed of their own; healthy individuals who have been infected with the writing bug. Once they have caught it, writing is as hard to give up as a smoking habit.”
I wrote that in my “editorial” 20 years ago. Change a few things in that quotation, and I would say it describes farmers to a “T.”
Let’s get to work
Let me put on my shepherdess hat for a moment. Any pursuit of agriculture is a balancing act. Some days, you win. Some days, you don’t. As long as the good outweighs the bad, you’re doing all right.
There is fulfillment when I look out over a healthy crop of lambs, or when you see the corn sprouting up through the earth. But, as we all know, even when we don’t see those successes — such as this year’s planting season — our dedication to our craft, our calling, keeps us moving forward.
It may not be to a major victory. It may be just waking up the next day and pulling on our boots to try again. Even those moments need to be celebrated.
That’s what I am looking forward to, as editor-in-chief. We all need to get up, pull on our boots, and get to work. I do it every day on my farm, but now, in this role, I get to walk alongside you as you do it, too.
At the risk of sounding cliche, we are in this together. I want Farm and Dairy to continue to excel at what it does. I want that for you, too.
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