Some time ago, I got an email from former Putnam County Chief Deputy Matt Demmings effectively asking why I had not written a post in my Banner Graphic blog since last December.
I recall the subject head being, “What gives?” I think I sighed and, in my head, replied, “Good question.”
I wrote a post every week from when I was hired at the Banner, five years ago last week, up until I fractured my femur in January 2022. Between now and when I fell, I put out only eight posts.
My weekly ruminations were a creative outlet, and I hoped a few readers found them worthwhile. But now, I don’t have a need to churn them out.
When I arrived at the Banner, there was an inclination that I would not be around this long. It was a way for me to get work experience. It was a way to make connections.
But I came into this gig believing that being a small-town reporter would be rewarding, because I, in some sense, had come home. I wanted to re-invent myself, to be able to invest in my community. That is what #SmallTownPR was about.
I have been jaded about what I do for a living. It has effectively been a battle between a feeling of being taken for granted and having a sense of duty. But as I was laid up, this dissonance became a depressive sense of uselessness.
I continue to have internal conversations about how far such a commitment can go.
I have believed, in my heart and mind, that the effort counts. It takes an innate initiative to go to that town council or school board meeting, to go to that fire or wreck, and do your due diligence to tell it like it happened. But then you recognize that you cannot be there for it all. Reconciling that absolutely takes discipline.
I can confidently say that my reputation rests on my commitment to being there. Even so, such confidence should be tempered by humility.
Almost a year ago, I told a firefighter that, if I were to leave the Banner, I wanted to be recalled by those I’ve worked with as that reporter who always put in the effort. I have not been a smoke eater on the fire side for no reason.
I take inspiration in this vein from Ernie Pyle. He connected with and earned the trust of the soldiers he followed. Maybe, though, he was mindful of where he had come from.
After he was killed by a Japanese sniper in April 1945, the 77th Infantry Division recognized Pyle with a wooden monument that said it had, “lost a buddy.” The effort becomes enough after getting through the hard knocks, and pushing through the doubt that you can make a difference.
It isn’t easy, but it has to be worth it. I have grown these past five years in this respect. I have kept going, and I will always give my measure.