By LaDonna Beeker
As I write this column, I’m sitting in my office at The O-N-E during my final hours as editor. During the past few weeks, I’ve been so busy that the thoughts of leaving my second home for the past two years didn’t really settle until Wednesday when I put a box of business cards in a stack of my belongings to take home. I picked the business cards off of a shelf and fought back tears at the same time. Change is bittersweet.
When I started at The O-N-E on June 12, 2009, I was ready for a challenge. I remember telling Publisher Michael Willard, “I wouldn’t apply for a job I couldn’t do.” It was a challenge that I think I took on well and have accomplished. I learned a lot — not only about Catawba County, but about journalism.
I was faced with new obstacles to jump that I never dealt with at other newspapers. But I think everyone gets to a point, where deep down inside, you know when your time at a place has come to an end, and God opens another door for you to start a new chapter. That’s where I am now.
So as I prepare to load up my rental truck and head 3 hours away to the far end of South Carolina on a new and exciting journey, I want to share some of my fondest memories with the people who mean the most to me in Catawba County — my co-workers, sources and readers.
Ding, cling, clang. That’s the sound of the front door opening. Depending on how fast the door opens and closes and the sound of footprints, I knew which person was walking in or out, even though my office sits in the back of the building and has no windows or a view of the front door. Ninety-nine percent of the time, I was right on my guess of a co-workers’ entrance or exit. Speaking of footprints, I could always tell when Michael Willard was walking from his office at the front of the building all the way to the back to my doors. I’d wait patiently for him to swing around the corner and share his “breaking news” with me.
Another unique sound to The O-N-E that I’ve heard for the past two years are the noises from the women’s bathroom. One of my four walls in the office is shared with the ladies’ bathroom. Some days I wish I sat somewhere else, but for the most part, it brought a lot of laughter. I think we all know how women can talk in the bathroom — especially on their cell phones with the toilet flushing in the background.
One thing that I always enjoyed hearing was the rumbling and loud work of the press machine in the back of the building. Before The O-N-E, I never worked at a newspaper that printed its publication. They were always sent to another printer at a different location. So on the nights that I was at the office late enough, I’d see newspapers shooting through the press and being stamped with the day’s news. It brings a lot of joy to a journalist at the end of the day to see the fruits of the day’s labor.
The staff at the office is just as unique as the news we cover. No two people are alike, and there are a variety of views on politics and religion as there are in any electoral race. I’ve had the opportunity to work with a variety of department leaders on projects for The O-N-E that otherwise I would not have experienced.
I’ve hired new reporters and watched them leave for other callings. I’ve trained interns and signed their evaluation sheets knowing that I left a footprint in their journalism career.
I’ve laughed and cried in my office. I’ve listened to people from all walks of life coming through our building’s doors and talking about a story idea they have, submitting community news or wanting to buy a newspaper.
I’m going to miss these sounds of footprints, chatter and laughter because they are only unique to The O-N-E. I don’t think they’ll be replaced, no matter how many more newspaper jobs I have.
Sources and readers
In preparing to write my final column, I went back and read my first column for The O-N-E, which published June 19, 2009. I introduced myself to the community and asked for people to stop by, call or email with story ideas. I’m proud to say that’s exactly what readers in Catawba County have done for the past two years.
I’ve created some wonderful professional relationships with individuals in the community, ranging from business owners to dedicated readers and elected officials.
I’ve covered numerous Conover City Council meetings, Newton-Conover City Schools Board of Education meetings and Catawba County Schools board meetings. My favorite part about those meetings was the personal relationships that were created. The individuals who walked up to me to say, “I love your newspaper;” “Keep up the good work;” “I’m so proud of the weight you’ve lost;” and best of all, “How can I get a subscription to your newspaper?”
In this tough world where everything we write, as journalists, is printed for everyone to read, most of the time you only hear from people who are upset or find an error. No one seems to really share compliments, so when I do hear them, I tuck them away close to my heart for those rainy days when nothing but negativity is flowing through. So thank you to the readers and sources who always took time to share a positive compliment. Most importantly, thank you for supporting your community newspaper. Community journalism is for you and your neighbors, and it provides news you can’t find in “the largest North Carolina newspaper.”
Working at The O-N-E has been a blessing to me. I don’t have enough space in this column to list everything I’ve learned, but what I can say is, this job opened the door for this new opportunity offered to me in South Carolina. Two years ago when I interviewed for this editor position with Michael Willard, I had no idea how much more I was going to learn when I started my first day. But I’m glad I was given the opportunity to live and work in Catawba County.
My portfolio is 10 times the size it was when I started in 2009, but my heart is also larger because it’s holding a lot of good memories from The O-N-E and people in Catawba County. Blessings to all of you, and thank you for making me feel at home.
LaDonna Beeker has served as editor of The Observer News Enterprise since June 2009. Her last day is Friday.