Community Journalism: A way of life
By Kris Leonhardt
MMC Senior Editor
It’s 3:00 a.m. and I can’t sleep. I am thinking about the previous month and all of the revitalization and reorganization that has taken place.
I am now hard-wired to look at the 1,000-foot view of situations. I am taken back to our company editorial summit held in June. At one point, I looked around the room at the 20-some editorial staff. What I saw was a pretty even gender mix of hard-working humans ranging from 20-60. What did they have in common? Drive and dedication.
Community journalism is a way of life; it’s not a punch-in-and-punch-out job. It is a total-immersion job, where you have to live in your job 24 hours, seven days a week. I am not saying that we are not allowed our time away, but you always need to be ready and you have to always be engaged.
I am taken back to Christmas Eve in 2018 and a fire in downtown Marshfield. It was below zero, and I was already under a blanket. Part of me really didn’t want to go, as I was entranced in the beauty of Christmas and a warm house.
When I got to the scene of the fire, the firefighters were struggling – not only with extinguishing the fire, but the water was freezing under their feet. I was grateful for the opportunity to tell that story, as they were giving so much more than time that night.
For journalists, reporting news means sacrificing parts of your life for your work. We are lucky to have many of those people working by our side at Multi Media Channels.
Those that get into the community news media are not doing it for the paycheck; that is for those who aspire for larger markets. It’s more about passion, for the community, for local issues, and for connecting the people of those communities.
That drive, however, gets so engrained that you can’t turn it off. Those who have spent decades in the industry often find it difficult to retire.
When I think of my close circle, I see that clearly. Thom Gerretsen spent decades in both newspaper and radio work. He still reports in his retirement. Now, he just does it from the confines and flexibility of his Facebook page.
Then, there is Mike Warren, who left the radio industry after three decades to try a sales job, only to return to news reporting less than a year later for Multi Media Channels’ Marshfield and Wisconsin Rapids publications.
In his retirement, Gene Kemmeter still maintains a highly-read column in Stevens Point’s Gazette publication.
As news staffs get smaller and tighter, the struggle for accuracy, fairness, and getting at the news is great. But it is our way of life, and we will be here doing what we can to be a megaphone to the communities we serve.
Dan Raviv said it best on CBS Radio. “I try to find out what is going on and tell people.”