This is the last edition of The Torch for the year and my last as editor-in-chief. It’s been a challenging few terms characterized by intense pressure and an infinite variety of problems.
Being editor has not only challenged me, it has challenged some readers. Newspapers aren’t in the business of public relations — if they were, we’d all be in trouble. My job, first and foremost, has been to bring to light what’s been happening on campus — this is how journalism serves the college.
Maybe it wasn’t part of the original overall strategy and is merely a convenient bonus — cutting programs is a great way to gain public sympathy, which could result in more funding from the state. But all the noise accompanying the decision, or more to the point, the outrage at the decision-making process and how the board meeting was handled, is messing up that bonus.
Public sympathy, perhaps, is going to “we the people” of Lane Community College instead.
It’ll be really interesting to see where this goes. Things are stirring, and I sure hope they lead to the positive cultural change so sorely needed at Lane.
Administrators and faculty alike are great people, but there seems to be a lack of genuine, heart-felt respect and authentic dialogue — the kind where people really see each other and actually listen — the kind that builds trust.
The healthiest groups I’ve ever encountered have radical honesty as their touchstone. Sadly, such groups are rare, so most people don’t know how incredible they can be. Utter truthfulness, and receptivity to it, is transformative — instead of drama going up and trust going down, the opposite happens.
This isn’t just about speaking truthful words. It’s about being true to the person or persons in front of you, which means, among other things, not overwhelming them with data, or directing their attention away from what they consider important.
When people feel they haven’t been heard or fear sharing their opinions — what they think doesn’t go away. Rather, this is what sets the course for the relationship and, in this case, the whole organization. The collective unsaid thoughts and opinions in a culture — are the culture. All the lipstick in the world won’t change that.
Expressing my opinions so publicly, as I’ve done this year, has made me somewhat uncomfortable. Fortunately, I’ve been too busy to be self-conscious or embarrassed. However, I do recall the first time I was called brave, I paused thinking — why?
Now it’s time for me to sign off and hand The Torch over to the next editor.
Feedback from readers has been overwhelmingly positive, and of course I’m pleased. It would really suck to go through all that hard work and turn out a lousy product that everyone hates, or worse, scoffs at with indifference.
Journalism has a strict code of ethics, and I’ve remained faithful to that code to the best of my ability. If I’ve failed in that regard it was due to ignorance, never intent. Complaints have been few, but they’ve been there.
I take with me a deep respect for journalism. Its high ideals will most certainly feature in whatever I do. Journalism is vitally important — without it who would investigate and report on matters of importance? How would people know what’s going on in their community?
The Torch has struggled through this year in the basement of the Center Building of massive construction going on overhead — and no cell phone service, which has made communicating with the outside world problematic — ironic given the business we’re in.
Torch staff have come and gone, but loyal, true and hard-working from beginning to end have been my three editors:
Photo editor August Frank whose sweet nature, delightful sense of humor and willingness to take on any task or assignment has been a godsend. He rode his bicycle from west Eugene and over the hill to Lane almost every day, even in winter and spring terms while taking 12 credits at the U of O. Just about every time I came into the office, there he was. I swear he must have a double.
Distribution manager, copy editor, ad manager, web editor and reporter Vernon Scott came to my rescue when I was drowning and wore as many hats as I kept throwing at him. He’s also my ex-husband and best friend. With no interest in becoming a journalist, he just did what needed to be done, complaining here and there, but easily appeased by free pizza on production nights.
Design editor, André Casey’s “whatever it takes” attitude meant that we had a paper every week. It will take him wherever he wants to go in life. His dedication to excellence never wavered. André and I found in each other kindred spirits, being willing to stand in the heat of conflict; ours is a relationship forged in fire and under tremendous pressure. He will be the next editor-in-chief and he’ll do a great job.
Running The Torch is just like starting a new business, but with the luxury of advisers. I’ve been through several business start-ups, and the first year is all about making mistakes. They can be very expensive in more ways than one, so advisers are worth their weight in gold. The Torch has two:
Production adviser Dorothy Wearne, who loves The Torch and has been with it for 32 years, is dedicated to student success and to the success of The Torch. She was always rolling up her sleeves and jumping in when the pressure was on. She kept me from going off the rails by offering expert advice on content choices, design, the college campus and journalistic standards.
News adviser Charlie Deitz gave me well-considered advice regarding ethics, writing style and voice. My writing ability has expanded as a result of his guidance, as has my perspective on many things. He spent time with reporters, helping them any way he could as they came and went through the revolving door. He also had the good sense to name his daughter Penny — even before we met.
I sincerely hope that The Torch in 2014-15 has served its readership and the college well. This has been my unwavering intention.
The end of an amazing se