By Don Nelson
I can’t even think of enough clichés — and I know a lot of them — to answer friendly questions about how I’m doing four years into my tenure as publisher of the Methow Valley News. Lots of people ask — friends, family, valley residents, visitors, professional colleagues — and I believe they genuinely want to how things are.
My flippant answer would be, “compared to what?” But on reflection, that might just be the most meaningful perspective. From the vantage point of four years in this job, it’s not a bad way to think about it.
On July 4, 2011, I stood in the open doorway of the News and watched the Independence Day parade on Glover Street. It was my first day of assuming a new title: owner/publisher/editor (those are typically separate jobs at larger papers). I was excited and terrified, uncertain yet confident, eager but realistic (or so I thought). I was acutely aware of what I didn’t know, and it was kind of overwhelming.
I’ve been in learning mode ever since, and part of my answer to the “how ya doin’?” inquiry is always, “I learn something about this place every day.” No exaggeration. It’s important for me to know a lot, and my ignorance still makes itself evident more often than I’d like. But I’m not rushing to complete my Methow Valley education. I figure it will happen at its own pace.
Many of you know the story behind this column’s title, so forgive me for some repetition. It comes from a conversation I had many years ago with a friend who was unfamiliar with the Methow and wanted to know why I like it so much.
“Because I’ve never had a bad day there,” I said.
It’s still true. I’ve had hard days, challenging days, stressed-filled days, frustrating days — but I’ve never had a day when I wished I was somewhere else, doing something else. I can’t imagine what else I might have been spending my time at during the past four years. So maybe that’s the “compared-to-what” perspective check.
I had 61 years of planetary history and a somewhat accomplished journalism career before I went to work in the Methow, and the previous couple of years had a lot of bad days. I had been laid off from my last journalism job in what could only be called budgetary bloodletting (which has continued at the same establishment). At my age, it was difficult to find job opportunities in an industry where I was overqualified as a manager/leader and undertrained as a digital technophile.
Then I got really sick — almost-died sick — and it took a long time to recover. Having already survived prostate cancer, I decided I wasn’t going to wait any longer to pursue this dream, foolhardy as it was in many ways. As I sometimes joke with my journalism colleagues, “and then I lost my mind and bought a newspaper.” Gets a laugh every time.
So yeah, compared to dead, unemployed or dangerously depressed, this is a pretty good gig.
The truth, what I tell people with no hesitation, is that I love the work, love the community, love the learning process. It’s not without its perilous moments. Another thing I tell my journalism friends is “Yes, I’m living the dream, but working the reality.” That also gets a laugh because they know what I mean.
I also tell people, with gratitude, that I have a great staff that works hard at making this the best newspaper it can be, and I think they do a marvelous job of it. We’ve won a few awards that we’re proud of, but the most satisfying part of this profession is knowing that we’re doing something useful and important each week for the Methow Valley.
What will I do to celebrate later this week? Not much. We’ve got work to do. But hey, the town throws me a parade every year.