Archive for Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Shouts and Murmurs: Reflecting on ‘new’ Mirror’s first seven years

January 24, 2007

Caroline, you've been with "us" all along.

It's been seven and a half years we've worked together. It started in August 1999, when you were assigned the task of teaching me how to paginate newspaper pages on the computer. You helped us get the first editions of The Mirror out the door.

Later you became publisher and editor of The Mirror.

Until today, you and I were the only original "new" Mirror employees left.

We've had changes in office managers, ad reps (Gail Drake's position) and sports writers. Shawn Linenberger, our sports reporter who's been in the office for almost six years, is now the second-longest -working employee at The Mirror.

Through the years we've worked as an office staff to bring the latest news to our readers.

Not all the news was happy. The local events included disasters. The first tornado struck Tonganoxie on May 12, 2000. Amid the devastation and working on deadline, we completed an extra "Tornado" section the next day. We covered the town's destruction, and more sadly, the death of a child killed in the aftermath.

We covered another tornado three years later, in May 2003. This one hit ground south of Tonganoxie, ripping barns, toppling trees and, near Basehor, flattening homes. Again the devastation, but fortunately this time, no lives were lost.

And we covered the positive news, of which there has been plenty. We've covered the area's growth, as well as the school's expansion.

Through the past years, we've covered difficult and sometimes controversial news as well. And, as anyone can see who enters our office, The Mirror has become known for its news coverage. The staff has won dozens of awards -- state and national.

When people think of a weekly newspaper it's likely an image of plain newspaper pages and mundane news comes to mind.

But with your leadership at The Mirror, and with the support of the World Company in Lawrence, Tonganoxie experienced a new kind of newspaper.

It was a thrill the first day our newspaper came out -- Sept. 8, 1999 -- to see our readers walking out of the post office with their newspapers in hand. They literally appeared to be a little dazed to see color photos, attractive design and newsy stories.

Most people may not realize it, but from the beginning The Mirror's editorial staff has been made up of University of Kansas journalism graduates. And in recent months we've added a shade of purple to our crimson and blue. Our Basehor reporter, Lara Hastings, who also works in our office, is a Kansas State University graduate -- and proud of it.

You already had the journalism knowledge down pat when you started here. But, as you live in Lawrence, you faced an extra challenge in Tonganoxie and Leavenworth County -- learning your way around.

While those of us who grew up here would identify locations by who lived where 30 years ago, you relied on maps. And you studied them profusely.

Sometimes though, neither of our methods worked. For instance, we learned, while en route to an emergency, that 211th Street does not go through from Tonganoxie to Jarbalo.

It seems, when looking back at the past seven and a half years, there's been little that we did not cover. But I know that's not true.

Every day interesting things are happening in Tonganoxie. It's a city that has a vitality all its own. It's a small city caught amid rapid growth and the changes growth brings. It's a community filled with interesting people involved in interesting jobs and other ventures. It's people who are active, who promote local events and show up to participate in them. It's people who care and, who show by their actions every day, that they care.

And to cover all that with a news staff of three, is, well, difficult. But we did our best, and we will continue to do our best with John Taylor as our publisher.

On behalf of everyone who works at The Mirror, thank you for the lessons you've taught us. Thank you for devoting seven-plus years of leadership to Tonganoxie. Thank you for making The Mirror what it is today. Thank you for being our friend.

And as you finish putting this week's newspapers to bed and pack up what's left of your Tonganoxie office, we wish you the best of success in your new position at the Lawrence Journal-World.

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