I was walking up Chetco Avenue in downtown Brookings the other day when a motorist stopped at a traffic light, gave me a thumbs up and shouted, “Scott! Keep up the good work!”
Man, after all these years, I love hearing that. Who doesn’t?
However, it was a bittersweet moment. Just hours earlier I had informed the Pilot staff of my resignation, effective Friday, Nov. 24.
That’s right. Black Friday. I always did have a warped sense of humor.
Seriously, dear readers. I’ve decided to exit the newspaper business after 28 years — the last 17 at the helm of this wonderful community newspaper.
My next adventure? Communication manager for the Wild Rivers Community Foundation. The nonprofit organization is renowned for its projects and initiatives that improve the quality of life for Curry and Del Norte county residents
I never thought I’d leave a career I love, but the time has come to try something new, to learn new skills from talented and inspirational people, and contribute even more to those in my community.
I’ve had a good run at the Pilot. We publish 104 issues a year and the Saturday, Nov. 25, issue will be my last, bringing the total number of papers I’ve help “put to bed” to nearly 1,800.
Of course, the Pilot is bigger than just one editor. It takes a dedicated team of staff writers, advertising sales reps, office personnel and a publisher. The paper I joined in September 2000 felt in many ways like a family-run company, and in a sense, it still does.
Taking the helm at the ripe old age of 32 was a challenge — and scary, but I received tremendous support from then-publisher Charlie Kocher and many Pilot readers.
There has never been a single day since when I woke up hesitant to go to work. There was always something to look forward to, an unexpected turn of events or a new challenge. Every day has been different — just the way I like it.
I quickly learned that life in a small town is never boring, and believe it or not, after all these years, I don’t have a “favorite” or “best” story, column, editorial or interview because, well, there are simply too many.
I certainly owe my readers a debt of gratitude for indulging me as I write this column. It’s been extremely fulfilling to share my thoughts (and humor) about my life and our community. And because I received so much positive feedback, I’ve decided to continue writing a column for the Pilot called “Tongue-tied and Twisted.” Look for it in the coming weeks.
Since starting work at the Pilot in 2000, I’ve penned approximately 600 columns. (A few of them were actually good!) I’ve written more than 350 editorials, countless stories and taken a bajillion photos. I counted them!
However, not all readers are fans of mine. Just last week a reader called my column idiotic, while another suggested that, as editor, I should focus on more serious topics and leave the light-hearted writing to others.
In that regard, not much has changed in the last 17 years. I was only two month into my job as editor when I received a letter from an irate reader who disagreed with my editorial. Her reasoning was that, “I must have been dropped on my head as a baby.”
Now, being the dedicated journalist that I am, I immediately tried to confirm the veracity of her claim: I called my mom and asked if she had ever dropped me on my head when I was a baby. After a brief moment of hesitation, she said no.
Still, I published the critic’s letter — no one’s safe from constructive criticism, including the editor. To this day, her comment is a running joke in the newsroom — used by the staff and myself when I make a mistake.
And there have been mistakes — visible in all their glory for Pilot readers to see. Fortunately, most readers are a forgiving lot. Thank you.
Of course, criticism comes with the territory. Still, it took awhile to develop the proverbial “thick skin.” The challenge was, making sure my skin didn’t get so thick that I lost empathy for readers who shared legitimate concerns or demanded justice for perceived wrong-doings.
Some folks thought I could just wave my all-powerful journalistic wand and solve all their problems — or use bold, front-page headlines to punish their adversaries. Sorry, that’s not how it works.
I struggled often with ethical and moral decisions — some of which resulted in the loss of friendships. It’s not easy trying to be objective and unbiased, especially when it comes to writing about people and issues you know and love.
As the years went by, I became more adept at helping people, offering suggestions, making recommendations and, occasionally, writing a story that affected a positive change. More often than not, I just listened. Sometimes that’s all people need.
I’ve been blessed to work at the helm of this newspaper for so many years (18 years total for Western Communications.) Only former editor Dick Keusink has served longer, at 19 years.
During the last two decades, I’ve grown tremendously as a journalist and human being. In the end, the satisfaction I derived from this job is knowing that, from time to time, the stories, columns and editorials touched people’s lives and made a significant, positive impact.
I truly love Curry County and all the hard-working, kind-hearted souls. It’s a wonderful place for my wife, Jacque, and I to raise our daughter Alia (she’s now 14!) We will continue to be involved in community events and activities, so don’t hesitate to say hello.
Soon, a new editor will take the helm and continue to navigate the Pilot through exciting, uncharted territory. The last decade has been hard on newspapers, which are struggling to survive in a digital world, but I’m confident that the quality community journalism will persevere — in print or online. Or both.
To the Pilot staff I give two thumbs up and say, “Keep up the good work!”
And to my critics I say, “No, I wasn’t dropped on my head as a baby. I was just born this way.”
And to my devoted readers, I offer my farewell and extreme gratitude for your support, kudos and constructive criticism over many years.
It’s been a great adventure!