Some days, working at the Register reminds me very much of where I had my first real journalism job.
I was fresh out of college and just starting out as a full-time reporter. I got lucky — my new job was at a newspaper just 15 minutes from my hometown, in the same city where my mom had worked for five years. My editor was a homeschool mom I’d known for ages and whose writing I respected. She and I both believed in the importance of doing local journalism well. After all, we’d grown up or raised a family there.
Galion, Ohio, population 10,000, was like Gainesville in many ways. It was in the middle of farm country, built by the rails of industry. With one hand its leaders were fighting the scourge of illicit drugs while with the other they were clearing away barriers to business growth. The little newspaper was just four blocks from the city municipal building and my desk was smack-dab in between my editor’s and “Sports Guy,” as we affectionately called our friendly and encyclopedic sports editor. The three of us and our news clerk were a small but mighty team, putting out five issues a week.
But despite our best efforts, The Galion Inquirer — like just about every newspaper — wasn’t drawing quite enough advertising and the inevitable cuts had to be made. We moved to publishing twice a week, and though the paper was twice as thick on those days as it had been before, it still felt like a loss to our readers who had grown used to reading the paper with their coffee every morning. We couldn’t keep our news clerk and her last day as one of the “word nerds” was a tearful one.
I hung in there for a little while longer, but that experience made me realize how much was lost when a town no longer had a daily newspaper. Eventually I moved to another Midwestern town near some of my extended family, where the daily was still thriving. That’s where I learned the ropes as one of the minority of editors who work outside New York City or Washington, D.C.
And when I came to Gainesville, I saw a daily newspaper that had found a way to hang on, still publishing five days a week despite all the industry pressures against dailies. I spoke with staff who cared deeply about the integrity of their work and community members who appreciated the importance of keeping rural newspapers alive.
I saw echoes of my past, but I also saw the possibility of a different ending. And that’s what still excites me as I embark on my second year as the Register’s editor.
Sarah Einselen is editor and general manager of the Gainesville Daily Register. Reach her at email@example.com.