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Saying Goodbye to Amy

May 6, 2015
BY CHUCK CLEGG - Columnist , Wetzel Chronicle

The last few weeks have been a busy time for me. Normally each Wednesday evening, I take the time to read the Wetzel Chronicle. But, in the case of the April 22 edition, that did not happen. For a couple of reasons I did not get a chance to read the paper until a few days later.

Perhaps the delay in its reading added to my surprise when I came to the editor's page. As I read Amy Witschey's editorial I realized she was no longer the paper's editor. After a couple of paragraphs, I stopped reading and started over. I hoped that I had missed reading the intent of her story. That was not the case, she had given notice and was no longer the Chronicle's editor.

With the printing of her editorial, she has given up a job that has been a major part of her life. It is a job that if done right requires you to surrender to its demands of the news. That constant supply of news never stops even as it needs more and more commitment of those who collect and report it. The decisions of the editor constantly place them in the spotlight of those who chose to look beyond the news and to those who report it.

You have heard the saying, " don't kill the messenger." It come from a time when news was delivered by messenger or town crier. It is a metaphor for blaming the bearer of the news and its content.

In reading Amy's words, I realized the story took great courage to report. It opens to the readers to judge for themselves her reasons for leaving. For 20 years, she had given much of her life to making sure you had the information to be informed of local events. With the writing of her editorial, she looked inside herself and found another story she wants to be part of. That story is unwritten, but she along with her husband decided it was time to go looking for it. It took not only courage on her part, but her family also.

You see, in the news business, family time is part of the sacrifice. If the paper is to come out on a holiday, that means you spent most of Christmas Eve getting it to print. Year after year, in good times and not so good, the paper has a life of its own. That life is controlled by the continuous supply of news. As the editor, you understand you have no choice but to gather the facts and information and feed the news beast.

Editors realize local papers are important part of the fabric that keeps the community informed. Sometimes readers are not happy with the stories that are printed on the front page. If readers were unhappy with the front page story, it was the editor's fault. If someone finds a misspelling or incorrect name on the back page, well guess whose resonsibility it was, the editor's. But, reporting the news good or bad is the responsibility of the paper to keep you informed. Computers are wonderful and they have made things easier, but they do not make them perfect when it comes to spelling and grammar. If you don't believe that fact read my stories.

The layout of a newspaper is much the same as it has been for many years. Front page is the big news events of the community. Sometimes it tells of good news, like when the town has a new business coming into our community. Everybody likes to read good news. Sometimes the headlines tell of bad things. Whatever the story; headline news is printed so you have the facts to make personal judgments. It is your right; it is why the first amendment grants us a free press. Reading the paper is kind of like being on jury duty. You sometimes hear and learn things you may not want to know, but you're a citizen of the community and it is part of your reasonability to be informed. It's the paper's job to give you the facts.

Overseeing these stories is the responsibility of the paper's editor along with staff. Following some stories and getting details can be like chasing cats in a barn and trying to catch them. It ain't easy. I have great respect for those people who write the weekly stories. Finding facts, verifying the information and then writing the story with five-hundred words to fit a news print column can be trying. After they're done, they must arrange it along with other stories to fit neatly on to the front page. I'll say it again in my own words: it ain't easy?

Over the last 20 years, Amy's job has been reporting the news of the community. But, even more important, she managed the presentation of news as she helped to preserve it for future generations. Her job is to make sure the simple questions of who, what, when, where and why are included in each story. It can be a difficult task. I don't believe they teach young journalism students in college to print only the good news or popular news. They most likely teach them to print the facts of the story for your readers and let them decide what they want to read. Amy has done the job of an editor and done it well.

I realized when I had finished reading Amy's story I had never taken the time to thank her for allowing me to be part of the Wetzel Chronicle's family. The truth is, if not for Amy and Bruce Crawford, I would not have had the opportunity to write my column.

I will not insult your intelligence in calling myself a real writer. I tell stories that are not necessarily editorials or news of the day. My computer fighting me all the way about my spelling and grammar. Mary rescues us both and points out my errors. That helps to reduce my embarrassment before I send them to the chronicle. Amy made the decision to open a place in the paper for those stories to come alive for you all. I realize she took a chance as the editor of the paper in allowing me the opportunity to tell you about my thoughts and ideas of the world around me.

If you have read my stories you know she gave me a good deal of room to write. I know that my grammar ain't always up to proper editorial guidelines. But, she allowed me to be me and say it in my words. It took a lot of courage for her to allow those stories to be published in the paper. But, as editor she must have seen some benefit to the paper even with me being grammatically challenged, that's the job of a good editor.

Spending time at the library reading past editions of the county's paper, I learn how editors from the past told stories of the community. Each took different approaches to what was written on the pages of the paper. Editors decide what you read and what future generations will remember about today. Amy Witschey filled the shoes of past editors and kept that standard high. I am thankful she let me be a part of the Wetzel Chronicle's family. Good luck, I hope you enjoy your time with family and friends as you begin writing the next chapter in your life. Thank you for the opportunity as I look Through the Lens.



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