I am borrowing a headline from a former co-worker who wrote a final column before leaving for graduate school in Montana. She paraphrased a quote from naturalist John Muir in a letter to his sister that read, “The mountains are calling and I must go.” I really liked that headline. Only I have replaced the word mountains with road. My apologies to Muir and any semblance of plagiarism.
After 13 years with Press Publications and three years as editor of the White Bear Press, I am retiring from the world of full-time work.
My days at the Press started as a part-time proof reader. That lead to doing obits and student news, which grew into a staff writer position. I’ve worked on the Quad Community Press, the Forest Lake Press, The Citizen in Hugo and finally the White Bear Press, our flagship paper and subliminally my goal all along. I still handle obits; it was a duty I didn’t want to delegate.
I am proud of my tenure with the White Bear Press and its storied, 125-year history. Without this community newspaper, or any newspaper for that matter, there would be little recorded history. Social media certainly doesn’t provide a newspaper clipping for grandma to hang on her refrigerator door.
I am a dinosaur in this world of Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. I refuse to embrace social media because I feel conspiratorial hints at invasions of my privacy. Luckily the (much) younger members of the news team happily post stories and monitor sites for chatter, making up for my reluctance. To put this in better perspective, I started my journalism career on a manual typewriter. That’s how old I am. How things have changed.
I have helped tell the stories of fascinating people, covered countless government meetings, edited and rewritten hundreds of obituary notices and answered thousands of emails. Finding content to fill the paper every week has never been a problem. The stories often come to me.
Heading up this gem of a community paper has been interesting and fun. Well, almost always. There are occasional disgruntled readers or something that requires correction, despite our very best efforts at accuracy. Sometimes, I admit, I’ve wanted to run screaming out of a council chambers when a meeting is particularly long and boring. It’s odd really, to think I started this business as a college intern for my hometown weekly. I’ll never forget a school board meeting where the main topic of discussion was cheerleaders’ skirts. I have come full circle.
I leave the newsroom in capable hands. Our dedicated staff of talented millennials are passionate about community journalism and spreading real news. There is nothing fake about our mission.
Although I’ll be stepping down as lead editor here at Press Publications, I have been asked to stay on as a contributing writer so my byline will still appear. Fortunately I can work from anywhere with WiFi so I won’t be disappearing completely. Neither will stories on the lake level lawsuit headed to the Supreme Court in 2020, a case I’ve followed since 2012.
I agreed to part-time hours because I worry a bit about being bored in retirement. I’ve worked since I was 15 after all and I’m used to it. It’s probably a silly notion since there seem to be myriad activities for seniors. I do have a bucket list. Maybe I’ll finally learn Spanish. And then there’s travel.
With a son and son-in-law serving active duty in the military, our children move around the country. Instead of coming to us, we will go to them. The road beckons and I must go.
¡Hasta luego! (see you later)
And all the best in the New Year!
Debra Neutkens is the editor of the White Bear Press.