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Life lessons learned through journalism

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Mid-morning sunshine poured through the windshield feeling much like a warm hug during a recent weekend trip to the office. I was headed to work on this week’s newspaper pages. And this week’s issue is special. It is our 1000th. The 1000th consecutively published Valley Journal. As I drove in silence, I reflected on my time in the newspaper business and some of the life lessons a career in journalism has taught me. For what it’s worth, I’ll share them with you now.

Everything changes – it’s simply a matter of time. Sometimes for the good, sometimes the bad but always an opportunity for growth. And while change may seem hard when we’re in the middle of it, the journey inevitably transforms us. The trick is to let it transform us for the better. 

Time passes by quickly. Working at a weekly newspaper, time for me is measured in weeks. It’s easy to be so focused on the future – on the next deadline – that you lose track of the moment you’re in. To be fully present in the here and now takes vigilance but is worth every effort.

Own your mistakes. You will inevitably get things wrong. Apologize for your mistakes and run corrections. Learn from them and then move on. It doesn’t do any good to agonize over past transgressions. Oh - and you can't trust autocorrect. (Trust me on this.)

Be patient. If you see a beautiful scenic photo, compose your photo and then wait … for a person to walk by, an animal to look up, the light to change. Be prepared … to wait. We also have to be prepared to wait for others. Newsrooms being the collaborative entities they are, we often have to wait for someone to give us something. Maybe it’s a submission, an interview, advertising approval. Other people’s priorities don’t always match ours and sometimes we just have to be patient.

Everyone has a story. A story that’s unique and powerful in its own right. A story worth telling. It might not be similar to your story, or even one you like, but it’s valid. We can learn and grow from everyone. Even, and maybe even especially, from those we disagree with. The beauty of humanity lies in its diversity, not in its sameness. 

Words matter. Both the ones we say and the ones we write. And especially, the ones we think. The words we say to ourselves and speak to others reverberate long after they’re spoken. Be thoughtful with your words and how you say them. People may not remember what you say, but they will always remember how you made them feel. So along those lines ... be kind. 

Apostrophes. Watch out for them. Poor things are frequently abused and misused. 

You learn something new every day.  This has been, perhaps, one of my favorite perks of being a journalist. 

The significance of these lessons has poured into the rest of my life and perhaps most importantly into the relationships I have with my children. I realize, seemingly every day now, how quickly they're growing up as yet another weekly deadline comes and goes. I've found that it is just as important, perhaps more so, to own my mistakes with my children as it is in the professional realm.

I've also realized that as much as I'm here to guide them, it's my children who are teaching me. Patience is a skill they continue to help me develop. As they begin to write their own stories I hope they use words that resonate, that they don't expect perfection and that they recognize the opportunities that exist in challenge. That's how we grow.

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