Discourse / Editorials / May 23, 2012

Editor-in-chief bids farewell

Just a handful of years ago, I would have never have dreamed to be running a newspaper. From being a kid who constantly struggled with dyslexia and failed fifth grade spelling to an adult confidently writing for and editing a newspaper. The ride so far has been odd, unexpected and, not to say the least, challenging.

During the first three years at Knox, I put my full energy into the visual side of this newspaper. Being one of the first in a long while to come from the photo editor post to the editor-in-chief position has certainly come with unexpected difficulties. I hope experience on the visual side has brought a different focus that will help the future staff move forward and make me more proud to say I worked for The Knox Student.

Since I came to college, I have grown to understand and respect the role journalism plays in society. While I have had a thought in the back of my mind about what the most important part of this is, it took until May 5, when I had the chance to briefly talk with Hobart and William Smith College President Mark Gearan, for it to click and for me to find the single driving factor for my future career in journalism.

This single driving factor is the role the newspaper plays in a community. This is more important than journalism’s role of “muckraking,” informing or pissing off deserving people. This support is not only for the community of readers but the community as a whole. The members who don’t pick up a newspaper on a daily basis benefit as well from a strong newspaper in their community. Without the newspaper, a major avenue for public discourse is lost.

Newspapers give a support system to a community that is hard to replace. This is why community newspapers may be struggling but will, I believe, survive in the long run. Without community newspapers, the community will notice something is missing. A large newspaper in a large market can vanish without a lasting concern because they can be replaced by the nearest competitor and more importantly they often don’t provide the connection that community newspapers thrive on. This is the main reason why my dream job is not to work for The New York Times but for a small town community newspaper and to become an integral part of that community.

In addition, the community that is built on the other side of the newspaper is one that makes journalism fully worthwhile for journalists. Despite the long hours and lackluster pay that I have seen so far and will likely see for the rest of my career, the journalism business is not something I will give up any time soon. The numerous coworkers I have been fortunate enough to work with during the past four years have supported me, challenged me and made me a better person. The community of journalists throughout the world are able to come together under the common purpose of supporting the fourth estate, whether they are working for competing newspapers or not. This is something that doesn’t exist elsewhere and is something that needs to be experienced firsthand to fully understand.

As I end my tenure here at Knox as a student and as editor-in-chief of TKS, I will be moving to the Office of Communications to take on the new position of college photographer. I will help the college expand and organize the stock of photography it uses on the website, in pamphlets and many other avenues. This is an exciting opportunity for me, and I hope to see all the faculty, staff and students that I have grown to know well over the past four years. I am going to fully remove myself from this newspaper and let the future staff work through the many struggles that come along with the job and let them create a newspaper that is completely a product of their effort.

Final Notes

To next year’s editors,

I wish you the best of luck. Push the newspaper forward and increase the vital role TKS can and should have on the Knox community. I don’t hope for errors, mistakes and misjudgments, but I know they are going to happen. Learn from them and don’t be afraid of them. Too often the fear of mistakes can hinder getting vital news to your readers.

To those I have accidentally wronged or hurt during my tenure on TKS,

I deeply apologize for my mistakes. There are many occasions that I wish I could go back and change. I hope I did my best to right the errors and I hope that you can at least respect the difficulty of the job that I had and the difficult role that journalism often has to take.

To the readers,

The fourth estate is a two way street. Critique, comment and become a part of the newspaper. Be a part by submitting letters to the editor or leaving a comment on the website. Small newspapers thrive off of the conversations that build out of these avenues. TKS cannot improve without knowing what you think needs to be fixed, so let your voice and let your opinion be heard; there is no better way to do this than through newsprint.

To my previous coworkers,

Thank you for challenging me to be a better leader. Thank you for all effort on the long Wednesday nights, I hope they have been as worthwhile to you as they have been to me. I hope you find avenues in your post-Knox plans that involve newspapers. At the minimum play an active role in the conversations that your community newspaper allows for.

John Williams

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