An ad in Editor & Publisher magazine in the summer of 1976 changed my life. It read something like this:
Beginning reporter, photographer.
Beach community weekly in Florida.
Low pay, but lots of fun.
I immediately shipped off my resume to the Englewood Herald, and before too long I was driving from Texas to Florida to start my first “real” newspaper job.
It was everything the ad promised.
Pay so low my parents worried about how I would survive.
Fun? I couldn’t believe I got paid, no matter how little, to take pictures of whatever was happening on the beach, go fishing and write about it, go on boat rides in which Mercury engines were being tested and write about it, meet interesting people and write about them. I never stopped being amazed that I could pull out a reporter’s notebook, ask a question and someone would answer.
I discovered the importance of community newspapers at that job. My editor, just a year or two older than me, came into the office one day after lunch and told me a fisherman had stopped him on the street to thank him for a news brief about federal assistance being available to fishermen who had been hurt by an outbreak of red tide. He found out he was eligible for help, which he and his family really needed, by reading the newspaper.
It was a Eureka moment. I didn’t have to write The Great American Novel or a Pulitzer-prize winning news story for my work to be of value. What I needed to do was provide good information to readers, information that could help them, information they could use to make good decisions.
That simple realization was when I fell in love with my work.
Fast-forward 41 years, as I prepare to leave my job as editor and publisher of the Homer News, a job I’ve enjoyed for more than 12 years. Most of the past 41 years have been in Alaska — at the Juneau Empire, at the Peninsula Clarion in Kenai and now in Homer.
The closer I get to my last day on the job, which is Friday, the more I’m second-guessing myself about my decision. After all these years, I still enjoy my work, still believe in the mission of newspapers, still think newspapers — particularly the Homer News — best serve the information needs of their communities.
But the last year has been difficult.
In Englewood, I fell in love with a man who had traveled to some of the most interesting places on the globe. We pondered our future. We shipped off resumes to Alaska, one of the few places he hadn’t been. I got a call from the editor of the Juneau Empire.
“You know, it rains here as much as the sun shines in Florida. You know, it’s as cold here as it is hot in Florida. It’s really dark in the winter. There are no roads to Juneau …”
The more he talked, the more I wanted the job as a beat reporter, covering local government and whatever else came up.
And I got it.
Rich and I packed our bags and drove — and drove — to Seattle, where we caught the ferry to Juneau. The beauty we saw on that ferry ride through the Inside Passage caught me by surprise. I had never imagined any place could be so fantastically wild, so incredibly captivating.
We had figured Alaska would be a good two- to three-year adventure. Instead, our time here lasted almost four decades — until last summer when Rich died. As you might imagine, nothing is the same without him. Not work. Not home. Not Homer. Not Alaska.
So the dog and I are going on a road trip to grieve and celebrate and figure out the next chapter.
As a friend told me: I’ve got a blank canvas in front of me.
The question is: What am I going to do with it?
So, I would appreciate your kind thoughts, warm wishes and prayers as Brutus and I embark on our adventure. We’ll be back in Homer sometime next year, ready, I hope, for whatever’s next.
Before I go, I’ve got to tell you how much you — Homer News readers, subscribers, advertisers, critics, fans and everyone who has ever worked at the News — mean to me. Since moving to Homer, I’ve told people I have the best job in the world, and I haven’t been exaggerating. All of you are the reason for that. Whenever you read the Homer News, place a classified ad, purchase advertising, write a letter to the editor, volunteer to take photos at an event that’s near and dear to you, call and make a suggestion or point out an error, you contribute to the success of the Homer News. I can’t thank you enough.
As I leave, it would be gross negligence not to thank those whose contributions have helped shape the personality of the Homer News for many, many years. They are amazingly talented individuals, whose unique vision never ceases to amaze me. Thank you, Mike O’Meara, Rosemary Fitzpatrick, Nick Varney and Teri Robl. I can’t remember one of you ever missing a deadline — or ever saying “no” to a request. If that’s not an editor’s dream, I don’t know what is.
Then, there are the many other freelancers who have stepped up when we’ve needed an extra hand. It would be impossible to name all of you, but please accept my appreciation for the work you’ve done. Special thanks go to McKibben Jackinsky and Toni Ross, who have contributed in more ways than can be counted to the success of the Homer News. The same is true of Cristy Fry, who does far more than write “Seawatch” for the Homer News. There are times, more than I care to remember, that the Homer News would not have been delivered had it not been for Cristy. She has responded to my cry for help in every kind of emergency.
I can’t say thank you enough to all of you.
Everyone who has ever worked at the Homer News has had a hand in shaping this newspaper. While the staff at the Homer News has changed a lot over its 53-year history, there has been one constant in the 12 years that I’ve been here: Michael Armstrong.
Armstrong will take over as editor of the Homer News beginning with the next edition. He has many strengths that will serve him well in his new job — among them, he cares deeply about this community and he wants to do the right thing. I don’t think a community — or a newspaper — could ask for more. Many thanks, Michael, for your hard work and best of luck in your new adventure.
From where I sit, the future of the Homer News looks bright. Community newspapers — like the Homer News — not only are resilient, they fill a niche like no other information source can. Please know your past and continued support of the News is appreciated, and thank you all for being part of my journey and contributing to what’s been an incredible four decades-plus in newspapers.
Besides being the editor and publisher of the Homer News, Lori Evans is the human to the world’s cutest and smartest dog, Brutus. He’s trained her well.