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Reflecting on my first year as M.E.

Posted: Thursday, Feb 21st, 2013




Tuesday marked my one-year anniversary as the managing editor of this newspaper, so I thought I’d take a moment to reflect and say thanks.

First off, I want to thank my incredibly hard-working, not-heralded-enough reporters, photographers, editors, sports reporters, columnists and contributors. A journalism professor at San Jose State once said that 70 percent of journalism is asking the right questions, and these professionals do that all week long.

We compete with bigger newsrooms, so all the hard work is appreciated.

My publishers and general manager also deserve praise, as do the advertising staff, pressmen, receptionists, drivers and the cheerful night crew who get the paper out.

Most of all, a big thanks to all our loyal readers. We love hearing from you, so please keep the letters coming.

Former R-P Managing Editor Trisha Leonard, who recommended me for this job, provided the best training for a new managing editor I’ve ever seen. I enjoyed Trisha’s company for far too short a time before she left. I didn’t get a chance to thank her properly. She is gone but still loyal to her home town paper, and I understand she reads us online up in South Lake Tahoe.

Formerly a daily publication, the R-P is published three days a week, and we design and lay it out (called “pagination”) with a program called Apple InDesign. It’s a daunting system at first, but thankfully, paginating is light years better than something called the Harris Pagination System that I endured in the 1990s. If you used that system, you have my sympathies. I hope your sore wrists have healed.

Of all the fulfilling things about working at a newspaper, my favorite is being a part of the community and rubbing shoulders with people who try to make the world a better place. Here are some of my memories from the past year.

• Getting to know the Watsonville Police and other law enforcement officers, from the emergency dispatchers to the cops in the field, to Watsonville Police Chief Manny Solano. These men and women act professionally in every situation they encounter. For example, I covered the fatal drive-by shooting on the Freedom Boulevard overcrossing of Highway 1 in May, and I’m grateful to the CHP officer who let me cross the yellow police tape to take photos and get details.

• One of the most interesting people I met during the year is new Santa Cruz County Supervisor Zach Friend, because of his dedication to his constituents, knowledge of the county’s issues and his good humor. I see a big future for him in local politics and maybe beyond. He also writes a popular column for one of our new publications, Aptos Life.

• Early in the year, in a rite of passage for new editors, longtime R-P photographer Tarmo Hannula went into the archives and pulled out the investigative series of stories from 1956 that won the R-P the Pulitzer Prize. The stories uncovered the scandalous, hypocritical behavior of the Santa Cruz County District Attorney at the time Charles Moore. He later resigned and one of his associates was arrested and convicted.

• One of my favorite stories of the year was what I like to call the Shakespeare meeting. It was the “much ado about nothing” meeting of the Watsonville City Council. At issue was the location of a new community garden, and dozens of angry residents vehemently protested the placement of the garden, between the edge of their neighborhood and the slough. But it turned out to be a lot of “sound and fury, signifying nothing.” The garden is well maintained and, last time I checked, there had been no complaints about it.

• The Amgen Tour of California was another vivid memory from 2012. Stage 2 of the race started in San Francisco, wound down the coast, then up into the Santa Cruz Mountains. When the cyclists rocketed past me and the huge crowd near the finish line at Cabrillo College, they were going so fast it looked like they were on motorcycles.

2013 will be another great year, both for the R-P and as we continue our push with our other publications, including Aptos Life, Life Capitola/Soquel, Vino, our wine lifestyle magazine, and other publications like the Salute to Nonprofits.

In addition to all that, my son (and our high school intern) continues his Aptos High progression. I’ve officially come full circle from my early days as a reporter at the Peninsula Times Tribune in Palo Alto to the cutthroat business of Internet-based publications and back to dailies. It’s been rewarding getting to know the community players and what’s really important to our readers.

•••

Tom Dunlap is the managing editor of the Register-Pajaronian.

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