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January 17, 2001
The squeaky shoe
By Jana Adams
The Jackson Herald
January 17, 2001
All in a year's work
With the start of each new year, the newspaper staff here has its own time of retrospection, looking back at the year that has passed. More specifically, we are looking back at the stories we wrote, the photographs we took and the pages we laid out, trying to view them as a judge might.
Each new year we bring out the bound volumes of the back issues of the newspapers and spend some time perusing our work with an extra-critical eye. Then we settle down with inky fingers, scissors and tape to package our selections with the folders, envelopes and labels required by the Georgia Press Association for the annual Better Newspaper Contest.
I'm not sure exactly how scientific or specific the GPA judging process is I know I judged a contest for another state once, and found that I had 50 or 60 feature stories to read in a very short amount of time, and then had narrow down my favorites to three. That is hard to do, and, if taken seriously, time consuming, with time sometimes being a limited commodity.
So I know that while it is nice to win awards and get a sense of validation within the field - and it is something to be proud of - there should be a certain amount of realism to balance out any hint of big-headedness. It looks good, sounds good, is good and does feel good to win awards - and MainStreet Newspapers has won plenty to be proud of - and then you go back to the work of putting out a newspaper each Wednesday for the "real" audience, the people who read the newspaper week after week.
While winning awards is rewarding, the actual process of looking back through a year's worth of papers is also beneficial, I think. It's interesting to have a review of the year's work, noting not only the events that happened and what people said and did, but also my own strengths and weaknesses over the course of the year. Inevitably, some weeks are better than others - some stories are more interesting, some words are better chosen, some photographs are more dynamic and some pages are more eye-catching. Sometimes I cringe in embarrassment and sometimes I think, "Well, that's not too bad; did I do that?" It's a good process and gives me ideas about what to do - and not do - in the future.
Just in the course of writing a feature every week, I talked to a lot of interesting people in the year 2000, each with a story to tell - from the first story of the year about B.B. Rhody and her family's homemade soap and candles business, to the last of the year about local author John Ringo earning a number of science fiction book contracts. In between there were stories of how people met and married, community groups that reach out to those in need, descriptions of other cultures and general information about what local people do, who they know and where they've been and are going. I have my own memories and impressions of these people and interviews, as well - ones that didn't necessarily make it into the articles - that are renewed as I flip through the back issues.
And that's just from the feature stories. There's a whole year's worth of meetings, government, crime, sports, school, church, legal, obituary and social news that we have all covered, written about, photographed and put together within the pages of the paper. In some ways I'm amazed; how did we get it all done, week after week after week?
It's hard to believe a year has passed, but, looking back, there's no disputing it - it's all right there in the newspaper. And now we're well on our way to recording the history of 2001 for the county and maybe winning some awards while we're at it.
Jana Adams is features editor of The Jackson Herald.
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