Sometimes I wonder why the hell I stick with the newspaper business. The pay’s lousy, the hours are all over the place and there’s more than enough stress.
Then I go to a New Mexico Press Association convention and I’m reminded that it’s not so bad.
I feel a certain camaraderie at such events, in large part because I’ve been involved in New Mexico newspapers for a dozen years now. I know a lot of publishers, editors and reporters around the state, and am proud to call many of them my friends.
People like Bob Trapp, whose father, the late Robert E. Trapp, started the Rio Grande Sun back in the 1950s, turning it into one of the most aggressive newspapers I’ve ever seen.
Robert B. Trapp—the Bob I’ve come to know so well over the years—runs a fiercely independent newspaper. Both father and son are in the Press Association’s Hall of Fame, largely for their leadership in opening up government and exposing its ugly underbelly, mainly in their hometown of Española.
Most newspapers aren’t so aggressive, though any newspaper worth its salt will stand up to the powers-that-be when necessary. When government tries to withhold information or attempts to make decisions behind closed doors, newspaper men and women fight for greater openness, because that’s what newspapers do. We insist on a transparent government.
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I saw John Graham, who runs the Lovington Leader, at the convention. I kidded him about how I always know he likes a column I’ve written because I see it on his front page.
John and I disagree on a number of political issues, and he doesn’t often run my column, but he smiled and told me that every now and then, one of my columns just grabs his attention. I’m glad, even if it’s just every now and then.
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I ran into M.E. Sprengelmeyer, owner and reporter of The Communicator in Santa Rosa, and met his mom. Sprengelmeyer’s readers know her from a column or two she’s written in M.E.’s stead—part of the fun Sprengelmeyer has with his audience.
That night at the convention banquet, the Sage of Santa Rosa won a couple dozen press awards, as he always does. I’m sure his mom was proud.
Sprengelmeyer is one of the best writers I’ve ever worked with, but don’t tell him I said that; carrying home a trunk full of awards should be enough of an ego-boost for this maverick journalist. Lavish too much praise on the man and he’ll be impossible to live with.
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As I sit down for the awards banquet, Martín Salazar, my successor at the Las Vegas Optic, is at the podium. He’s the association’s outgoing president. Near our table is his Optic staff.
There’s Maria Sanchez, always an award winner for her great design skills, and Mercy Lopez, whom I hired on as a reporter years ago and have since come to admire for her love of family, sense of community and dedication to her chosen profession. And there was longtime Optic copy editor and columnist Art Trujillo and his wife Bonnie in the hallway; I wished we could have sat down and caught up. Finer folks I’ve never known.
Then there’s my newest home team at the Roswell Daily Record. This year I’m proudest of the award I won alongside Curtis Michaels, an expressive and passionate writer I discovered down here in southeastern New Mexico, for an editorial we wrote as a writer-editor team.
So many familiar faces—there’s Chris Wood, who’s maintaining a family tradition by becoming next year’s president; and Ned Cantwell, who’s retiring out of state and wishing us all the best; and Leota Harriman, who’s “losing it” while running The Independent in Edgewood.
So many people with a burning desire to tell the stories that make their respective communities. We’re not the movers and shakers of our communities, we’re the observers, the ones who tell it as we see it.
For this inky wretch, this is home.
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Post-banquet can be great fun as well, and I’m not averse to imbibing in the afterglow of this statewide get-together.
For the past couple of years, Roswell staffers have sat out on the patio and conversed with the crew from the Silver City Daily Press. My good friend Nick Seibel brings his posse to the convention and we all swap stories and take friendly pokes at one another. Good one, Andrea Olney-Larson, for cleverly calling me old and forgetful—that I won’t forget.
As for Benjamin Fisher and Stewart McClintic, Seibel’s reporters on the ground, they’re thrilled to have a new editor, Christine Steele, but not necessarily for her guidance. They just want help in covering everything Silver City.
I sat there on the patio, taking it all in and thinking about how Silver City, and Roswell, for that matter, are lucky to have such people.
It’s a helluva business we’re in, and this state’s better off because we’re still kicking. Long live all us inky wretches.
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Tom McDonald is editor of the New Mexico Community News Exchange and editor of the Roswell Daily Record. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.