The Herald, Sharon, Pa.

July 9, 2013

The most fun you can have with your clothes on

By Nick HIldebrand
Herald News Editor/Weekends

---- — Working in a newsroom, some say, is the most fun you can have with your clothes on. I don’t know if I’d go that far, but I have had an inordinate amount of fun working in The Herald’s over the years.

A lot of that – most of that – has been due to the people I’ve worked with. Smart, dedicated, irreverent, brave, maddening and caring people who are bent in a strange, beautiful and terrible way – either before they walked into the newsroom or after daily exposure to it.

The amazing thing about newspaper people is that they do it at all. When a good day’s work depends on terrible and unusual things happening to other people, you develop some weird calluses. Everybody says they want to see good news in the paper, but the sad, awful and grotesque are the stuff of stories we can’t forget.

Newspaper people stand apart. It’s a strange thing, being deeply involved in a community’s life and yet separated from it, unable, in most cases, to cheer or boo.

Objectivity isn’t an easy thing to maintain in the face of horror and hypocrisy, folly and fraud, and all of the other things that outrage readers. And it seems to be a dying virtue in our media, a reflection of a culture that’s fraying by the day, breaking into so many self-contained bubbles as more and more people reject the idea that we have a common purpose and a common destiny.

Daily newspapers like The Herald - unbiased and beholden to no interest but the readers - embrace that idea by their very existence.

There’s a paper every day because there’s always something going on that you should know about. Be it the doings of your friends and neighbors, the politicians and public officials that work for you, or the acts of God and tragedies, large and small, that we sometimes experience ourselves but more often hear about and think: “Thank goodness it wasn’t me.”

It’s not easy to tell the kinds of stories we tell and it takes a special kind of person to tell them. Newspapering is a calling, like the ministry but with fouler language and more deadlines.

It’s the only profession I’ve known and one I’ve loved. Which is why I’m trying to put how I feel about The Herald, my fellow editors and reporters and the work that’s done here down on the page.

This is a love note. The kind you leave for a girl – or a boy – whom you know you can’t be with anymore but hate to say goodbye to. You want to tell them it was real, that you meant everything you said, but have to stop saying it.

I’m writing it because I’m leaving The Herald and the business of daily journalism for a new career path. This is my last column and it’s one of the hardest ones I’ve ever had to write.

I’ve had good run at a job that was – to steal a line from Garrison Keillor – “a joy forever.” Well, not forever, I guess. In any case, I don’t have many regrets.

It was a privilege to work for The Herald. I did my best to serve the readers well, though that was often not good enough, a point that many of you have made over the years.

And that’s as it should be. Newspaper people may get the paper out, but readers are what makes a paper. Without you, we – I still have a few days of newspapering in me – are nothing. So, thanks for everything. See you in the funny papers.

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Nick Hildebrand was The Herald’s News Editor/Weekends.