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What a long, strange week
From the editor
Jeff Whitten NEW
Jeff Whitten is managing editor of the Coastal Courier.

To paraphrase the Grateful Dead, "what a long strange week it’s been."

That’s in part due to various deadlines. No, it’s all due to deadlines.

For example, in between two issues of the Courier and one Bryan County News, we put a fork in the Courier’s annual county-wide issue, finishing it far in advance for various reasons that mostly have to do with our press in Statesboro.

Anyway, the county-wide issue will hit the streets and mailboxes Wednesday, just in time for Thanksgiving and all the Christmas shopping that follows. It left our hands Friday, meaning it was complete ahead of today’s paper, which also meant we lived in the future a day or two before getting back to the present, or something like that.

So, indulge me if my thoughts seem a bit scattered. They are. Case in point, here’s a tangent: I got a text from an angry subscriber the other night and it reminded me in our business you never really know someone until you make them mad.

Making people mad is part of our job description. In that way, journalists, reporters and other newspaper hacks are like elected and appointed officials at all levels of government. We’re bound to make somebody mad no matter what we do. Me being a uniter rather than a divider and a lover rather than a fighter, I find that somewhat disconcerting at times, but it is what it is.

Other stuff I’ve learned as a reporter: Nobody likes to take credit for things like politicians. I get dozens of emails a day from our congressmen, explaining how they’re saving America for us, the taxpaying citizens.

Sometimes I think mostly what they do is email, but then I remember that, unlike journalists, they have taxpayer funded staffs to take care of stuff like that. Regardless, I’d be embarrassed to puff myself up like that.

What else? Well, social media is killing the newspaper industry. It’s also putting a pretty good whack on other traditional media. TV is hurting, I hear, and so is radio.

But print journalism is probably taking the lion’s share of that whack. I won’t pretend to know all the reasons why, but I think part of it’s our own fault. We’ve gone from being watchdogs to lapdogs in too many instances, and we’ve stretched already thin resources even thinner by expanding the definition of news to include just about everything you can imagine.

A friend of mine in this business noted a couple of years ago that if the trend continues, we’ll be expected to report when a cat gets run over. Especially if the bean counters can find a way to get somebody to sponsor it.

On the bright side, the advent of social media and the internet has left us reporters freed up from the lunatics who used to come by the office to take up half the day explaining why the world was going to heck in a handbasket. Nowadays they’re all on Facebook.

And I use "lunatic" fondly, because there are times I miss those folks. Especially a former sheriff in another county who, after backing a candidate and then not getting the job of chief deputy (he was in his 80s), turned around and billed the county about $10,000 for all the work he did to get the new sheriff elected. They didn’t pay it, which just fired him up even more. He decided he’d run for sheriff himself, even if he no longer drove.

I used to see him riding shotgun around the county with a "vote for me" sticker on his pickup and a ballcap on his head while his wife, a small woman, peered over the steering wheel and kept the speedometer at a steady 25 mph.

The old sheriff used to make regular stops at that particular newspaper office, and if my editor saw him coming he’d go climb out a back window and wander off for a while, talking to himself. Sometimes, I’d be left holding the bag.

The old sheriff would come in with multiple-page typewritten manifestos claiming communist drug dealers from Mexico were busy invading the county from land, sea and air. Then, after demanding you read it, he’d go back over it with you to make sure you got his points, which always included his belief there was entirely too much dancing going on in public to be healthy.

This was in the 1990s. I suspect if this particular fellow was still alive and running for sheriff, he’d be all over Youtube and famous.

Instead, he was just someone who couldn’t retire and go fishing even though he threatened to more than once. But then the county would’ve been invaded and he wasn’t about to let down his guard. Hunting out evil doers was in his blood.

And you know what? It’s Thanksgiving.

In addition to being thankful for family and friends, and being born with all my parts and at least an occasional glimmer of common sense, I’m grateful for a job that lets me meet folks like the old sheriff.

And that’s even if I did try to hide under my desk whenever I saw his wife pull up and let him out in our parking lot.

Happy Thanksgiving.

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