365 days, 12 months, 52 weeks, 525,600 minutes. However you break it down, a year seems so long, but at some point, you look up and realize with astonishment that time has flown by.
I’ll admit, when I came onboard as editor two months after the Rockdale News was launched under the helm of former editor Tisa Washington, a year was a daunting amount of time. Heck, in that initial period, I was focused on getting through the week, never mind a year.
We were the new paper in town and there were relationships to form, people to meet, meetings to attend, histories to learn. On top of the normal editorial work of networking; gathering, writing and cleaning up stories, briefs and cutlines; taking photographs; posting online updates and laying out pages were the mundane everyday tasks that took up a surprisingly large amount of time — fixing downed computer lines, attending staff and managerial meetings, putting out proverbial fires, responding to e-mails, pursuing and responding to new writers, taking out the trash, and just trying not to get lost for the umpteenth time on the crisscrossing streets of Conyers.
But what attracted me were the tantalizing opportunities and challenges that this paper offered: the opportunity to pursue untold stories with real heart that mattered to the community and challenge of sustaining a new publication at a time when so many other major papers and publications were shrinking and folding.
What I didn’t realize was how warmly the community would embrace and respond to what we were trying to do and how much their response would keep us going.
It might sound like a cliché, but I’ve learned over and over again, the community truly is the backbone of this paper and this paper wouldn’t exist but for them.
The folks that make up the Rockdale News team are the salt of the earth and this paper would also not be possible were it not for their unique combination of determination, humility, talent, drive, hard work and heart. In this office, there are no silos (there isn’t enough room!) and everybody pitches in wherever and whenever anything needs to be done.
As we celebrate our one year anniversary, I hope you, dear reader will take the time to make the Rockdale News your paper as well. We promise to continue to bring you news from your community and to reflect your stories on our pages and keep you updated through our Web site. In return, we want to hear from you and have you participate in shaping your paper — the Rockdale News.
~Michelle Kim, Editor
When we formed the paper, I didn’t know what to expect. One thing that I completely believed was that The Rockdale News was going to be a true community paper — one that focused on things that mattered in Rockdale, not just to Rockdale. I thought that we had a great opportunity to cover stories that weren’t being covered at the time and to tell stories that weren’t being told, especially the stories the new people, the Rockdale transplants, had never heard before.
We were creating something that had never been done before. I know there have been papers in Rockdale, but this felt like we did something new, something different. Nothing perfect, but it was different.
At the time when most papers were closing, it was almost a perfect time to start a paper in Rockdale. You have a new administration, all these changes going on in Olde Town. To me, it was a good time. It just seemed to work.
What I really remember about that first night, that first edition, it really was labor of love. I was so emotional about it, and I didn’t realize how emotional I was going to be about it. The next day, the Saturday when it came out, I remember Lisa called me and said, "Have you seen it? It’s in the stores!" I said, "I can’t even look at it."
I didn’t really see the paper and the content as "Oh, this is a new publication." I saw, 1 a.m. in the morning and everything that went into it. You appreciate more the work that goes into putting out the paper after going through something like that.
Tisa Washington, Former editor
I can hardly believe it’s been a year. In March of 2009, I was asked if I would like to move from the Covington News office and help start a newspaper in Rockdale. And let me tell you, I was so excited. I have lived in this area all my life and love it. Two weeks before the first edition we started to let everyone know — the Rockdale News was coming. We all worked hard getting articles ready and selling advertising. You would have thought we were having a baby. Pat paced outside the newsroom like an expecting father, as we waited to hear the news… "All pages are approved and we have gone to press." We all gave a sigh of relief. There were a few of us who wanted to see the baby as soon as possible. My husband and my boys along with several employees waited for the delivery right at the warehouse. To see it come off the truck and read the first paper was unbelievable. It’s a night my family and I talk about occasionally with huge smiles. I am grateful to be a part of this great community project for years to come. Happy Birthday Rockdale News!
Annette Godwin, Advertising Sales Director
Sports fans always like to note a big event or matchup by claiming it’s more than just a game. Well one thing I’m proud to say about the Rockdale News is that it has strived to be more than just a newspaper. By reaching out to the community and being a paper exclusively of community events, it is indeed trying to be part of the community.
Working in Rockdale since the new year, one of the biggest challenges and advantages of being the Sports Editor of the Rockdale News has been putting stories together based strictly on what goes on inside county lines and to the people of Rockdale. That means I haven’t had to constantly think of new headlines for Tiger Woods’ infidelities or on what coach is making the newest largest salary ever.
But rather, I’ve seen teenage kids jump with excitement over a last minute shot. I realized that moment was even more important to them than I first thought when just two days later the joy was void in their faces as they realized their season just came to an end. I got the pleasure of seeing young kids barely old enough to attend elementary school interacting with their peers and just having fun kicking a ball. That is what makes it more than just a game, and that is what makes the game part of more than just a newspaper.
I look forward to another year of the Rockdale News growing as part of the community with even more smiles, joys and, yes, even disappointments on the fields and courts of Rockdale County.
Bryan Fazio, Sports Editor
I guess the biggest thing I’ve been blessed with is the humility of the people that I’ve interviewed. There is such a strong sense of wanting to build community, wanting to make connections, that is so refreshing, so positive. Within the faith community, there are more people working together than I was aware of and more people willing to come to an agreement on working on the issues to strengthen what we already have. It’s just an amazing experience to see that.
I’m also really impressed to see the variety of our youth who are reaching out. They’re really caring for others. They’re doing things just because they want to help. The D-Now event was an amazing experience. The stuff going on with Phoenix Pass and how the non-profits are working together. How people are really trying to serve each other in the community and make ways for us to help our friends and neighbors.
I love this paper and how it’s built community.
Lisa Hetzel, Religion Editor
The Rockdale News is celebrating its first birthday this month, and I am glad to have the opportunity to be a part of this celebration. I started interning at the Rockdale News in September 2009, and not only have I been able to learn more about my intended career path, but I have met with people from several different backgrounds and heard many interesting stories. From making weekly visits to the animal shelter for the "Pet of the Week" photos to interviewing people, I’ve come to realize that journalism is not exactly what I had initially thought of it (the typical Hollywood representation of the profession, from suspenseful movies like "State of Play"). Thoughts such as that made me a little hesitant towards pursuing journalism as a career. But a sweet lady, Michelle Kim, has come to the rescue. Her active input and mentoring helps navigate me through the questions I’ve had about the ever-changing field of journalism. And working with an editor like Michelle is truly an honor. Being my first internship at a newspaper, I had no idea what to expect, and the entire Rockdale News staff is probably made up of one of the most warmhearted, welcoming, and kind group of individuals. I look forward to covering more stories, meeting more great members of the community, and sharing laughs in the office. So here’s to the Rockdale News and many more years of serving the community!
Amber Usmani, Intern
As you progress through your career and move up the position ladder, there are always going to be aspects of your old jobs that you miss. As the Webmaster for rockdalenews.com, it is rare that I actually get to write or lay out newspaper pages, two activities that drew me to the industry in the first place.
With the birth of The Rockdale News, that all changed. Now, one day a week I am able to stretch myself creatively while helping to put together the newspaper. Some weeks that might include designing a "Back to School" chalkboard graphic for the front page or writing crime stories involving a woman stuffing her bra with bubonic chronic (marijuana). Each issue brings with it new challenges and new opportunities that I am happy and proud to tackle every week.
Tyler Smith, Webmaster
Page design is a lot like a jigsaw puzzle. I have all the pieces — the text, the photos, the ads — and I have to put them together into something that is pleasing on the eye and entertaining. To be fair, there are some days where I feel like somebody mixed up two different puzzles in the same box, but sorting out the pieces to determine which make the best picture is some of the best fun. For example, fitting 11 different testimonials on two pages can be difficult. In case you were curious what that looks like, it’s right in front of you.
Of course, our work would be pointless if there were nobody to provide me with the puzzle pieces, so for that I owe thanks to the people of Rockdale County who appear in our pictures and act as sources for our articles. We couldn't do it without you!
Lee Sandow, Paginator
I’ve learned, due to the economy, that customers and retail businesses have gone local when it comes to advertising, because they’re more community oriented and they promote buying and living local. When times are down, it’s the community ties that keep you going.
Even the community is responding to that. They want a paper that is for them and not somebody in another city or another state. They want it to be catered to them and their needs. We cater to the community’s needs.
That’s why I enjoy working for this paper. Because I believe in it. And every client that I have will tell you the same thing.
Rachel Spurling, Advertising Rep.
Mary Mac’s cafeteria’s downtown has one of my articles hanging up on their wall, about what won’t we southerners put in the deep fryer. That’s a treat every time I go in there. The other interesting thing, every time I go into church, everyone comes and says, "Oh, I read your article; I liked it a lot." That’s something I always look forward to on Sundays. Getting to know people who read my column has also been a treat. I’ve had complete strangers come up and say, "Hey, you’re the guy that writes that column."
David McCoy, Columnist
The Adventures in Parenting columns have been a joy to write. In fact, they’ve been quite cathartic and better than paying for therapy! Rock on, parents. And congratulations to the Rockdale News on a full year of great community news. Best wishes for many more.
Kysa Daniels, Columnist