Mike Gibbons

Mike Gibbons

EDITOR'S NOTE: The Aiken Standard is observing National Newspaper Week with a series of guest columns.

I want to let you in on a little secret about newspapers, in particular community papers such as the Aiken Standard.

You are well aware that they are produced every day by real people. And many of you know that those are good people. Smart people. Dedicated people. People who care about their community and want to make a difference.

But here’s something most people don’t know. It’s the passion and heart that these people bring to the product every day, 365 days a year.

I have spent a good chunk of my professional career in news, as a reporter and editor, and continue to this day as a columnist in a handful of community newspapers.

And I have seen the good days, bad days and all the days in between. The people who are doing their best – with limited time and resources often as their impediments – are deeply invested in their mission.

Their personal passion may not always show in the printed product. This is by design, and they rightfully pride themselves on this. Journalists strive not to put their personal bias or emotion into each day’s paper.

But those very real people have very real emotions.

When they cover a heartbreaking tragedy in the community, they hurt with you. But they have a job to do.

When they uncover corruption and expose a wrong against the residents they share a town with, they feel vindication with you. But they have a job to do.

When a local sports team falls short at the state championship, they feel sorry for the kids with you. But they have a job to do.

When they write a feel-good piece that gets shared as inspiration on social media, they smile with you. But they have a job to do.

When they make an error that makes it into print, it breaks their heart and ruins their day, even as they endure the calls or the emails pointing out the mistake (even though they obviously know the difference between you’re and your or there and their). But they have a job to do.

The dedicated people in newsrooms across our great land go to work every day, and it’s not for the great hours and great pay. It’s because they have a job to do.

It’s a calling.

I once had a reporter come into my office after covering a particular horrific court case. She had filed her story – an amazing piece on a brutally difficult but necessary news article – and came in and said, “Story’s in. If it’s OK with you, I’m going to go sit at my desk and just cry for a bit.” After I read her piece, I marked it as edited. And then I had the same reaction she did when she filed it.

The news affects journalists. But they have to compartmentalize that. Because they have a job to do. And next day’s news has to be gathered, produced, and printed. They may take a short moment to be human and let their emotions flow. But then it’s back to work. Because that’s their job. And they do it for you.

Mike Gibbons is a former reporter and editor at the Aiken Standard. He currently serves as the Director of Corporate Partnerships for Trident United Way in Charleston.