I have also had enough time pass since my last day at the downtown office to write and publish my fifth eBook. This one, which is the first of its kind as far as I can tell, is titled “Surviving Midlife Career Changes” and is partly autobiographical and partly fact-based assistance for anyone 55+ looking for advice on either changing careers or looking for a new job.
What I haven’t had much time for to this point is to dwell on the closure of the newspaper. I guess that since I am quite honestly almost as busy now as I was then, it is a good thing I haven’t had much time to ponder the loss. I have spent a fair deal of time online updating listings indicating the business is ‘permanently closed’ and that all contact information is now invalid.
Then a few weeks ago an old friend and former long-time advertiser of mine from both my radio and newspaper days, started hunting us down. Someone he had been in contact with reached me to say that our unlisted phone number had been requested as there was some sort of urgency in making contact with Brenda and I.
Just days after I shared our phone number we received a call. It was a long “catching up” call that eventually got to the point. The local Rotary Club wanted to host the staff and owners of the Similkameen News Leader for dinner at an upcoming club meeting. I was a bit stunned at the notion as I have been trying to put the newspaper part of my life to bed (to use an old print term).
I discussed it with Brenda and once a date was decided we let our friend know and wrote the date and time on our calendar. Since our lives have changed following the closure of the newspaper we have taken to filling out a calendar hanging in the hallway to keep track of what meetings, activities and work days are scheduled to prevent conflicts or missed appointments.
As the days passed, I remained quiet about the evening event but did eventually announce it online in social media to see what kind of reaction it would receive. I was more than a little surprised by the kind words friends posted in regard to the fact that Rotary wanted to honour our contribution to the community. It felt good to learn that others saw our work as something of significance.
When the evening arrived Brenda and I were early, but greeting graciously by Rotarians already present. We were seated and I was pleased to see that Dawn, the woman I bought the newspaper from in 2004, was also able to attend. She had worked for us part-time to our final issue and I had not seen much of her since so the two of us got caught up quickly and she sat with Brenda and I.
The Rotary meeting went as any other one had that I had attended in the past (I was Secretary for five years). Then the purpose of the evening was announced and stories mixed with history about the newspaper, myself, Dawn and Brenda started circulating. It had the flavour of an acknowledgement of many accomplishments and it made me realize that we had an impact in our community.
Then there was a presentation.
The Rotary Club named me as a Paul Harris Fellow – the highest honour Rotary International issues to either a member or community leader to recognize significant contributions to their community. I was stunned. I’m still somewhat stunned and the dinner meeting was almost a week ago. I’m officially in some pretty big company. The local Rotary Club itself only has a few Paul Harris Fellows. I think I’m one of just two non-Rotarians in the community with this honour.
It’s made me look at my desire to quietly ‘erase’ my newspaper past very differently. I think I’ve been seeing the long hours, slow decline of advertising and stress-filled days and nights wondering how bills would get paid as the main focus of the business. Obviously the take away I should be embracing is the way in which we touched others around us with our editorial content and emphasis on all things local.
At the very least, the way the Rotary Club viewed our business and chose to honour it gave me a very different perspective. One that makes me think we really did contribute something to our community while documenting its history.