Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Thank you for your support, please continue to support your local newspaper

You’ve heard of the expression, “It takes a village to raise a child.” Well, I like to think that it takes a village to put out a newspaper. For the past five-and-a-half years, I have truly felt like a “caretaker” of this newspaper. I have taken the approach that the Kuna Melba News “belongs” to its citizens, and I have been here to simply organize the information we receive. Every week, the Kuna Melba News receives more submitted items than anywhere else I’ve ever worked and just about any other newspaper I’ve read. Every week, we are chock full of stories, letters, photos that our readers have sent in. I consider it a great honor that people still want to be in the newspaper in this day and age of Facebook and Twitter. This being my final Editor’s Notebook as editor of the Kuna Melba News, I would like to use it to thank the people who make this newspaper possible. First, I thank our advertisers. They shell out their hard-earned cash every month to have an ad in this newspaper. It’s that money that keeps this newspaper running and publishing every week. I know that many, many of our advertisers truly believe that advertising in the Kuna Melba News helps their business, that it gets their message in front of the people who really matter the most. But I fully accept and appreciate the fact that some of our advertisers are also “supporting” the Kuna Melba News, recognizing that it’s important to have a strong and independent newspaper in their city. As citizens, you should in turn support them. Next, I’d like to thank the people who were already subscribers when we bought the Kuna Melba News on Sept. 29, 2006. You, too, felt it was important to have a strong and independent newspaper and you supported it by renewing your subscription each year. You made it possible for us to even buy the Kuna Melba News in the first place. Next, I thank the people who jumped on board just as soon as we bought the paper. Right after Nicola and I bought the paper, we sent out free sample issues of the paper to every address in the 83634 ZIP code along with a little subscription form asking people to subscribe. My goodness, it was like Christmas morning every day we went to the post office. Every week for 10 weeks, we received 10 to 20 new subscriptions. Your enthusiasm, your encouragement, your faith in us — and your checks — helped us to grow and improve the paper right off the bat. I want to thank the parents who renewed their subscription even though your son or daughter graduated from high school or their sports season was over. I know you probably started your subscription because your son or daughter was in the paper regularly either through school events or sports. But continuing your subscription afterwards showed that you found other things in the paper that were interesting, either our school board coverage or our feature stories, community calendar or news of neighbors. Whatever the reason, thank you for renewing. I want to thank the mom who stopped me at a baseball game a couple of years ago to thank me for coming out to cover a game one night. She said she recognized that she was at the game with her family but that for me, I was working and was away from my family. She thanked me for sacrificing time away from my family to cover something important to them. That was just such a nice observation and a really touching expression of gratitude. It helped bolster my spirits for many, many evening games that followed over the years. I would also like to thank public officials who subscribe to the paper. I know that there are times when I write something you don’t like or you feel that I shouldn’t be writing about a certain subject at all. One of you even called me “extreme.” But some of you keep on renewing your subscription. Thank you. I suppose the reasons for renewing are varied, but I like to think that you recognize that I try to be fair and that if I express an opinion you don’t like, I will willingly and eagerly accept your response for publication the next week. I also want to thank the coaches and parents who have sent in game results and photos over the years. Thank you for meeting me halfway. You recognized that I was at your team’s or child’s event on a Saturday morning but that I couldn’t make it to the Tuesday game because I was at a city council or a school board meeting. But you sent me the results and a photo so that we could share it with the whole community even though I couldn’t be there. In particular, thank you for sending results even when we lost. If one of our athletes scored 22 points or hit a three-run home run or ran a 96-yard touchdown, it didn’t matter whether we won or lost. It was still important to have that individual’s accomplishment in the paper. Thank you, too, to the people who have written columns in the paper on a volunteer basis: Steven Ricks, Zeke Corder, Sharon Fisher, Nancy Simper. Your contributions added so much to the paper. I know readers have enjoyed the roughly 300 Editor’s Notebooks I’ve written since October 2006, but where would we be without these other columnists? In the end, I believe a community’s newspaper is all about community. It’s the single most important element in bringing a community together — not just to agree on everything — but also to disagree, to share ideas, to learn from one another, to air grievances. I know my brand of journalism wasn’t always as flashy or sensationalistic as some of you would have liked, and I know some of you wanted me to be more of an advocate for or against certain issues. But for better or worse, I hope the Kuna Melba News has accomplished what we set out to do five-and-a-half years ago: to accurately reflect the community. My hope is that the community will continue to support the Kuna Melba News.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Moving on from the Kuna Melba News

Next week will be my final week as editor of the Kuna Melba News. I will be leaving the paper at the end of the month, after five-and-a-half years as editor. I wanted to get ahead of the rumor mill on this one. When Nicola and I sold the Kuna Melba News to RIM Publications on Dec. 1, 2011, I agreed to stay on as editor for six months to help with the transition. Those six months are up, and it’s time for me to move on. I am not being forced out or fired or quitting in disgust or disgrace. I actually heard from a couple of people that they thought that Nicola had been fired or forced out when she left the paper in February. They didn’t stop to think, though, that people who are fired or forced out don’t usually have another job lined up ready and waiting for them. No, Nicola simply found another career opportunity and was ready to move on. As for me, I will be taking the summer off, spending some time with my two favorite boys, Luke and Robert, and writing a book about my experience of buying and running a weekly newspaper. My book will be mostly personal memoir and partially commentary on the state of newspapers following what I consider a historically transformational 10-year period for our much-maligned industry. The sale of the newspaper has provided me with an incredible opportunity to pursue what I’ve always wanted to pursue, which is to write books. I will keep you posted on my progress, but you can also follow me at, where I’ll be writing regular updates about the process and my book. As for the paper, Laura Colvin, who was hired as a reporter in January, will become the editor. As you may have noticed, Laura “gets” community journalism. She writes about the Melba supplemental levy one minute and turns around and covers the Melba softball team the next. She knows just as well how to write a City Council story as she does a feature about a 70-year wedding anniversary. She’s a great feature writer, and in case you didn’t notice, she’s a heck of a lot better photographer than I’ll ever be. I leave the paper in good hands. I know the sale of the newspaper is still a bit of a mystery to some people, so I’ll do my best to dispel some of the myths and rumors. The Kuna Melba News, from day one, has been in great financial shape and continues to be in excellent financial shape. Nicola and I did not sell the paper because we “had to.” RIM made us an offer we simply found too difficult to decline. But we also felt that we had taken the paper as far as we could take it. I couldn’t cover any more meetings. I couldn’t go to any more sporting events than I was already going to. I couldn’t write any additional feature stories or investigative stories than I was already writing. Even if I could, we couldn’t add any more pages to the paper without hurting the business financially. After three years of nearly tripling our circulation, we hit a ceiling that we just couldn’t break through. It became clear that someone else would need to take the paper to the next level, just as we had done when we bought the paper in 2006. Already, RIM has improved the paper, adding pages and adding staff, providing computer equipment and software to improve efficiencies, opening a satellite office in Melba. I’m extremely proud of what Nicola and I accomplished. In terms of quality, the Kuna Melba News has far exceeded even what I imagined when we first started. I never imagined winning seven state awards and six national awards in one year alone. It’s been a good run, and I’m looking forward to watching the Kuna Melba News move to the next level.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Is the city of Kuna interested in the Old 4th Street Gym?

Is the city of Kuna interested in buying the Old 4th Street Gym? I’m only taking a stab in the dark here, but it sounds like the city might be trying to put something together to make a bid on the property. As reported previously in the Kuna Melba News, the Kuna school district is looking to offload the historic 4th Street Gym in an effort to generate revenue for an expansion of the district administrative office to include more offices and a professional-technical program. Here’s why I think the city might be considering throwing in a bid. At Tuesday’s City Council meeting, council member Rich Cardoza asked whether they were going to go into an executive session. Mayor Greg Nelson said no but he was planning on getting council members together for a work session sometime next week, perhaps Wednesday, May 23. Cardoza said that time is of the essence on this matter. Nelson responded that he understood there was a deadline of May 24 to make a decision. It just so happens that May 24 is the deadline for the school district to accept bids on the gym property. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the city were considering putting in a bid. I’ve had many residents suggest to me that the city should just “take over” the gym — which is a lot different from plunking down a few hundred thousand dollars for it. I have a few concerns, naturally. First, where would the city come up with the money for the purchase? Would the city try to pass a bond? Would the city try to squeeze it out of existing fund balances? Would the city try to create a recreation district to fund the purchase and operate the gym? Next, what would the city use the building for? Would they move city hall in there? Is it enough space to house city hall? The building is listed as 18,396 square feet, with about 10,000 square feet used up by the gym, leaving about 8,369 square feet. But is all of that usable space? How much would it cost to make all of the space usable? Further, how much would it cost to do renovations, bring it up to code, abate asbestos and lead paint, pave over the parking lot? Don’t forget curb, gutter and sidewalk. I’d like to see something done with the gym, and I’d like to see the gym itself preserved. I’m not really sure that someone from the private sector would come forward and keep the gym intact. More likely a private developer would just tear down the whole thing, so a public entity like the city might be the only solution. Before that happens, though, the city has a lot of questions to answer. Hopefully, the public will get a chance to weigh in on the matter soon.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Remembering, honoring Kuna's Dustin Curtis

Last week, I had the honor of serving on the selection committee for the second annual Dustin Curtis Memorial Scholarship. Last year was the inaugural year for the scholarship named in honor of Dustin Curtis, a standout Kuna varsity baseball catcher who was killed in a car accident near Idaho City in June 2007 just before his senior year. I was humbled to have been asked to serve on the committee last year, and I was very pleased to do it again this year. For me, the scholarship is a great way to honor the memory of Dustin, described by a friend as “an all-around good guy.” The family of Dustin Curtis and Kuna American Legion Baseball created the scholarship, which is meant to recognize young men who love the game of baseball and play with dignity and respect for their fellow teammates and competitors on and off the field, as Dustin exemplified. On a personal note, Dustin’s accident had an impact on me. At the time, I had been the owner and editor of the Kuna Melba News for just a few months. I had come to Kuna from Rochester, N.Y., where I had been the police editor for the large metro daily in that city. Rochester had about 50 homicides per year, and we would routinely have to cover fatal car accidents or acts of violence. Each time, I was the editor who would assign a reporter to go out there and find friends and family to talk about the deceased. The victim was always a stranger, and as the editor, I never came in direct contact with the friends and family affected by the tragedy. This time, though, I had covered the varsity baseball season. I watched Dustin play, watched how he interacted with the other players, shot photos of him playing. I had spoken with his coach, Brian Graves, about him. I remember talking to Brian at the end of the season about what a star Dustin was already as a junior, how much of a leader he was, his likely prospects for playing baseball in college and how promising his future was. Just a couple of weeks later, though, I would be talking to Brian again, under more somber circumstances. He related a story to me about how Dustin had stayed an hour after practice one day to take extra batting practice. He agreed to give a younger player a ride home — as long as he took extra batting practice, too. In Dustin’s last game, he went 2-for-5, drove in two, scored one run and threw out two would-be base stealers. Yet, he wanted to figure out why he didn’t get a hit his other three at-bats, Brian told me. Among the tangibles, those are the kinds of qualities and character traits I’ve been looking for when selecting the scholarship recipients. This year’s recipient will be announced before tonight’s varsity baseball game, around 4:30 p.m., at the Kuna High School baseball field. Last week’s selection committee meeting was emotional. It was also a difficult choice, as we had excellent, excellent candidates. But I am very happy with this year’s recipient. He turned in an excellent application, wrote a great essay and I think exemplifies best those intangible qualities that Dustin had. The winner will be in next week’s issue. He will receive $500 toward his post-secondary education. Last year, the committee selected two recipients, Heath Curtis, who is Dustin’s brother, and Cameron Packham. Kuna American Legion Baseball also has been talking about launching an annual baseball tournament in Dustin’s name. While that has proven to be more challenging, the good news is that Kuna has been selected to be the site of the 2012 American Legion Single A All-Star Game on July 14. The name of the event is officially being called the 2012 American Legion Dustin Curtis Memorial Single A All-Star Game. Usually this game is rotated around to different cities, but it would be fantastic if this became an annual event in Kuna. It would be great if the community came out to support this game and helped raise money for the annual Dustin Curtis Memorial Scholarship. Put it on your calendars, 5 p.m., Saturday, July 14, Kuna High School baseball field. It’s a great way to remember a great kid.