DeWayne's World - Look what we created

DeWayne Bartels

Just above here in the masthead are the words Vol. 2 No. 1. That indicates there is history where there once was none.

Those words and numbers indicate the first year of the Woodford Times has come and gone.

It is a year I would now call extremely satisfying. But, it did not start that way.

I remember like yesterday Tom Batters, the sports editor, and I leaving a meeting. It was a little over a year ago. I was in shock.

We had just been told the Peoria Times-Observer, the paper I had spent 12 years at as senior reporter and editor was closing and a new paper called the Woodford Times was going to be started.

I was going to be the editor.

I began this assignment with three decades of newspaper experience in various positions. More than 20 years of that experience was with TimesNewspapers in editorial. At one time or another I had served as editor of each of the five papers we publish.

But, in that role I had always been the caretaker, not a creator.  

Self-confidence about starting a newspaper from scratch — something I had never done — was not there.

I was bluffing my way through in the weeks leading up to this paper’s first issue.

It was a huge responsibility, frightening really, because I did not know what my readers had in the way of expectations. Pleasing you, the reader, was important to me because serving you is a highly personal thing to me. This is not just a job. It is a calling.

“Self-confidence is the first requisite to great undertakings,” Samuel Johnson said.

He is right.

I am pleased to report self-confidence came quickly through the words of my co-workers, my bosses, and most importantly, the readers I served as the first issues went into people’s hands. To all of you I owe thanks.  

It has been quite a ride.

Technically speaking, a newspaper is simply a narrative vehicle of the people and communities it serves. But, I’ve learned over the years a newspaper is so much more than that.

It is a living thing.

There has been tension and doubt on my part that, I suppose is natural in the launch of a thing that is so personal.

What I am pleased to report now is that I feel this thing called the Woodford Times has a personality. It is soft at times, and rather boisterous at other times. This newspaper, I suppose, has a quirky, unpredictable personality.

That is a compliment to you, the reader, because that personality is created not so much by me and my co-workers as by you through your photos, your phone calls, your emails, website comments and your story suggestions.

In all my years I have never experienced the participation by readers that I have seen in the past year. That is very satisfying.

On the wall of my bedroom, at the foot of my bed, is a poster made by my co-worker, Mike Mehl.

It contains every front page from the last year of the Peoria Times-Observer — a paper I loved.

I see it every night before I go to bed and I see it every morning when I get up.

I gave everything I had to that paper.

But, the Times-Observer is the past.

The Woodford Times is my present and future — a future I look forward to.  

The passing of the first year is bittersweet.

Sweet because it shows I, among others, shepherded an infant publication to an anniversary.

Yet, it is also bitter because it will never be like this again — the struggle to establish an identity.

We made it. What’s next? Tomorrow and what you contribute.