A call for help

Ryan Hoffman

When I was 20 I needed a hobby, something to do outside of college classrooms and the small pizzeria I worked at part time. More importantly I needed to choose a career.

I was a sophomore at the University of Cincinnati, and after I abandoned a degree in a medical-related field my father suggested I try working at the student newspaper. I was taking journalism classes, and he thought it could help me make a decision. I quickly learned in my classes that journalism is nothing like the debaucherous tales in the pages of a Hunter S. Thompson book, which was enough for me at the time to question the profession. I was unsure journalism was the right course. But I made my way to the basement of Swift Hall and asked for a story. I was willing to give it a try.

I soon started spending my free time, and a good amount of class time, going to and writing about robberies, fires, political rallies, university trustee meetings and other happenings on and around campus. I interviewed Congress members, police chiefs, grieving families, a university president, college coaches and the list goes on. I write this not to brag, but to set up what I’m about to say.

After working my way up at the college newspaper, completing an internship and finally graduating after five years, I took a reporting job at The Mountain Mail in Salida.

Having never traveled west of Chicago — except for a brief trip to Seattle when I was 12 — the decision was slightly more nerve wracking than when I worked up the courage to walk into the college newspaper office and ask for a story. However, both decisions were equally important. The first was a foot in the door, my introduction into the caffeine-fueled, not-so-lucrative world of journalism. The second was a life lesson in what it means to be part of a community, a lesson that college professors cannot teach you and a lesson that is hard, if not impossible, to learn in a city populated by hundreds of thousands of people.

It was not until moving halfway across the country to a city with 293,000 fewer people than the place I called home for 23 years that I learned what it means to be a reporter in a small community: the joy a parent feels when they see their child’s face in the paper; the gratitude a grandmother feels when a story spreads awareness of her sick grandson; the appreciation community members express for objective and fair coverage of contentious city politics.

The stories were important to the people I would pass every day walking around downtown, and they were important to me for that very reason: I saw these people regularly, I was part of the community.

What excited me most when this position was offered to me was the opportunity to be part of a new community, a different community. And now I’m here, and I need your help. I need you to send me your ideas, your criticisms, your stories, your photographs. What do you want to see in your newspaper?

Once things settle down, I intend to host a Saturday meet and greet similar to the one conducted shortly before my arrival. Until then email or call me, even if it is just to say hello. My email address appears in the staff box below. My personal cell phone number is (970) 685-2103. Don’t hesitate, and don’t be shy. I’ll try to do the same.

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