By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Editors have an important but often thankless job
Placeholder Image
While the salary of a small city newspaper editor may not be considered exceptional, I feel blessed to have the job I do. I've met some amazing people, reported some amazing stories and have been allowed an unfettered expression of opinions.

The problem is that this job can make you an enemy to some. Sure, while some readers are fans, I understand that an editor can upset people - many of whom will never meet him - but it comes with the territory of publishing news.

Oh, they won't tell you to your face, usually. At times I hear a comment from someone that "my friend hates you," prompting me to ask why and find out it's because they don't like my opinions. I guess anyone in the public eye can garner someone's angst and ire for any and all reasons. Oprah Winfrey has people who dislike her for politics, but I'm sure that she's a lovely person. One gentleman whom I recently interviewed informed me, "My daughters are pretty upset at you." Oh yeah? I asked. Apparently I didn't publish something they wrote about him turning 80 several years ago. Truthfully, I didn't remember the item they submitted nor was I sure that I received it. But alas, perception is reality and they disliked me because I didn't do something they expected me to.

But I tell myself it's one thing to be hated by those who know you than to be hated by those who think they know you.

At times how you cover a story will garner enemies. But we're not here to make friends but report the news. There are the occasional snorting bulls at the counter demanding to know what gives me the right to publish their names as being arrested. I ask them to read the First Amendment. They usually respond to "what's that?"

Weeks ago I handled the rantings of a woman who was ready to reach through the phone cord and rip my head off because I edited her loved one's obituary. I took time to explain that we provide free obituaries as a courtesy - deaths are also news - but that we also edit them as any story. Some would have emulate the Bee's policy of letting the survivors write obituaries - they charge for them - even though most have no clue about newspaper writing styles, grammar, punctuation, capitalization, spelling or that a pet is not a legitimate survivor. Madder than a wet hen, this woman informed me that my standards were "too high" for Ceres. (While I don't believe that's the case, I accept that as a compliment.) She eventually hung up on me after I suggested we'd run her copy as is if she paid for it.

Mine is certainly not a physically dangerous job, although there have been times when I was directly in harm's way. During a wind storm years ago I took my camera to Keyes where a tree fell across Maud Street, only to watch the tree next to it falling my way. A few times I've been witness to police with guns drawn, not knowing if I'd be in the line of fire. I've also breathed the toxic fumes of countless car and house fires. On one raucous occasion I was between emergency personnel and an angry mob who was upset that officers opened fire and mortally wounded parolee Ronnie Dale Cadwell. I recall one man was begging officers to shoot him.

I'd consider the worst part of my job is seeing tragedy upclose and personal. Seeing frantic people rushing toward as their loved ones perish in a fire. Seeing young dead people in a crumpled car because they did something stupid like pass a truck on a blind curve. Those mental pictures never go away.

No wonder journalists become cynical as part of the filtering process our minds need to engage in. We have to discriminate between what's news and what's not. We have to report the news without crossing the line. I watched one paper cross the line once when the Ceres Independent - a fledgling rival newspaper started by ex Courier employees hell-bent on driving my paper out of business in the late 1980s - made the tasteless error of running a huge photo of Stanislaus County Coroner William Ernoehazy holding the skull of a decayed human who proved to be a well-known Ceres man who disappeared a year prior. I refrained from running a similar photo which I shot. The outcry against them contributed to the demise of the Independent.

The job is not one for wimps, that's for sure. There's long hours and endless meetings and demands, not to mention wading knee-deep in e-mails. Criticism is long and praise sparse. In the end, your work ends up in scrapbooks or for wrapping fish or lining bird cages. But we'd like to think that you are more educated and smarter for what we do, that we cause you to think and that in some rare unknown cases, what you learn could save your life, the life of your loved ones and your property.

How do you feel? Let Jeff by e-mailing him at