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My 50th Column
When Emily Hesse began the WIND, I was half way around the world, serving my country in what we liked to call “the recent unpleasantness in Southeast Asia.” When I moved here for good in 1983 I had written a few things for the Wind, and for about a year I wrote a column with the same title for the Trail-Gazette, while contributing some items to the Wind. But the Trail treated me badly, I thought, so I began a regular column here, and it seems hard to believe that you’re reading my 50th presentation of my own peculiar views (hence the title of my column) of what goes on in our mountains.
In looking back, I see that while I’ve done my best not to offend anyone, if you write for public viewing, it’s a certainty that you’re going to offend someone. I once wrote a Trail column about an estate sale I went to, and I mentioned that it seemed sad to see a woman’s cookbooks, with comments in the margins, being sold off to strangers. Her daughter wrote a letter saying the woman hated to cook, and I should mind my own business.
Ordinary papers run such risks all the time, and it comes with the territory. The WIND, however, is far from an ordinary paper, has a far from ordinary staff, and it serves a far from ordinary readership. And they do care what we say about them. But, like most people, “you can say what you like about me, but spell my name right.!” Some of our most vehement complaints come from people whose names we misspell. Two people wrote us about that just last month.
People are most offended when someone writes a piece, or even a few lines, which they view as a threat to their closely held values, and sometimes those values are unusual. When that happens, they hold grudges. One lodge owner doesn’t subscribe, read, advertise, or sell it at his place because of something someone wrote more than ten years ago. I’ll bet even he can’t remember what it was, and the only person still on the staff from that period is Jack Zumwinkel, (who singlehandedly kept the WIND alive for seven years) and he didn’t write it, but the lodge owner’s still irate about it. Well, that’s the way we are up here, and what’s worse, we’re proud of it. Proud of being small minded and self-serving. Well, we have to be proud of something, I suppose.
People forget that Emily created the WIND as a journal of the life and times of the area. She didn’t create it to be anybody’s mouthpiece, though several people I know would like it to be just that. And when it doesn’t speak exactly the way they want it to, they whine and say cruel things about the people who volunteer their time to put the WIND together, rather than addressing the issues, and in general behave in small minded, self-serving and infantile ways.
They forget that the WIND is put together by people who still believe that the paper itself is more than the people who put it together, and more important, in the long run, than its current readers. It’s a journal of the life and times of the area, and that means that it’s occasionally going to offend some people, because it doesn’t serve their current, narrow, parochial interests. Too bad. The WIND has been selected to become a part of the Colorado Historical Society archives because its volunteers, past and present, have continued to chronicle the life and times of the area as honestly as they know how.
It’s true that we make mistakes. A letter that ran last month, even though it was a personal attack on one of our writers, should have been run, just as it was, the month before. We made a mistake. Our readers are smart enough to recognize an ad hominem attack when they see it, and they can reach their own conclusions about both the writer of the article and the letter writers. We decided that a month late.
We made a mistake because we’re just a bunch of volunteers who think the area deserves its own voice and its own journal of its life and times. We have teachers, both current and ex, a waitress, a maintenance worker at RMNP, homemakers, an engineer, a retired social worker, a bum (well, that’s the way he describes himself, though he’s certainly far from that) and others similarly disparate. Our Editor, Gene Mackey, can’t spell worth a darn, which is why I’m his assistant. But what Gene does more than makes up for his spelling problems; he sees to it that the WIND comes out every month, and that it continues its tradition of serving the community as a whole. And the only thing he gets out of it is the satisfaction of doing his best. Even the dandy new heading for this column was done by a (sort of) volunteer; my son, Richard, whom I browbeat into doing it.
And if you think putting out the WIND every month is easy, you should try it. In fact, I invite all those who carp, gleek and fleer, including grand panjandrum presidents of useless social organizations and lodge owners with economic axes to grind who are standing on the sidelines jeering, to become an active part of the WIND. You may be less likely to criticize so quickly if you become part of the process rather than just a bystander. Surely you can spare two evenings a month for the good of the area. Become a board member. Join in the process of writing the journal of the life and times. Sure, it takes a little time, but it’s fun, useful, and you’ll be doing something more for the community than just trying to make more money than someone else in the same business. (I’ll let you know if anybody shows up.)
If you are a faithful reader, you will note that some businesses which have had advertisements in the WIND in the past are no longer with us. Jim Schaack, our beloved (volunteer) business manager says he likes to keep our advertising ($10 for a quarter page!) at about 30%. “Any more than that, people complain there’re too many ads.” He also gets irate complaints when people don’t get the WIND, or anything to do with advertising or circulation. He takes a lot of heat for just a volunteer. To his great credit, he gets few complaints, because he does such a good job. Without pay.
As for the lost advertising, well you can see for yourself that others have filled the gap. Advertising still constitutes between 20% and #30% of our pages. The WIND is going to go on blowing.
There continue to be a number of business people who believe the Wind deserves their support, even when they disagree with it. I know I speak for all the volunteers when I say that we greatly appreciate their commitment to the area, and that we will continue to try to merit their trust.
So now, having offended some folks, I hope, I’m off in search of column #51. Whatever it is, I’m sure it will affront someone. So be it. As long as it’s part of the life and times of the area, I’m going to write it anyway.
Oh, and when you write to complain, be sure to spell my name correctly.
© 1985 – 2003, David E. Steiner
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