Saturday, July 7 was a really tough day. When I got the news that former editor Randy Wilson had passed away, it was hard to believe. He seemed fine the day before and was pitching prospective story ideas that morning. But just like that, a pillar of the community, a devoted family man and a mentor was gone.
I don't remember that evening very well. It was a whirlwind of phone calls and emails, all while putting together a Sunday newspaper from scratch and trying to work through the grieving process myself. The only thing I remember thinking was that a whole lot was about to change.
Two months later, the interim tag has been removed from my title and I will be the managing editor of the Arizona Daily Sun going forward. By now, the whole process feels...normal, which I resent a little bit. There are frequent reminders of the hole Randy left behind -- emails from organizations that haven't yet heard the news, well wishes from a reader stopping by the building, or even his still unfilled office -- but day-to-day operations are back to the way they used to be.
Working closely with Randy for the better part of my decade at the Daily Sun taught me a lot of valuable lessons. I learned about the process of finding articles that speak to the Flagstaff experience, and when to dig in our heels on a particular story. I learned about working with a staff to bring out the best of their abilities, and why levity can help when days take their toll. And I learned how quickly things can change when you least expect them.
So for readers, what will change and what will stay the same? There are some aspects of what Randy did that we'll never be able to replace, such as his devotion to the outdoors. That's not to say we won't occasionally spotlight an interesting trail or tucked-away point of interest, but it won't be as prolific. The same is true of the editorials he crafted on a near-daily basis -- they'll be scaled back, though we're not going to abandon them completely.
The overall look of the paper will stay the same, primarily because we've been having our pages done by a regional design center for a few years now. Readers have said that there hasn't been a huge difference in what they're seeing on their doorstep each morning, and that's the goal. The only switch I've made is to feature photos of things happening around Flagstaff a bit more prominently on the front page.
Odds are good that there will be some new content for the weather page, which ideally means a return to the extra forecast information we used to have a few years ago. Making room for that might bump some long-standing columns off the page, but don't worry: staples like Around the Town, Tom Carpenter's column, Gardening Etcetera, London Zoo and several others will still have a home.
In the long term, I'd like to bring back the editorial board eventually and reinstate some version of Randy's coffee klatch with readers -- though perhaps not at 7 in the morning! I think communication and dialogue are important, and that was one of the best avenues for you to let us know what stories we could be covering or how our approach could be different. Several readers spoke about how they enjoyed their conversations in these forums, even if they disagreed with a lot of what was said.
We're going to do our best to cover everything we can in the city and Coconino County as a whole. We won't be perfect, but we'll try to be as fair and accurate as we can. We'll make mistakes along the way, and we'll miss some things. But I hope on some level that our earnest attempt to document what goes on in northern Arizona shines through.
There will be those who decry that work as fake news or say that we've been bought and paid for -- I'd love to know where that money went -- but the truth is that the notion of media bias is overrated. News organizations are like anything else, made up of a group of people who each have their own views and perspectives. No matter how impartial you try to be, those beliefs will always have some impact. But I'm not here to change anyone's mind on that; the whole goal of a newspaper is to present what happens, and let you decide.
In light of the turnover at the Daily Sun, I'm going to break tradition a bit: I'll respond to any comments or questions you might have on our website, on social media, or through email. Normally the protocol is not to post in those channels so that readers' views stand on their own, but this is a bit of an exception. If you've ever wondered something about the inner machinations of the paper, or why certain stories develop the way they do, I'll answer to the best of my ability.
We don't have a chance to say it very often, but thank you for reading, for subscribing, or for interacting with our stories -- even if it's just to rip into us. It's appreciated more than you might know.