A rather long goodbye

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

This week, I write my last editorial for the Cassville Democrat. Looking back at my newspaper career over the past 18 years, it's amazing to think that 936 issues of the Democrat have been published under my watch .

From the very beginnings of my association with the newspaper, I have felt a strong connection and responsibility to our readers and the community as a whole, and it's these treasured relationships that make leaving so bittersweet.

When I arrived in Cassville back in 1986, I was fresh out of college -- a new graduate of the University of Missouri School of Journalism. My degree gave me confidence to forge ahead in my chosen field, but it was my job as a small-town newspaper editor that honed my skills and fueled my passion for this profession .

Mike and I will always be indebted to Bob and Sue Mitchell, who gave us the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to purchase the Cassville Democrat in 1995 . I vividly remember our decision to buy the newspaper, and the sheer terror it initially invoked . Thanks to a husband who is a visionary risk-taker, our purchase of the newspaper gave us a business that we could nurture, grow and love.

The newspaper became part of our family. For years, the boys would come to the newspaper after school and hang out in a playroom we set up in the back of the office. It was also a common sight to see my sons trailing after me at games, festivals and other events I was covering for the paper. I'll never forget taking photos at a Cassville High School volleyball game years ago. I was intently focused on capturing the perfect shot when I heard a ruckus and realized Nick had wandered onto the court and had tripped up the player as she was about to serve the volleyball . This is just one story of many, and I know there are several of you who have more "Schlichtman boy" stories to tell.

The Democrat also gave Mike and I the opportunity to work side by side year after year. Many people have asked me how we were able to work together without killing each other, and I am always quick to explain that Mike and I make a great team. We divide and conquer -- he handles the numbers and personnel while I focus on the news product, although that line often blurs. Mike is an amazing photographer and he also has a great eye for how the newspaper should look. I still struggle with those pesky numbers, but I have learned how to make a newspaper profitable and how to manage people. We've learned from each other, and it has been an exciting ride.

As I look back on our newspaper career here in Cassville, I immediately think of all those who have worked with us and contributed to the Democrat's success over the years . We've always felt as if our staff were family . When you work each week to produce a newspaper that is a reflection of the community, it becomes a labor of love and you can't help but love the people who labor alongside you . There are too many of you to mention by name; you know who you are, and I hope you realize the important role you played in the newspaper's success .

I would be remiss if I did not mention the contributions of two very special people. The first has been with us since the beginning, and the second has become my creative partner .

Darlene Wierman is the rock that has held the Cassville Democrat together all these years. Her support and wisdom have been invaluable, and Mike and I wouldn't

have been able to operate the newspaper without her. She has been amazingly loyal to us and has survived many changes. Darlene has been my personal sounding board, and her even-keeled demeanor has helped temper my more passionate personality. She has prayed for us and stayed with us through many challenges, and Mike and I will miss her wise counsel and friendship.

Veronica Zucca has made her mark on the newspaper from the day she joined the staff six years ago as a graphic designer. From the very beginning, Veronica and I have shared a design sensibility that greatly enhanced the creative process of producing a weekly newspaper. I have never before met a designer with the raw talent that Veronica possesses, and on top of that, Veronica is quick and clever, and she is open to my need to brainstorm new ideas. I have loved our collaboration over the years, and I believe our greatest shared achievement is the launch of Connection magazine. I will miss the sheer joy of watching words and images come to life in Veronica's gifted hands. She has amazing talents and I will miss her greatly.

I also want to thank the Cassville community for accepting me and embracing the changes I brought to your local newspaper . It was always my intention to create a newspaper this community could be proud of -- that reflected the very heart and soul of Cassville and Barry County. Over the years, I have chronicled the triumphs, the heartaches, the achievements and the celebrations of this great community. As I've said on numerous occasions, it brings me joy to know my byline and photo credit might be included in family scrapbooks.

My goal in providing news is always to be fair, objective and accurate and never have I taken my job lightly. In fact, there have been many nights when I've lost sleep over those tough stories I've had to cover -- murders, fatal car accidents, untimely deaths, natural disasters. In each situation, I attempted to report the news while protecting the victims, and I also tried to show compassion along the way . Several of you have become friends as a result of the relationship we built during the reporting and news-gathering process.

I also value the relationships I developed with my sources over the years. I was blessed to work with a large number of community leaders who were open, honest and operated their organization or government entity with transparency and never resented the frequent phone calls and questions they received from me or my staff. They understood the role of the newspaper and respected the public's right to know. Again, I was honored to become friends with many members of local government, schools and law enforcement during my tenure at the newspaper, and I will miss those trusted relationships .

It's time to bring this final column of mine to a close, and I'm finding it extremely difficult to say goodbye to a community that has adopted me as one of their own . It has been a privilege to serve as your newspaper editor and publisher over the past 18 years. As I embark on my next newspaper adventure and Mike and I begin a new life in Steamboat Springs, Colo., I would ask you to keep us in your thoughts and prayers. And I know when we return to visit, we'll feel as if we're coming home -- the strength of the ties linking us to Cassville will never be broken .

Lisa Schlichtman