The Very Best

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Readers — we must thank you, once again. At first glance, it looks like we cleaned up — best non-daily newspaper of the year for the 12th year running. But here’s the thing: All we did was tell your stories.

And you’ve been giving us great stories every year since 1946.

Now, Lord knows — we like prizes, especially from an outfit like the Arizona Newspaper Association. Some 53 newspapers submitted more than 1,300 entries, which were judged by out-of-state editors. As current occupants of the seats here we feel mostly relieved not to be the ones to break the Roundup’s 12-year winning streak.

But then, we have an unfair advantage: All of you. That’s especially true this year, when this whole community had its back against the wall.

We had some hard times — like lots of you. We tried to do ever more with always less — just like lots of you out there.

And don’t get us wrong, we love our Roundup family. We’re proud to bursting of everyone in the building.

But we know that we’re just the medium not the story. And we know that we’d have withered and died except our beloved readers stuck by us continuing to pay for their subscriptions when they were counting their pennies. And our advertisers stuck by us, even when they had to cut corners.

So now it seems like we’ve come through — all of us together. For that, we’re deeply grateful.

But there’s more — lots more. Did we win a top prize for a news story about the early release of prisoners from the Gila County Jail? Yeah — thanks to the county officials who returned the calls, told the truth and put things in perspective.

Did we win an award for reporting on the school district’s budget problems? Well, yes — but only because both the people agonizing about those cuts and those affected by the cuts all trusted us to tell their story. Did we win an award for writing about the impact of Blue Ridge pipeline? Technically — but that pipeline exists only because of the heroic efforts of generations of community leaders.

So we are lucky: No one else has you — the marvelous people in this community whose courage and wisdom and struggles we have been privileged to recount. Heck, look at today’s paper — the Air Force major general who wants to volunteer his time on the airport board and the folks who are raising money to replace the state’s cuts in the gifted education program.

Now, contests are funny. Evidenced by the entries we saw at the presentation. There are a lot of really good community newspapers out there. Seems like we lucked into the best newspaper award one more year. But, we’re not really stressing about next year because we know our goal — cover the best darn town in Arizona to the best of our ability and we are sure to come through once again.

Another thing we know for sure: You guys definitely get the best community award. This year. Last year. Next year. It’s a slam dunk.

A gulp of hope

So you’re sitting on the bottom of a deep pool in the East Verde, with a big boulder chained around your waist.

The funny looking guy with the air bottle periodically swims down and says: “Don’t forget to hold your breath now. Just a little longer.”

You’re thinking — next month, I’ll just grab him by the throat — we can drown together.

But suddenly, here he is — saying “Here you go, have a little air.”

You gulp greedily — eyes bugging — sweet, sweet air.

He says: “Good for you. See you next month,” and swims off jauntily. Just a little longer.

So Payson’s September financial report finally had some good news — a 14 percent jump in sales tax revenue over last year and a 30 percent jump in building permits.

Could this be it — that turnaround we’ve been praying for this whole, miserable, eye-popping, boulder-clawing time?

We think of all the suffering, all the stretching, all the hoping — the food drive behind which we all rallied, the businesses we’ve kept going, the neighbors we’ve consoled. Surely we’ve paid our dues now — surely it’s going to get better.

Maybe. We’ll see. So, don’t get all excited and use up all your oxygen. Sit quietly, keeping on, keeping on.

Channel Winston Churchill: Not the end, maybe not even the beginning of the end — but certainly the end of the beginning.

Hmm. No. No. Definitely the beginning of the end. Right? At least that.

Calm. Calm. Don’t breathe: hold.

Where is that little bugger with the next gulp of air?

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