Ladies and gentlemen, as you read this column today I am no longer an employee of The McPherson Sentinel. I have left the busy little city of McPherson to return to academia and, beginning Aug. 6, will be studying communication arts at Wichita State University in pursuit of my master’s degree.
Actually, I left Tuesday, but I couldn’t pass up this opportunity to climb up on top of my soapbox one last time and share with you, dear reader, one last reflection.
During my one-year stay at The Sentinel I covered a diverse range of events and topics while roving to and from nearly every town in the county. I reported on the three-lane controversy, the proposed closing of rural post offices, the Main event’s Sluggish start, the Main Event’s subsequent success, the Rails-to-Trails project, the local budget, the federal budget, voter ID, proposed local sales taxes and some 200 other matters I can’t remember right now. Additionally, I managed, for most of my time here, our opinions page, wrote a handful of editorials that fired people up and produced a weekly column that I hope was decent enough to command your attention more often than not.
All along the way I came into contact with a host of individuals who broadened my perspective, expanding my understanding not only of the people of McPherson but of the larger world. I attended my first All Schools Day parade and spent an afternoon with a trio of carnies that taught me that their occupation might define their lifestyle, but that it doesn’t dictate their character. I met a tiny mixed martial artist who showed me that small women with clenched fists can clobber big men and, furthermore, that those small women can be some of the kindest and most sincere people you’ll meet.
Perhaps the most striking lesson of all was the complexity of local government and the fact that good, caring people have to make unpopular decisions in an unforgiving environment. I learned that McPherson’s caretakers are, by and large, people who felt compelled to represent the city’s best interests on behalf of a populous that often doesn’t care that there is never, ever a clear-cut solution to any serious issue.
Like those civil servants, I have done my best to be a steward of McPherson, though in a different way: By keeping the local government honest while presenting readers with the information they need but don’t always want. I have done my absolute best to report honestly and fairly, to never neglect accuracy to sell a newspaper and to always set aside my own opinions in the pursuit of professional objectivity — except in my columns, that is.
Whether or not I have stood up to these standards is, undoubtedly, up to the reader to decide. If I have failed, I apologize.
But if I have not failed, if I have managed to come anywhere close to fulfilling those criteria by which a true journalist is determined, I hope that I can leave you with one final lesson of my own. Know that no matter what your neighbor, your preacher, your city leader or those pesky self-loathing journalists may tell you, there are agents in the media who still today strive produce quality news coverage.
Also know that, in my opinion, The Sentinel is staffed by a crew every bit as committed to reporting the news as it should be — clearly, accurately and comprehensively.
In conclusion, I thank you, dear reader, for that which you have shared with me over the past year, and I sincerely hope that what I have shared with you both informed and enriched your life.
Ken Ward is a staff writer for The Sentinel. Reach him by phone at 620-241-2422 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.