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What's next for your paper?

It takes a special person to lead a community newspaper. Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, holidays included, you are The Editor. You not only must respond to news whenever and wherever it happens. You must aggressively go out and find it, providing readers captivating stories that go far beyond merely documenting the week’s events.

Not only must you be a strong and fast writer with a great sense for what readers will find interesting. You also must mentor others — and not just reporters, either. A newspaper office is filled with people who do a thousand essential though sometimes invisible tasks — from helping advertisers grow their businesses to making sure myriad business and legal requirements are met by the paper and by other institutions in the community.

Each week is a completely new competitive challenge — for news, for advertising, for the business, and for the communities it serves. In our case, it’s three times the normal challenge. The logistics of simultaneously overseeing three separate newspapers — each serving uniquely separate readers, eagerly paying for the vast array of high quality content their paper offers — is a mindboggling complication to an already overly complex job.

Susan Berg was an outstanding managing editor in all these areas. The 21 awards she and her staff earned in this spring’s Kansas Press Association statewide contest are testament to that. The fact that some of the recent additions to the staff regard her as the only editor they have worked for who never once raised her voice is testament to her character. We are saddened but not surprised by her departure. With her husband recently having retired, she deserves an opportunity to put family first and career second.

One of the challenges our communities face is that too many people make that choice prematurely, before they have done what Susan has in service to their community — not only as a reporter, news editor and managing editor with the newspapers since 2003 but as Marion’s economic development director prior to that.

Susan will be deeply missed, by us and by the communities she was dedicated to serving. However, the staff she developed will continue the spirit she helped instill in them — a deep and profound commitment not so much to the private interests of the newspapers as it is to the civic betterment of the communities they serve.

The search for her replacement is under way. Promising candidates — both familiar faces and potential newcomers — are under consideration. But whoever replaces her won’t be just the newspaper’s editor. He or she will be the community’s editor, too.

If you have ideas or suggestions about the qualities such a person should possess, let us know. E-mail me at eric@ekmeyer.net or drop by for a chat. It may be our company, but it’s your newspaper. We want you to have a role in selecting the next steward for the leadership responsibility the position entails. It will be difficult to find as dedicated a community servant as we found in Susan, but we most definitely will try — not just for the papers’ sake, but for your sake, as well.

Meanwhile, mark July 27 on your calendar. We plan to have a farewell open house for Susan at the Marion County Record office that afternoon. She deserves as much praise and admiration as possible for a thankless job well done.

— Eric Meyer

Last modified July 17, 2011

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