Source: Lake Geneva Regional News

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Why I decided to become editor

by John Halverson

April 26, 2012

For years I told people I never wanted to go to another parade because I'd covered so many.

For 20 years after college, I covered parades or their equivalent — city happenings, kids at school, politics, police and courts, even sports. I was a reporter at a daily, editor of a weekly and a daily and a columnist and associate editor of the Janesville Gazette.

When I was promoted to general manager at a different newspaper 20 years ago, I pretty much left that life behind. I made a few more bucks and had time to attend my own children's events instead of covering the events of someone else's children.

But I guess something was missing.

When Lisa Seiser left the job as editor of the Regional News two months ago, it was the end of an era. I'd known she was looking for another job, another opportunity, for months and repeatedly told her I didn't want her to leave. I threatened her by saying I was going to give her a bad recommendation. She called my bluff, and when her new employer called my first words were, "I was hoping this day would never come."

But I'm an optimistic sort and figured there are always new beginnings. So I dutifully advertised for a replacement. Fifty-some resumes and seven interviews later, I hadn't found one.

During that period I served as interim editor because somebody had to. Over beers with some co-workers after deadline — something I did miss from my editorial days — someone said, "Why don't you become editor?"

I don't know if that person really meant it or will live to regret those words, but it got me thinking.

Could I be both editor and general manager?

I decided eventually that I could — or at least I'd give it a try.

When I announced my decision to the staff, one person suggested that I was doing it to save money. Frankly, there's an element of truth in that. As general manager, I'm responsible for the bottom line, but I also told him we'd fill any manpower holes in with another reporter or freelancers. My plan wasn't to weaken the paper, but to strengthen it. In fact, I announced to the news department that I wanted the Regional News to be the best paper of its size in the country.

But I was incredulous at his comment for another reason. He couldn't quite believe that I was mainly doing it for the love of the game.

Covering news, doing features, taking pictures was something I'd put aside, but at soon as I got back into it I wanted more.

I covered Lake Geneva's annual Easter Egg hunt, a visiting politician and a departing minister. I wrote about the Hummel project, and shot photos of a high school play practice. And, as I write this, I've just come back from an event that awarded area high school students for their generosity of time and spirit.

Yes, there was a time when I was tired of that. I'm sure I thought more than once it was small-town humdrum and hokum.

But I no longer feel that way.

There's something about chronicling the city you live in, the city you love, a city newsy enough for controversy but small enough to get your head around.

And maybe it takes a few years to fully appreciate where you've come from and what you've had and to not throw such an opportunity away.

That curious co-worker could ask my girlfriend for my true feelings.

"You're like a kid again!" she says.

Rest assured, next time a parade passes by the Regional News, I'll see it with new eyes and hope I can make readers see it the same way.