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One lone reporter to another

by Kurt Hildebrand

I’ve had a few folks, including my mother, point out the New York Times article about Evan Brandt, who is the last reporter at The Pottstown, Pa., Mercury.

The story is another in a series of pieces about what many of us in the biz refer to as “our dying medium.”

It doesn’t help a lick that Mr. Brandt bears a resemblance to Kurt Hildebrand from a few years back.

And yes, we’re essentially the last reporters working at our respective publications and we both capitalize the “The” in the publications’ names, but that’s where the similarities end.

The Pottstown paper is a 27,500, seven-day daily, closer in size to the Nevada Appeal than The R-C, which has never published more than three times a week in its 140-year history.

While The R-C is down to its lowest complement in a long time, it’s not the first time two people have put together a newspaper in Carson Valley.

When I arrived in August 1989, there was only one reporter, but we had three editors (who wrote, too, because that’s how we’ve always rolled in Gardnerville) and a photographer. By the beginning of 1990, we were up to two editions a week, three writers and a photographer and a half, in addition to the news, sports and community editors.

While those numbers varied over the years, they’re pretty similar to what I came back to when I took over as editor in 2004.

At the time, the Swift publications were in the process of adding editions, and The R-C was no exception. I was hired to take the paper daily, which would have only required two more days and an AP membership, essentially. That turned out to be too high a price.

So we stood pat, thankfully, because when the Great Recession hit we were small enough to avoid the worst of the hits.

Then came July 2, 2018, when the entire R-C news crew was laid off. I should have seen it coming, but I didn’t.

But therein lies the key difference between Mr. Brandt and I. I’ve always been management while he was a shop steward for the local newspaper guild.

These days I mostly manage myself. One of my favorite corporate cartoons was the Dilbert where one of the characters filling out a self-review described himself as “feral.”

That’s pretty close to the mark. I would love to have someone else in this newsroom, and that day will have to come, if only because like all people, I’m mortal.

Unlike some, though, I know the world doesn’t owe me anything. Baltimore Sun City Editor David Simon, who wrote the book “Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets,” once said “The newspaper won’t love you back.”

I would say that it’s not the newspaper that provides the love but the community we serve. When we lose sight of that, then maybe it’s time to recognize that it’s time to go.

I’ve had some great Julys and some bad ones over the past several years. This July I celebrated my 30th wedding anniversary. It was also the second anniversary of the aforementioned layoffs and the return of my lymphoma, which so far remains at bay.

It was the 32nd anniversary of my first and last libel lawsuit, filed by the guy who, three years later, told Ross Perot the Republicans were going to ruin his daughter’s wedding. I’d been a professional journalist for all of a month. Talk about a trial by fire.

Kurt Hildebrand is editor of The Record-Courier. In these times it’s better to email him at khildebrand@recordcourier.com than to call 775-782-5121, ext. 21