The year is more than halfway over, and it’s a good time to reflect.
It’s been a whirlwind seven months for me as editor of The Eagle and The Avenue News. Originally from Texas, I came to The Eagle after years in policy and advocacy in D.C., and some time as an investigative reporter at a daily in upstate New York.
I thought being in Baltimore would be much like living in D.C., or Houston, or New York City or Austin — all places I’ve lived. But it’s my upbringing in the sleepy town of Waco, Texas that has really helped me begin to thrive in Dundalk and Eastern Baltimore County. People here remind me so much of people from my hometown. That’s terrific, but has its downsides.
When I’m in Baltimore or D.C. with friends and family, I get made fun of for working in Dundalk. These words are primarily directed at the insular nature of the place and the lasting Dundalk stigma. I grew in up in Waco during and after the Branch Davidian standoff. I’m used to people making fun of my town.
But when I’m in Dundalk, I hear constant negativity about the city and its residents. These words are primarily directed at people of color and/or lower socio-economic status.
It’s sad, on both accounts. And, I’ve found — it’s not true.
I’ve been yelled at and threatened for being “racist against white people” in my office in the middle of historic Dundalk, and I’ve recently had to ask people to take their racially-charged conversations in my building elsewhere.
I want you to renew your subscription, place your ads, chat with me and whoever else is there (90 percent of the time, it’s just me). I want you to bring me your letters to the editor, your Eaglet contests, your obituaries and wedding announcements. I love hearing about you and from you, and — because I man the office as well as edit two newspapers and do some reporting — I’m especially glad when you come to me.
I will usually make time to listen to the community gossip you think is newsworthy, but I’m beyond done hearing poisonous words about groups of people. If you’re about to say something to me about any group of people, do the Mr. Rogers litmus test.
Would Mr. Rogers say that? If not, please reexamine. We rise by lifting others.
I do my absolute best as a representative of this community to help it forge a positive identity. It’s all of our jobs to make a good place better. Complaints are often warranted. Opinions are encouraged! Good natured jokes are most of what you’ll hear from The Eagle staff. We can’t help ourselves.
But, let’s all do better. That’s the Dundalk I want to see.
As you’ll read on our opinion page, this week’s letters to the editor are full of gratitude. Being thankful is the antidote to many frustrations.
Journalism, especially newspapers in the 21st century, is a fascinating field. Never have I ever been yelled at or maligned by so many near-strangers — usually readers and the occasional community leader malcontent. People tell me how to do my job while also telling me the product I produce is worthless. People tell me they refuse to pay for news, but wonder why many community papers don’t have more staff to cover what they want.
We in Dundalk, and we as journalists, hear this quite often. More than you’d think. My mentor Seth Wallace taught me that the response is and always will be this: “We appreciate reader feedback.”
But, we actually do. I’d much rather hear your complaining than hear nothing. So, I’m choosing to be grateful. I’m grateful for Jean Chriest and Carol Fogle’s recent visits. I’m grateful for being part of Paul Blitz’s Monday rounds. I’m grateful for Roy Plummer and Lee McLelland, who bring treats and flowers and tomatoes and tire gauges. I’m grateful for Lucy Frate and Irene Spatafore. I’m grateful for Vicki Young and Dawn Frazier and Amy Menzer. I’m incredibly grateful for Joe Falbo and Angel Ball. I’m grateful for Sonny, who drove me in a ‘67 Corvette in the parade. I’m grateful for Drug City and Squire’s. I’m grateful for our absolutely top-notch staff here — we are like a funky little family, and it makes every day worth it. I’m grateful for all the wonderful (and sometimes the less-than-wonderful) people who make up the greater Dundalk area.
And I hope you are, too.
We appreciate reader feedback.