Papers are in at the Homer News building on Thursday, Dec. 1 in Homer. (Photo by Charlie Menke / Homer News)

Papers are in at the Homer News building on Thursday, Dec. 1 in Homer. (Photo by Charlie Menke / Homer News)

Out of the Office: In the Office

For my last out of the office story, I am going to bring you into the office with a short description of the Homer News building: long, lakeside and overflowing with paper.

While I was only here for a passing moment, a substantial history lives within these walls and within the margins of the paper in which you are reading this.

Michael Armstrong, the editor and senior reporter here, has lived through a longer moment of the paper’s history during his 20-plus years of working here. I was the fortunate beneficiary of a few stories of some of the busier days of the newsroom, for which Michael painted a picture of ambitious young journalists buzzing on the end of telephone cords or clacking away at typewriters.

There are pictures within the office of the past generations of dedicated newspeople — faces with thick-rimmed glasses and thick beards stare at the camera, all huddled within a room packed with words, sitting on top of desks with coffee in hand or hunched over their huge cubes of computers.

My picture while working has looked quite different. Before the hiring of Callie Steinberg, our Multimedia Sales Consultant, it was just Michael and I within the building. And, even though Callie’s spirit brightened the work space and her ability bolstered the paper’s pages, after her hiring the Homer segments of the Homer News were still only written by Michael and me.

A picture of the Homer News during my occupation would reveal a big room with many desks, many unused computers, many relics of the past, and me leaned back in my chair staring at my own screen. Michael, while being only a few steps away, was stationed in his own office, which led to communication sometimes being hollered between rooms when we were glued to our seats.

The Homer News has changed. It is no secret that the landscape of contemporary journalism has shifted drastically since the inception of our local newspaper in 1964. Rather than Homerites depending solely on the pages of our paper and the voices on our radio to stay informed about the world’s happenings, everyone now has an overwhelming multitude of information available almost constantly.

However, while working here at the Homer News I began to discover the necessary value, from my perspective, that local news still has in our community and world in general.

I had little experience with journalism before taking this job. Admittedly, I had no idea what I was getting in to. The abstract blabbering of philosophy, and sometimes psychology, which I studied in school is a far cry from what I was asked to produce for this position.

What I found, besides the immense effort which it took to run the paper, were the abundance of stories to be written within Homer.

My time here was short, but I still made memories and built connections with individuals and groups of the community that were greatly influential. There are countless people within our town who are doing amazing things, leading incredible lives and whose voices ought to be heard.

Without the establishment of journalism within our community, these voices wouldn’t be heard by as many people. And what can sharing a voice do?

I can only imagine the possible impacts of a story I wrote which shared someone’s perspective or work. What if the tale of an artist living with disabilities was enough to inspire someone else to take up art? What if the dissemination of Homer City Council matters allowed a citizen to become informed in a way that led to some action, and thus to change?

I have wondered about what the work here at the Homer News really means. Ultimately, I think it may just be about the people who live here.

Regardless of the content, the Homer News allows the people of Homer to feel a part of Homer. It highlights the people who live in our town, how they feel and what they think, and allows participation in this collection of individuals which we call Homer.

Each story within the Homer News, whether relayed to you by me or by a reporter 40 years ago, has helped to knit together the fabric of our place. If all the stories were left in their isolation, unshared or unspoken, then we would have no community. It is only by bringing them together into a shared web that we see how close our neighbors are, or how their actions effect us, or how their feelings mirror our own.

Yes, the news, fueled by sensationalism, can seem to become a breeding ground for difference of perspective. I have read every single Letter to the Editor the past six months, and there hasn’t been one edition wherein contrasting opinions haven’t existed alongside each other.

But for all the difference that exists, a bed of commonality has been laid. The foundation from which these differences arise is our willingness to share with one another. Without the fabric of our community being sown, each individual thread would hold no special meaning, or paint any picture.

It is through local journalism, and the Homer News, that our community becomes just that: a community. Within this community we are able to become who we are, recognized for both our different and shared perspectives.

Without the backdrop of the Homer News our community would not be as unified as it is. Our stories would not be part of Homer’s interwoven narrative, but would be loose threads lying across the Southern Kenai Peninsula.

I believe it is the right time for me to move onto my next opportunity beyond the Homer News. I, as a reporter, was one of many who have served this paper in its long history. More reporters will continue to serve the paper after me.

As long as the Homer News exists, stories from the people of Homer will continue to be knit together. As long as this continues, Homer will continue to be remembered with its own narrative, its own place, within history.

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