I’m always striving to be better

Nov 2, 2015

Editor’s note: Jeremy Walter wrote this column for his readers and was able to use it for his acceptance speech after receiving the Phillips Leadership Award.


By Jeremy Waltner
News Editor | Freeman (SD) Courier

This weekend, I will have the opportunity to travel to St. Charles, MO, for the 129th annual convention of the National Newspaper Association. While there, I will be honored with the Daniel M. Phillips Leadership Award, which recognizes a journalist under the age of 40 who contributes admirably to both their industry and their community.

The award will be presented at a noon luncheon Saturday, Oct. 3.

I have been advised to offer a few remarks after receiving this honor, but all I can come up with are boring old clichés.

“I’m humbled …

“I’m honored …

“Daniel M. Phillips was a great young journalist who died too young, and I’m flattered to be recognized in his name …

“There are many deserving journalists out there …

“I’m just doing my job …”

And so on.

All of the above may be true, but somehow seem empty. What I really want to say is how grateful I am to be working in the newspaper industry and to be such a vital part of life in a small, rural community. It should come as no surprise to hear that newspapering is not just a love of mine, but a passion. The same can be said about the Freeman community.

Stacey and I could have chosen to make our lives anywhere and were admittedly tempted by all those wonderful things that twinkle in city lights—sushi bars and theaters, galleries and cultural diversity.

But the idea of small-town living, and the sense of community that goes with it (coupled with the presence of family), ultimately tipped the scales. That I have been able to further develop my passion for journalism in the time that has followed is a glorious bonus.

To say I love my work is not unique. Many can say that. 

And to say I am constantly striving to be better is also ho-hum. How many others are doing the same?

What I keep thinking about, as I consider my remarks for Saturday’s luncheon, is that I am fortunate to be part of an industry that matters to an entire cross-section of community life. We are reading material for Thursday evenings, fodder for conversation and debate, a source of information for all things Freeman, and, importantly, a historical record.

And, perhaps most importantly of all, we offer a reflection—something that says to the community, every week, “This is who you are. These are your people and your places and your moments and your times. Let’s be a community together, and let’s do it well.”

The opportunity to offer that on the pages of the Courier brings with it an enormous sense of responsibility that I am willing and eager to shoulder, because I believe it builds community and reminds us all that—you know what?—we’re good. All of us.

Looks like I’ve got my remarks for Saturday.