Sawatzke: Striving for excellence in community journalism

I am equally honored and excited to introduce myself as the new managing editor of the Monticello Times newspaper.

Just writing that is kind of surreal, to be honest.

As a local kid, this is the paper I grew up reading. It’s the paper my parents grew up reading, and that my grandparents read, and were even featured in many years ago.

The majority of you that are reading this already likely know me in one fashion or another. You may know me from my 18 years spent growing up here, frequenting sporting events, Anderson Hill, JP’s (I still miss that Bourbon Street Pasta), the old and new bowling alley, and the old and new movie theaters, among many other places. You may know me from starring on the 2004-05 state basketball team (yes, now that I manage the paper I have access to the archives, so anyone who wants to argue the starring role will have to go through me to view the archives and find my minutes and points per game averages).

Or you may know me from my two years spent as a server at Beef O’ Brady’s after college.

It’s possible you know me through my parents (Brad and Kim Sawatzke) or one of my siblings (Kristy, Tom, and Laura), or one of my two grandmas that still live in town, or even one of my many aunts, uncles, and cousins that reside in Monticello. If you’re really lucky, you know me through my better half, Anna, or the light of our lives, Lily, who will be two years old next month.

It’s possible still that you know me from the last six and a half years spent as the sports editor of this newspaper. It’s time I have enjoyed greatly. It’s brought me into contact with so many incredible kids from this town, and afforded me the opportunity to share their interesting stories.

It’s also something that I’m not quite ready to give up completely. I will still be keeping a role in the sports department at the paper, contributing one to two stories weekly to the traditional two-page sports spread.

I’ll be taking on several new duties to go alongside the part-time sports coverage. Besides all of the nitty-gritty details that come with running a paper, I will be the new city council beat reporter for the paper. Just as importantly, I’ll be taking on an increased role in feature story writing.

Feature writing is a huge part of my vision for the future of this paper.

At its best, a newspaper is a product that a subscriber both needs AND wants. It’s needed to keep up-to-date on local news, on what the city council and EDA are up to, as well as the school board, and what’s new in or around town. But it’s also wanted. It’s wanted for the local stories, for the people stories, and for the sports coverage. It’s wanted because you might see a neighbor in its pages, an old friend or classmate, or somebody who is doing good, or maybe somebody looking for help. It’s wanted because it gives you something to talk about, and hopefully think about, over your morning coffee, or at the Sunday night dinner table. It’s wanted because it tells stories that not only inform you, but entertain as well.

That’s my vision, and my hope, for our paper. This paper has at many times been the standard of excellence in community journalism. We believe we have been steady and can always improve, but it is excellence that we will continue to strive for.

To achieve that, we have two goals. First, we will work hard. We will do our absolute best to stay on top of coverage that’s important to your lives, and to be fair and balanced. We will get out in the community at every opportunity, meeting new people and reuniting with old acquaintances. We will talk, and more importantly we will listen, because it is the people of this community who have great stories that need to be shared.

Which leads us to the second goal, and that is to rely on the community. To be a community newspaper, we require the participation and interest of the community. To tell the best stories, we need to find and hear the best stories. So, if you ever have a story idea, if you know of someone doing good or someone doing something newsworthy, tell us. If you have an opinion on what might make the paper more interesting to you, or even better, to the entire community, let us know. We will welcome comments and critiques as readily as we welcome praise, we just ask that it be polite and civil. Our office phone number is 763-295-3131 and our email is [email protected] My email is [email protected]

Reach out, say hi. Together let’s make this paper the standard of excellence in community journalism.