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Column — Reflections on a difficult 2020

Everyone comes out of 2020 with a story.

Here at The Farmville Herald, it has been our privilege to help tell some of those stories this year.

When the pandemic hit in March and the world began this tightrope walk between public safety and economic viability, we realized we were writing history. Those who come behind us will look back at our pages and our website to see how the Farmville area handled the pressures of a pandemic combined with social unrest in a pivotal election year. We are certainly living in interesting times.

In looking back through the newspaper pages to find images best representing 2020 this past week, I was surprised at how much has happened in this year filled with news. As a newspaper, we have been on a treadmill, running as fast as we can since mid-March without much time to take a look back at the results of our work.

The few hours I took to look in the rearview mirror of 2020 left me with a tremendous sense of pride of what the staff here has accomplished.

Every business has a backstory about how they changed operations to keep their employees safe and continue getting the work done. Our story is not unique to others, but it was no less challenging.

Our news staff has not been in the same room together since Thursday, March 12. We have been successfully working outside the office since then with a daily video meeting, lots of texts, calls and online chats. It has been different but has also helped keep us isolated and safe. In just a few hours, we devised a new workflow to edit stories, read pages and plan stories.

Knocking on lots of wood here, but no one on the staff has tested positive for COVID-19. Publisher Betty Ramsey has taken a lot of steps to keep us safe and allowed us to work whereever we feel comfortable. For all of that, I am extremely thankful.

In looking through the pages of this past year, I also saw lots of growth as storytellers and photographers. Titus Mohler, Alexa Massey and Crystal Vandegrift have done a tremendous job under conditions news teams have not faced before. I am very proud of the way they have responded as a team.

Our director of operations, Staci Bridge, is a name readers don’t see a lot, but her contributions are no less important. She has the most community knowledge of anyone on the team and helps our newspaper look stylistically good every edition.

Our ad team also deserves some recognition for performing at a high level in one of the more difficult economies since the Great Depression. Jackie Newman, Debbie Evans and Buckie Fore have sold a lot of ads and given the editorial team plenty of pages to write our stories. Regina Caraway’s wonderful smile greeted our customers from more of a distance this year in our office. Two people who have been unable to take their work home are our pressmen, Jeff Thomas and Andy Bridge. They have kept the pages rolling out on time every time.

We are by no means perfect, and we have much more improvement to make in 2021, but it has been a great pleasure to be a part of this team in a very difficult 2020.

I am looking forward to seeing what we can do together in 2021.

If you have any suggestions or story ideas for us, feel free to email me at Roger.Watson@FarmvilleHerald.com or give me a call at (434) 808-0622. It’s always helpful to get feedback from our readers.

Happy New Year everyone.

ROGER WATSON is editor of The Farmville Herald and Farmville Newsmedia LLC. His email address is Roger.Watson@FarmvilleHerald.com.