David Bowie once advised a generation of music lovers to embrace ch-ch-ch-ch-changes by turning to face the strange.
And that’s what we’re doing here at the Hanford Sentinel.
You may have noticed a few changes here in the pages of the Sentinel — and in the world at large — over the last few weeks.
So much has been going on that it’s hard to know where to begin.
French filmmaker Jean–Luc Godard once said that “a story should have a beginning, middle and end – but not necessarily in that order.”
So, I guess we should begin in the middle.
As evidenced by the fact that you’re seeing this column on the page where editorials go, rather than its normal spot on Thursday’s entertainment page, you may have gathered that I’m now the managing editor of the Sentinel and our sister papers.
It’s an unexpected turn of events, but I’m up to the challenge of trading in my proverbial press hat for an equally proverbial editor’s desk.
This new adventure is so potentially exciting because of some of the other changes we’re experiencing behind the scenes. You may have read that The Sentinel and its sister papers, The Selma Enterprise/Kingsburg Recorder and the Lemoore Navy News were recently sold.
We’re no longer part of a large, nationwide chain. Rather than being grouped in with hundreds of newspapers spread across the United States, we’re now part of the Santa Maria News Media Inc. group — which consists of us and another news room in Santa Maria — which explains why you’ve probably seen that city mentioned here and there recently.
The direction of our newspaper is once again in local hands — OK, I live in Visalia, but I like Hanford more, so I consider myself local. And I’m sure many loyal readers and members of the community already know our newly-promoted general manager, Mark Daniel, who has been seen around the Sentinel office for decades. Our new publisher, Terri Leifeste, has already met with some folks in the community and will continue to do so, as she splits her time between offices in Hanford and Santa Maria.
The exciting part of all this is that we’ll be able to focus more on what’s important — local issues.
That being said, it’s going to be a bumpy road. Navigating from the old ownership to the new ownership will be somewhat turbulent. Aside from the obvious above-my-pay-grade things that the deal involves, there are so many everyday details that pop up in our newsroom that you wouldn’t even think to think about. Exactly how many cameras do we have — and where are the lenses? Where are the physical newspapers from 1935? Who has the Facebook password and how can we stop them from posting those celebrity birthdays that no one ever clicks on?
And those bumps in the road don’t even account for the huge sinkhole that is the coronavirus pandemic, which has left virtually everyone without a compass while out to sea (I apologize for the mixed metaphor.)
The paper will come out better for it, though.
So, while we’re tidying up and re-organizing, you may see some things disappear. Our sports coverage will be lean for a while on account of there just simply aren’t any sports to report on right now. But we’ll also be adding new features, some of which you may have already noticed, like more attention being paid to this Commentary page. One of my first jobs in journalism was as the editor for the opinion page of my school newspaper, so I’m partial to such pages. I also love that, agree or disagree, they promote discussion. And it’s those kinds of discussions that are really the heart and soul of any local newspaper. That and, of course, the “Garfield” comic.
So, what are some things you’d like to see more of in the paper? More recipes and food-centric content? Feel-good stories? Should we be covering the local music scene more in-depth? We’ve been digging through the vaults to find classic features to bring back, as well. Longtime readers may recall “Only in Kings County,” a front-page Tweet-sized observation on something that could only be found in here, in our backyard. Who’d like to see that make a comeback? Or any other features from yesteryear?
On that note, is there a topic you’re a bit of a local expert on that you’d like to share with our readers? We’re always looking for community columnists to run in our pages. We can only pay peanuts — literally — but if you’re interested in writing a regular column about local art, politics, sports, business, nightlife, history or anything at all, pitch us your idea and let me know — shelled or unshelled.
I look forward to hearing from you and I hope you’re as excited for this next chapter in the Sentinel’s story as I am.