Appreciation, gratitude – and fewer regrets

Robert Galbreath photo Sublette Examiner and Pinedale Roundup reporter Joy Ufford received the American Legion’s Freedom of the Press Award from Michael Edison, American Legion Post No. 47 commander and U.S. Army, at the PHS Veterans Day ceremony on Nov. 11.

Sometimes small things sent out into the universe end up with much more meaning than perhaps the original senders intended.

My reporting work lately seems to focus on local changes, often apparently “small” decisions that I view with a long lens. That puts my beloved home territory of Hoback Basin unerringly on the road to annexation as a colony of Jackson. These follow the same routes I watched evolve and explode in Jackson, Wilson and even Teton Valley. But I digress (and I just saw Dan Bailey’s full-page ad).

Those thoughts aren’t meant to critique issues I write about but more on the fact that I am a lifelong small-town reporter with a lot to balance. Trying to keep readers informed about the coming public meetings, hearings and quirks of this Sublette County, where every long meeting means another long article.

Readers have been surprisingly tolerant as I try to explain the nuts and bolts and answer all of my own questions – plus theirs. I’ve learned very quickly at times about many topics that I really wouldn’t understand otherwise – ozone??? – until I tracked them down to the original fact, belief, policy or precedent. Some issues dog me through years of reporting for our two weekly newspapers – Upper Green livestock grazing, gray wolves, big-game migration corridors – to name several.

On Veterans Day, coworker Robert and editor Cali asked me to help him cover the special ceremonies at Pinedale High School and I thought, sure! First it was taking photos and when I arrived at the Sheppard Auditorium, recording speakers’ comments on my phone.

Okay…I did not know this occasion would put me in a position to personally make a comment.

Unexpectedly called up on stage to accept the American Legion’s Freedom of the Press Award, I was shocked.  My gratitude and appreciation that day were for the veterans, who have given so much so small-town reporters like me write what we think needs to be written. Cali and Robert supported this honor by posting it in both the Roundup and Examiner.

Readers and friends reacted with kindness and appreciation for my being called a “watchdog.”

Every time someone congratulates me and thanks me, I feel less like a “small-town reporter” and more like a real journalist who writes, reports and photographs my community.

I enjoy bragging about my fellow UW journalism students and fellow Jackson reporters from long ago, and to me, their very prestigious jobs. Chad Baldwin, head of UW communications; Brandon Loomis, senior environmental write for Arizona Republic; Craig Welch, environmental reporter at National Geographic with books to his credit; Janet Montgomery, re-elected 9th District Clerk of Court.

Today, I received a nice email from one Examiner reporter I hired years ago, fresh out of his Minnesota college, Andrew Setterholm. He gave away his inexperience then when he asked me, “Uh. What exactly is a ‘fluff piece?’”

He/him is now senior communication specialist at THE Mayo Clinic.

Yes, I dreamed of moving up any number of ladders anywhere in the world like they did.

But here I remain. still working at this underpaid and overworked office as long as I can ask questions that might matter.

Each person’s kindness and congratulations for the American Legion’s Freedom of the Press Award tells me I might be doing a good job here and now. My gratitude and humility  – and my sense of responsibility – deepen by the day.

More In Agriculture