| Sarasota Herald-Tribune
Sometimes, dear readers, you can be fun. Sometimes informative. Sometimes cantankerous. Sometimes inspiring. Sometimes plain mean. Sometimes enlightened.
But we are guilty of mercurial behavior; it’s part of being human.
Whatever your mood of the day, you and your input are always welcome at the Herald-Tribune. After all, you help keep the lights on. You populate a large swath of our opinions page. Preserving your well-being and increasing your knowledge is this business’s primary function — for some like me, it has been the primary focus of their professional life, in my case 33 years at various publications.
Every once in a while, you get a letter from someone that is, in a favorite word of our opinions editor Barbara Peters Smith, “lovely.”
This is one of those notes, from a gentleman I will call “Greg” in case some of you disagree with him. I’m confident he can take it, but I’m going to protect his privacy. I’m removing some other specific identifiers, which also saves space.
Before I share, one more bit of prologue. I wrote this at the end of May as the SpaceX rocket was launching and some of our cities were seeing massive protests.
In 1968, when the world seemed to be falling apart, people drew strength from our collective achievements, despite Vietnam, despite Cold War escalation and despite the continuing civil rights struggle in America.
Apollo 8 was the first crewed spacecraft to leave low Earth orbit and the first to reach the moon, orbit it, and return. It was the first human spaceflight from the Kennedy Space Center. The crew orbited the moon 10 times and, on Christmas Eve 1968, read the 10 first verses of Genesis: “In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters. Then God said, ‘Let there be light’; and there was light …”
I hope despite all the darkness, there will be light for all of us in 2020.
Commander Frank Borman treasured one telegram sent to the crew of Apollo 8 by a stranger who summarized many Americans’ feeling about the year and the crew.
“Thank you Apollo 8. You saved 1968.”
Let’s save 2020.
“Greg” took me up on my offer, and it worked, at least in my mind. Here it is:
In these days of our news cycle spinning at unbelievable speed and very tribal politics, I wanted to take the time to thank you & your team for the calm, articulate and thoughtful words in your personal editorials and the H-T staff articles.
I come from a career in media … and fully understand the pressure you & your team must be under. … While there are syndicated writers I lean more towards, your words in a local news organization are so comforting and your explanations are so clear it inspires me to take action (and I hope others) — from today’s piece on the importance of the Census to your editorial during the race protests in June.
Keep up the great work. As someone wise recently said, “Let’s have a dialogue, let’s fix these things. Let’s fulfill the aims of the dreamers.”
I don’t know if “Greg” meant to use the term “comforting” specifically for journalists, but it was a meaningful compliment for the crew of the Herald-Tribune.
Besides holding the powerful accountable, comforting is one of our primary jobs. We often do it by giving voices to the voiceless.
It’s serendipitous that just days ago, we announced a new partnership with the Community Foundation of Sarasota County. With the foundation’s help we just hired one of the best young minds in Florida journalism, Angela DiMichele, to tell stories about Southwest Florida’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic and to write about our related partnership, Season of Sharing.
Please welcome Angie and if you’ve a mind, share your stories with her.
If you want to help support those in need of Season of Sharing more materially, donations can be made throughout the year. Gifts can be made online at any level at cfsarasota.org/season-of-sharing or by sending a check (payable to Community Foundation of Sarasota County) to Attn: Season of Sharing, 2635 Fruitville Road, Sarasota, FL 34237. All donations are tax-deductible.
It all goes back to that journalistic mission of comfort and compassion, summed up in a phrase coined by Chicago Evening Post journalist and humorist Finley Peter Dunne: “The job of the newspaper is to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.”
Let’s all offer some additional comfort and, Greg, thanks for saving 2020 for me.
Matthew Sauer, the Herald-Tribune’s executive editor and general manager, can be reached at [email protected].