Market Street in Corning, N.Y., is an idyllic place to carry that community’s annual Memorial Day Parade.
A tree-lined commercial soul just a few cars wide that is framed by 19th-century brick buildings four floors high. Classic large-window storefronts anchor the sidewalks while ornate parapet caps loom some 50 feet up.
On Monday, May 29, 1989, bands, school groups and community organizations marched behind veterans of all shapes, sizes, ages and battles.
The street that has bridged Corning’s generations was, on that day, also hosting the first steps of a new man.
Standing along the street was a young lad not quite 23 years old — first day in town and first day of a new life he was about to encounter, without a clue what it would become.
That was me, and Corning was my first full-time job.
This Memorial Day weekend marks 25 years in a business that started as a job but has become a way of life — good, bad and certainly different.
And, it was completely by mistake.
I told as much to a group of Youngstown students touring The Vindy this week. Life’s worth improving every day, I said. To improve, it’s important to have a plan and a vision. But it’s even more important to abandon the plan and vision when compelling factors direct you.
The student-union center at my junior college was far from compelling. But down one of its hallways was the school newspaper. I was a paper boy as a youth, and I boasted a solid C average in English — without doing any homework, you should know.
With those credentials, I hung around that office more than I deserved. But it touched on my raw skills:
A gift of the gab, nosiness, a desire to celebrate the good and a thirst to tackle the bad.
And 25 years later, those are still my best credentials most days.
And this week, there were sprinkles of what life has been like most weeks over the past 25 years.
A staff I was part of was honored on Sunday with a Best Newspaper in the State honor, and I’ve been a proud participant of such things 10 or so times.
A news event struck a little too close to home and made for some interesting dinner chats. One tough incident in Nebraska scrambled my wife and me out of the house one early Saturday morning — she to her school for an incident; me to my newsroom to cover that incident. We got home, exhausted, 12 hours later.
Our work was able to change some minds; our work was overlooked by others.
And a young graduate sat across the desk from me with a fresh diploma in hand — eager to live my past 25 years.
It’s still not a job after all these years; it’s still a passion. But it no doubt is harder to do now than it was when I watched the Memorial Day parade in Corning.
Back then, a Yahoo was a person from our competing newspaper, and Googling was what those competitors did at us while we won our many state awards. (We were a tad full of ourselves then).
Today, Yahoo and Google, and the Internet overall, are the reasons our newspaper industry has lost half its ad revenues in the past 10 years, and effectively half our ability to do community service the way we’d like.
It’s a real scare.
It’s certainly a scare for professionals like me and great newbies like the one I interviewed this week.
But it’s scarier for the many citizens we engage.
Watching this for 25 years — no media does for a community what newspapers do. It’s not boasting. It’s fact.
A newspaper is so valued a community staple — right up there with voting, worship and charity — that billionaires such as Warren Buffett, Jeff Bezos and others have stepped in to save various U.S. newspapers.
It’s why community foundations step in to do the same.
I even like watching “CBS This Morning” news. They constantly showcase newspaper clips and headlines in their news segments.
I’m not sure what the next 25 years hold — for me, for my beloved trade and for the communities served.
We hope for the best. But last I checked, hope didn’t keep the revenues coming in.
That charming street in Corning, N.Y., where I first started my career is symbolic of investing in and finding value in what has served so many for so long.
I hope such spirit exists to preserve a media that has served me for 25 years, but has also served great American cities for hundreds of years.
Todd Franko is editor of The Vindicator. He likes emails about stories and our newspaper. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. He blogs on vindy.com. Tweet him, too, at @tfranko.