As a long-time journalist with more than a decade of experience, I had grown accustomed to seeing my name in the newspaper. However, seeing my photo on the front page of my newspaper was a bizarre feeling. It was Feb. 16, 2017, and I was being announced as the impending owner of the Lumina News, a joyous moment that reflected a long journey of hard work, patience and, perhaps, a little good luck.
Nearly three years later, on Oct. 31, 2019, my photo was again on the front page of my newspaper, but this bizarre feeling was anything but joyous. The announcement of my arrest in Wilmington on drug charges felt like that long journey I had set out on so was coming to an ignominious end, the result of seemingly endless months of struggles, stress, disappointment and, perhaps, a little bad luck.
On Dec. 5, I pleaded guilty to one count of possession of cocaine. As a first time offender with no prior criminal record of any kind, I qualified for a conditional discharge of the charges through North Carolina General Statute 90-96. After completion of 18 months of supervised probation, 24 hours of community service and drug classes, I can have this black mark wiped from my record.
And while I fully intend to complete those requirements, this disturbing incident will never be wiped from my memory, and perhaps that is a good thing.
Any loyal reader of this newspaper has seen its gradual decline over the past three years. Shortly before my arrest, I had been searching for help in restoring the health of the Lumia News, which has suffered from increasingly limited labor and resources. Coming out of the gate, I was fired up, but nearly three years of setbacks and disruptions has turned that fire into fatigue, and it was showing.
Just after my arrest, while facing a potential jail sentence, I was wondering if it was time to drive a stake through this dream, once and for all. And while abandoning this money pit of a project may be prudent, it’s not happening just yet. The same thing that inspired me to take on this challenge to begin with is the same thing that helped prop me up in those bleak first few days after the arrest. It was the same thing I wrote about shortly before Hurricane Florence: the people of Wrightsville Beach.
One by one, I heard from some of the many people I had met along this journey, there to offer support, encouragement or just a kind word. They ranged from business owners to politicians to members of the garden club. I was even visited by an officer from the Wrightsville Beach Police Department, checking to see how I was holding up. Each and every one of them warmed my aching heart, and together, they helped inspire me to soldier on and continue my work on the newspaper.
However, if I am to continue, I need to make some changes that can help halt the decline and start the process towards growth.
In the first step, I’m working to bring in a partner. Some may have noticed increased contributions from Sherri Robinson, who has over the past few years has worked as a community journalist in other local publications. She will have an expanded role at Lumina News and we will have more to announce about that in the near future.
Another step will be an effort to create a community advisory board of some sort. While this ideal still requires some details, my thought is it would be a board of locals who are interested in supporting local community journalism and would meet regularly with Lumina News staff to consider ways to improve the newspaper. Their contributions would range from input on what type of stories to cover to helping to find new sources of revenue. Members of this informal board would have an opportunity to learn a lot about the practices and business of journalism, having an impact on the local community.
Members of this board should believe, like I do, that it is vital for Wrightsville Beach to retain its local newspaper.
Over the course of the next few weeks, I’ll have more to announce about these ideas, and perhaps have some new ideas to present. If keeping a local newspaper in Wrightsville Beach alive is important to you, then I would encourage you to follow these developments. Or feel free to reach out and share your ideas to me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or at (910) 719-9180.
Until then, thank you again Wrightsville Beach, for all you have done for me. This journey isn’t over yet and I’m excited to see what will happen next.