Six weeks short of 20 years ago, with Joel Klaassen as publisher, and this writer as editor, the Hillsboro Free Press made its unconventional debut: a newspaper with no subscription fee and delivered every week to each home in Marion County, funded largely by ads and insert revenue.
When our premiere issue debuted Aug. 12, 1998, we announced our editorial goals and aspirations up front. We aimed for:
◼ Content that is relevant to personal and community needs.
◼ Writing that is clear, concise and lively.
◼ Reporting that is thorough, fair and accurate.
◼ Feature articles that are informative and entertaining.
◼ Commentary that is relevant and incisive.
◼ Design and graphics that enhance readability and impact.
◼ A forum for feedback and dialogue.
◼ Courteous consideration regarding concern and criticism.
Those goals never changed, but through the years the newspaper has evolved in format and appearance. It has been my honor to steer the editorial ship through thick and thin. I gratefully credit our talented staff members, both previous and current contributors, who have served our mission so well, week after week.
In 2014, Joel sold his majority share of the business to Joey and Lindsey Young, who are leading the Free Press into a new era of service and impact. Joel has continued in the role of book creator.
Now, four years later, the time has come for my own transition. This will be my last issue as your Free Press editor. As of July 1, I will begin a new adventure as director of communications at Tabor College, my alma mater.
About a month ago, out of the blue, Tabor approached me about the open position. Until that moment, I had assumed I would remain with the Free Press until I reached retirement.
In the course of that initial conversation, Tabor leaders convinced me I might have something to contribute to Tabor’s mission at this stage of my career. Given my ties with Tabor, and my desire to give something back to the college, I determined this opportunity was what I needed after a long run of 983 consecutive issues.
Be assured, leaving the Free Press will be sweet sorrow. My coworkers have become my second family. Our roster of part-time writers and columnists has been an irreplaceable asset.
As for the “beats” I traditionally cover, the administrators and teachers in our school districts have been gracious and inspiring, our coaches have been a joy to work with as they seek success, and our relationship with city government servants has been professional and, I believe, mutually beneficial.
With the Youngs at the tiller, I’m confident the Free Press will keep moving in a positive direction with a new managing editor. Our goal has always been to encourage cooperation between communities, to build up Marion County rather than tear it down and to shine a light on the many remarkable stories about the people who are at the heart of our mission.
It’s been an honor. —DR