Our View: One hell of a job | TheUnion.com

Our View: One hell of a job

The departure of Editor Brian Hamilton from The Union came as a surprise.

A sports reporter, sports editor, city editor and finally editor, Brian has worked at the Grass Valley newspaper for almost 20 years.

Count them out. Regardless of what business you’re in, that’s a long time. And this business, much more than others, has a way of wearing you down, making you cynical and leeching the humanity from your bones.

But that’s not the case with Brian.

He grew misty eyed earlier this week when he broke the news to staff. Some editors race for the door when it’s their time to go, climbing the corporate ladder. Others get shown the door with a boot to their backside.

Brian told his staff he’s going to miss them. Miss working with them, talking to them, sharing an experience you’re not likely to find elsewhere.

That’s what a real leader does. They have integrity. They’re compassionate, when they need to be. Even kind.

You can liken the role of an editor to an Army commander or, maybe surprisingly, a school teacher. Their behavior sets the tone for the people they oversee. You’ll grouse about the bad ones, act indifferent toward the mediocre ones and draw inspiration from the best ones. It’s those at the top of their game, whether instilling discipline in their soldiers or wonder in their students, that will stick with you years after you and they have moved on.

Not everyone has served in the military, but most of us have had a teacher who shaped us in ways, large and small. We carry a piece of that person, and it tends to shine through when we need it most.

Brian may be leaving The Union, but there’s pieces of him in every person who works at this newspaper. Whether that’s in the shape of a returned phone call, an overly patient demeanor or the calm under pressure that only comes with experience, you’ll see Brian Hamilton in the words and actions of the people who worked for him.

But life has a way of pushing you in directions you didn’t anticipate, and sometimes you find yourself at a crossroads you didn’t know existed. A path less taken becomes an obvious choice.

And you find yourself walking in strange and new spaces.

Some people in this business worry about their legacy. How will they be remembered? Will their imprint last?

Cleaning his office this week, Brian revealed artifacts from The Union’s 150th anniversary. Readers had donated memorabilia, relics, heirlooms that had found a new home in the editor’s office. They held stories decades old.

We all do. Working in this business, you build up anecdotes and stories, storing them away in the office of your mind, until you become a walking heirloom yourself.

Each one of us has a story to tell about Brian.

Like the time he hired a recent college grad who had little work experience, and then guided that person through their first years of newspaper life. That person is grateful and thankful.

Or the reporter Brian hired from across the country who he’d never met in person — another risk he took on the paper’s behalf that, arguably, worked out.

Or when Brian created the editorial board at The Union. Many papers have an editor, or even a reporter, write editorials — the voice of the newspaper. Brian wanted a board composed of both newspaper employees and community members. The paper exists because of this community. Their voice should be represented.

Or consider the young sports reporter who moved here from Indiana. Working a late night game, he punches out a story on deadline, sweating the minutes as they speed by all too fast.

Then afterward, beers with other reporters, talking about the day and what’s to come.

One of them slaps the sports reporter on his back.

“Hell of a job, Brian,” he says. “You did one hell of a job.”

The weekly Our View editorial represents the consensus opinion of The Union Editorial Board, a group of editors and writers from The Union, as well as informed community members. Contact the board at EditBoard@TheUnion.com.

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