Caleb Michael Smith mug

Caleb Michael Smith

Sometimes when you arrive at a popular restaurant and the server is busy, the standard introductions may get skipped as the worker focuses on what’s most important – getting the people what they want. When the server realizes this courtesy was skipped, an awkward transition is required to double back to the overlooked exchange.

Similar motivations are why I’m only now saying, “Hello. My name is Caleb, and I’ll be your editor today.”

I took over the top news position the same week we switched to twice-a-week publication. I’d been out on vacation, and one of the first things I did was write a note on the board that faces my desk stating: “‘There are more stories to tell.”

That fundamental remains true even as we adjust to new deadlines, new expectations and new ways to deliver updates through our print and online platforms. My notebooks are overflowing with tips, ideas, and story details, but the story I’m focusing on right now is my own.

I flew into the Rock Springs/Sweetwater County Airport on a one-way ticket on Jan. 2, 2006. I arrived with two degrees, two suitcases, a backpack, an insulated trench coat grandma bought me, and nearly three dozen books. The next day I began working as a copy editor for the Rocket-Miner. Every day since has allowed me to learn more about the community and myself.

Since then I’ve watched many talented people come and go – in the newsroom and southwest Wyoming. I’ve strived to learn something from every reporter, photographer, editor, manager and publisher that I’ve worked with. These lessons include not hesitating to consult a dictionary, keeping a spare pair of clothes in the office, persevering to get the right shot, picking editorial battles wisely, and recognizing how a dance break can reduce stress.

I frequently cite the Zen-like mantra of my first boss at the Rocket-Miner: “We will put out the paper with whatever people are here and whatever equipment is working and whatever news we can find.” I laughed when I first heard her share this principle, but it’s a healthy attitude in the middle of power outages, unexpected absences and other curveballs.

Delivering the news is a team effort, and we’ve got a great team. Our dedication to telling stories hasn’t changed, even if the publication schedule and deadlines are different. We still want to hear what is going on so we can share those developments with others.

Of course, two-way communication is the only way a newspaper can be effective. The Rocket-Miner needs to be listening, and the public needs to keep us focused. Our transition has created many possibilities, and we’re excited about the ideas that we’re pursing, but tapping the knowledge and expertise of the public will help us do more.

We want our readers to see and learn something new every time they pick up the paper or visit rocketminer.com. It is our goal to bring vital news to the attention to the public along with stories that will make you laugh, cry and think. To do that, we need the public’s assistance to keep us informed and on track.

In addition to more color on the pages, our last few editions have had an increased focus on Wyoming and our corner of the state. We’ve also expanded our online presence. Our Facebook followers are seeing more posts, slideshows and videos at www.facebook.com/rocketminernewspaper, and you can also find us on Instagram @rs_rocketminer.

We’ve done a lot in a short amount of time, and this is only the beginning.

In this time of transition, we want to give our thanks to the readers who have stuck with us as we enter a new era. We want to know what you think about our changes and how you want us to continue. Consider this a personal invitation to call, write, fax, email, or drop by to share your thoughts.

When we do receive feedback, it normally focuses on what people don’t like. People seem to get more vocal about the negative things they see than the positive observations. That’s why we pay extra attention when kind, uplifting words are shared.

The other day, a person calling about a letter to the editor concluded by saying, “Thanks for being the paper.” Thinking back through the thousands of calls I’ve received, I can’t recall of anyone who ever put it like that before.

The staff at the Rocket-Miner doesn’t always get the credit for the work required to capture a breathtaking photo, make sure a birthday ad will make grandma smile, get answers from a reluctant official, or make sure delivery resumes after a subscriber’s vacation concludes. We do 100 things in a day to get the paper out, and then start working on the next edition even before the current one is delivered or posted.

Listening to the woman on the end of the line sharing thanks like that, it felt like she was acknowledging all of the tiny, unseen acts that go into producing the newspaper. It was a humbling, invigorating moment.

We at the Rocket are still working to “be the paper.” This calling requires lots of work, but it comes with lots of rewards. Stick with us, and you can share in those rewards. All you have to do is keep communicating and keep reading.

Caleb Michael Smith is the editor at the Rocket-Miner. He can be reached at editor@rocketminer.com.

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