Linda Shaffer, author of Geezer World, lives in Netarts with her husband Nick and their loving canine mascot, Grover. She is a former publisher of the Headlight-Herald with more than 30 years of experience in community journalism.
There is a song, “Cold”, written by Annie Lennox in which she croons, “Dying is easy…it’s living that scares me to death.” Those words have been playing through my head lately. This is most likely because I lost a good friend whose death was a blessing for her but a source of grief for the rest of us.
I am saddest for her family and close friends who have lost a very special person in their lives. I am sad for all of us. Why? Whether you know it or not, you were a friend of LeeAnn Neal. Because you read this column.
LeeAnn was a co-founder and driving force behind the Tillamook County Pioneer, without which, this column would not exist. I was more than happy to join her in her new adventure. That was a few years back, at a time when she was hoping to get at least 1,000 readers for her fledgling online community newspaper.
Before her death, LeeAnn saw that number climb to more than10,000 people who regularly visited the Tillamook County Pioneer for their news.
Community NEWSPAPER? I’ll call it that if I want to and I don’t care who wants to argue with me. The presence of newsprint does not a newspaper make. I know this because I spent most of my life in the business of community news and I loved it because it loved me back. This is why the Pioneer worked. You loved it…it loved you back.
LeeAnn Neal and I worked together at Tillamook’s weekly newspaper, The Headlight-Herald. In those days we shared a commitment to our readers and the communities we served. She was the kind of person you wanted to have on your team because her dedication to honest reporting was her finest quality. She, along with a lot of staff members back then, had heart. You can’t ask for much more from a staff of folks who spent seven days a week working to build a newspaper which reflected their appreciation for readers.
I left the weekly business when I knew I couldn’t deal with the corporate world. I wasn’t good at it because of that damned heart. I was over my head. This made joining LeeAnn at the Tillamook County Pioneer …even in a very small way…all the sweeter. At heart she was a true community journalist headed back to where she should be.
It doesn’t matter where you live, you need a ‘center’…a touchstone, a place to belong, a place to learn about your neighbors and the things which matter to you in your life. You want to read about births, deaths, retail sales, high school football games and elementary school activities. You want to know about new businesses or services offered in your community. You want to know about local government and ways state and national government may affect your life.
Things that affect your life every day, that’s at the heart of your community.
Some journalists just seem to know how to find that heart and make it happy and full. LeeAnn Neal was one of the best I’ve known.
It’s living without her that scares me to death.