The last line of defense

By Cali O'Hare, managing editor,
Posted 2/14/24

I’ve never seen our newsroom empty. It makes me physically sick. Click in to continue reading.

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The last line of defense


Ask any journalist and theyll likely admit that the newsroom feels like home. We spend so much time within these four walls. Early mornings blend into late nights and spill into weekends of reading, writing, proofing, interviewing, editing words and editing photos — creating something that were proud of and that you can be proud of too. We sign off on our work with our bylines so you can hold us accountable for what we produce. It’s where the magic happens. Our colleagues become our family because we spend more time with each other than not. Newsrooms have a rhythm and a pulse that’s palpable. It’s the place where great minds come together to ask questions and demand answers on behalf of the citizens we serve.

As I sit at my desk writing this, the newsroom is dark. I didnt bother to turn on the fluorescent lights above me; I never do when I come in. Joy or Robert, whichever one of them arrived next, would ask me, Can I turn these on?”

Of course,” I would say, even though I hate fluorescent lights. Ill endure a lot of things I hate for the people I love, the least of which is tolerating energy-zapping overhead lighting. 

But neither Joy nor Robert are coming in today. No one is coming to turn on the lights and no one is coming to put out this newspaper. Their desks are empty — Robert’s since Nov. 8 and Joy’s since Feb. 9, two days after we learned that corporate was implementing another round of “severe budget cuts” and that there was no saving her job this time. (I offered her mine but she wouldn’t take it.) Their desks are cleaned off and cleaned out. The corkboard directly behind Joy’s desk once overflowed with pinned “thank you’s” and other mementos is now nothing more than faded outlines and lonely pushpins. My favorite part of Joy’s corner in the newsroom was all of her notebooks, cascading from the mountain atop her desk and onto the floor beneath it, a testament to the decades of her life she dedicated to journalism and Sublette County forever preserved in pen and paper.

I’ve never seen our newsroom empty. It makes me physically sick.

If you had asked me 580 days ago, I would have told you I had everything I’d ever wanted. When the managing editor position was listed on, I jumped at the opportunity to apply because of my family ties here and my love for this community. My partner of 10 years was born and raised in Sublette County. His parents, siblings and nephews all still live here. He was on the front page of the March 24, 2005, Pinedale Roundup when he was named Rookie of the Year for the Pinedale Volunteer Fire Department.

Just like all of you, I look back at old editions of the Pinedale Roundup with great fondness. For 120 years this publication has chronicled the history of an incredible place and the people who have made it so. I’d followed Joy’s work for years from my news desk in Carbon County, knowing full well every time I saw one of her bylines I would be in for a real news story. I want to say for the record how much I admire Joy, her institutional knowledge and her journalistic integrity. She has dedicated her life’s work to seeking and reporting the truth for no other incentive except the satisfaction of having done what is right for the community.

Someone asked me if Joy had “done something wrong” that precipitated corporate eliminating her and her position. Before I could answer, they added, “You know she has some folks who don’t like her.”

I laughed and said, “I’ve been a journalist for 15 years now and if I had a dollar for every person who wasn’t my fan because I wrote a critical story about them or something they were involved with, I wouldn’t need this job. It’s the nature of our work. We ask tough questions and then we question the answers. It’s not personal. It’s literally what makes us good at what we do.”

A mentor of mine, the late Jim Angell, would always say, “Journalism is the last line of defense between democracy and idiocracy.”

I can hear his words ringing in my ears as I consider the answers to questions I’ve been peppered with since the news broke. Does News Media Corporation want to close the local paper? Will I quit? Am I next? Will Sublette County become a news desert? How am I going to cover everything? Is this the beginning of the end for one of the best small weekly newspapers in the state?

I am so grateful to stand on the shoulders of some of the best journalists in Wyoming because I will need to call upon their wisdom as I navigate the coming days.

I’m grateful to have been part of this beautiful team with Joy and Robert and ad rep Cortney, designer Sue and office manager Eunice for as long as we were together and I’m grateful that our relationships go much deeper than the office we met in. I’m grateful for the community members who have reached out and asked how they could help, volunteered to cover something or sent photos. I’m grateful for our readers and subscribers and advertisers who support what we do and realize how hard we’ve tried to foster community journalism in this place we all call home.

I don’t have all the answers yet — I’m still reeling, frankly.

One thing I can tell you for sure is that I intend to keep the promise I made to you in July 2022, even as I stand here brokenhearted and overwhelmed in the face of the unfathomable.

I’ll give you all I’ve got for as long as I can because you deserve nothing less.