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Twitter-free and free at last

After moving back to Michigan after a 20-year hiatus, it didn’t take but a few months to realize how much I missed this great state.

It goes far beyond the geographical beauty of Northeast Michigan. It is centered on the people who have called this place home much longer than me. You have welcomed me with open arms, shown new and existing residents the meaning of friendship, and appreciated the summer visitors with open hospitality. The management and staff at The Alpena News are amazing, practicing quality journalism day after day and exceeding their fundamental First Amendment responsibility to inform citizens.

Retirement brought me back. I chose the Hubbard Lake area as my new home, and took full advantage of this area last week when my son and his family from Washington, D.C., joined me and my daughter’s family from Ossineke for a full week of adventure on Hubbard Lake, culminating with the christening of a new boat which we named the Jo-llie Roger, after my late wife, Josie, and departed grandson, Ollie.

Family is everything as, we all know, and, for sure, I didn’t want anything to detract from the time I spent with them. That included going “tweet-free” for the week. With the exception of posting our ridiculous boat-christening photo of the entire gang adorned in pirate garb, I was free of social media and the obsession the national media has with Twitter, specifically President Donald Trump’s Twitter feeds.

Do you know what happened? The sun came up every morning and set every night, and, for my 2 cents, there are few places better than Hubbard Lake to witness that colorful daily miracle. As a self-proclaimed political junkie, I had no withdrawal symptoms as the week progressed, no anxiety over Washington’s partisan wars we are forced to endure day after day. I not only survived the week, but also thrived by communicating with my mouth instead of a keyboard.

Folks, we rely too much on email, Facebook, Twitter, or whatever else is your choice of electronic communication. A dear friend of mine confirmed just that when he decided he would go back to handwritten letters, knowing how much it means to hold in your own hands and see with your own eyes the words of friendship carefully etched on a real piece of paper. I actually received a postcard from him just a few days ago, letting me know he was coming to visit soon.

A postcard! I can’t tell you the last time I received a postcard, message on one side, and picture on the other.

Retirement has quickly taught me a lesson I wish I would have learned long ago: Slow down, people. Enjoy the day as it unfolds, take the time to talk face-to-face, and pick up the phone and make a call instead of text, text, text.

The stress of daily life will diminish tenfold.

I am done with Twitter. I wish the media would give it up too. I can’t imaging the number of stories, news, and events that go unreported because of the wasted capital and time spent covering presidential tweets, then trying unsuccessfully to turn that into “news.” It no longer matters to me what politicians tweet or say. What matters to me now is what they do.

After a couple years living in Missouri, I have come to full appreciation of their state motto, The Show-Me State. It originated from a Missouri congressman, Willard Duncan Vandiver, in 1899, when he said, “I come from a state that raises corn and cotton and cockleburs and Democrats, and frothy eloquence neither convinces nor satisfies me. I am from Missouri. You have to show me.”

That is the message we need to send to D.C. No more “frothy eloquence.” Show me what you can do.

On a personal note, I want to welcome a fellow newspaper publisher into retirement. His name is Don Smith. He is retiring after spending his entire life in the newspaper business, beginning with a newspaper delivery route as a young boy in Hannibal, Mo.

His career took him from Missouri to Alaska, Colorado, South Dakota and Nebraska, and behind him he left a wake of great journalism and countless admirers, of which I am one.

Throughout his career, he was relentless in carrying out the mission and responsibilities of community newspapers. He was a thoughtful leader who could inspire his employees to greatness. He generously volunteered his time to better his communities. And, most of all, he followed the advice given to him early on, “… this job wasn’t about chasing dollars, it is about taking care of the community. A newspaper that takes care of its community will succeed.”

Finally, my 2 cents: The media needs a million more Don Smiths and a couple hundred people in Congress like Willard “Show Me” Vandiver, and a whole lot less “frothy eloquence.” Tell me what you think, but don’t send me a Tweet.

Greg Awtry is the former publisher of the Scottsbluff (Neb.) Star-Herald and Nebraska’s York News-Times. He is now retired and living in Hubbard Lake. Greg can be contacted at gregawtry@awtry.com.