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Good riddance to 2020, the year of bad news

Hard though it may be for our most ardent critics to believe, we journalists take no pleasure in writing bad news.

Sure, we are satisfied by a job well done, especially when we know we’ve uncovered a wrong and our writing inspires action to correct that wrong. There may even be some thrill of the chase while we hunt that story.

But we are husbands and wives, fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters, sons and daughters who live in the towns we write about. We own homes and pay taxes in those towns, send our kids to school in those towns, and take care of aging parents in those towns. We shop at local businesses and dine out at local restaurants, go to church just down the road from your house.

So our heart aches, like yours, every time we have to write about violence in our community, about a pandemic virus sickening hundreds of our neighbors, about a local business closing, about a local government hurting for money, about political divisiveness.

We do it because it’s our duty, and we do it for our community.

Our heart aches for every victim of violence, but it aches also for the thousands of our other neighbors who want to know what’s behind that violence, what our police are doing to prevent it.

We weep for every life lost to the coronavirus, but we weep also for the thousands of our other neighbors who want to know how close the danger is creeping toward their doorstep and what they need to do to protect themselves.

We have to write those stories.

But we, like you, are ready to say good riddance to 2020, the year of bad news.

There were bright spots this year, shining silver in the gray of all that awful ink we had to give to tragedy.

Early in the pandemic, we covered the residents who decorated their windows to show solidarity with their isolating neighbors and bring hope to passersby.

We covered the army of volunteer mask-makers who churned out face masks by the thousands when personal protective equipment was in short supply.

Separate from the pandemic, this was the year Alpena and Alpena Township appeared nearest to solving the years-long court fight over water and sewer rates. And, though many residents opposed a proposed merger of the city and township fire departments, the proposal was a symbol that, though they are opponents in court, the leaders of our two largest communities can still work together.

We welcomed a new Alpena Public Schools superintendent in 2020 and a new commander at the Alpena Combat Readiness Training Center. We wrote about developer Jeff Konczak’s plan to renovate the State and Royal Knight theaters. The generosity of this community continued to shine in our pages, with recent stories on the big Giving Tuesday haul by local nonprofits and the return of the anonymous Salvation Army red kettle donor.

Though politics was as divisive as it’s ever been in 2020, the record turnout in November was a positive thing, and we wrote about that, too.

And I am so grateful to write for a paper that, pandemic or no, still made room on its front page every single day between Thanksgiving and Christmas for a story on local residents’ celebrations of the holidays.

As our heart aches, like yours, with every negative story, it beams, like yours, with every positive one.

Few headlines I’ve ever written have made me happier than the one announcing the arrival of the coronavirus vaccine in Northeast Michigan. Tom Thornton, the MidMichigan Medical Center-Alpena surgeon who was the region’s first to be vaccinated, will now forever be one of my favorite people, because he showed me and every reader there is a path out of this mess. My favorite picture to appear in The News this year was the one of Alpena Fire Chief Bill Forbush getting that shot in the arm, telling me and every reader that those who protect us are now protected.

We, like you, are hoping those stories are signs of a brighter future, that 2021 will be the year we once again get to write about Fourth of July celebrations, the Michigan Brown Trout Festival, the Posen Potato Festival, Nautical Fest in Rogers City, and the Sunrise Suds Tap Takeover beer festival.

That we can run preview stories about plays at local theaters and cover school assemblies, downtown shopping events, arts and craft shows, all of that.

We journalists did our job in 2020.

But we, like you, are ready to move on to something better.

Justin A. Hinkley can be reached at 989-358-5686 or jhinkley@thealpenanews.com. Follow him on Twitter @JustinHinkley.

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