By Martin Salazar
“To me government is not peopled by good and bad men, with rare exceptions, but by men trying, each within the limitations of his abilities and his weaknesses, to perform the roles assigned them.”
— Henry L. Trewhitt
Being a journalist in your hometown can be a mixed blessing.
You know everyone, and everyone knows you.
That’s great when you’re telling people what they want to hear. It’s not so great when you’re covering a scandal involving connected people whose roots go deep in the community.
That’s the nature of the beast.
I’ve never been one to pull my punches. At the end of the day, a newspaper’s top obligation is to its readers. It’s an obligation I take seriously.
I believe in newspapers. I believe in their power to right wrongs, to shine a light into dark places and to educate and inform their readers like no other medium can.
Good newspapers make their cities and states better places to live.
They hold the powerful accountable. They give the powerless a voice. They investigate when something doesn’t make sense. They celebrate accomplishments.
They highlight the things that make a place unique.
And they do it with integrity, admitting when they make mistakes.
I walked away from an assistant city editor job at the Albuquerque Journal, New Mexico’s largest and most influential newspaper, to become managing editor of the Optic. I made that move, in part, because I wanted to come back home.
But I also did it because I believe that small towns need good newspapers just as much as big cities.
Former managing editor David Giuliani was aggressive and worked tirelessly to get you the big stories. I hope to pick up where he left off.
So who am I?
I grew up in Los Vigiles, a small village just outside the city limits. I’m a 1993 graduate of Robertson High School, and I earned my bachelor’s degree in journalism and communication from the University of New Mexico.
Besides the Journal, where I’ve worked for the past seven years, I’ve been a reporter at the Wenatchee World in Washington state, at the Gallup Independent and at the Optic for a 2-1/2 year stint ending in January 2003.
So what’s a “warrior with a red bow,” and why am I using the phrase on my column signature?
I’ve earned a number of awards and honors during my journalism career. Former mayor Henry Sanchez presented me with the key to the city at the end of my last stint at the Optic. I’ve received four investigative reporting awards, among others.
But the award that means the most to me is one I earned 14 years ago at my college newspaper, the New Mexico Daily Lobo. It’s called the David Gomez Warrior With a Red Bow Outstanding Journalist Award.
My colleagues at the Lobo chose me to receive the award because of my aggressive reporting, which included a piece on UNM student government leaders using money intended for scholarships to remodel their offices. The award was presented to me by Henry “Hank” Trewhitt, a mentor and friend who covered everything from the Nixon White House to the building of the Berlin Wall. He literally covered the world before returning to UNM to teach journalism students. He died in 2003.
I don’t know the symbolism behind the red bow. I do know that I’ve always seen the award as something to live up to.
As managing editor of the Optic, I will work hard to give you a vibrant newspaper, one that’s beholden to no one, that’s not afraid to take on controversy but also seizes the opportunity to celebrate accomplishments.
Our newsroom can’t do it alone. Call and e-mail us with news tips. Continue sending us your letters. Keep sharing your stories with us, both good and bad.
And never forget that this paper belongs to you.
To borrow a phrase from one of my former bosses, let’s make this a small paper that does big things. I’m looking forward to the journey.
Martín Salazar is the Optic’s new managing editor. He may be reached at 425-6796 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.