A formal introduction

Hello. I’m Elizabeth Crumbly. You may recognize my byline from your local paper (I sometimes go by Liz), or this might be our first meeting. Either way, I’d like to use this column space to get to know my readers better. Some editors call the paragraph at the end of this column a shirttail. It’s where you’ll find my contact information, and I hope you’ll use it.

I named this column “Collective Ink” partly in honor of the medium that has allowed me to have a voice for so long and partly for my desire to present a collection of life’s significant moments. Quick sidebar — speaking of voices, I have to take a second to plug your local newspaper. Did you know it’s your outlet, too? You can have a voice in print via letters to the editor or by pitching story ideas to the staff. Most local news staffs welcome contact with their readers, as do I. It gives us a window into the lives of the readers we serve. In fact, I plan to ask readers for feedback at various times, which I’ll then publish here. I don’t have anything specific in mind yet, but let’s let that unfold as we go, shall we?
Right now though, since this is still a one-sided conversation, I’d like to tell you a little more about how I ended up in your paper.

I’ve been writing professionally for about 16 years now. My newspaper career began with an internship at a small weekly in North Georgia. At the time, that paper was still family-owned.
I’ve had real jobs, and then I’ve had gigs that were so unbelievable it seemed crazy that I was getting paid. My entire newspaper career falls closer to the latter description. Where else are you going to spend the morning interviewing a chainsaw artist about the best way to carve a grizzly out of a dead pine tree and finish your day chasing down leads on how exactly the headwaters of a federally regulated trout stream filled with silt almost overnight? I’ve actually had a day like that, and it ended with me struggling through underbrush and boot-sucking sand, notebook and camera in hand, to glimpse said headwaters.

I’ve shared vulnerable and triumphant moments with the people I’ve written about. I remember with searing clarity how it felt to interview a whole family after they lost someone — a mother, sister and aunt — to a domestic violence situation that ended in murder. I’ve seen a local high school football team storm the field, along with nearly their entire hometown, after clinching a state championship four years in the making. I’ve spoken with countless people looking for help in heart wrenching child custody cases — stories I simply couldn’t print because they weren’t active police investigations. It was hard not to cry, out of either hurt or joy, right along with all of those folks.

I’ve held all sorts of positions in this industry, from education reporter to freelancer to editor — I led two newsrooms during my time as a fulltime newspaper employee. An acquaintance of mine calls reporter jobs a huge civics lesson, and I concur. I also consider my time in newspapers to have been a huge adventure for better or for worse. I’ve made grammar mistakes in print that I thought I’d never live down — as the recession hit, papers had to make strategic staff cuts, and proofreaders were often the first to go.

Thank goodness most readers are pretty forgiving. And I’ve had a front seat at bizarre and wonderful happenings — things you might not expect in small town America. I’ve learned that the most impactful and significant moments often go down before we realize what’s happened, and I hope to bring a taste of that concept to you here each week. I’ll be telling stories about my tiny community in Northern Floyd County, Georgia, and I’ll ask you for your opinions on current issues that affect us all, whether you live in a small town like me or a more populated place. I want to talk horses with you every once in a while, too. They’re a big part of my life, and even if you’ve never swung your leg over a saddle, I think you might enjoy some of the things we can all learn from these animals. I also want to discuss some of the things that are bothering you. Maybe I can interview people who might shed some light on those concerns. Maybe I can just listen.

So, yes, I’ve got some stories to tell — some I realize I haven’t even experienced yet. Some of them will be mine, and some of them will be yours. I look forward to sharing this space and getting to know you, my readers, better. My website and contact information should be below. Email me any time!

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Elizabeth Crumbly

Elizabeth Crumbly is a newspaper veteran and freelance writer. She lives in rural Northwest Georgia where she teaches riding lessons, writes and raises her family. You can correspond with her at www.collective-ink.com.