Human felicity is produced not as much by great pieces of good fortune that seldom happen as by little advantages that occur every day.
— Benjamin Franklin
I am not one for self-congratulation. I’m kept from it by the constant awareness of faults I can’t conceal — that and the certain knowledge that my accomplishments are not my own, but rather the happy intersection of whatever skills I’ve been blessed with and varying combinations of good upbringing, solid teaching, generous support and divine providence. To use the vernacular of the spiritual tradition in which I was raised, I’m just a sinner, striving to be a servant.
All of which is just a way of expressing my gratitude for the wondrous good fortune of being the publisher of Weld. To that end, I want to do something that is long overdue — something on which I reflect often, but have not exercised my privilege as the proprietor of this space to call to public attention. That something is the people who work so tirelessly to ensure that Weld — our company, our newspaper, our website — fulfills its responsibilities to the community it serves.
Start with our editor, Nick Patterson. Nick is a consummate pro, dedicated to the highest ideals of journalism and exemplary of the ethical standards to which we all should aspire. He is a reporter’s reporter, a gifted teacher and a steadfast leader. In addition to his sterling work on each week’s paper, the outstanding internship program we have developed for both high school and college students is a tribute to Nick’s abilities. He’s also as completely unflappable as anyone I’ve ever met, which might be the single best compliment I could pay him as an editor. Weld would not be Weld without Nick, and I owe him a debt of gratitude and admiration that I can never repay.
Likewise with our art director, Traci Edwards. Traci was the first hire we made, back in May 2011, and her talent and vision have defined us visually from the start. Not a single week goes by in which we don’t receive at least one reader comment on Traci’s cover art; personally, I’ve lost track of the number of times that I have picked up our paper on Wednesday morning and gone to Traci’s office to tell her that that week’s cover is my absolute favorite of all time. She is a calm and joyful presence, even in the midst of the most intense deadline pressures — and she doesn’t yell at me even when those pressures are, as is all too often the case, my doing.
Like Traci, our office manager, David Garrett, has been with us from the start. In addition to performing roughly a hundred thankless tasks to keep things running smoothly each day, David has become Weld’s principal photographer, with an artist’s eye that brings even the most seemingly mundane subjects to life. Plus, if you missed David’s photos and videos promoting the Weld Film Series that wrapped last Thursday at the Alabama Theatre, you owe it to yourself to dig them up.
Way back in the dawn of time, Walter Lewellyn was Weld’s first intern. A little over a year later, having armed himself with a college degree, he showed up to ask for the job of editing our website. We agreed to give it to him, and he promptly oversaw a much-needed redesign of the site that continues to win raves. I regret to provide here such ample evidence of one of my faults, but honesty compels me to admit that I have a dislike for Walt that stems from the fact that he’s so much smarter than I, a repellent quality in such a young man. In all seriousness, Walt is only beginning to scratch the surface of his considerable abilities as a writer, editor, chronicler of the finer things and all-purpose raconteur. I’m glad to have a ringside seat.
Katherine Webb came to us last fall, as the editor of our Community section. That’s what we thought, anyway, before she showed herself to be a journalist extraordinaire, most notably through her ongoing coverage of issues related to the Girls Scouts of North Central Alabama. Katherine combines the sensitivities of a poet with a thoroughness and bulldog tenacity that sometimes make Woodward and Bernstein look like shrinking violets. One of my proudest days at Weld was when she came to me and said, “I’ve decided that I want to be a reporter! This is fun!” Woe betide evildoers everywhere — or at least in Birmingham.
Both of our advertising sales executives, Brittney Harrison and Mary Neumann, are fairly new to Weld, with Brittney the veteran at six months’ service. We are fortunate to have each of these young women, who not only keep pushing us to higher levels of credibility with, and service to, our advertisers, but also show great initiative and enthusiasm in finding new ways to market our company and build on our successes.
Last but far from least is my business partner and the general manager of Weld, Heather Milam. As every person in this office will attest, she is our heartbeat. If I got hit by a beer truck this very same evening, the company would endure; if that fate befell Heather, the doors would close within a week. I could spend an entire column rhapsodizing about her abilities, her dedication to Weld and her commitment to making a difference in our community every day — but that would only damn her with faint praise.
Good folks, one and all — as good as they come, and far better than a sinner like me deserves. I am eternally grateful.