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Blubaugh: Times change, mission remains the same

I remember the first time I walked into the Carroll County Times newsroom, smoke in the air with ashtrays sitting on desks next to tiny, glorified word processors that had yellowed keys and small green screens, incapable of even running Windows.

We had a darkroom filled with chemicals and negatives patrolled by photographers who had to go through a lengthy process to produce a photo or two from their assignments, usually in black-and-white. Reporters had little choice but to rush back to the office to write their articles after scrawling interviews into notebooks.

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Stories, which were printed out through a machine that broke down at least once a night, were coated with hot wax, trimmed by a multi-talented group wielding X-acto knives and pasted onto sturdy sheets that would be put through a series of procedures, eventually producing a newspaper that would make its way to the reader sometime the next morning.

Today, reporters walk into a modern, thankfully smoke-free, environment to dock their laptops unless they choose to write off-site, at the meeting or event or game they were covering or maybe even from the nearest coffee shop, listening back to the quotes they recorded on their iPhones. Photographers can file the numerous digital images or video they shot in mere minutes from anywhere. Far removed from wax and knives, the newspaper pages are designed in cyberspace by a multi-talented group working halfway across the country, communicating with us through a cloud-based collaboration hub.

And rather than waiting until the next morning, if Carroll countians are wondering what happened at an important Board of Education meeting or at a big high school basketball matchup, they can learn about it on their phone or tablet or computer not long after said meeting or game ends.

So much has changed. The mission has not.

We want to provide you with the best possible news coverage of Carroll County. We want to do our best to hold those in power accountable and we want to give a voice to those who feel powerless. We want to tell compelling stories about local citizens. We want to cover the events that interest you. We want to provide you with a forum through letters to the editor or “Other Voices” columns and we want to disseminate a diverse group of opinions through a group of columnists that espouse views from the Far Left, the Far Right and everywhere in-between.

I’m finishing up my first week as editor of the publication I care deeply about in the middle of the community in which I grew up, where my wife — who I met at the Times — and I are in the process of raising a family; having learned so much from the six others who have served in this position since I started, most notably Jim Lee, who masterfully handled this gig for nearly two decades, and Wayne Carter, my boss the past three years who took a chance on someone who had spent an entire lifetime in the sports department.

I was the youngest member of the newsroom in 1990, intimidated by the more experienced — dare I say grizzled? — reporters and editors, many of whom wound up being incredible mentors. Today, I’m the oldest, surrounded by many staff members who weren’t even born when I was originally hired. The best part about it? I learn a lot from them, too, every single day.

Yes, much has changed since my first trip to the Carroll County Times newsroom in the late summer of 1990 as a recent college graduate interviewing for a part-time job covering high school sports, beginning a journey that has far exceeded my expectations, having covered hundreds of games from Little League to the Super Bowl, having spent 17 years as a sports editor and columnist, having been allowed the opportunity to take a roughly 18-month break for the phenomenal experience of working at a metro newspaper, and then starting what seemed like an entirely new career, returning to the Times as news editor in 2016.

As for the changes to the Times over the years that you, the readers, have seen, much of it is simply a function of ever-advancing technology, which is evident in pretty much every aspect of our lives. For example, I love music. I grew up listening to records and 8-track tapes, moved on to cassettes and then to compact discs. Today, I stream. And while I loved album artwork and liner notes and mourn the loss of the physical product, you know what? It’s a heck of a lot more convenient to listen to this way.

The way we watch television has changed. The way we bank has changed. The way we shop has changed. The way we communicate has changed.

Change is inevitable. Change is daunting — I can absolutely attest to that fact this week. But change can also be restorative and exhilarating and, in many cases, it is much needed.

I’m excited about this change. I love coming to work every day with a smart, dedicated and talented staff. And I look forward to getting plenty of feedback from the community — ideally via face-to-face encounters, phone calls or emails rather than Facebook comments. Let us know how we’re doing, but, more important, let us know when something important is happening in your area or when someone is doing something noteworthy.

No matter what else changes, we will continue to do the best job we can covering Carroll County. With nary an ashtray in sight.

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