At the gas station, a fundraising luncheon or in the lobby of the News Building, I get to meet many different people each week as part of my job.
Some are longtime, daily readers. They will talk about a favorite section or feature. They will ask questions about a specific story. And they will offer their feedback on the local content and opinion pages.
Some are occasional readers – either in print or through an electronic product. Their comments will often mirror those of persistent readers, with one twist. They will tell me of the time crunch in their lives that prevents further reading.
And some are nonreaders. After telling me they don’t read the paper, they will launch into specific criticisms of sections or particular stories that caused us to fall out of favor with them.
I learn a lot about us and a little bit about you with every encounter. Keep those conversations coming.
But my favorite engagements are with future readers. Young people taking a tour of the building. The daughter of a reader stopping me at the grocery store. The son of a friend whom I see at a restaurant.
This week I had two such encounters with future readers – and by future readers I mean youngsters exposed to programs building character and citizenship. And citizens will always need a robust flow of information in a context that gives them meaning.
Dillon, a 10-year-old boy, stopped by this week as part of his work toward a Cub Scout merit badge. He delivered a handwritten letter to me as we stood in the lobby.
“To whom it may concern,
The government shutdown was hard on Americans, because they were losing money each day. Many people I know from my church, school, family and friends worried day-to-day when was the shutdown going to end. My dad who works at SRS was afraid to lose his job. Why is the government this way?
“A Cub Scout”
We exchanged questions and answers: his about the process of gathering and distributing news. Mine about his letter and about what he is getting out of Scouts. Lessons in journalism and civics for him. A refresher in character and hope for me as he talked of the value of Scouts.
The second was Nellie, a 17-year-old, who was a featured speaker at a First Tee of Augusta fundraising lunch.
Behind the microphone, she spoke of her shyness before touting the positive effects of the First Tee on her life. She now volunteers with the program.
“I will do my best to be a good role model,” she said.
After the lunch ended, Nellie introduced herself to many guests with an extended handshake. She told of her recent college visit and boldly asked questions of the adults she met.
Two inquiring minds. Two future readers.