STAFF NOTEBOOK: Thanks for 30 years

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It’s hard to tell your own story, especially if you make a living writing about others.

For weeks, The Independent staff has been working on a research project unlike any we have attempted before. Looking to tell the story of how we survived 30 years to commemorate this anniversary of the newspaper took us back decades to the first edition of The Liberty Hill Independent. But, the story of Liberty Hill newspapers and the important role they have played in our community started long before Jim “Linzy” Hudgins discovered Liberty Hill and started his Independent.

Our place on the Shin Oak Ridge has been served by more than a dozen newspapers since the 1880s. That’s impressive to those of us who have spent a lifetime in the business and understand the incredible challenges those early publications faced. Even with today’s technology, producing a newspaper every week is a daunting task, and the responsibility that comes with it is one we take very seriously.

We don’t know much about the Liberty Hill publishers of the early 1900s, except that they must have been driven by some of the same things that drive us.

When I became the principal owner of The Independent in 2010, my singular focus was to do what I was trained to do, ask questions and write the news.

Running alongside that was a somewhat unorthodox business model aimed more at trying to help those who were trying to do good things rather than trying to make big profits. I was quickly amazed to discover all the good people doing good works in such a small community, and through the years it has been a blessing to be able to make a difference.

Becoming part of a community and growing to know and understand it doesn’t abdicate a newspaper of its responsibility to gain the truth, it only grows that investment.

It’s not true that journalists are just naturally curious people, we’re trained to ask questions and find the facts. Sometimes that makes folks in public positions a bit uncomfortable, and some appear to take it personally when we ask questions they’d prefer not to answer. But that’s our job, just as it was the job of our predecessors.

This 30 year remembrance for The Independent has caused all of us here to spend a few minutes on recollections. With the help of James Wear, Jamie Williamson, Linda Lattanzio, Kate Ludlow, Justin Pogue, Gary Spivey, and Kathy Canady, we have compiled the story of Liberty Hill’s scribblers — perhaps for the first time. The story of how we all ended up in this place reporting the stories of our hometown is the sort of small town drama you haven’t seen yet on television, but would certainly make for a good Netflix series.

While some of my contemporaries were fueled by a personal agenda that involved changing the political landscape or just getting even, mine was simply about good journalism. Over time, the interest has evolved into a sense of service, and we’re proud to be able to host the annual Independence Day Spectacular as well as play such an active role in community events like this year’s Liberty Hill Christmas Festival.

A bonus I didn’t anticipate seven years ago, was meeting the business leaders who take such big chances to invest in our town. Connecting with entrepreneurs by assisting with advertising has been an unexpected enjoyment. Working alongside them to help communicate their messages to our readers has become a rewarding part of the service The Independent provides.

A loyal team of journalists, photographers, graphic designers, marketing experts, and circulation professionals make all the difference here at The Independent. They share a commitment to community and care deeply about bringing you their best every week.

For us, the best recognitions have not been the coveted plaques from the Texas Press Association that we’ve worked so hard to earn. The best days have been when we’ve set with you to learn the great stories of our hometown.

On behalf of The Independent newspaper staff — past and present — thanks for 30 years, and especially the last seven.
~ Shelly Wilkison
Publisher/Managing Editor

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