Mike note: This was my planned Sunday column for the Chronicle but the editor rejected it as self-serving. He may have a point.
It’s anniversary time of sorts.
Two years ago this month my 34-plus year career at the Chronicle ended in a retirement that wasn’t planned but coincided with Gerry Mulligan’s retirement as publisher.
I left the only career I’d ever had with no plans for the future. Social Security? Walmart greeter? County Administrator? I was equally qualified for all three.
Look. I have loved newspapers since I was 9 years old. In my early teen years, I read the Detroit Free Press and its political columnist, Hugh McDiarmid, daily before my afternoon The Macomb Daily paper route.
Newspapering took root in college. First at Macomb County Community College, Center Campus, in Mount Clemens, Michigan. Best newspaper name of all time: The Ultimatum.
From there, Central Michigan University and reporting at CM Life. Then my first real job at the Pioneer in Big Rapids (the only Big Rapids in the United States) for four years and a year at the weekly Lake County Star in Lake County, Michigan (1986 pop: 4,000).
I landed in Inverness in 1987 and attached myself to the Citrus County Chronicle for three decades.
You’re getting my drift here. Newspapers were all I knew. I had zero skills other than newspaper reporting.
A few days after leaving the Chronicle, I sat with a friend who asked what it is I truly enjoy. I answered, “I like telling people things they should know and they wouldn’t know if I didn’t tell them.”
He said I should do that. Other friends gave me an idea here or there and, with a ton of community encouragement, Just Wright Citrus debuted on Facebook in September 2021 and its own website Jan. 3, 2022.
Last week we topped 4,500 Facebook followers. All that growth is organic; I probably boosted three or four posts at the most.
This community allowed me to transition seamlessly from newspaper to online practically overnight and I sure am appreciative of it.
So, my point.
What you read here comes exclusively from me.
I work in a newsroom of one. The detailed conversations about blog ideas exist entirely in my head (that’s a meeting to avoid). Don’t get me wrong. I reach out to friends all the time to bounce ideas off of, and someone I’ve known for decades reads the blogs each night before they’re posted.
But the opinions, the positions … all totally mine. I create all the Just Wright Citrus content.
You see, it’s really about independence for me. I cannot, or should not, attach myself to any organization or person if that gives readers a reasonable perception that I’m not independent.
Yes, the blog has advertising sponsors and I am darn proud of that. Small business owners in Citrus County are my heroes. Sometimes what I cover isn’t for the politically squeamish. Just Wright Citrus sponsors are in it for the ride because they see the value of community conversation. I’m not guessing. That’s what they tell me.
My relationship with readers and sponsors is vital. I put my thoughts out there each weekday morning and ask folks to trust me.
Having never done this before, it’s trial and error.
Here’s what I mean: My first full year in business was an election season. Seemed logical that a political blog would load up on political ads.
Turns out I was way off on that logic. First off, unlike Sally Field, not everyone really, really likes me. I was getting campaign ads from some candidates but not others.
That created a massive perception dilemma. Since it’s just me and no staff, how could Candidate A feel he’s getting a fair shake from me if Candidate B has a campaign ad on the Just Wright Citrus website?
Before the election season ended, I knew I was done with political ads, and I wrote a blog about it. I’ve already turned down ads from two early 2024 candidates and, unless someone can convince me otherwise, that’s the plan moving forward.
I’m entering my third year of “retirement" and it couldn’t go better. I have discovered purpose in the community I love and still get to poke at politicians every so often.
The Just Wright Citrus blog, and all that comes with it, is a thrill in my life. I'm a few months shy of 65, and never felt happier and healthier.
Pretty cool for a guy like me. Pretty cool indeed.
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Mike Wright has written about Citrus County government and politics for 36 years.