Olivia Tsosie has been on my mind lately. Olivia was an activist, writer and long-time resident of Agua Fria Village, and was one of the first people I interviewed for the Santa Fe Reporter in my early years as a staff writer in 1992, following my introduction to the paper as an editorial intern in 1991.
Olivia, in many ways, emblematized to me what I consider Santa Fe’s best qualities: its grit, limitless capacity for iconoclastic characters, and its kindness—at least, when kindness matters. Over the years, Olivia kept me on her mailing list and I, in turn, upon becoming editor in 2000, sent new reporters to her when a story about Agua Fria required contextualization. Olivia died in 2007, and I still feel her absence in my inbox—she could always be counted upon to dissect any situation for its weakness, while still expressing a belief that she—along with anyone who cared to be counted—might make a difference.
I suppose Olivia has been on mind because meeting her marked the beginning of my career as a journalist with the Reporter, and this edition marks my last as this paper’s editor. After two stints as a staff writer (with a few other titles here and there), I have served as SFR’s editor for more than a decade. All told, my relationship with the Reporter has pretty much defined the bulk of my adult life. Certainly, SFR has been the backdrop for the majority of my 24 years in Santa Fe.
Just as I was lucky to meet Olivia early on as a reporter, so have I continued to be lucky to interview and edit stories about people from every facet of life in this city. As I packed my office over the weekend (well, attempted to pack, anyway; I am writing these words surrounded by stacks of haphazard files), I tried to imagine how I might organize the stories if I had to pack all of the narratives into well-labeled boxes.
I would need a large box for the politicians: the good, the bad, the indicted. Elections have always been an all-consuming task at this paper, between the pop quizzes, the endless endorsement interviews, and the attempts to follow the rabbit hole of money and connections that characterizes New Mexico politics. I remain proud of the education/voter registration project SFR spearheaded in 2004. As the creator and writer of the weekly 7 Days column for more than 10 years, I am personally grateful to the politicians: Their antics have been perfect fodder for my rapacious sense of sarcasm.
Advocates and activists also would need several boxes. Their work in countering the systemic issues of poverty and violence, as well as watchdogging the environment, and providing services for children, artists and animals, remains, in my mind, the underpinning of Santa Fe’s spirit. In addition to covering these groups, SFR has always lent its support in a variety of ways to the people and organizations who strive to improve the city’s quality of life. I am particularly proud that we have been able to support organizations such as Esperanza Shelter for Battered Families, The Food Depot, Fine Arts for Children and Teens and the Santa Fe Animal Shelter and Humane Society, whose work plays such an important role in our community.
I don’t know if I would designate separate boxes for each sector of the arts (I also don’t know why I started down this box conceit, but deadline is ticking away so I guess I’m stuck with it). Visual arts has always been a backbone of this paper’s cultural coverage. But just perusing the last two decades’ worth of papers (I do that sometimes) shows how significantly the creative sector has grown, from the visual and performing arts to the literary and music scenes. Organizations such as the Santa Fe Complex, Meow Wolf and MIX Santa Fe have joined the scene and created a groundswell of excitement regarding the interdisciplinary possibilities for Santa Fe.
Perhaps one, final, sad box for the tragic losses: the senseless deaths from family violence, from systemic negligence, from DWI. Sometimes, it is hard to fathom a city that balances so many polarizing qualities: ingenuity and senselessness; abundance and desperation; compassion and neglect. I am glad that one of the last stories I will edit for this paper is this week’s
with Avree Koffman, whose accepting and forward-thinking perspective both humbles and inspires me.
I know the next editor of the Reporter will find this job as rewarding and challenging as I have. He or she may have days, as I have, when the desire to throw oneself out a window is overwhelming. (Advice: Just open the window; soon, the pot smoke will reliably waft in, and you will feel much less aggravated.)
In the seven weeks since I gave my notice, many candidates have emerged, and I expect the next editor will be named in the not-too-distant future. In the interim, SFR writer and editor Zane Fischer will take on the role. Zane is one of the many talented people with whom I have been exceedingly lucky to work over the years. He will be supported by an amazing editorial staff: Staff Writers Alexa Schirtzinger and Wren Abbott; Culture Manager Rani Molla; Copy Editor Ramón A Lovato, Art Director Larry Kohr, and Cover Designer Angela Moore. Through the work of these people, and so many others, SFR has been honored for its editorial work both statewide and nationally numerous times over the years. And we have been able to take on difficult stories and issues with depth and passion because of the support and belief in doing so held by this company, and by publisher Andy Dudzik.
Finally, at the risk of devolving into abject sappiness, the greatest honor has been the continued avid engagement of SFR’s 50,000-plus readers. The Reporter, like every newspaper, has had to change its game significantly over the last few years, and continues to ponder the print/digital equation. At the same time, its relationship with the city, forged in 1974 when the paper was founded, remains as feisty and old school as ever. I will miss it! (But not entirely, as I am staying in Santa Fe and will be both writing and teaching in town, in case you were wondering).
For someone who swore to herself she would not write a farewell column, this one has grown rather long. Perhaps it’s time to sign off, save, of course, for saying: Thank you.