I need to eat some crow. I would like to say it will be the last mistake I make overseeing The Milton Courier, but that would spell my doom. I will, however, pledge not to fail again to include Milton High School Homecoming festivities in this newspaper.
As more than one reader noticed, the only reference to Homecoming in last week’s edition was in the coverage of the Sept. 17 Homecoming game, in which the Red Hawks defeated Janesville Parker 17-0. At least that outcome was pleasing to the hometown crowd. Our lack of acknowledgment of the homecoming parade, dance and other activities was not a performance worthy of pride, however.
A Milton resident, who called me to express her displeasure, noted that she is “not a Milton native. I have just lived here for 60 years.” In her long time as a Milton resident, she said she couldn’t recall seeing the Courier not at least publish parade photos.
Another resident castigated us for also not previewing the parade route, which changes year to year. “Talk about your low-hanging fruit,” he wrote.
Ugh. No kidding.
I’m embarrassed because I was made well aware the week of July 4—less than a month, incidentally, after I started working at The Janesville Gazette, the other newspaper I helm — that the people of Milton come out in force for their parades. After taking the reins of The Courier several weeks ago, I have no excuse for not making coverage of Homecoming a priority.
I’m also not particularly proud that this week’s paper doesn’t so much as make up for it but maybe pour salt in the wound. I’ve included a “homecoming parade” story about the unfortunate accident in which a tractor, while being unloaded to be driven in the parade, rolled over its operator, causing injuries I imagine but could not confirm were serious. The woman referenced above said the incident was witnessed by children, who she commended for staying calm while being successfully redirected to a new staging area.
The accident did result in a constructive conversation between myself and Milton Police Chief Scott Marquardt. We talked mostly about how The Courier can best include reports of incidents his officers investigate. We talked about the rollaway tractor at length, during which he expressed concern and gratitude for everyone on the scene—exactly what you would expect from a public servant who knows his town.
My intention, by reporting now on the rollaway tractor incident, is not to suggest that was the only thing parade-related worth reporting. It’s been two weeks, and really nothing I do now makes up for the lack of earlier parade coverage. But a man was injured at a very public event, which is inherently newsworthy. We can all still regret the incident happened and hope that the man is on the mend.
I admitted to Chief Marquardt I had dropped the ball the previous week by not covering the parade as a parade—a happy event to rally community support for the high school’s football team—and that I would need to own up to that. He voiced sympathy but did not exonerate me, which was more than I expected or deserved.
Previously in this space I’ve let readers know this is not my first rodeo. I have served as an editor/reporter for a weekly community newspaper in a small town; work that I took seriously and was honored to do.
Treating Milton’s Homecoming as a nonevent was not in keeping with my own standards for good community journalism. I’m sorry. I will endeavor to not overlook such important rites of passage in Milton—again.
Joel Patenaude is managing editor of The Milton Courier.