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Viewpoint by Brad Jennings: At peace with summer

April 24, 2006

The look is always the same.

It starts with eyebrows rising ever so slightly. It’s followed by the slow spread of a smile. Then the person will lean closer to me and say the words I have heard many times during the past week: “Do you know how hot it gets here in the summer?”

Yes, I say, I do know how hot it gets around here. I’m from around here, I tell them, Yuma in fact. That seems to put them at ease.

“Well, then you know,” they say.

“Yes. But my wife is from Milwaukee, and this will be her first summer,” I say as they get excited all over again and turn their attention to her.

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“Do you know how hot it gets around here in the summer?” they ask.

“They” is just about everyone I’ve met since April 10, my first day as editor at the Imperial Valley Press. The cashier at Vons, the new neighbor, the waiter at my new favorite restaurant — they all love the weather game. I understand it, of course. When you grow up in the desert heat, you develop a kind of sick pride that you live in 116-degree heat day in and day out for months.

For the past 10 years I’ve lived in the Midwest. I left the newspaper in Yuma to earn my fame and fortune and failed at both, but I got a lot of good experience working for papers in Nebraska, Wisconsin and Minnesota. I got to see how the other half — the cold one — lives, and I’m glad to be back in the desert.

I learned how to be an editor, how to design news pages and how to manage people in those 10 years. I also learned that snow is wet and cold, hockey is nearly impossible to understand and in Wisconsin a water fountain is called a bubbler.

I also learned that you can come home again. Sure, this isn’t Yuma and I have never lived in the Imperial Valley before. But the issues, the culture and that dreaded weather are much the same. Plus, when I go into a Mexican food restaurant here, my salsa actually tastes like salsa and not tomato sauce.

That’s a big plus.

The people here have made my wife, Stephanie, and I feel very welcome. While we are still unpacking boxes in the home we bought, we already feel a part of the community.

And that community includes the newspaper you are now holding. The Press has a long tradition of excellent journalism, and I promise I will try not to screw that up. There is an excellent staff here that works hard every day to bring you information on our community. I hope you have already noticed some changes to the look of the paper that are designed to make it easier to read and give you more information in digestible chunks. More changes are in store, and I encourage your feedback.

This is your newspaper, and I hope you will be involved with it. Continue to send letters to the editor and ask questions for the PROBE column. If you have story ideas, call us. If you have a compliment, please let me know. If you have a complaint, please contact Assistant Editor Richard Brown.

OK, fine. You can call me with complaints, too.

The point is, I want you involved. I want this paper to reflect the community it serves, the good and the bad, the big stories and small ones. They are all your stories, and they are all important.

If you have ever wondered how things work around here, call me and I’ll have you come in. You can sit in on our 5:30 a.m. news meeting and see how decisions are made. I have an open-door policy for not only the news staff but for readers as well. I want your feedback and involvement. That will only make us better.

If you see me around town, please say hello and give me your feedback on the newspaper. I have fairly thick skin.

Speaking of skin, mine is actually getting some color back after years in the frozen north. I am cautiously optimistic that by next month I will no longer glow in the dark.

And don’t worry about Stephanie. She may be from Wisconsin, but she loves hot weather. In fact, since we’ve been here she has complained that it is “too cold” when it gets below 85. I look at her and laugh.

“Do you know how hot it gets here in the summer?” I ask.

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