Observations all along the line - Kimball & the Southern Panhandle First

So Glad To Be Back In The Nebraska Panhandle

Greetings, Western Nebraska Observer readers. I’m Jim Orr, the new publisher of your hometown newspaper.

Some of you might recall when I filled in here -- right here in Kimball, right here in the Observer office -- as interim manager for about a month while the paper was between managers in 2008.

I was publisher of The Sidney Sun-Telegraph and also serving as Stevenson Newspapers regional director, which involved overseeing the Observer.

So when the need arose in Kimball, I responded. I got in my pickup, drove here on I-80 and pretty much did what I’m doing now at the Observer. I wrote and edited content. Took photos. Designed pages. Got to know the staff. Met some of you.

I’m so glad to be back!

Many journalists, or people in any walk of life, dream of someday practicing their crafts in the largest markets that their professions have to offer. Not me.

Kimball’s for me. Western Nebraska is for me.

Two years ago, during an Orr family reunion, we were sitting around the campfire one night and my sister asked me which, of all the places I’ve lived, was my favorite.

You see, working in newspapers has been an American adventure for me. I’ve done this from northern Montana near the Canadian border to southern Florida, from California’s Central Valley to Washington, D.C.

So I thought about that question.

My favorite place? Which one is it?

“Sidney, Nebraska,” I answered.

I said Sidney because that’s where I worked, but I lived in Chappell back then and my answer more appropriately should have been the entire Nebraska Panhandle.

I’ve been in 47 states and to me the Panhandle is the most underrated place I know in our nation.

Why the Panhandle? I can answer that easy.

There’s the country, the beautifully rugged, open land of the West.

Then there are the people -- good, strong, friendly people who look you in the eye and say what they think.

Yes, it’s the Panhandle. I’ve liked living here most.

I left rural Montana a few years ago to work in western Pennsylvania and be near family during and after my dad’s final months. After we pulled through that period, some family members this past year moved on to live in different areas and it was time for me to make a decision.

Would I stay there? Would I move?

I thought back to my sister’s question around that campfire. Where did I like living most?

I settled on looking for new opportunities in Nebraska, preferably in the Panhandle, or Montana. When this opportunity became available in Kimball, it excited me. I’m grateful to Observer owners Gary and Sue Stevenson for bringing me back aboard.

My proudest career accomplishment is, as a publisher, leading The Glasgow Courier (also a Stevenson newspaper) to being honored in 2012 as the first-place Montana newspaper in its division. For any of you who have been part of a team championship, you might know how that felt. So good it’s hard to put in words.

There’s one other honor that I believe is important to mention. When I was publisher of the Sidney paper, I wrote a column called “Orrdinary People” about community folks who do special, noteworthy, unnoticed or otherwise interesting things. In 2008, I received the third-place award among Nebraska daily newspaper columnists for my work on that column.

My promise to you readers is this: I will give the same effort here in Kimball to help the Western Nebraska Observer achieve the highest of quality.

To all of you who have stopped by the office to welcome me to Kimball, I really appreciate that, along with the nice words some of you have passed along about how the paper is looking. I look forward to getting to know you all much better.

I also want to thank the Observer staff for stepping up during my first couple of weeks here while I was fighting a bad cold. I appreciate your efforts during that challenging time.

Finally, I thank esteemed former Observer Publisher Bob Pinkerton for reaching out from Arizona and welcoming me to the membership of Observer publishers.

Sir, it’s a privilege to sit in your chair. The legacy of your exceptional work endures. I will do my best.

Observer Publisher Jim Orr can be reached at 308-235-3631 or [email protected].