Look forward to 2010, not back on 2009

Happy New Year, everyone.

On Day 2 of 2010, I feel compelled to look back, but am instead forging ahead.

“Don’t look back. Something might be gaining on you,” Satchel Paige — the Major League Hall of Fame pitcher, who died in 1982 at age 75 — was once quoted as saying. That seems like the best way to view 2009. It was a tough year for many in Muscatine.

Muscatine and Louisa counties posted a combined unemployment rate of 8.5 percent in November, the most-recent month for which statistics are available. According to Iowa Workforce Development, 2,560 workers were unemployed in November in the two counties. In November 2008, the two counties reported 1,590 unemployed workers and an unemployment rate of 5.3 percent. Furloughs, layoffs and other cutbacks have become all too common at many workplaces in Muscatine.

For many, however, the struggles went beyond the loss of jobs in 2009. You may have lost friends or loved ones, gone through a divorce or lost a home. Based on the conversations I’ve had with readers and friends scattered around the country, I sense a lot of weariness and struggle in the land of the free and the home of the brave.

“I’ve been saying it since February: 2009 just has some bad mojo. Bring on 2010,” one of my friends said this week on Facebook.

But I admire the attitude of another friend, who this week said: “I am a believer in New Year’s Resolutions. It’s a fresh start. Act as if you have already achieved it.”

How my friend defines “it” isn’t really clear, and I don’t share her belief in making resolutions on Jan. 1, as opposed to any of the other 364 days in the year.

But I do believe in setting goals. It’s something I’ve done a lot of in the past month as I finished annual evaluations of several employees at the Muscatine Journal. And I want to tell you about two of those goals:

— Reducing the number of correctable errors made in the Journal. In 2009, the Journal published 116 corrections —every one of them on the front page for everyone to see. I’m sure we made other mistakes that no one pointed out or weren’t caught by someone at the newspaper. Our goal is to publish fewer than 100 corrections in 2010.

— Publishing more stories that go beyond merely reporting day-to-day news. We are defining these more-meaningful stories as those that:

1. Are a Journal exclusive rooted in aggressive reporting and tied to something timely or to an enduring issue.

2. Use strong storytelling. The writing stands out as powerful, descriptive, engaging and memorable.

3. Have human impact. These stories matter to readers.

4. Are well-researched, analytical, revealing and explanatory.

5. Evoke emotion, making readers feel something — livid, overjoyed, relieved, shocked.

If you know of either a correctable error or a big, meaty story you would like someone at the Journal to check out, please call or send me an e-mail.

Other goalsA reader awhile back criticized a column about a friend and I losing a hamburger-eating challenge at a bar in West Liberty. In a comment on the Journal’s Web site, he referred to us as “fat, overweight slovenly people consuming far too much food containing far too many calories, far too much fat, and little nutritional value … Think about how sad these people’s lives must be if they think that gluttony is a sport.”

For 2010, I vow to not let such a comment —made by a complete stranger —bug me quite so much.

But before letting it go completely, I signed up this past week for RAGBRAI 2010, and I aim to ride more than the 3,000 miles I biked last year.

I also signed up for a weight-loss challenge that begins next week at the Muscatine Community Y and continues through mid-March.

Good luck on whatever resolutions you have made. May you accomplish your goals and enjoy a happy 2010.

Reach Editor Chris Steinbach by e-mail at chris.steinbach@muscatinejournal.com or at 563-262-0535

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