Small town professionalism

“Are you here professionally or personally?”

This wasn’t a new question for me last week.

I learned as a child that people’s professions follow them far outside of their offices. My dad is a television technician, and we would constantly be getting repair calls at home. My grandfather was a policeman, and I’m sure his job followed him everywhere as well, whether or not he was wearing his badge.
So, I didn’t find it strange to be asked whether I was attending an event on a personal or professional note. Though I did smile as I thought more about what that meant for me as a newspaper editor.

Does the fact that I’m using the question in my column mean that I was really there professionally rather than personally? The line is a little fuzzy.
As a newspaper editor, a policeman, or even a priest, the professional role follows even in personal situations. But I think this is more apparent in small towns.

My best friend in Omaha recently confessed that she and many of her friends are unaware of who the newspaper editor is in their city. In metropolitan areas, a policeman out of uniform is just another pedestrian. And, well, should a priest dress outside of his traditional wardrobe, he wouldn’t be treated any differently than an auto mechanic on his day off.

In a small town, it’s just the opposite.

A state representative must be aware that his every move is watched by the eyes of the public, He may He may often be confronted with legislative agendas, personal views and citizen recommendations out on the street.

A television technician will get calls at home on Sunday afternoons when a fellow member of his church congregation wants their television fixed.

A newspaper editor will get story ideas, recommendations and may even make con- tacts for upcoming stories just about anywhere she goes.

I admit, sometimes I could do without this small-town phenomenon. Often, it would just be nice to keep work at work and have everything else be personal.
Doesn’t a state representative do a better job because he’s connected with the com- munity on both a professional and personal note?

How many times is crime stopped because an off duty cop is never truly “off duty?”

And how much better is a community newspaper because the employees also get personal with their readers?

I’d say life is better this way.

So, while I came out of my “personal” encounter last weekend with a column sub- ject, a few story ideas and a new list of potential sources, I did decide that it still wasn’t technically a professional appearance.

It was a personal event – a personal event that will make me a better professional.