Originally published Tuesday, October 9, 2018 at 09:30p.m.

It wasn’t supposed to be like this.

When I was growing up in San Diego, it was not my dream to join the ranks of the ink-stained wretches who write and produce newspapers across this country. My favorite place in the world was the San Diego Zoo, and I wanted to grow up to be a zookeeper or a veterinarian.

But things changed, as they usually do, and now I have more than 30 years under my belt at a dozen papers in four states.

Sure I don’t work with elephants or koalas; I don’t travel to exotic places to rescue endangered animals, and I have never helped bring a foal into the world or operated on a sick dog or cat. And, most disappointing, I have never been to Australia, looking for wildlife in the Outback.

But newspaper work has had its own benefits. While I will not retire as a multi-millionaire, I have interviewed a few (and worked for a couple of billionaires, too). My work has been read by millions (if you add up all my readers over the years). And I have worked in places like Atlanta (Texas), Tarentum (Pennsylvania) and Coweta, Oklahoma. Who could pass that up?

I guess I should have seen the newspaper thing coming. Even as a kid, I always started my day with the paper – the San Diego Union at first, then moving to the Daily Oklahoman and Tulsa World when we moved to Oklahoma. It was my window to the world, a place where I could read the comics, see if the Padres won last night’s game (fingers crossed … doh!), and read the latest on the war in Vietnam (I followed it every day).

I know it is hard to grasp in our internet-fueled lives of the 21st century, but having the paper in your hands made the things you read carry more weight. What it contained in its pages was real, the truth. Reading the newspaper every day was the only way to truly know what was going on in the world, and why.

Of course, all of that has changed now. Ad revenues are down, people are losing their jobs, and many people are turning to the web and social media to get their news. But they are really missing out. Say whatever you want about “fake news” in the national media, but local newspapers remain the best way for Americans to learn what is going on in their city, their schools, their neighborhood.

I guess one reason I have stayed in the newspaper business all these years is the people I have met along the way. Not just the people who I have interviewed, although I have learned so much and had my life affected in so many ways by those who have crossed my path. It is the men and women I have worked with over the years who make so much of this job worthwhile (it sure isn’t the money; you know all the jokes about how little journalists are paid -- all true).

Something happens when you work for the local paper. You really get to know a town and its people when you cover the city council meetings, talk to teachers and students at the schools, interview police officers and firefighters whose bravery makes so much of what we love about our towns possible, see how tragedy touches lives on such a deep level.

When you go through all this, the town becomes an integral part of your life, and it gets inside of you. This is why you find so many journalists who have stayed with smaller papers for so many years, people like our own Senior News Editor Tim Wiederaenders, who has given more than 20 years to this area. He is part of the fabric, and it is part of him.

So as we mark National Newspaper Week, embrace your local newspaper. Read it every day. If you see something you don’t like or something we need to do better, write a letter, give us a call, send us an email.

And if you see any of the paper’s staff around town, give us a wave and a smile; I know all of us would appreciate it.

Doug Graham is a copy editor for The Daily Courier.