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John Burns: Community matters

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After 38 years in the business, including a little over four years as publisher here at the Sonoma Index-Tribune, I’ve decided to retire from the full time work of managing community newspapers and newsrooms and forge a new path with an increased focus on family, friends, volunteer endeavors and perhaps some writing.

Like other hometown newspapers, the Index-Tribune represents a longstanding American tradition encompassing the free exchange of local news, ideas, information and opinions.

Our primary responsibility, therefore, has been to deliver fair, accurate and comprehensive local news coverage. Through our reporting, we’ve endeavored to spotlight community problems and the solutions proposed to fix them. We have also brought attention to and recognized the myriad contributions of the wonderful people and organizations that make Sonoma Valley a truly terrific community in which to live and work.

We have tried to do this by reflecting back to readers all the great things that so many people do to help others, whether it’s the selfless volunteers in Sonoma who did so much during and after the fires last October, or the tremendous ongoing work of various non-profits and service clubs helping those in need.

I’m thankful for the opportunity to have helped carry on this newspaper’s longstanding tradition of community service that began with the Lynch family generations ago, extending to the present day under the current ownership of Darius Anderson and local investors. The Index-Tribune’s mission has always been to enhance and serve this community with quality local journalism, and that will not change.

While the challenges of operating community newspapers in 2018 have never been greater, the extraordinary rewards of working with such a talented team of committed professionals cannot be overstated. I could not be more proud of all the great work our staffers have done to better this community with award-winning journalism, results-based advertising services, continuous digital innovation and dedicated customer service.

The Index-Tribune has been fortunate to receive many prestigious awards over the last several years for outstanding journalism. While such recognition is always welcome, what is perhaps most gratifying is knowing that our readers deeply appreciate what we do. As our annual readership surveys have clearly shown, local news coverage is important to and deeply valued by Sonoma Valley residents.

No newspaper could survive were it not for community-minded small business owners who resist the clarion call of Facebook, Google and other corporate digital giants and instead choose to spend their advertising dollars locally. Were it not for our advertising partners, whose messages you see on these pages, we simply would not be able to produce the quality and quantity of the journalism you read each week. Please continue to support them.

The hard work and dedication of our journalists would mean nothing were it not for you, the many thousands of Index-Tribune readers who are passionate about keeping well-informed about your community. It is our readers who give us direction on what news to report, whether it’s a public safety hazard needing to be fixed or a volunteer group looking for the public’s help to raise money for an important local cause.

I want to thank everyone on our team for their hard work and dedication to making the Index-Tribune one of the best community newspapers in California. This includes editor and newly-named associate publisher Jason Walsh whose leadership and commitment to outstanding journalism is unparalleled. Jason is joined by a team of talented journalists that includes newly named managing editor Lorna Sheridan; reporter Christian Kallen; reporter Kate Williams; photographer Robbi Pengelly; former publisher and columnist Bill Lynch; food writer Kathleen Hill; feature writer Carole Kelleher; and recently retired managing editor and sports writer Bill Hoban.

On the business side, we are fortunate to have Index-Tribune advertising manager Robert Lee and marketing consultant Rachel Pinkstaff helping local businesses market their enterprises with effective print and digital advertising programs. Kathi Schneider, our tireless office manager, rounds out the local team by making sure that all our staff members are supported and that customers always get the help they need.

I could not have made this difficult decision to step away from what I love to do were it not for the assurance that all my colleagues will continue to achieve the Index-Tribune’s mission with passion and a commitment to excellence. My successor, Emily Charrier, has the intelligence, vision and energy to ensure that Sonoma Valley’s hometown newspaper continues to thrive in the years to come, and I am excited to see everything she’s going to accomplish.

Sonoma Valley is one of the most caring communities on the planet; please keep it that way. Volunteerism here is highly contagious; let it continue to spread. Our schools are capably educating the next generation; support them. Local service clubs are vital and active; join them. Non-profit organizations are a critical force to help young people, the elderly, and those in need; give to them.

Thank you, Sonoma Valley.