This Thanksgiving, your friendly Kansas opinion editor needs to get some gratitude off his chest

November 24, 2022 3:33 am
Traditional stuffed turkey with side dishes for Thanksgiving celebration

This Thanksgiving, opinion editor Clay Wirestone expresses appreciation for all those who make Kansas Reflector’s work possible. (Getty Images)

Many holidays thin and fray from familiarity. A relentlessly secularized Christmas too often marks commercial transactions, while the silly spookiness of Halloween has given way to adults parading around in superhero costumes.

Thanksgiving, oddly enough, has been spared the worst of this, perhaps because the point of the holiday is right there in the name.

We’re giving thanks. And if that becomes an excuse for making pies and ignoring inconvenient history, so what? At least we don’t have to gather ’round a Thanksgiving tree and sing traditional Thanksgiving songs (Arlo Guthrie’s immortal “Alice’s Restaurant” excepted). We don’t have to give Thanksgiving gifts. And while we might be expected to see family or loved ones, you understand that you don’t visit your grandparents enough, and they’re not going to be around forever.

Here at Kansas Reflector, I’m especially glad for all of the readers, contributors and sources that make my job such a joy. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Being the opinion editor is a privilege. I know you have turkey and pumpkin pie to handle today, but here are six people and places that made me especially thankful throughout the year.

Council Grove reads: When I peeked into Flint Hills Books while researching a column on Council Grove, I didn’t expect to meet two Kansas Reflector readers. But store owner Jennifer Kassebaum and landlord Christy Davis made me feel right at home. Both made their way into the eventual column, and Davis — who also happens to be rural development director for the U.S. Department of Agriculture — popped up on our podcast as well.

Neodesha memories: On another jaunt away from Northeast Kansas, I returned to Neodesha, near my childhood home of Altoona. I subsequently exchanged emails and messages with Mayor Devin Johnson, who went above and beyond in answering questions and offering perspective. After the column about Neodesha was published, I heard from several current and past residents, all excited about their town’s story.

Heartfelt Salina tribute: The Rev. Martha Murchison reached out last year to let me know about Salina’s efforts to remember the lynching of Dana Adams in 1893. I wrote a story first about a soil collection ceremony and then the unveiling of a historical marker. Each time, residents stopped me to say how much they appreciated Kansas Reflector. As someone who believes passionately in the importance of state and local news — my first published work was an editorial cartoon in the El Dorado Times featuring Gov. Joan Finney — I can only hope to keep earning their trust.

Kansas Reflector opinion editor Clay Wirestone and intern Lily O’Shea Becker chat at the Kansas Press Association convention on June 10, 2022. (Sherman Smith/Kansas Reflector)

Local journalists gather: The Kansas Press Association’s June celebration in Newton was a blast from the past and future. University of Kansas professor Teri Finneman spoke about the future of community newspapers, while I reunited with my journalism classmate (and editor of the Tonganoxie Mirror) Shawn Linenberger. Kansas Reflector staff also met college and high school students who were eager to make a difference in their communities.

Kansas news outlets: To everyone who runs Kansas Reflector news and commentary: Please accept our gratitude. Every piece that appears on our site can be republished for free, and it always excites me to see a local news outlet take that opportunity. As a nonprofit, we’re not trying to build a cash-spewing brand. We want to build a useful public service. Be it The Iola Register or The Lawrence TimesThe Emporia Gazette or other States Newsroom outlets across the country, thank you.

You, you and you: Not a single world that I write for Kansas Reflector would have meaning if you weren’t there to read it. And by you, I mean someone who lives in and loves Kansas (or perhaps even lived here once and loves it still). You have read, you have commented on social media, you have sent along email and letters. You have stopped me at a restaurant or coffee shop or in the marble corridors of the Statehouse. You care, and so do I.

Listen, the thanks could keep on rolling. I’m not even mentioning our regular columnists (and our occasional ones as well), those who have called us up to suggest stories, and those who appear on our weekly podcast. All of you make the Reflector what it is — and what I hope it continues to be for many Thanksgivings to come.

With that, let’s head back to the dining room. I’ll see you on the other side.

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Clay Wirestone
Clay Wirestone

Clay Wirestone serves as Kansas Reflector's opinion editor. His columns have been published in the Kansas City Star and Wichita Eagle, along with newspapers and websites across the state and nation. He has written and edited for newsrooms in Kansas, New Hampshire, Florida and Pennsylvania. He has also fact checked politicians, researched for Larry the Cable Guy, and appeared in PolitiFact, Mental Floss, and cnn.com. Before joining the Reflector in summer 2021, Clay spent four years at the nonprofit Kansas Action for Children as communications director. Beyond the written word, he has drawn cartoons, hosted podcasts, designed graphics and moderated debates. Clay graduated from the University of Kansas and lives in Lawrence with his husband and son.