There’s a greeting card taped to the wall above my computer from The Poynter Institute, a school “dedicated to teaching and inspiring journalists and media leaders.” (I attended a weeklong workshop there in 2004 and merited the end-of-year mailing, I guess.)

The card front features a quote by Eugene Patterson, Pulitzer Prize winner for editorial writing in 1967, former managing editor of The Washington Post, then CEO of the St. Petersburg Times and chairman of The Poynter Institute.

“Don’t just make a living, make a mark.”

Powerful words. Right up there with the journalism credos of “Do no harm,” and “Shine a Light.”

I looked at the words in a different way recently since we’re in the middle of a facelift to the Farm and Dairy newsroom. We ditched the 25-year-old partial walls, got new wallpaper, a couple new desks, scrubbed the carpet, and threw out a whole bunch of files (I mean, who really looks in file cabinets for answers anymore when you can just keyword search your own website!).

We have a new lease on life, or at least on our workspace. (There’s been talk of bringing in a palm tree and transforming our “morgue” or library stacks where we keep each issue for the past five years into a lounge. Stay tuned.)

Our department housed a set of double doors to the front street that hadn’t been opened in probably three decades. They were ugly beyond words. The boss got some contractors to close them up, insulate them, then drywall, so the new wallpaper could erase the unsightly doors. Before the drywall went up, I scribbled my initials and the date on the insulation. I wanted to literally make my mark, should future Farm and Dairy-ites ever decide to break through the wall and make the doors usable again.

Then, before the wallpaper went up, I initialed the drywall. So did Publisher Scot Darling. Then the rest of the editorial staff joined suit. Kind of our “Kilroy was here” moment.

But there’s precedent in our building. Scot Darling’s father, the late Wayne T. Darling, had etched his initials and the year in concrete in two places in our printing plant. We walk over the 1977 patch every day on our way to the water cooler, but some co-workers had never noticed them until I explained my wall scribbles had roots in Wayne’s concrete initials.

I’m sure there are similar initials and messages behind wallpaper layers, or in concrete sidewalks or barn pads everywhere. I’m guessing we just want to make sure someone remembers us, or the construction.

And that brings me back to the idea of making a mark, instead of a living. Literal marks, or graffiti, or even initials in concrete will fade. But a legacy of caring, of laughter, of faith, of courage, or teaching endures.

What will I leave? What will you leave? It’s one thing to be a good farmer, or a good businessman, or a good journalist, but will we be remembered as a good person, too? Will we inspire the next generation? Will we give them a strong foundation to stand on, and then to build their own empires? Will we foster collaboration and innovation and success, no matter what the venture? Will we pursue justice for all? Will we change the world, even if it’s just our little corner?

Will we make a mark?

Farm and Dairy Editor Susan Crowell has been with the paper since 1985, serving as its editor since 1989. Raised on a farm in Holmes County, she is a graduate of Kent State University.
Susan Crowell
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