The great Italian journalist Oriana Fallaci said, “There are three points of view to everything — mine, yours, and the truth.”

I’ve worked with many reporters and news editors over the years, from many parts of the world, some of them leaders in their fields. The first time Kim Smith visited me at my place of business in Duncan, I knew almost instantly that I was in the presence of a professional, a shrewd and serious one. She asked me intelligent questions about local issues. She didn’t let me know one thing about what she thought. She kept her face immobile as I detailed for her what I thought. And then she wanted suggestions on whom to contact for alternative or opposing views.

Kim Smith had an outsized impact on Graham and Greenlee counties in the short time she graced our two newspapers. Almost schoolgirl-small in her chair at the back of a town meeting, her face half-hidden behind a mask, she made an art of blending in, of being inconspicuous. Yet we learned quickly that we should never take our eyes off her. Officials in Duncan and elsewhere found out the hard way what the consequences of ignoring her questions might be.

Kim would get to the facts of a situation, full stop. If a town council or other body bound by open meeting and public records laws failed to deliver, she never hesitated to unleash a Freedom of Information Act demand. If that didn’t work promptly, she would bring in Wick Communications lawyers.

Her work angered many, as any good reporter’s work will anger those who feel exposed. Some of her writing angered me. I locked horns with her once over one of her many articles about Duncan’s troubles. I demanded that she change a particular word in a reference to our town’s finances. I fought hard. She won. I got over it, because she was and is a pro.

Sometimes my only consolation for how poorly Town of Duncan fared in Kim’s reporting was that her research and writing made Town of Pima look even worse. She unearthed many troubling facts for readers here and there, things that were important for the public to know. She won coveted journalism awards for this work.

It’s axiomatic that small-market newspapers in America today are on life support. The Copper Era and the Eastern Arizona Courier aren’t exceptions to this rule. I have been guilty of some magical thinking, imagining that the sheer talent and persistence of this remarkable editor and reporter might help her papers beat the odds. But the fact is that editors and journalists have no control over the miserable market conditions that small newspapers confront. Small papers can’t pay enough to attract reporters. Small papers can’t book enough advertising to fatten salaries and benefits. It is a daily struggle just to keep the presses rolling.

I’m happy for Kim that she is being welcomed back to a larger and more stable news organization that she served in the past, in Texas. She deserves this, and I look forward to watching, from a distance, what she does when she is not locked in that daily struggle for institutional survival.

Deborah Mendelsohn is a Duncan Town Council member.

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