On Aug. 20, 1864, this newspaper was born as the Florida Union.


With Jacksonville occupied by Florida Union troops, you wonder how the Union covered the biggest national story of the day. Actually, the biggest story for two nations, the U.S. and the Confederate States of America: Gen. William T. Sherman had Atlanta under siege and had plans to take Savannah.

My first day with the Times-Union was May 2, 1983, two days after Vonette, our then 6-month-old daughter Jessica, three of the best dogs in the world and I moved to Waycross.

In its 150 years, the Times-Union has had headlines you could read from across the street: Pearl Harbor, the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, the assassinations of JFK and Martin Luther King Jr. and, lately, the Jaguars.

This newspaper isn’t just a front page, and it takes a lot to fill it every day. A lot of that content isn’t good news, but plenty is.

Sometimes, we reporters run into the grateful subjects of our stories who grin and say, “Wow. Front page.”

Maybe it was on the front page because it was one of those slow news days, a good day for humanity.

One of the worst things I’ve ever seen in print was on Tuesday, Sept. 26, 2006. Jacob Nyenhuis, a freshman at the University of Georgia, had died in a traffic accident two days earlier and that morning I was on St. Simons Island at the home of his parents, my friends Michael and Sandy Nyenhuis. When the very tired Michael got up that morning, someone gave him a copy of the Times-Union with Teresa Stepzinski’s story on Jacob’s death.

I can still see him and hear him like it was yesterday.

“Oh, no. It really happened. It’s in the paper,” he said.

He had been a Times-Union reporter himself, and knew what it took to write that story. Even in his grief, he sent his thanks to his friend Teresa. He knew that one hurt to write.

I’ve made myself cry more than once, like my column about Jessica graduating from high school: “We held your hand when you learned to walk, held the handlebars when you learned to ride a bike and held our breaths when you learned to drive. I guess it’s time to let go.”

I just dashed it off, moved on, and then fell apart when I read it in the paper. Somehow, it meant more on B-1 than on a computer screen.

What do they say about newspaper writers?

You’re as good as your last story.

Thank God there’s always been a next story for us — 31-plus years of them for me.

While we work on Wednesday’s stories, someone is living out the stories for Thursday, Friday and so on. They’re on dark streets, in government meetings, on playing fields. Some have good intentions, some evil, most are just trying to get through the day.

I want to be as good as my most recent story. I dread my last one when it comes.

It does us no good to write them unless you read them. Thank you for reading us.

We’ll work hard to make it worth your time.


terry.dickson@jacksonville.com, (912) 264-0405