As a voice for the public, writers and journalists carry the duty to report on the events in society and the community. Rick Norton has not only upheld his duty to his career, but also gives his community the words of hope, truth, and courage to cope with the changing times, said officials.
When the pandemic changed the lives of the world, Mr. Norton stepped up to deliver life-saving information to a community he has loved and served for many years at the Cleveland Daily Banner. Because of his actions during the pandemic, Mr. Norton has been chosen as the honoree for Arts for the Community First Awards.
"With all the stellar, and often unseen, work performed throughout the pandemic by front-line humanitarians like medical specialists, doctors, nurses, assistants and aids, as well as the long line of first responders and long-term healthcare workers, I’m humbled that the efforts of someone in the arts could be seen as making a difference,” said Mr. Norton, associate editor of the Cleveland Daily Banner. “As a community newspaper, it is our job to get the word out to as many people as possible — those who subscribe to the Cleveland Daily Banner and those who don’t — and to do it in a timely, fair and accurate fashion.”
As a newspaper editor, Mr. Norton writes editorials, personal columns and news stories, while balancing scheduling personnel, assignments, and making sure that all the rest of the news of the day gets reported. As the pandemic started to progress in the early stages of the COVID-19 virus, he saw his regular daily shifts turn into 12 to 14-hour days. His normal became compounding the challenges of daily developments on the virus while presenting the facts to a skeptical public whose fears were worsened by political partisanships and misinformation.
“It’s certainly not on the level of overworked medical professionals or understaffed hospitals, but it’s a stress that carries its own kind of burden,” said Mr. Norton.
With the pressures of everyday changes during the pandemic, Mr. Norton took on the challenges of COVID-19 to build a stronger and personal connection to Bradley County and surrounding areas. His weekly column, "Inkspots," has reflected not only the times during which they were written, but the souls and hearts of the community and the people of which they are written. Mr. Norton’s writing has reminded his readers of just what a community is all about. He reminds readers of the importance of family, your youth, and the promise of hope and future for the community, said officials.
“Rick Norton has consistently written from a community-based heart,” said Brian Graves, friend and former employee of Norton. “They are the heart and soul words from which we all learned and hope are sinking into the hearts and souls of our next generation. Rick Norton reminds us we can get through life. It's not easy and it sometimes comes to an end that may be tragic and too early. But, the foundation of spirit, prayer, support, generosity, charity and yes, even food of which this community's soil is rich has been made stronger by the fertile and timeless words of Rick Norton.”
Mr. Norton declares that in all of his decades of serving his community, he has never seen such an impact that the pandemic has created across the world. He does believe that it takes a village to keep a community safe, informed, and assured that better days will come.
“In my 44-plus year career in communications, 24 of which came in a newsroom, I can report the COVID-19 pandemic has become — and still is — one of the most difficult chapters in a pretty long journalism career,” said Mr. Norton. “Yet, when considering the trials of those on the true front line, our experiences in newspaper work probably couldn’t pass the litmus test.”
Mr. Norton will be honored at the Community First Awards Gala hosted by Cleveland State Community College in September at the Barn at Faith Farms in Athens, Tn.
To purchase a ticket or for more information, contact Cindy Dawson at 614-8703. Tickets for the gala will be on sale Aug. 1 online at mycs.cc/communityfirst. All proceeds from the event will go to the CSCC Foundation Annual Campaign.