As anyone who has ever worked in a newsroom can tell you, being part of the production of a daily newspaper bonds co-workers together in unique ways.
When the "room" is working well — at its best in my opinion — it functions not unlike a close-knit family, with members jumping in to help one another and make sure the many jobs in need of doing get done for the day.
Along the way, through the hours of interviews with sources and sitting at desks pounding out copy, quite a bit of talking, laughing and gentle — or, not-so-gentle — ribbing transpires between reporters and editors. Bonds form, often for life.
In his three years with the Lockport Union-Sun & Journal, Connor Hoffman developed into one of our better team players. He never hesitated to pick up a stray story even if it wasn't on his beat. He paid attention to what was happening beyond the bounds of Lockport. He felt it was important to contribute each day, whatever he could, to make sure we put out the best edition possible.
Beyond handling his work duties, Connor could give and take with the best of them and I am especially appreciative of his personality and his work ethic.
For those who don't know, Connor is heading off to Michigan State University this month to study law. His last day with us is Friday. I speak for the entire organization when I say he will be missed, both as a reporter and as a co-worker who arrived on the job each day with a smile and a healthy attitude.
For me as an editor, Connor offered the one thing I find hardest to teach: The willingness to ask questions of people in power who were not interested in answering and, in some cases, bristled at the very idea that a reporter would dare ask.
Connor asked pretty much everyone I ever asked him to ask the questions that needed to be asked, which means he conducted himself as any good reporter should.
Connor's ability to press for answers led to some great coverage, most notably his work on the controversial facial recognition-based surveillance system in the Lockport school district, which resulted in the US&J's coverage finding its way to the pages of the New York Times. Through his efforts, Connor managed to find his way into a piece about the system that was produced by MTV News, which sent a crew to film in Lockport and at the US&J office on Main Street.
None of this would have happened had Connor not come to work every day at the lil' ole Union Sun & Journal with a crazy idea that he could do great work and make a big impact representing a small paper in a small city.
Connor took great pride in working for the US&J and in the Lockport community and for that I am eternally grateful.
He is by no means perfect. For example, Connor has horrible taste in Star Wars movies and somehow managed to come away from "The Rise of Skywalker" thinking it was good. We've argued countless times about this and how that film ruined one of the best movie franchises from my childhood.
Many of our conversations ended with him throwing up his hands and saying "OK, Boomer" and me reminding him, again, that while I may sound and act like a Boomer, I'm actually Gen X.
This debate will rage on while he is in Michigan, I'm sure.
Earlier this week, I jokingly told Connor that he is the only guy I know who is actively working his way down the public opinion ladder.
Surveys consistently show reporters are generally not well liked by most Americans.
Lawyers are one of the few professionals that actually rank lower than journalists on most public opinion surveys.
After he gets his law degree, I suggested Connor take a run at U.S. Congress.
If he succeeds, he will have accomplished the "Trifecta of Low Opinion," becoming one of the few people I know to have ever worked as a reporter, a lawyer and a politician.
Wherever he goes and whatever he does, I'm confident Connor Hoffman will bring the same willingness to work, desire to learn, healthy attitude and smile that he brought to the US&J and the Niagara Gazette during his time with us.
I'm confident I speak for everyone at our organization in wishing Connor all the best in his new endeavor and great success in earning a law degree and becoming an attorney.
As is the case with journalists, the world needs good lawyers, the kind who use their abilities to help others in need in hopes of improving the way things work in our often imperfect society.
If Connor approaches the law the way he has approached news gathering, he'll be an asset to any legal department, despite his horrible taste in blockbuster space adventure films.
Mark Scheer is the regional news director for the Union-Sun & Journal and the Niagara Gazette.