Rhoades Less Traveled:

You toil.

You sweat through your shirts.

You gulp down cups of coffee.

You come home late.

Sometimes, you sleep in your tie.

You’re not getting rich doing it.

Rather, you do it out of some sense of importance. You’re delivering information to people so that they can make informed decisions about politics, art and other current events. Every now and then, you’re exposing wrongdoing; you’re afflicting the comfortable, so to speak. You might also be comforting the afflicted with a story that prompts readers to donate to a worthy cause.

Your readers depend on you, and if you let them down, they let you hear about it. If you do your job, you usually don’t get a lot of calls. If you do an outstanding job, such as when we ran photographer Kent Treptow’s moving piece on children living in sewers in Mongolia, you might get a handful of correspondences.

All in all, you’ve some sense of nobility about what you’re doing. That sense of nobility, of high purpose, flickers like a windblown candle somewhere in the vicinity of your soul, and you remind yourself it’s still spasming down there, lighting the way.

Then a brisk wind sweeps through.

It’s a Thursday morning. There’s a pile of letters on your desk. You open them, one by one. The first one has a sticky note to the crossword puzzle that appears in the classified section that reads: “If this was meant to be a joke, it worked. However, it was a very bad joke! There is no way I could work this crossword!!”

Apparently, the crossword puzzle ran smaller than usual. The writer is correct: It’s very hard to read.

The second letter also has a note. This one reads: “You must be kidding! Why print it if an old normal person can’t read it!”

It goes like this for a few more letters, so you switch to e-mail. The first one starts out: “What are you people thinking!

You wonder if they read the story about Newport Beach’s water quality or Assemblyman Chuck DeVore eyeing Sen. Barbara Boxer’s seat or even pigs doing tricks at the fair.

You rationalize: Yes, thousands are reading. We’re making a difference. My career is not about crossword puzzles (though it’s not above it, either).

You plan the next paper, and you’d like to complete that story about a sex offender attending a community college, exposed not only to young women but to children at the campus’ child care center.

Parents at the center deserve to know, and who knows, you might save one from trauma and tragedy.

You go back to editing the next article; the flame flickers. It needn’t be much, just a nub, you tell yourself.

BRADY RHOADES is the Daily Pilot’s editor. He may be reached at brady.rhoades@latimes.com or at (714) 966-4607.

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