Thirty-three years ago, the birth of the Free Press was a job for a guy who couldn't get a job.

In 1980, I followed my girlfriend, now wife, Martha, to Maine when she relocated as an art teacher, and because I needed work, I began substitute-teaching at Rockland District High School while job hunting. The “aha” moment came in early winter after applying to the Camden Snow Bowl for a position shoveling snow between skiers on the T-bar. Checking on my application and being told the job had gone to someone with “more experience" was the awakening — the expression on Martha's face when I told her was priceless. "Not enough experience; are you kidding me?" she asked, worried her unemployed boyfriend could become a liability — unaffordable on her meager teacher's salary.

An entrepreneur and a four-page Christmas coupon sheet for Rockland merchants were born. It would later lead to the weekly Free Press newspaper and a career instead of a job.

This past weekend, at the Maine Press Association's annual meeting, the state of our industry, and where we fit, was the focus. Remembering the early years when competitors would literally get up and move seats when Free Press reporters sat near them during a city meeting was representative of the papers of record not giving courtesy, including refusing to print us on their presses at the outset. Editors were directed never to put our name in print (unless it was in the court news).

Newspapers and traditional television were the only games in town delivering news to the masses and they knew it; their pride and arrogance on display, they were nevertheless respected for their place in society.

Fast-forward to today; the "fake news" mantra takes away from their continuing role as watchdogs and connectors of community, as Facebook and social media push their way into millions of lives. Who benefits from the "fake news" mantra? It is mostly people being held accountable by the press for what they say and do.

In the end, truth will set us free. As we wait for the Mueller investigation, we see some waning power of the press, but we also see an increasing necessity for it in a free society. Silencing newspapers by murdering a reporter in Saudi Arabia is chilling, while also mobilizing those who understand that the only way to avoid a totalitarian society is for mainstream media to continue their journey and investigation of truth.

In the end, what matters is what you think, not what we think. The public must figure out its priorities and how much weight to put on a president who misrepresents the truth daily and supporters who don't seem to care, as long as he carries out priorities near and dear to them.

The mainstream media has become a lightning rod, discredited by those with an agenda.

Do the media have an agenda? That is a column for another day, but the short story is their job continues to be to shine light for citizens on the underbelly of what's happening so they can make decisions for themselves, on truth. The pundits on FOX want you to believe we can’t be trusted, but the real question is why – consider what is our agenda and what is theirs?

It’s time to take stock of why we’re here, what we should be doing, and how we should be doing it.

Reporters are in the business because they care; it’s not about influence or making a name for themselves, it’s a belief that things are bigger than themselves and wanting to be part of the solution instead of part of the problem.

Being the last one standing is a mixed bag. On the one hand, it is an honor to be in this position and pride for stepping up and taking the baton; this is an industry bigger than any individual and the time will come for others to take a turn.

On the other hand, having a three-part nametag taped together with the newspapers listed is humbling; the length symbolic of the weight of responsibility, as well as embarrassment and self-worth issues on being the last one standing.

There is also pride in staying with something you care about and recognizing how far you've come from those early days when reporters would move because they had no room at the table for the upstart "free" paper; a "pretender" that didn't deserve mention on the hallowed pages of a paper of record.

How far we've come, how far to go, and remembering our job is to be a watchdog while keeping communities connected is now, more than ever, important.

The media doesn’t hold the key. It is you, the reader, who is in control. Vote your conscience and we'll come out of the abyss together.

If it is all about agenda, no matter what side you’re on, we will be in trouble. Keeping truth front and center is key to a free and successful society. To ensure truth, we must vote from our conscience on what is important to each of us.

“The opposite of a correct statement is a false statement. But the opposite of a profound truth may well be another profound truth.” — Niels Bohr, Nobel Prize-winning physicist