Thursday, April 07, 2016

Thursday Thirteen

Things I miss because I no longer write for the local newspaper:

1. The actual writing of the story. Putting together a news story is like mapping out a great quest (even a boring supervisors' meeting). The writer has to figure out the who, what, when, where, and why and the most important items.

2. The people involved with the newspaper (that would be Ed and B.J.). I had contact with them several times a week when I wrote regularly, and I miss those conversations.

3. Getting out of the house to do a story. Most of the events I covered were government meetings - boring in most folk's eyes - but I enjoyed them and found the workings of local government fascinating.

4. Knowing the players. The cast of officials has changed since I stopped writing for the local paper in July due to health issues. We have a new county administrator and probably new support staff. The supervisors are the same people but I missed reporting on a big snuff-up over historic structures and economic development.

5. Keeping up with what is going on. Unfortunately, a newspaper story does not tell or explain all that goes on in a local government meeting. There is no way for a writer to convey everything that goes on there, because the nuances are great and multiple. From snide remarks to lip curling, things like that go unwritten because they are more observations and opinion than fact. I stuck to facts, generally speaking, though occasionally an observation crept into a story if it made it more interesting and was relatively harmless.

6. Late evening phone calls. When I worked from home and was essentially doing a full beat (though freelance), I sort of operated as a second base for the paper at times. People called me at all hours of the day to tell me things or ask questions or respond to my inquiries.

7. The thrill of the chase. There is nothing more exciting to me than chasing down the leads for a good story. Trying to find the truth of something, trying to understand who is lying and why, or figuring out what someone is hiding when they shouldn't be, tracking down the rumor of a big company moving into the area - that's the stuff that used to make my blood feel happy. It was like playing detective except not.

8. Seeing my byline. Yes, I confess, I am egotistical enough to miss seeing my byline in the newspaper. Some weeks it covered the whole front page, top and bottom, photos included.

9. Taking photos. I still carry a camera around with me wherever I go, but my reasons for taking pictures have changed. Now I take them for me, for some kind of artistic purpose that even I don't quite understand, not with an eye towards the news-reading public.

10. Doing exciting things to "get the story." Over the course of the 30 years I wrote for the paper, I spent times at ball games, went up in a hot air balloon, took an airplane ride over the county with drunkard, and rode through the National Forest with the chief ranger to places most folks were clueless about.

11. Educating the public. I considered this the main reason I wrote for the paper - to help folks understand what was going on around them, and why they should care.

12. Writing about interesting things. Feature stories ranged from endangered bats to construction workers - I don't believe I ever found someone I couldn't write something about (though I did find a few I wouldn't write about, a different matter entirely).

13. Being read by over 20,000 people, and having the check-out clerk at the grocery store say, "Aren't you ..." Yes, egotistical again. But for a while I was a minor celebrity in my little area. People still know my name, but it doesn't take long for it to fade from mind. And new residents, of course, will have no idea. I suppose I shall fade in obscurity.

Times change. I changed - my health changed. But I sure do miss that thrill of chasing a story.

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Thursday Thirteen is played by lots of people; there is a list here if you want to read other Thursday Thirteens and/or play along. I've been playing for a while and this is my 442nd time to do a list of 13 on a Thursday. 

9 comments:

  1. I didn't realize you wrote for the paper for so long. I hope you kept a scrapbook. I agree about seeing those bylines. The paper is so much more fun when I'm in it! I can only do a couple a month because of my health.

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    1. I have boxes and boxes of articles and newspapers in a shed (probably eaten by rats by now). Too many for a scrap book, as I frequently averaged 30 articles a month. At one time I had a list of articles by headline and it was about 15 pages long. I think over the years I have written well over 5,000 articles, probably enough words for 50 books. Just my blog printed out in book format (blog2print.com) takes up 1/3 of a book shelf.

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  2. For what it's worth, I miss seeing your stories too. They made great conversations and work and between us as well. If I needed to know the local gosiip, I knew that you were in the know!

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  3. Sorry your life changed that much. Do you do any writing at all now, besides your blog? My T13

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  4. My dad used to be a reporter. I think he misses it, too. I'm glad that you blog though. I really enjoy your posts.

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  5. It sounds like it was a fulfilling career while it lasted. I think most people feel a hole in their life when they retire, whatever it was they did before.

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  6. I miss reading your articles in the paper too. I always knew the information was correct as well as the grammar!!

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