Category Archives: This Journalist’s Journey

The Hometown Hero

Stuff Journalists Like

 

I wrote my first hometown hero piece this week after a family flipped a vehicle into a ditch filled with river water. A group of passersby pulled the 21-year-old mother and her 3-year-old and 18-month-old daughters out of the Jeep Cherokee.

I began with the story of the emergency room nurse who performed CPR on the youngest child, and my next story will focus on the men who pulled them from the vehicle.

Seeing the above blog post (hilarious) made me want to share the news. See the full post here: http://www.stuffjournalistslike.com/2009/03/hometown-heroes.html

Furlough Food

The grievous news came last Monday, as the Entourage of Death — publisher, editor, advertising and HR directors — descended upon our tiny newspaper staff. Ten-day furlough, they said. 

Earlier that morning, the Ann Arbor News announced it would close, and three other Michigan dailies — The Bay City Times, The Flint Journal and The Saginaw News — announced they were scaling back to 3 days a week. Considering all that and other bad news in the industry, our staff was praying for the furlough. 

Newhouse announced 10-day furloughs and pension freezes at all its papers outside Michigan. Also that day, Gannett announced a week of furloughs, having already implemented a company-wide, one-week furlough just months ago.  We at Newhouse get the benefit of three-day weekends and extended vacation time, if we choose, or we may also work 37.5 hours for 32 weeks so we aren’t hit too hard. 

Friends at Gannett report they were told “furlough isn’t vacation” and must take mid-week furlough days. As if the cash-strapped employees weren’t put out enough!

I dipped my toe into the furlough pool immediately, taking off that Wednesday, to see how it would affect my paycheck and budget. I’m also extending two planned vacations with furlough days and taking a four-day weekend.

Now our staff adds “furlough” to nearly every noun for effect. One coworker baked furlough cookies (delicious!) for the next day. Today, she brought in a furlough quiche for breakfast. I’m holding out for furlough steak! 

Breaking Through

I met him months ago, the executive director of the such-and-such public authority. It’s an authority within my beat; I can’t avoid him.  The first time I called: “I really don’t have the time, Darlin'” and “Why do you want to know that?”

The second meeting was in person. “Hmmph,” he implied, looking me over. Yes, I am female. Yes, I am rather young. No, I am not an imbecile. And I know my questions are exhaustive. That’s the point.

Ackward encounters dotted the next few months.

Then today, I finally broke through. It happened this morning, and I nearly leapt out of my heels. “Well, you sure don’t play, do you?” he asked, laughing. No, I don’t. Then he gave me all the information I needed, absolutely no beef, a few decent quotes and a sense of accomplishment.

“I’ll see you at the next meeting,” he said. “I’ll have my game face on.”

Saturday Reporting

At my daily newspaper, we keep only one reporter on staff during weekends, and – lucky me – it’s my turn.

So it’s across town by 7:30 a.m. for a Walk Against Violence then out into the country to take photos by 11. About 70 miles later, it’s back to the office to finish my story by 2. Then I get to do it all over again Sunday, submitting my own photos and writing a fluffy piece for Monday’s edition.

Thankfully, this rotation is only once a month. And as an added perk, I’ll get Friday off next week, where I’ll sleep for roughly 72 hours to recuperate from the 11 straight days of work. However, I’ll maintain that my job, never boring, is the best in the business.

One to Outweigh Them All

I never underestimate the power of a good interview.  It’s almost unreal  how one solid interview can atone for a litany of onerous sources and unpleasant meetings. It only takes one to set me up for a good day or redeem a horrific day, and a really good one can affect my mood all week.

The very best ones answer the questions I didn’t even ask. That happened to me this week when I delved into a state insurance program for the first time. I was engaged by the state leader, who was not the mucky-muck politician I’d expected at all.

Does anyone have thoughts on how to set the perfect tone to get interviews like these?