I’ve been wearing a few hats for the past couple of weeks while we search again for another individual to lead your hometown newspaper.
While I love a good challenge, the last couple of weeks have been unusual. However, like any good newspaper person (those who have ink in their veins) our readers should never underestimate us.
I’ve been in some sticky situations in this business. Some have been more daunting than others. I’ve often said the newspaper business is not for the faint of heart.
Twenty years ago, I was late catching a plane home from Minnesota for my sister’s wedding because I was in court to hear closing arguments of a gang murder trial. I knew I would be late, so I asked the county sheriff if he would give me a lift to the airport after I explained the importance of why I needed a fast ride. As soon as the defense attorney was done making his arguments, he whisked me off in his vehicle to the local airport. I made my flight…only to realize I forgot my suitcase in my car parked at the courthouse. I was thankful my cousin picked me up at the airport and took me to the nearest shopping mall.
It was that same court case where I was placed under police custody because one of the gang members I wrote about broke into my apartment and destroyed every item of furniture I owned and ruined family heirlooms as well as many antiques I had collected over the years. So, for almost three months, the only persons who knew where I was at were the publisher of the newspaper, the county sheriff, and my parents.
I’ve weathered snowstorms on election night; newspapers delivered to my home during a winter snowstorm only to see them destroyed by the city’s snowblower; as well as witnessing the election of a professional wrestler as Minnesota’s governor.
And…I can’t forget the wonderful mishaps at the county fair or forestry expos. Let’s just say I’m pretty good at pig wrangling, the jack and jill saw competitions, as well as baking pies. But I had a hard time scooping the loop with a wheelbarrow full of manure … that didn’t end well at all.
Then there were the times the lights went out and I didn’t save my story on the computer. Guess I was too used to saving my first draft on a typewriter, that I thought a computer would do the same. Nor can I forget about how many computer keyboards I wore out because I learned to type on a manual typewriter.
I arrived on a John Deere tractor at the county board meeting when my car had a flat tire on the way to the meeting. When a county supervisor asked why I was late, I told him I had to hitch a ride on a tractor. That, of course, drew a few chuckles from those attending the meeting. When I told my boss about it the next day, he was mortified. Not me…I told him I was being resourceful. Little did my editor know the person who gave me the tractor ride was my high school prom date.
In those early days of reporting before social media, fax machines, emails and cell phones, getting the news meant pounding the pavement to get the story.
Guess I’m just a crusty old reporter… or should I say a curmudgeon when reporting the news. I despise reporters who don’t want to get out of their chair to search for the news. Social media has contributed to our demise.
A few years back, I asked the reporter if he had talked to the county supervisor concerning a story on local bridge conditions.
“Nope,” he said. “I sent him an email a couple of hours ago and he hasn’t answered.”
I flew out of my chair and towered over him saying, “The county courthouse is three blocks away and I happen to know for a fact Supervisor Parker is always in his office from 1 to 3 p.m. every day. Now move it and walk to the courthouse and find him. FYI… Parker hates emails.”
Needless-to-say, the reporter sheepishly walked back into the newsroom a half an hour later with quotes in hand.
“I guess you were right,” he said. “Supervisor Parker never answers emails to reporters. He wants to see us in person.”
Yes, I’ve been a few pickles in this business. I’m guessing John Larson has been too. However, the paper will continue to publish.
This week I have to give kudos to our fellow staff members, Stephanie McFadden and Denise Ortega for lending a helping hand as well as some very talented writers at the Albuquerque Journal and Valencia County News-Bulletin.
It’s always nice when friends are willing to offer their expertise and their time to continue to bring you your community newspaper