Saturday, February 26, 2011

One year

I've now been a reporter at The Daily Press for one whole year. A little over a year, actually.

The other day, as deadlines whizzed by, phones rang, and I scarfed down yet another desk lunch of Mr. Noodles and Coke, I realized I'd missed the actual anniversary. 

At first, I was shocked that a year had already gone by since my return to the North. I guess time really does fly when you're having fun. Riding in helicopters. Meeting important people. Scoring tons of free lunches and dinners at events you're way under-dressed for, but no one cares because you're a reporter and you're expected to look busy, frazzled, bed-headed and hungry.

I'm pretty sure I've learned more over the past year than I have in the last 27. And not just about police scanner-induced headaches, humbling corrections, or why election night pizza tastes so damn good (Answer: because you haven't had time to eat all day. And because it's free.)

Working for a daily newspaper has taught me that coffee is magic juice. Through late night stories and cold outdoor assignments, I've developed quite a relationship with java, one only paralleled by my love affair with the office vending machine. (The loud shrieks you've been hearing that sound something like "THEY GOT BROWNIES!" Yeah. Guilty.)

So far, I've yet to be pulled over by a local police officer on the job. But I've been imagining the scenario since I started. It goes something like this:
Officer: "Miss, do you know how fast you were - wait a minute, didn't I just see you at that homicide scene?"
Me: "Why yes, officer. I'm a reporter. For a newspaper. I have a deadline and simply MUST get back to the office immediately to alert the world region about this masked madman on the loose!"
Officer: I apologize. Carry on. Go as fast as you need to. Wanna grab a drink, when you're done?" 
Still waiting for that first name-dropping scenario but I'm pretty sure that's EXACTLY how it'll go. 

The thing that stands out more than anything else though about doing this job is that life isn't black and white. It's not simple, and it's not fair. There are two sides to every story, and everyone has a story.

Being a young, sometimes naive reporter, the shades of gray get to me. Sitting in court, listening to details of yet another domestic abuse case. Growing increasingly frustrated with the government when people suffer and are not being heard. Visiting a woman in a wheelchair who can't reach the tap in her apartment to brush her teeth because there isn't enough accessible housing in the city.

Yes, the shades of gray bother me. If the solution seems so simple to me, why is nothing being done? The truth is, I wouldn't know where to begin to solve these huge problems. So, I sit with these people, listening humbly to their stories. Then, I go back to the office, sit at my desk, gather my thoughts, and begin to write. Sometimes it's as simple as a Sunday afternoon bake sale. Often, it's much, much more. 

In moments of weakness and self-doubt, I wonder about the significance of what I do for a "living." What am I contributing? What is the value of my job? 

Essentially, I'm a story-teller. I can only hope I'm doing these people justice, writing news that's worthy of a quiet morning with a cup of coffee. The thought that my words are the first thing people read in their busy lives is both gratifying and terrifying. 

Everyone makes mistakes at work. A reporter's are aired out for thousands to see (and likely, comment on.) My errors remind me not to become too complacent. To keep questioning. To do my homework. To research. To never stop learning. 

The past year has truly been one of the most exciting, rewarding, entertaining experiences of my life. For that, I'm beyond thankful, and feel so lucky to be doing what I love.

Recently, we at the Press have been on another learning adventure (doesn't this sound exciting, like a trek through the jungle where man-eating snakes are waiting around every corner?) In an effort to stay down with the times, we've begun shooting news videos to post online with our stories. Neither my coworker Chelsey or I have had any television training whatsoever. Needless to say, it's been fun. By fun I mean we've laughed a lot. By laughed I mean cried. 

I leave you now with a short clip of my ongoing trials on-camera. Just so you know, all of my bloopers can be attributed to Chelsey Romain, Reporter/Photographer, and her uncanny knack for making me laugh when I shouldn't. Warning: I use the F word. 


So here's to a year of laughs, learning, good stories, bright smiles, great people, cute cops, and strong coffee. Here's to many more to come.