Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Variety show

One of the comments following a set of awards mentioned my newspaper had a good mix of content and it was relevant to the readers. I had more pride in those comments than the award.

And it continues. This week's front page: follow up on plea hearing for a crime, school board action for additional certification, community theater play and economic impact of a TIF plan. Other news: law enforcement sales tax on county ballot, new business feature, calendar of Halloween/fall related events, fundraiser Halloween event, fire safety week in schools and a nearby town mimicking our city's efforts for growth.

I'm writing this blog because I'm waiting on several people to call me back. Here are some stories I'm waiting on: more on the TIF plan front, mountain lion sightings, ghost hunters, tax collection, another new business feature, a business closing and a high school fundraiser.

You want variety, you've got it!

There have been times in my career when I wanted to cover a statehouse - and I still think it would be fun. I have spent time as a city reporter, being dedicated to just one beat for a daily has tremendous advantages. But the variety sure makes it fun.

Of course, I always like to tell the story of the time I was a city beat reporter and at 7 a.m. I was sitting next to the city manager at Rotary listening to a State Rep. speak and at 3:30 p.m. that same day I was getting peed on by a dog in a park. But I don't think I've ever covered economic development, wildlife and paranormal activity all in a day.

OK, I'm rambling now. I've got some ideas for other blog posts, just need time to work on them.

Friday, October 2, 2009

The lighter side

How about something refreshing?

At the risk of sounding like the readers, how about some good news for a change? I know, if it bleeds it leads; and there is plenty of "good news," you're just not looking for it.

Well, it's time for one of those feel-good stories.

I was at the homecoming parade today. I don't think I've ever been as connected to a community I cover as this one. While I've seen many people I recognized or knew from my beat and reporting at events in the past, it wasn't until this homecoming parade that I could look around see so many familiar faces in one place. That probably has a lot to do with it being a small town. The part that makes me feel old is seeing the students in the parade and thinking, "That's so-and-so's kid" or "They look just like their parents."

Keep in mind, I'm making these comments after being here less than a year and a half. I think there are more connections in a smaller town. If Joe Schmo is a regular on my beat, in a smaller town it's more likely that his child will be the one involved in school. It's also more likely that you'll cross someone's path more than once in small town.

I grew up in a similar-size town. I knew a guy in high school there that had a theory: you never see any person only once. He believed that everybody would cross paths with everybody multiple times in life. Never a one-time deal. Poor guy. He had no idea how big the world is outside that small town.

But when you're here in Smalltown, USA, that's the way it can feel at times.

So that's your feel-good moment of the day. Now I've got to go make some calls to find out why some guy was found dead in the truck stop shower.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Broken news

When light features go bad....
I was writing this blog in my head yesterday afternoon, but the ending was different than I wanted or expected.

At first it was a great small-town journalism day. I was driving around to different things yesterday when I noticed three different produce stands in town with pumpkins and gourdes among other veggies. Well, I thought, this is a story.

The first one was OK, I got some good information, but no dazzling quotes. The sellers were from a town about 40 miles north, but they're here selling every week.

The next one was pretty much the same: from almost an hour away and not much to say.

The third one was jackpot! Everything was locally grown and the seller had great, colorful quotes:
"Once Oct. 1 hits with the cooler weather it's time to decorate the porch and make chili," said the man selling pumpkins, gourdes, tomatoes and a variety of peppers.
"They're just so ugly they're pretty," he said about the gourdes.

It was great. Then he wouldn't give me his name. Just the name of his business run by him and his brother. I have the two brothers' first names, but no last names and I don't know which one he is. Turns out one of them may have been convicted of a couple crimes - but nothing in the past 5 years and no outstanding warrants. So why did he want his name left out?

It's raining today, so I probably won't have luck with going back, but I do plan to go back. I want to convince them to give me names. It may mean the story is lame, but no names and no free publicity. That's how it goes, folks.