Wednesday, May 30, 2007

It's Hard Telling Stories

One day in the newsroom many years ago, I realized the new reporter next to me was 40 years my junior.

If that wasn’t a wake-up call, I don’t know what is. Curiously, Kyle bailed for brighter and less taxing opportunities and I plugged along until full retirement age (actually, by that time, it was more like a short sprint).

Filling in today on a crime story made me remember how hard it is to be a reporter. Limning the human tragedies that make front page news is a skill, but not one I would wish on anybody. When I worked for the city weekly “Plainfield Today” in the 1980s, we had the luxury of not having to cover breaking news such as homicides.

Hardcore newsies talk about “a fatal” in a completely different way than it is perceived by a grieving family. The task of a reporter is to bridge the gap between humanity and news value.

It’s not easy and perhaps never will be. To see helicopter photos of one’s home on television or to see locator maps of a block that show crime, but not all the community efforts to beautify the neighborhood, that’s a challenge.

On my walk to and from the crime scene, I saw lovely gardens, religious shrines, wildflowers that I wanted to dig up and take home and many more highlights.

As someone who has taken up walking for the past six or seven months, I advocate getting to know one’s neighborhood.

There may be some sad stories to tell, but maybe even more celebrations of one’s neighborhood to discover.

--Bernice Paglia


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