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The Next Step and a New Year

I would have been at the Chronicle for two years on Jan. 4, 2014.

I’ll be bringing in the New Year two days early with a new job.

I’ve been hired by the Journal Inquirer to cover a couple of towns for them.

But before I get into the new details I have some thanking and reminiscing to do.

The Chronicle has been amazing to me. I will never forget my time in Willimantic.

As I told publisher Pat Crosbie on my last Friday night shift, we are a family.

Her husband Kevin Crosbie died in April 2012 and since then, we have all had a bit more on our plate. No one complained, though. It’s been tough, but we’ve all gotten closer and I think the paper, itself, has grown a bit.

I told Pat that the past two (almost) years have been amazing and that I owe everything to her, the editors and my colleagues. I told her I was sorry and she told me not to be.

She said I’ll be missed and wished me luck on lies ahead for me.

I can’t even begin to describe how tough that was for me. I was worried she was going to get mad at me. The holidays are coming, the New Year is approaching and I almost feel like I’m letting the entire editorial department down.

Mike hired me before I finished my last exam at CCSU. I know my coverage area, four small towns, better than I do my hometown. I completely engrossed myself into my work and I’ve given 110 percent for two (almost) years.

My editors have taught me everything from avoiding words like “that” and stop writing sentences backwards.

My leads were pretty bad when I started (proof here and here), but I’ve gotten much, much better.

I love writing feature stories and I’m experienced with crime and courts. I think I’ve covered everything.

Just writing the last three sentences really brought back a ton of memories. I’ll be honest most of the memories are great, but there are some that will stick with me for all the wrong reasons.

Disclaimer: I’ve come to realize those stories are a part of the job. I’m not complaining, but, rather, stating the obvious. I’ve made that clear throughout my time blogging. I’m 24 and I know that there will be much more awful/tough stories to cover down the road. And I’m ready for them.

I’m going to miss the Chronicle team. Louisa, Michelle and I have quite literally grown-up together. It’s been tough, at times, but we’ve always done what we can to get the paper out.

I’m going to miss everyone.

I’m starting a new chapter with my life and I’m really nervous and excited.

I’ve been reading the JI since I was a kid. I think 85 percent of my mother’s family are subscribers to the JI and have been for years.

I’ve blogged about my internship at the JI, too. It was in the summer of 2008 and I loved it. I don’t remember how many hours I had to do, but I seriously tried to get hired by my editor. I barely had my associate’s degree and I thought I could do the job. I was just a kid then. I had no idea what was in store for me.

This time, I know. I’m ready. I know I’m ready.

As of right now, I’ll be covering three towns and I’ll be giving the JI 110 percent soon.

This blog won’t change and neither will the fire under my butt.

Thank you for reading.

Jonathan

Awkward and Tough

It’s been over a year since Newtown. I wanted to write this post before Dec. 14, but I thought better of it. I knew I needed to wait. I didn’t have a reason why (I still don’t), but I needed to wait.

I’ve written about Newtown before and it hasn’t been easy.

Some of my best writing has come from Newtown, which is awful to say, but covering three vigils last December and the story package we had this past weekend was something to remember.

It’s never easy to broach the conversation, but, I feel, it’s good for people to talk to someone, other than a family member or friend, who just wants to hear what you have to say.

At the Chronicle we came up with the idea to do something a bit different with our Newtown coverage. To localize it, we decided to interview parents of elementary school-aged children in our districts. We asked them if they felt their children were safe and how they, as parents, have possibly changed since last December.

Before I even called anyone, I was freaking out. I had a gut feeling no one was going to talk to me. I figured, since they are parents, they just wouldn’t want to. Newtown affected each person a bit differently. Many people are still grieving. And that’s more than okay. What happened in Newtown, though I have yet to go into the town, haunts me each day (that’s another post).

I got my list of parents and I started calling. For many, I left long, awkward messages asking them for a bit of their time to talk about the safety of their children in the shadow of Newtown. For some, I got the mothers right away and we just started talking.

What I thought were going to be five-minute conversations turned into half-hour scrolls of how they handled it that day with their children to how nervous they get out in public. It was simply amazing.

These were the interviews where you didn’t have to ask any questions. Once you told them the topic they took it and ran with it. It was something I will never forget.

Mike had Louisa and I work on it together, effectively splitting up our “Big 5” towns and getting as many parents as we could. The story that came out of those interviews is easily one of my top five best stories of my life

You can read it here:

Keeping Newtown close to their hearts Local parents continue to cope with the tragedy.

I’ve read it probably 10 times and I just remember covering all of the vigils and memorials last year. Whether it was 26 bells at a church in Lebanon or 26 candles at the high school auditorium in Coventry, I don’t think I’ll ever be able to forget the 26 people who were gunned down last year.

This story is about the healing process and how it’s not as easy as turning a new page in life. Safety and security mean more to parents than ever before.

These were mostly children. Babies. They were just babies…

Jonathan

Teamwork is Key

I’ve blogged about teamwork before.

With a small staff, teamwork is in play on a daily basis.

Just this past Wednesday a situation arose where the news team had to make a decision.

Louisa was in a pickle. She had to go to court and cover an event at ECSU.

Michelle had something to cover at UConn and I opted to let her choose what I would cover. She, obviously, chose to cover the courts (this time it was Danielson Superior Court) and I covered the event at Eastern.

The decision was made in less than five minutes.

Why the rush?

The ECSU event was at 10 a.m., while the court appearances were in Danielson at roughly the same time.

This all took place just before 9:30 and we had to make a decision. I had no problem with the outcome. I had covered the toy event last year, so I knew what I was getting into.

To make long stories short, everything went fine. I texted my city editor after the event and told him everything was going to be great on my end. He thanked me for being a team player and Thursday’s paper had everything we needed to have. The front page was one to remember.

I could have complained because I had a tree-lighting to cover Wednesday night, but I didn’t. I knew that I had to help Louisa out and make sure we covered everything.

I think it’s big for reporters to be selfless in their work. You never know what’s going to happen, nor where. You just have to be ready.

Having a team you can rely on is hard to put into words. It makes the job much better and it creates a bond full of trust and, to be honest, respect.

It’s not easy being thrown into an assignment 20 minutes before it starts. It’s not always fun, but you have to adapt and do what is thrown at you.

Jonathan

I Need to Blog More Often

I don’t know why I stopped blogging.

I wish I had a better excuse. It’s been a busy couple of months since my last post.

I’m back here now to make a commitment that I’m going to start posting much more frequently.

I’m going to work my way back to one post a week and then maybe more, depending on how things go.

I’ve missed a lot of good posts on stories that I’ve written and I’m not happy about it. I had to take a break, though.

I want to start all this backup next week, but I wanted to put this here, so that I have it in writing that I’ve pledged to do this.

I’ll be back soon.

Jonathan

Getting People to Stop Talking (While on Deadline)

After deadline last week, Louisa, Michelle and I talked about how each of us gets someone off the phone.

Louisa said she had a 15-minute long conversation that she didn’t want to have, but wasn’t sure how to nicely tell the person that sh needed to get back to work on deadline.

I told her there really isn’t one way to do go about it. Some people just forget that we are a morning deadline paper. Some people just can’t stop talking.

None of us came up with anything decent for the next time it happens. Believe me when I tell you that it happens everyday with, at least, one of us. It’s no one’s fault, though. Some stories bring out real emotions and people want to make sure their voice is heard.

My first reaction was to  say “lie” to the source, but we all know what happens when that decision is made. You can’t get that back.

That can be a post in and of itself, but I digress.

It’s not that we don’t want to hear what people have to say. It’s that deadline is just that — a deadline. We have to stick to it. It’s easy to forget, the three of us know that. We forget all the time.

No matter what, you’ll have to interrupt the person. That’s never a fun thing to do, no matter how close you are to the source. Stopping people mid-sentence is awkward.

For me, I usually say that I’ll call them back as soon as I get off deadline and that I’m sorry. They quickly understand, but sometimes people do get a little offended. I can’t really blame them. Some conversations aren’t the same the second time around. Any reporter could tell you that.

I never like doing that. It’s just a part of work.

You just have to hope that sources understand. I’m sure every experienced reporter has their own way of saying it. It may be different for specific sources, or it may not.

Deadline comes first because, for me, you never want to be the one holding up the paper.

Jonathan