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

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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

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

Picking Stories for Awards

I don’t write a story thinking that it’s award-worthy.

I don’t know if many people do.

I’ll assume that many reporters/columnists may go back after the story has run and reflect on it. They may say it’s award-worthy or not.

I’ve only submitted stories for this year’s CT SPJ awards. We didn’t submit a lot because, for Louisa and I, it was our first “year” of being full-time reporters. There wasn’t really much to submit, though, a lot had happened in the those months.

Of the two stories that I submitted, I received two second-place awards for papers with a circulation of under 18,000.

I don’t think I wrote a post on them because I didn’t want to toot my own horn. I didn’t think that was right and I still won’t do it.

Next month is the The New England Newspaper & Press Association (NENPA) awards. Well, the entries are due next month. I have no idea when we’d be notified.

According to the NENPA web site, the NENPA is the professional trade organization for newspapers in the six New England states: Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Vermont, Maine and Rhode Island.

My city editor asked me to find some stories that I think should be submitted. I thought it was going to take me five minutes, but I spent a good 45 minutes going through all of the clips I could remember from Michelle, Louisa and I over the last year.

It was pretty crazy to remember stories that I completely forgot about. Some happy, some sad.

I also didn’t realize how many articles we’ve all written in the last year. It’s mind-boggling to think that we do all of that. I find that as a point of pride. We work very, very hard each week and we really get a lot done.

I found 10 stories that stood out to me, by myself and the rest of the staff, and e-mailed them to my city editor. I haven’t heard back yet from him, but I’m excited to see what he picks.

I’ve learned that reporters and editors think differently. I know that’s an obvious thing to say, but it’s hard to explain.

I like to think that I have everything covered when I submit a story for my editors. They seem to think of everything.

I haven’t gotten that far yet.

Jonathan

What You Should be Reading: Government Shutdown

It’s been one of the craziest weeks I can remember in news.

The U.S. government is shutdown, a woman tried to ram her car into the White House and there doesn’t look to be any end in sight.

I’ll leave it at that and give some tweets that highlight everything.

 

 

You Can’t Cover Everything

This one happens more than you’d think.

As a reporter covering multiple towns, I’m sure that I’m not alone with trying to be two places at once.

With lots of meetings going on, I can usually get to two towns in one night. It’s not always perfect, but I get it done.

These towns aren’t exactly close together and, at times, it’s pretty hectic.

Meetings aside, there are a lot of events that we cover, as well.

Sometimes meetings get cut out those nights, or we try to do them all. It’s easier said than done, but most of the time we have to remind people that we just can’t cover everything.

Some newspapers cover all the events and leave the meetings out. Some papers are able to cover both. At the Chronicle we stick to the meetings and, if a event or situation arises, it’s decided on a case-by-case basis.

It’s not that we don’t want to cover any events. Events make for better pictures and, sometimes, are just more fun in general. But we stick to what we do and that’s it. I think our editors pride themselves on our meeting coverage, the loyalty of our sources and the dedication we have to hard news.

We have daily features, sure, but we are really a local newspaper.

As a reporter, it gets a bit frustrating when people get upset that you can’t come out to their event. I have no idea how many times I’ve had to explain our situation to others. Some respect it, while others get pretty upset. I can’t really blame them, but we just can’t do it. Why lie to them and say we’ll be there, when we know we won’t send anyone?

I think it’s realistic to expect to cover a lot of events and meetings, no matter what paper you are at. I think all reporters know that.

The stress of trying to cover as many events and meetings can add up. For me, it takes awhile to build up. You think you can do something, until you realize you can’t be in two places at once. It’s a pretty unsettling feeling. Even with great planning, a lot of things just fall through.

It’s just the way life is or we have to develop time travel.

Jonathan