When the president comes to town

Being a reporter has afforded me lots of interesting opportunities over the past few years, but none so cool as sitting in a community center gymnasium in my hometown while the president of the United States spoke.

President Obama visited Charleston for a few hours earlier this week to address the state’s opioid epidemic.

I found out about the visit last Wednesday and was sworn to secrecy for 9 whole hours before we published the story. (Longest hours of my life. BTW, your friends won’t like it if you tell them you have a secret but you can’t tell them what it is).

I looked forward to sharing the news all day, and when I finally posted the story, I was disappointed in the comments that people were making. I’m not sure why I was expecting anything different, but some of the comments were just hateful.

President Obama and his politics are divisive topics in West Virginia, but if anything should unite us, it’s the problem of drug abuse, which has killed thousands of West Virginians over the past few years. And regardless of your political leanings, the man was elected to the highest office in the country. He deserves respect.

The day of the event, I and scores of other journalists got to the event a couple hours early to go through security. Part of my job that day was to live tweet the president’s speech. I nearly had a heart attack when my cellphone battery died. Luckily a couple reporters let me borrow their chargers (it happened twice).

(Note to self: bring one with you next time.)

Anyway, if you’re interested in reading about the event, check out our coverage herehere and here.

Here are a few grainy (sorry) pictures from the event.

President Barack Obama speaks to a crowd in Charleston earlier this week.

“Country Roads” played over the speaker as Obama left the building.

This guy was holding a sign welcoming the president to West Virginia. Others weren’t as friendly.

Obama greets guests at the East End Family Resource Center Wednesday.

The little gym at the East End Family Resource Center looks a lot grander all dressed up for the president.

This was the line for the media to go through security and receive or press badges.

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On editing

“I am not the editor of a newspaper and shall always try to do right and be good so that God will not make me one.” – Mark Twain

It’s been about eight months since I made the jump from news writing to news editing. I spent about 6 years writing for newspapers. I’m a young editor, for sure, and I’m still learning my way around the new job. For anyone who’s ever considered moving from reporting to editing, I thought I’d share some observations I’ve made so far about what the differences are.

1. Management feels like putting out one fire after another. I have a new-found respect for the work my boss does to keep things running smoothly in the newsroom. There are many different individual schedules and personalities to deal with. You also have to deal with  technical issues and the near-daily struggle of having too many or too few stories in the paper. Also, have you ever had to make a work schedule for people? It’s the worst.

2. Editing requires a different way of measuring what you accomplish each day. When you’re a reporter, it’s really easy to come home from a long day of work with a sense of accomplishment. You can point to a story with your name on it in the next day’s paper and know that you did that. Your success is measurable. With editing, it can be a little less clear. Editing requires you to shift your thinking about work — rather than looking for your byline for a sense of accomplishment, you have to realize that all the little things you do, from catching the occasional misspelled name or “West Virgina” to making a lede more clear, help the finished paper be better.

3. You will miss reporting. A lot. They say absence makes the heart grow fonder; it’s true. I’ve resorted to doing the occasional Saturday story or video just to get my reporting fix in.

4. You will realize all the things you did as a reporter that bug your editor. These are mostly little things like not writing photo cutlines or suggested headlines for stories, or not mentioning a scheduling conflict until late.  The little things matter, though.

5. Did I mention you’ll miss reporting?

James Foley and the importance of bearing witness

It’s been more than a week since the world found out — in the grimmest way possible — that American journalist James Foley had been murdered at the hands of ISIS militants.  Foley went missing in 2012 while covering the Syrian Civil War.

I did not know James Foley, but as a fellow journalist I feel a certain kinship toward him. The work I do as an assistant editor at a West Virginia newspaper is worlds away from his work on the front lines of a war.

I’ve dreamed of being a conflict reporter because I think the stories of war and human suffering are immensely important. Someone has to bear witness to the human toll of war. Still I don’t know that I’m brave enough to be a war journalist.

So I’m grateful for him and other reporters who are risking, and sometimes giving, their lives telling of the atrocities of a war that’s claimed more than 160,000 human lives.  So far 69 journalists have killed covering this particular conflict, according to the Committee to Protect Reporters.

I hope it’s some comfort to his family and friends that the work he did matters.

While, as I said, it’s important to bear witness, I don’t think that means viewing the graphic video of his death. If you want to honor the life of a man who died trying to tell stories of war, familiarize yourself with his work. You can find some of it here.

 

The divide

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“Hey sports guys.” – how I recently addressed some colleagues of a year and a half because I wasn’t sure of their names. The invisible divide between news and sports is like a journalistic Berlin Wall.