Posts Tagged ‘professional journalist’

Sometimes, it’s the little victories.

We had one here the other day that made me feel proud about my chosen profession and the chosen professionals with whom I share cavernous air-conditioned space.

It was the story that took 13 years to write: The Vainauskas triplets, graduating this weekend from Broadalbin-Perth High School.

You all saw the story on the front page of Thursday’s River City Tattler. (Those of you who haven’t should look ashamed.)

For those of you who haven’t read it (which is probably a very small number), in a nutshell, it was about (spoiler alert) three siblings who, 13 years ago, got their picture on the front page of the local newspaper on their first day of kindergarten and now, 13 years later, got their picture on the front page of the local newspaper on their last day of high school.

It was about other things, too, like what they want to be when they grow up, how often they fight, etc. The story wasn’t just about the local newspaper. Although it should have been. We had to include some stuff about the kids.

Professional journalist Jaime Studd roped the whole thing together — talked to the Vainauskas triplets, took their photo, typed the words into the computer, and spent the better part of an entire day digging through our no-longer alphabetized, cartoonishly jumbled and antiquated newspaper clipping filing system in search of the original photo showing them as kindergartners. (A search, by the way, that, before the afternoon was over, involved more than one member of the news gathering staff and, if my ears were correct, more than one syllable of colorful language).

And for all of her hard work, Jaime was rewarded with a bunch more work to do, quickly and with some accuracy.

But that’s the boring part, because nowhere in there am I mentioned.

Following is the good part, because it’s where I come in.

I didn’t know what year we wrote the original kindergarten story. Not only because I don’t pay attention, but because even if I did, it wouldn’t matter because I don’t remember things. So I have completely stopped bothering.

All I knew was, years ago, there was a story in the paper. The photo of the little kids was ridiculously cute. The idea for the story, which was probably not mine but for which I will take full credit because who’s gonna say otherwise, was the kind of idea that sells newspapers.

I said to myself at the time, lo those many years ago, that this is only half of the story. We need to find these kids when they graduate, take the same photo, and write about me and my awesome journalism idea.

Problem was, because I said this to myself, I didn’t have any help from the rest of my co-news gathering professionals, one of whom might have remembered when the story was first published. But that would have been no help either, because only one of them is still here after 13 years.

Well, maybe four.

Because I didn’t remember what year we published it, I have spent the better part of the past decade and a half wondering, every June when thoughts turn to graduation season, if these youngsters are still around and waiting for us to show up with cameras and typewriters a-blazin’.

The only positive contribution I have made to this entire scenario is remembering the original story once existed. Also, I make the first pot of coffee each morning.

I couldn’t remember the name of the kids.

It was before we had our current and modern excellent computer filing system made available by electricity, so I couldn’t just do a Google search (for a name I didn’t remember).

And our file cabinet archive is challenging, so little chance there.

No idea who they were, where they might be, how old, nothing.

But, to my own credit, I have at least been asking our reporters every year for the past several years to make sure they ask their high school principals if, by chance, there is a set of triplets graduating in that particular class that particular year.

Been doing this for years.

Nothing. No triplets here, they’d say.

Last year, when this happened again with another reporter hitting another roadblock, I figured we missed them and that the triplets were off living their lives.

I did it again this year, if I remember correctly. At least, I meant to. Several weeks ago, I think, we were discussing our annual attempt to fill our journalism pages with unique feature stories about graduation (the kinds of stories that sell newspapers), including this one about these three siblings.

Well, Wednesday afternoon, Jaime came into the newsroom saying she found the kids (they had started out in the Greater Amsterdam School District and since moved to Broadalbin-Perth). My decade-long search for work I had no intention of doing myself had paid off in the form of work done by someone more eager. And successful.

It was the stuff that boring movies about people who work at newspapers are made of. Jaime said they were graduating this week, they had a copy of the original article published (I now learned) 13 years ago. She was able to photograph them in a pose similar to the original one, she talked with them about their lives and plans. We (and by “we” I mean “everyone but me”) ran the photos and story at the top of Thursday’s front page.

This is the kind of stuff that sells newspapers.

But that’s not really about me, so, back to the original point.

What I am driving at is that I have been doing this now for 30 years, this newspaper thing. In fact, this weekend is the 30th anniversary of my first day on the job at the Courier-Standard-Enterprise in Fort Plain.

I have been working here, and at other newspapers owned by this publishing company, for more than half of my life. I hadn’t realized until typing the previous sentence that I had done anything for more than half of my life. Except beer.

But Wednesday I realized, while chair dancing in celebration of my personal victory of someone else finally landing this story, that this is one of my most, if not the most, satisfying professional successes. I can’t stop smiling about it. A plan actually came together.

For a story that took 13 years to write.

It will not be easy to top this one, but when we get back to work on Monday, at the beginning of year 31, we’ll give it the old college try.

And by “we,” this time, I mean me.


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