Thursday, January 28, 2010

Running From Good to Great


Here is a real advertisement for a job at The Evening Sun.

"Reporter: The Evening Sun in Hanover, Pa., a 21,000-circulation award-winning newspaper in southcentral Pennsylvania, seeks a general assignment reporter. The ideal candidate should have excellent reporting and writing skills to cover local government and local issues. We are looking for a reporter with the tenacity to push official sources and the skill to write compelling stories on matters of local concern. Entry-level journalists who report with skill and write with flair are encouraged to apply. We offer good benefits and a great working environment for people passionate about journalism. Send resume and clips to Editor Marc Charisse, 135 Baltimore St., Hanover, Pa. 17331, or e-mail mcharisse@eveningsun.com."

Which of course, reminds me of a little run-in with the law I had during the infancy of my own journalistic career. I call it the story of how easy it is to go from "Good to Great."

A small private plane emergency landed/crashed/illegally plummeted out of the sky, as told through another local radio's "breaking news" outlet. As the major newspaper in town, my own weekend reporting gig was quickly changed from covering the cops and court beat to tracking down the numbers of survivors/details of the crash/photos of the dead bodies. Whatever. I was pumped! My editor told me not to come back without the story.

So I approached the delivery truck entrance to the Central Illinois Regional Airport with a bit of trepidation once the airport authority told me (the media) to take a hike at the main entrance gates. After parking (hiding) my newspaper car, I traveled on foot across the grassy knoll to what appeared to be long skid marks in the rolling meadow and a far-off two or four seated piper on it's head in the middle of where some rather nice Illinois natural prairie was being restored. (Illinois Prairie is code for tall, unruly weeds and bad things that hurt you if you are forced to walk through it.) That's when I felt a large hand fall solidly on my right shoulder. I turned to face a gigantic man wearing an official bright orange safety vest, a strange hat and boots that traveled well past a permissable fashion or function requirement for this job.

"Exactly how much money do you make sweetheart?" said the gruff voice.

I actually had been thinking (cursing) just that as stickers and weed seeds had begun creeping up my legs and into my socks as I trekked through the prairie plantings. I did some quick math in my head. I choked back a few real tears.

"If there is a story out here, sir, we intend to grab all the facts and get out of your way," I said.

"Well, here are the facts, " he started to say and we both turned to go, "You will not feel so good after a night in jail for obstruction and your little newspaper is not going to help you out. I am, though. See?"

And I did see. No fatalities. No big story. No nothing. Just a stupid piper plane and a few disoriented folks standing around scratching their bums. I put my reporter notebook away and walked off.

I ran back into the newsroom later that day to spend nearly an hour removing little sticker things and seed pods from my jeans. My editor laughed his ass off. I had about four lines from a police docket that I used to explain what happened that afternoon and you know what he said? "It's all good."

I cashed the check for my $10 an hour job in order to order a pizza and drink a case of beer with the neighbors that weekend. I think we also played horseshoes or something like that. But we all laughed. It was great.