One of the luxuries of being the editor — at least on some days — is that since I am the last one that reads stories, captions and columns before they go to press, I can tinker with my own deadlines. For instance, reporters have to turn their columns in by mid afternoon Friday before the Wednesday it is published, since the ‘Perspective’ page is laid out over the weekend. But here I am, about 3:45 p.m. Saturday, just getting it started. Time has once again gotten away from me and the week, like the entire month of April, has flown by. And it seems like so much has happened, there are many items to share.
Relay For Life has come and gone for another year and once again, we had great participation from residents in all three of our ‘paper communities’ of Oakdale, Riverbank and Escalon. The event very nearly hit its monetary goal of $225,000 and since we can collect for the 2010 Relay until August, chances are good that we will reach it before the books close on this year. Our Oakdale-Riverbank sports guy, Ike Dodson, heeded my call to come and spend some time at Relay and he was blown away by how many people were there and how big an event it truly is. Riverbank will have its own Relay event later this month and some Escalon residents go there to participate, as well as some attending this past weekend’s Relay in Manteca, but the Oakdale event always draws people from our local communities. Ike was not prepared for how massive it is; for those of us involved, it’s like there’s nothing else happening in town that weekend. We share those 24 hours with a few thousand of our closest friends and do our best to make a difference. Ike has already signed up for next year…
As you may have read in reporter Kim Van Meter’s column of April 28, we had a team of ‘ghost hunters’ from the Western Paranormal Research Group come in to the office in Oakdale to gauge our paranormal activity on a recent Saturday night. We should have final results of their investigation this week and based on the experiences of that night and some preliminary findings, I would say it’s a good bet they have been able to document some activity. In fact, a co-worker who just returned in a part-time capacity was in the break room with me one morning recently as we were getting coffee, and the television did its ‘I think I will just spontaneously turn on’ trick. We both looked at first at the soda machine when we heard kind of a snapping noise, thinking maybe the fan kicked on, but then the TV screen came to life with its static taking over and the volume rising. Now, more than once I have gone in to the break room to find the TV on, I just have never been there when it turned itself on. I just figured this time it was the ghost’s way of welcoming my co-worker back.
Finally, the results came in for our entries in the CNPA, California Newspaper Publisher’s Association, contest and the best we managed was a ‘Top 10’ finish and certificate of achievement for reporter Craig Macho’s entry on his coverage of the controversial TANC (Transmission Agency of Northern California) transmission line project, submitted in the environmental reporting category. His work was judged in the top 10 percent of the category based on our circulation and went to the ‘Blue Ribbon’ panel of judges, though it did not place first or second.
Hey, at least it got something. The rest of us who submitted entries; myself, and reporters Teresa Hammond and Kim Van Meter, were skunked. Comments from the judges were not altogether helpful and we all are in agreement that there seems to be a Bay Area bias; if you are a small weekly in a rural area, you have a hard time breaking through.
I must admit, I was especially hopeful that a photo I submitted for ‘breaking news’ of a huge garage fire — which I actually called into 9-1-1 as I was approaching the scene — with flames leaping out and firefighters just getting there, would have garnered some sort of honor. Judge ‘A’ said it looked ‘like a rager’ but he would have liked ‘to have seen the firefighter use that hose.’
Well, excuse me for getting there BEFORE the hydrant had been opened up and the hose line energized with water. The firefighter wasn’t using the hose yet because they didn’t have any water. I kind of thought the flames almost touching the camera lens would merit some style points.
Judge B: “You can almost feel the heat in this photo! Great job of getting up close. Good composition and visual impact.”
All that praise and I get an 85 out of 100?
The photo that won in that category is of a vehicle into a drive through — which the car turned in to a drive in — but with the woman in the drive through window smiling at the camera, it certainly appears to have been a picture taken as the car was being removed later, well after the incident ‘broke.’
Am I bitter? Maybe a little. Disappointed, for sure, because everyone in the office agreed the winning photo is as close to staged as you can get. Oh well, maybe next time I’ll just go into the burning building and take a picture of the firefighters as they turn their hoses on and douse my camera. Maybe the judges will like that.
Marg Jackson is editor of The Escalon Times and The Oakdale Leader and assistant editor for The Riverbank News. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 847-3021.