A colleague and I were recently having a conversation about how quick time passes, even at a weekly paper. I had just completed covering the birthday of Vera Piccetti who celebrated her 107th birthday. As I took the ceremonial photo of her with her cake I joked that she was my job security. After all, I’d been covering this event since she hit the triple digits in 2003.
Keeping things fresh and interesting in a town of this size year after year is a bit of a challenge at times.
As this colleague and I spoke we confided in one another how there are those few occasions when you hit that rut. The story you feel you’ve told a thousand times and could simply just insert new names and no one would know the difference.
As we spoke this person asked if after seven years I felt burnt out. Honestly, I don’t, but I have. Fortunately I have had occasion to leave the paper (a couple of times) and those breaks served me well. While I am still skeptical and do not believe every child selling lemonade for charity is deserving of a front page story, I am now able to look at things from a different angle.
Next month will mark the eighth anniversary of me placing my two cents on the pages of this paper. The down side of this is that (breaks aside) the issues all seem to run together. If you think time flies, try working for a weekly paper where you are always looking ahead to upcoming issues and events. In a blink we are working on the next month looking at one another asking where did the month go?
Now going into that eighth year, I recall so much. I was new to Oakdale then and with a husband serving abroad in the military, I felt grateful to have found this place. While I was not a native but a BAT (Bay Area Transplant) it took just a bit of time before people around town became welcoming.
As a new writer just looking to share the story of the soldier returning home, the married couples celebrating an anniversary or a mission trip that had changed lives, I have always been welcomed. I have sat in the living room of more homes in this town than I could ever have imagined. For me, in its own odd way, this job has been a great gift.
Often, following a story people will call or e-mail their gratitude for the piece I may have done about them or a family member. Gratitude is an odd thing, because I am always grateful to them for allowing me to share their story.
I guess that’s what I love about this job. It is a job which allows me access to people I may not have known otherwise. It allows me the opportunity to ask questions I may have often wondered. Simply put, I just get to share stories.
Mine are not the stories people will use in lawsuits, or investigative pieces. They are the stories that are sent to family and land in scrapbooks. I love that and I love this town.
Maybe this is why now, after eight years, I am not sitting at this desk and thinking what’s next for me in my career. Instead I am thinking, who haven’t I called in a while? Who’s deserving of a little publicity and praise and, more importantly, I hope somebody calls this week, because I always need a good feature story.
Teresa Hammond is a staff reporter for The Oakdale Leader, The Riverbank News and The Escalon Times. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 847-3021.