Sunday, February 21, 2016

Writing the News

Today I’m doing a little reminiscing of the years I spent as a journalist. In spite of constant criticism of the media (some of it, well deserved) I enjoyed being a reporter. It gave me an opportunity to meet a wide variety people.

Did you know that Hemingway, Dickens, Twain, Steinbeck, Steinem and many more famous writers were journalists?

Once I went into a deep coalmine. It was a little scary, but at least it should be at its safest when you are with the U.S. Assistant Secretary of Labor for Mine Safety and Health.

Before going into the mine, I had to go through training and be fitted with basic equipment. My outfit was ugly, bulky and heavy, but if it could save my life, I was willing to wear it. I learned how to find my way out in an emergency (definitely worth knowing) and the basic mine layout.

They took us down into the mine in Hummers. In that article, I wrote “Visions of dead canaries and trapped miners flashed through my mind as I began my trip to more than four miles under Maryland and West Virginia.”

Once walking around, I found it fascinating and forgot to worry. It was like a dark city, with arteries running in different directions.

I wrote, “I felt like one of the guys, instead of the only female in the group, with my boots, coveralls, hard hat, safety glasses, miner’s light and safety belt. One advantage to having hips was holding up the 15-plus pound belt with battery for my lantern and my personal rescuer (oxygen).”

I did break the rules once, just slightly. While standing with a group of men who were talking, I turned off my light for a minute. It was so dark I couldn’t see my hand in front of my face. I know, that is a cliché, but in this instance I am speaking literally. I switched the light back on quickly and was relieved as we headed back to the Hummers and out of this underworld.

I also viewed mine reclamation efforts for areas polluted by early abandoned mines and wrote about locals helping with the rescue of the nine miners trapped 240 feet underground in Somerset, PA.

Holding a black bear cub
while park rangers check
out its 350 pound mother
As a staff writer for the Cumberland Times-News, I was on a first name basis with many state and local politicians, police officers, park rangers, fire and emergency personnel, athletes and farmers.

I met people from all walks of life while writing about medicine, education, business, government, mental health, and numerous charitable events, and interviewed veterans, coal miners, and writers (including Homer H. Hickam, Jr., author of Rocket Boys, adapted for the movie October Sky).

Of course, not everything was fun. After years of auto accidents, fires, deaths, and court cases.  I moved to writing tourism and business promotion, where almost everything is positive.

Enjoying a sleigh ride at Pleasant
Valley Dream Rides
Journalists communicate with words, but often on a short deadline, with limited space.

Today with television, online news and digital magazines, videos and pictures add to the effect of those words.

Some journalists have helped change the world. I was happy entertain people and keep them abreast of what was happening in their area.

Over the years, I wrote for newspapers in Garrett and Carroll counties and for magazines.

Being a journalist was fun and educational. I am proud to be able to count myself (in a small way) along with the many famous journalists. I enjoyed newspaper writing and plan to do more, along with writing fiction, poetry and other types of non-fiction.