Editorial: Bad case of reporter's withdrawal
Written by Jan Larson McLaughlin Sentinel Editor   
Wednesday, 10 July 2013 09:51
Jan Larson McLaughlin
(Editor's warning: This column contains no real news value.)
I am suffering from withdrawal.
After nearly a month of giving up my news beat for the editor's job, I am having a tough time reading the stories I used to write. It's not that the reporters here can't handle the stories. In fact, they have aptly filled in any hole I left behind when I vacated my beat.
But I am having a slight identity crisis. I now have to delegate stories that I used to dream about tackling.
When someone from the oil industry called a couple weeks ago to talk about fracking, I felt my heart beat a little faster at the thought of digging into that topic. But I gave the story to David Dupont, knowing he would do a good job with it. When I recently met someone collecting signatures for a petition supporting gay marriage in Ohio, my mind instantly went to all the sources I should contact. But I handed off the story to Alex Aspacher, who I had no doubt could handle it.
I thought I was just experiencing the normal withdrawal symptoms of going cold turkey on reporting.
However, I knew I needed help when a man calling himself the "Jockular Juggler" called to talk about the upcoming jugglers convention in Bowling Green. As he talked about his ability to juggle kettle bells, my brain started searching for all the possible puns I could use with that story.
But then it hit me again. I had to delegate. I'm not sure, but I think I broke out into a sweat as I tossed the juggler story to Jordan Cravens.
I think I have identified the problem. I have never been a competitive person. I actually hate winning at games. It makes me uncomfortable. Ask my family - my kids love playing games with me because I practically bend over backwards to lose.
The one area of my life that I was comfortable being assertive in was my reporting. I always wanted to beat competing media on stories. And I have to confess, I even made an effort to claim stories in our newsroom that I thought might make a difference. I'm not sure, but I was probably a pest, asking to cover every president to visit the area, convincing BG police to let me go along on the early morning raid of the Occupy BG site, insisting that BGSU administration explain their decision to get rid of 100 faculty members, and going with sheriff's deputies as they forcibly removed a Stony Ridge man from his foreclosed home.
For someone so tolerant in other areas of life, I enjoyed exercising my backbone when public boards would conduct business behind closed doors. My pulse would quicken when I got a really good quote from a source. And I would lay awake at night going over stories that revealed some injustice or wrongdoing.
I now yearn for the days of covering stories that I believed mattered. Of families losing their homes to foreclosure, or factory workers losing their jobs to a plant shutdown. I even got excited about heated meetings over sewers, river cleanup projects, and zoning issues.
But it's more than breaking hard news stories that I miss - it's also the soft stories that stayed with me long after they were printed. The survivors of the wrong-way crash on Interstate 75 that killed three BGSU students. The young girl recovering from cancer, whose father didn't think she was sick enough to accept a Make-a-Wish trip to Disneyworld. The rash of child abuse cases over a brief period last year that left two children dead and another seriously injured.
And I miss balancing on that fine line, of reporting accurately, regardless of my relationship with the sources. I liked that challenge of getting it right ... and not losing the respect of the people I covered.
So, while I may break out into a sweat delegating stories, I am trying to learn to get my satisfaction from other reporters explaining tough topics like fracking, looking at the opposing sides of gay marriage, and coming up with clever juggling puns.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 10 July 2013 10:01

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