Reminded of the early days
It’s been a whirlwind of a couple of weeks in the post-rick Elkins era, not sure its officially an era, but it sounds good so I’m going with it. Nothing new to report on the publisher front. I spent Monday in Palm Springs, I know must be nice, but hey somebody has got to do it. If it’s any consolation it was 110 degrees outside when I got into my car to head home at 4 p.m.
It was a meeting of other publishers, editors and ad directors from sister papers in California and Arizona. We talked shop the entire day and most of it was very positive.
I left the meeting with a renewed sense that newspapers will continue to survive and still do some outstanding work.
On the way home from the meeting, I started thinking about my early days in the newsroom.
I started here at The Recorder in 1999 covering education and being the new kid on the block, I was easily the youngest person in the room back then, everything that was thrown at me. I still remember my first front-page feature story. Back then it was tough to get a story on the front page. Unlike today, when a reporter’s first story can land on the front page. I was told to go to this guy’s house near Porterville College and do a story on his flower that rarely bloomed. I am not kidding this was my assignment.
This also was back when the internet was not the resource it is today. I had to actually go the library and do some research in books.
When I arrived for the interview I had all of my questions written out and ready to fire off. But when I arrived and started walking around the garden area in the back of the house, it was clear this was about so much more than a flower.
This man had a lifetime creating and oasis of tranquility and had opened it up to me. And by extension, was opening himself up to the community through the story I’d write and the photos that accompanied it.
I had to go back and fight for it to be on the front page and after a couple of rewrites it eventually was the main story on the front page.
I went in thinking I was going to be writing about a flower, but came away with so much more. Everyone has a story and it’s our job to tell that story.
About a year later, we got a call from the Tulare County Sheriff’s Department asking us if we would like to tag along as they went into eradicate a marijuana garden. Everyone else had a story they were working on for that day’s paper, so I jumped at the chance to go.
Photographer John Tipton and I drove up Highway 190 above Springville and met TCSO deputies and U.S. Forest Service personnel, who took us to the grow site.
It was a pretty good hike up the hill to get there and it wasn’t until we were right on top of it that you saw it. Someone, they never caught the people responsible for it, had cleared out part of the forest and was growing marijuana.
They diverted water from a stream and had flexible landscape hose strewn about to water the plants. There was also a couple of worn tents and a place for a campfire. And trash, lots of trash. You could tell once the plants were ready they were going to just harvest and leave everything behind.
When the initial invite came in earlier in the day, I did not think I would see what I saw. I thought at most, I’d be writing about a pile of marijuana plants that were about to be destroyed.
But this story wasn’t that at all. I was able to take readers into the camp and tell of the devestation that was being done to the forest.
There have been many other stories over the years that have stood out, but those are two that have stuck with me and remind me of the importance of community newspapers.
The Recorder was the only one to write either of those stories. Sure others reported about the pot grow, but they didn’t have the inside look that we were able to provide on both stories.