Re­minded of the early days

Porterville Recorder - - OPINION - Brian Wil­liams Man­ag­ing Edi­tor Brian Wil­liams is as­sis­tant pub­lisher and man­ag­ing edi­tor of the Porter­ville Recorder. He can be reached at 784-5000, ext. 1048, or by email at bwilliams@porter­villere­corder.com. You can also fol­low him on Twit­ter.

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.

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