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Reporters are no different from you

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By Carolyn Ten Broeck, Editor

I knew when I was 10 years old I was going to be a writer.  I knew when I was 17 years old that newspapers were in my future. That realization only came as I was filling out college applications and it dawned on me that no one pays you to write romance novels when you’ve never experienced romance.
All my teachers knew that I wanted to be a writer, so it was only a natural progression that I became the liaison between the high school and our local weekly newspaper. I wasn’t paid–some articles saw the light of day, some did not–but it provided experience and a time to grow.
It would be 12 years later after my first two children were in school before I could actually start my career.
I was truly the cub reporter but I learned about newspapers–weekly newspapers–from veterans.  Through the  tutelage of my first editor and senior reporter, I acquired skills that are still used 20 years later.
Though ideas have changed in the field of journalism–both with storytelling and design–some things never change.
I know that if you treat people with respect they will treat you similarly. If you            give even  the most minor story the same attention you give a headline grabber, you are treasured.
Every story, every person is important.
And that’s the upside.
On the downside, there have been many challenges to overcome in my chosen career.
When I was young and on a mission to   not only inform, but to make a difference in the lives of my county’s residents, I put myself in some scary, dangerous situations.
I investigated. I probed. I wrote about the underbelly of society.
I learned quickly that the only way to survive in journalism was to shed the ego and develop a hide so thick that nothing or no one could penetrate it.
But the callus that developed around me did not go to the heart.
Because deep within, I was a still a wife, mother, church member, community activist and I had feelings about everything, though many would disagree and say I was heartless.
Being  heartless would mean that I did not call my local pharmacist, a social acquaintance, after he was arrested for dispensing drugs without a prescription.
“I have to write a story,” I told him, because I did call, “and it is front page. I’m sorry, but please know it’s nothing personal–it’s my job.”
Being heartless would mean that  I wouldn’t tell the man who sat behind me every Sunday at church that because of his job with the county, his name was  going to be splashed on the front page for weeks to come.
But I did tell him–and he thanked me–and then prepared his family for what was to come.
I cry with families when loved ones die, I cheer when sports victories are celebrated, I pray when the needs are great.
No, I am not heartless. I am not looking to make a name for  myself. I am not on a crusade.
I am here to do my job–and then go home where I am still wife, mother, sister, church member.
I juggle bills. I battle health issues. I lament the exorbitant price of fuel. I cringe at decisions my now-grown children make. I am just like you–fighting the good         fight and struggling to survive.
I can’t speak for all reporters,  but for the most part, the ones I know are decent people who care about their communties and only want what’s best for them.
We have feelings. We  have opinions. Every time we write a hard news story, we fight to keep our personal feelings separated from the facts at hand. Sometimes when we feel we are too close to a  person or issue, we back away and let someone else deal with it so there isn’t a perception that our own biases come through.
We understand public perception and it’s a very big part of what we deal with daily.
And like most people, we hurt when rumors fly and our names are attached with them.
Reporters, especially those of us on the local level, will never win fame and glory for what we do. At best, we’ll provide a historical archive for the communities we serve.
My family has been instructed that my tombstone will bear the epitaph “She was fair.”
It’s enough–and cryptic enough to leave genealogists scratching their heads for eons to come.

Carolyn Ten Broeck is editor of the Williston Pioneer. Reach her at editor@willistonpioneer.com or call 528-3343.