Full Plate

It’s the end of my week, and already I’m looking at four stories. Each one is “major,” in that each one is worth at least a day of my time. When it comes to issues like the Fraser mill, slumlords in Berlin, Clean Power, Laidlaw and PSNH, or any of the development opportunities the city is looking at, each one should get at least a solid eight hours. Think about it: I’ve got to talk to a bunch of people, digest and understand it all (sometimes starting from no knowledge) and explain it to readers.

Sometimes there just isn’t the time. These four stories are all going to happen, to be sure, but never with the depth and breadth I’d like.

In a city of this size it’s remarkable there are two papers at all, particularly considering the economic conditions. I have to guess a big part of why the Reporter is able to function is because the only real expense is me. Without an office, and by sharing administration with the Democrat, the paper avoids racking up large expenses. It’s essentially my salary and mileage.

But four more reporters would be awesome, wouldn’t it? I often make a call on one story, receive a call on another and get an email about a third in a matter of minutes. Multiply that by every day of every week and you’ll understand my week. I love it.

But the city needs more coverage. It needs more people asking questions. I hate to drop stories because I don’t have the resources, but it undoubtedly happens. Luckily there is another paper able to pick up the slack, but even between the two papers there are only three reporters. Not exactly a fleet.

I’m noticing, however, that I’m starting to understand things here a little better. I’m starting to know where to poke and prod to get some interesting stories. My year plus here is starting to pay off with enough institutional knowledge and personal connections to put pieces together.

I’ve been reading that one of the challenges of modern journalism is that too many reporters spend a year or two in a place and then move on, and they take their knowledge and connections with them. I understand that perspective better now, as stories are starting to grow out of those relationships.

Berlin needs those types of reporters, those with ties to the community. Without an office, however, that will be hard for the Reporter to achieve. I work out of the community college–not exactly the center of the city. With no permanent presence in Berlin, the Reporter loses out. As the reporter, I lose out. No one can drop in to drop off a tip. People need my email or phone number to make something happen.

How do you balance community connections with budgets? Beats me. I just keep running with my full plate and hope I can work fast enough for the residents of Berlin.

Speaking of, I think my phone is ringing.

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