Tweeting Joplin

This is an incredible blog post by New York Times reporter Brian Stetler about the power of Twitter when reporting is most needed. It’s worth a read. It’s also worth noting that whether covering a disaster in this country or a war somewhere thousands of miles away, connectivity is key. It isn’t reporting if you can’t get the word out. It’s funny how Twitter bridged that gap in this case.

Republican Candidates, the GOP and Ray

So obviously I caught up with Newt the other day. Next week Rudy Giuliani is scheduled to stop by. The campaign is warming up, and already people are looking to 2012 (including me).

I’m not originally from New Hampshire, and I didn’t go to college here. I only began studying the political landscape here in the last few years, when I started covering it. It’s still funny to me that the governor of this state only serves two year terms — I’m used to four. And then there is this thing called the executive council that oversees everything he does — I’ve never seen one of those before. And I haven’t been around during primary season before. I’m already looking forward to the next visit.

When I spent the day with Ray Burton, the executive councilor from the first district, he called himself a Rockefeller Republican, meaning someone who comes from the center-right, not the right-wing of the party. They are not the branch of the party currently in charge.

But that is a branch that typically does well in New Hampshire. Social conservativism doesn’t fit with the state’s libertarian streak. I’m interested to see in this Tea Party-powered election cycle how that plays out in this state. How will it play out for moderate Republicans like Jon Huntsman? What will a good finish in New Hampshire mean as its overly white, traditionally moderate electorate becomes more and more distant from national voters?

And what does that rightward influence mean for candidates like Burton? New Hampshire has seen a rise of fierce conservatives, as the House numbers prove. It will be interesting to see where it all ends up.

Newt!

We got 10 minutes with former U.S. House speaker Newt Gingrich at the office today. He was swinging through town on his first visit to New Hampshire as a candidate. I was able to shoot video of the entire conversation, which I will post as soon as it finishes uploading. Here’s to the start of the 2012 GOP primary in Conway!

Getting It Wrong

I’ve been working on several stories lately that are so complex there are more opportunities to trip up and get it wrong than it is likely I’ll get it right. Today another possible beat got tossed my way: Healthcare. My response? Cool.

But that wasn’t the getting it wrong trap I half fell in today. No, it was a simple story.

The guy who took a 1,000-foot fall ice climbing this winter died recently, someone told me today, of a blood clot. Michael was his name. I was shocked — I’d written about the accident and the rescue, and I’d had an in-depth interview with him weeks afterward. Just recently, in fact, I’d given his number to another writer who wanted to write up his story for a climbing magazine.

One part of my job sucks — making the hard phone call. I didn’t want to have to call his widow, a young woman with a child, but I knew I had to. I took a breath and dialed.

Ring!

“Hello.” It was a man’s voice.

“Michael?” I said.

“Yeah?” he replied.

“It’s Erik, from the Conway Daily Sun. I heard you were dead.”

Try to imagine how the conversation went from there. Sometimes it isn’t so bad to get the simple stories wrong. Just try to do it before you go to print.

Two Years

Where were you two years ago? Where will you be two years from now?

Two years ago my father was battling throat cancer, I was just over six months married, and the ground was still quaking from economic meltdown. I was also starting this blog.

I started LPJ because I had just begun a full-time job at a newspaper, a medium that had been hemorrhaging for years. The job was in a town that had been hemorrhaging as well, Berlin N.H. The industry and the town were two of the same. They were used to the good times, to American dominance, successful manufacturing and booming profits. Newspapers and Berlin were built for the mid-twentieth century, and the early twenty-first was wearing on both of them.

But I had a job, so I was flying high.

The Reporter wasn’t interested in giving me a blog on their website, so after a couple weeks of trying to convince them I decided to start my own. It focused mostly on Berlin and what I was covering at first, but over time I began to look more and more at journalism in general. Where was the industry going? What are the opportunities for people like me who want to continue to tell the stories both at home and abroad that are too often overlooked? How can I make that happen when the financial mechanisms that supported reporters for the last 100 years are proving inadequate?

If someone wants something, however, it’s up to them to make it happen.

If you had told me two years ago I would soon be riding a Humvee through the Mideast I would have said you were crazy. But then I made it happen.

I don’t know where I’ll be next. I’m now working in Conway, N.H., for the Conway Daily Sun, a great little paper with a fantastic atmosphere. I also still send stories to NHPR, something I’ve been doing for even longer than I’ve been running LPJ. I’m not sure where I’ll look next or what the next adventure will be, but it’s nice to see what can happen over two years. Hopefully the next two have as many surprises.