Lots going on up north. NHPR had my story alongside one from Chris Jensen about the Laidlaw project, and how the office of the consumer advocate at the PUC was not in favor of the deal. The North Country dominated the news cycle. Heck, the Androscoggin Valley dominated the news cycle. Berlin/Gorham dominated.
Well, in case you missed it, here is Chris’ story about the former pulp mill, and here is my story about the (former?) paper mill.
And if you just want to listen, click below.
Gorham mill sale
I just finished my latest piece on the Gorham mill for NHPR. One of the most challenging things with audio stories is capturing all the sounds, to make the listener really feel like they are there. I went to the Berlin indoor farmer’s market yesterday, where there was a fantastic band (Shelburne Addition) playing, lots of people shopping and all types of sounds and noises. It made interviewing harder, but it gave me the opportunity to work a little harder at capturing the atmosphere of the place.
Again, I can’t over emphasize how nice it was to catch up with so many people over the course of the day reporting that story. It was a little hard to get my work done because so much of my time was spent saying hello to people I hadn’t seen in three months.
But I was able to capture enough sound and talk to enough people to get a good idea of how people are feeling about the mill. It is nice to report something positive happening up there, even if there are serious concerns about where it will go.
And it was nice to get to practice using sound a little more creatively (and surgically). Shelburne Addition did a great job of covering up some of the more difficult edits and making things sound good. Their music helped me bring the feeling of the market into people’s homes and cars. Or, at least, I hope it did. I think it did. I’d love to hear if anyone disagrees.
Sound is a hard thing to capture, but I’m getting better. Two weeks in Iraq should give me a real opportunity to test myself, without any distractions. And the story I just finished should give me the money to get a new microphone before I go. It all works out sometimes.
Oh, by the way, I took this photo yesterday off East Mason Street. It was a stunningly beautiful morning, although my fingers were so cold I could hardly work the camera.
Listen tomorrow morning for my story on NHPR. Probably around 7:15 a.m. I’ll post it on here when I’m finished as well.
I went up to Berlin today to gather some voices for this story I’m putting together for NHPR on the reaction to the sale of the Cascade mill. What a great day. I ran into person after person I knew, and I probably spent more time chatting with friends and catching up than I did pushing my microphone in people’s faces. Of course I asked everyone I knew about what their reaction to the mill sale was, but only some of them did I lure on tape.
And I was reminded of it once again—what a tight-knit community the North Country is. I went to the WREN farmers market, where people I knew were organizing, selling, performing, shopping and visiting. It was like all of the Androscoggin Valley was coming out to visit.
My voice got hoarse from all the chatting, but the discussion about the mill was also riveting. I’ve been away for a bit, and to swoop in now for NHPR is less than ideal, but luckily I’ve got enough people there that I know who are willing to talk to me. The locals are optimistic but scared. They are hopeful the company that bought the facility will make an honest go of finding a partner and making paper, but they don’t know if it’s going to happen.
The average age of the Cascade mill worker is 58, I was told, and there isn’t much else out there for them. They have to be hopeful. But it sounds like the company has also been straightforward with the workers. If they can’t make it the business run, they’ll tear the mill down and cut their losses.
When that’s all you’ve known, what choice do you have but to harbor a bit of fear? It’s understandable, but it’s also good to see the Androscoggin Valley soldiering on. They’ve had a rough decade, but they haven’t lost their optimism. There were more smiles today than looks of trepidation, even though the timeline for those 237 jobs to come back isn’t clear. That’s a testament to the resolve of the community, and the individual workers who make it up.
Things don’t ever slow down, it seems. I am heading up north tomorrow to see what the reaction to the sale of the mill is among locals for NHPR. And then on Sunday I’m going to Manchester to talk to two Sudanese men about the referendum there.
If I didn’t like my new job so much I’d swear there was enough freelance work to launch a career on my own. But today I got to write up the editorial panel interview with the hospital president, another awesome task.
And that’s when it hits: I’m a wonk. I can talk policy, and I like it. Hopefully I can explain the complexities to readers who have less interest in being immersed in such subtleties, but for me the opportunities to engage in these discussions are priceless.
So while there is a ton going on, I’m enjoying all of it. I just hope successful sale of the Cascade facility has more to do with paper production than demolition in the end.
Saturday was one of the most productive work days I’ve ever had, and I didn’t get any work done. I drove to Concord to do a half-day workshop, where I learned ways reporters can be more effective covering the courts.
I also got about four story ideas on the drive down and the drive back, and I learned about an interesting program at Boston University in investigative journalism. It was a fantastically successful day, as far as I was concerned.
One thing that was interesting was the response I got when I mentioned I’d reported in Berlin. One guy snorted and laughed. It reminded me of just how misunderstood the northern part of the state is, and just how disconnected it is from the southern tier. I was in Coös County today working on a project. I love it up there. I wonder if the reactions were because people don’t know what it’s like up there, or if their perceptions are already so rigid they wouldn’t be able to see anything else but what they expect.
On Marketplace today was a story about broadband Internet and banking that began in Colebrook, and I got an email from the new reporter that will permanently fill my position at the Reporter. A pang of regret hit me each time. I’m not up there full time anymore, and I miss it.
My new position is great, however, and I don’t regret the move. The pace of a daily is a good challenge, as is reporting a new beat with new people. Once life gets fully settled I’m looking forward to getting deeper into the Conway community, where there are surely stories to tell. But I must admit I find myself reminiscing about North of the Notches.
I was talking to a candidate for state senate today, and she called Carroll County the North Country. All of the representatives from the North Country need to band together, she said, because they all have the same challenges. Carroll County is more like Coös County than it is like southern New Hampshire, she said, and they have to stick together.
I told her I didn’t think many people North of the Notches would agree on that point. She agreed—she’d lived there herself. I have to admit, after being let into the club up there, it feels like something special. Most people just don’t understand Coös. I’m not sure I do fully either, but I get enough of it in me that I connect to it.
And I’ve still got things going up there, things that I have to get back to. The story is continuing in the North Country, and though I’m not going to be covering it every day, I don’t want to let it go. Otherwise I’d spend all my time reminiscing.
I wrote about a pedestrian who got hit by a truck and a man who drowned int he Swift River yesterday. Not exactly a slow start to the new job.
But I have a desk, and other people to talk to, and an office with a kitchen. The little luxuries…
But again, as the Fraser mill nears the deadline, I can’t help but to be drawn north. The experience and proficiency I’ll gain by working at a daily are important, but I don’t want to lose sight of other long-term projects. I’m trying to pitch a larger, more nationally focused version of my NHPR story it I can, hopefully to air before the mill closes.
By the way, if you missed my NHPR piece, you can listen to it here.
And check out my new paper, the Conway Daily Sun.