Old News

I’ve got a backlog of videos that I made for the New Hampshire Grand Initiative, all of them with the theme, “What’s Your Grand Adventure?” I haven’t put them all up, but now I’m clearing out that backlog. Here’s one I did on getting out for a ride on one of the most beautiful stretches of road in the country, 13 mile woods. Enjoy!

This, along with some others, are on the New Hampshire Grand YouTube page, but I’m working on adding a video page here to represent that aspect of my work. First step, however, is to make sure you get a chance to see all of them. I hope you liked it.

In Limbo

I’m still waiting to hear whether I’m going to get to keep doing the New Hampshire Grand Initiative videos. They’ve got some concerns about liability, which we’re working on addressing, but for now the Grand Adventurer isn’t adventuring (officially, that is).

But today I get to do something else extremely rewarding in the North Country. North Country Education Services is an organization that works to promote excellence in the North Country education. They work with the schools to create opportunities for kids, and today I got to be part of one of those.

NCES put on a middle school film festival, where middle school students wrote, shot, starred in and edited movies about healthy living and healthy lifestyles. Their associate executive director, Lori Langois, is doing a leadership program with me, and she asked me if I would serve as host for an awards ceremony.

It was great. I got to read out the winners for best editing, best cinematography, best picture and the rest. I was handing out awards to fifth through eight graders (the first time I’ve ever been the tallest person on stage).

In journalism it can be challenging, because you need to keep your distance from every interest. No man is an island, but it is hard to serve on a board or put your support behind causes in a small community because you wind up covering those causes. I’ve already interviewed friends and former employers for stories at the Sun. That’s a tough place to be, because even if the story is evenhanded a possible bias exists.

But I’ve always been a champion of Coös. I’ve always felt as the reporter I was responsible for representing the interests of the people, whatever that means. But I couldn’t throw my hat in the ring, in many respects, because I might be interviewing the people in that ring a few weeks later. Now, however, I’m free of that burden—at least in Coös County. I don’t cover these communities nearly as much anymore, so I have the opportunity to throw my energy behind organizations there without having to worry about the appearance of favoritism.

I’m hoping I can work out something with the Initiative, but if not that’s OK. Either way, I’ve found a great place to invest my energy: Coös.

Censored!

Not really, but it’s a bit of a theme this week in the media (think Wikileaks).

I have a contract with NCIC to do videos of outdoor fun about Coös (click here to see some), and the latest one, which I posted on here earlier this week, raised some questions within the organization about liability.

I totally get that. In fact, the first video I made I raised that same question. Outdoor fun isn’t boardgames—it can be dangerous. The part that gets me, however, is the perception of danger versus actual danger. Fear versus danger would be more accurate, I guess.

The roads were bad from Berlin to Dixville last week, with slick patches and slop. We were in real danger of getting hurt making the drive to the climb. More danger than on the climb? I don’t know. All I can say is we made it through the drive, and we made it through the climb. I can say I’ve got more friends that have been in car accidents than climbing accidents, and I’ve never had a friend die climbing (I can’t say the same for in a car).

The first video I did, where I climbed up Pinnacle Buttress on Mount Washington, raises the same concerns. So would a winter hike of Mount Washington. There’s a whole book of people who died up there. But a day skiing at Bretton Woods should raise the same questions. I ski patrolled for three years, and I carried many people off the mountain. I had a ski partner break both arms in a ski accident, and another friend hit a tree and require a helicopter rescue. But skiing is safe?

A good friend broke his femur riding his bicycle last month. He didn’t get hit by a car—he just fell off his bike. What does it take to get outside and stay safe these days? I guess I’m just not sure.

I am afraid to go to Iraq, but I’m not sure what the danger is. Fear is natural, but it isn’t always right. Danger is real, but it isn’t necessarily measured by fear (just think of most people’s reaction to speaking before a crowd). The two are always playing off each other in my head, and I’m constantly trying to measure “is this fear, or am I in danger?”

And, quite frankly, 200 feet up without a rope, adding fear creates danger. If you are confident in your movements, you may be in danger, but if you are tentative the danger only increases. So how can I say whether I was safe up there, or whether I was in danger? I can’t. The individual becomes part of the danger equation. They contribute to their own safety or peril, by their mounting or diminishing fear. I was as safe as I could be, considering the circumstances. That’s as good as I’m ever going to get.

But, I have to admit, I have no idea what that means for liability. Luckily that isn’t my purview.

A Few Good Tips

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.

North Country Reminiscence

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.

More NHPR

Well, that was encouraging.

After feeling like I was juggling a bit more than I could handle, today I dropped and came out fine.

In the crazy week that was I thought the Lumberjack Festival was today. So I went up there to take pictures as my last act for the paper, and also to interview people for my NHPR story on the Fraser mill.

Well, the festival is tomorrow. And I couldn’t just wait around: my editor needed the piece tonight because he was heading out of town.

So I hit up Cascade Flats, the borough where the mill sits, to talk to residents about what their reactions were to the closing of the mill.

What I got was gold. It didn’t have the kitschy sound the Lumberjack Festival would have, but it was authentic. Two of the people I talked to worked at the mill, and both had been laid off. For one it was recent, 30 months ago, and for the other it was 30 years ago.

Those two voices mixed with those of business owners, selectmen, city councilors and the governor to weave a great story about what people fear will come. It isn’t Shakespeare, but it is by far the best radio piece I’ve done. It’s nice when you feel like you trip, and you wind up doing a somersault and landing on your feet.

I think it’ll be on Monday morning, but I’ll put up more information as I know.

Short weekend though—I’ve still got two videos to finish, as well as my last stories for the Berlin Reporter. That’s OK, after such a success it’ll be a quick ride home.

Crazy

When things get busy, they get crazy.

It’s my last official day at the Reporter (I’ve still got stories to write, but those I’ll finish over the weekend), and I’m running around like mad. When something like this mill story happens it’s impossible to get too deep. New Hampshire Governor John Lynch was there today to talk to the workers, to reassure them the state was doing what it could.

I was trying to take notes, pictures, audio and video. What a way to roll.

The daily deadline (like the one I had for NHPR today) will be a new experience for me, something I’m anxious to tackle. I already received a tip for a story in my new coverage area, and I haven’t even started yet. And I’ve got freelance projects for several clients, all of which are about to come due.

So I’m sitting at WMCC with a video camera, minidisc recorder, point and shoot and laptop, trying to make sure I cover every one of my bases. It’s been an exciting day, and it’s still not over. I’ve got another interview in a couple hours. It’s already 5 p.m. on Friday night.

But that’s the way it goes, and I wouldn’t change anything. I am hoping over time I’ll get better at this, so juggling the different aspects doesn’t create a disaster. I didn’t get as much audio as I would have liked from Gov. Lynch because I didn’t have the right microphone, and when I did get close enough to him to record my minidisc went dead. I was able to fix it, but by the time I did he was done speaking. Luckily I got an interview afterward, but it wasn’t the gems I lost from earlier. It seems like I’m juggling too many balls right now, but with practice it’ll get better (I hope).

Regardless, even more interesting than Gov. Lynch’s statements were the comments I got from workers. That’s what really matters. They are who are really going to be hit. It is their story that needs to be told. And I got that. I’ve got an NHPR story lined up for next week about them, the ones who really deserve to be heard. That’s the story I don’t want to drop, no matter how crazy it gets.

On a completely different note…

Here’s the start of the project I’ve been working on for NCIC and the New Hampshire Grand Initiative:


This is the first of many, and there are more already on deck in my computer. I’m going to be spending the next 10 months (at least, I hope) publishing and publicizing the adventure opportunities Northern New Hampshire has to offer through photos and videos. Hopefully through getting the word out there people will start to realize what an asset the region is.

And besides, who wouldn’t want to run around Coös County checking out adventure opportunities and shooting video. If only I could get it to be full time…

Just kidding, I don’t want to give up reporting, but this is a great side project for a great cause. And honestly, the job change makes me a little more confident I won’t run into conflicts of interest. I ran into one this week involving PSNH (they gave me a scholarship for a leadership program I’m doing at WMCC), and while disclosing the conflict is good enough I prefer complete separation.

Anyway, let me know if you enjoy the video. I always said the region needs to market itself better. Now I’m doing just that. Look for more of these in the coming months.

(Fhe final version should be on the NCIC Facebook page shortly, with some minor edits and additions.)

A Short Look North

Several councilors and staff members congratulated me on my new job last night at the council meeting. The discussions threw into sharp relief why the transition was a difficult decision.

Berlin has been good to me. My bosses at the Reporter allowed me to chase whatever stories I wanted, and city staff, politicians, business owners and residents always welcomed me into their lives and opened up about stories, issues and events. I’ve been out on my own, but in a community, not just a city.

So why go? Because the Reporter’s resources are limited, and being a one man show in a city of 10,000 is a tough job. Many times I felt outmatched, if for no other reason than because I was alone. To get the resources to handle such a challenge I need to be the least experienced reporter in a newsroom for a while, not the only reporter in a newsroom on wheels.

But I don’t want to give up my connection to the North Country. I’m already digging into some bigger projects with more long-term objectives than a daily or even weekly newspaper. Things are changing in Berlin, some for the good, others for bad. I don’t intend to lose track of that.

I want to tell stories better; that’s what this next move is all about. I want to see how the daily deadline works for me, how the pressure to generate content in hours, not days, affects my work. But I don’t intend to reduce the other projects I’m working on, the larger pieces that fill out the flesh of daily reporting. They tell a side I haven’t been able to get into so far, but it is lining up for the future.

I won’t have the time I had at the Reporter, I won’t have the same flexibility, but a close friend of mine told me she works better under pressure than when she has the time to put things off. I think that’s a universal: when forced to perform, we do. Daily deadlines are one version of that paradigm, as are my non-print projects. I may have to squeeze them in, but in doing so I may just do them more, do them better.

But I will miss the daily connection with the North Country, and I will lament having to “squeeze them in.” But if the outcome is better storytelling, better reporting and a more impactful version of history, the sacrifice is worth it. I may miss the North Country, but it I can tell its story better it’s a change worth making.