Wednesday, December 27, 2006

The Century Mark

I hope you guys all had a good holiday. And I hope you didn't mind me taking a little holiday break. Like I've always said, this thing has been a chance for me to write about something that I don't normally get the chance to.

Sometimes things stick in my head, and they come out here in an entry.

But mostly the past few weeks have spent furiously clicking towards online retailers, melting the credit card, wrapping as best I can (which, frankly, would not qualify as 'best' in any circumstance), unwrapping as fast as I can, entertaining my visiting parents and taking in church services.

And I even squeezed in a work shift on Sunday afternoon, too.

So there's not been much time to write up anything lately. And I do apologize for that.

But the reflective opening serves a further point: We've hit the century mark - one hundred posts. At least I think we have. Because of the aforementioned business, I haven't had time to scroll back through the archives and subtract out the short posts that really don't count. Like you'll remember the ones about me waiting for the power to go out - which it never did. The first one counted, but the subsequent updates did not.

So we've turned the dial over. And if we haven't, we will soon - like in a post or two.

You've probably all figured out that this thing serves its purpose for me. This is my creative outlet. There's so much stuff bouncing through my head at any one time, it's like there's a game of Breakout on speed up there. A missive careens off one side of the cranium and bounces around for a while.

Sportswriting, generally, is so formulaic. You watch a game, you find an angle, you complete the assignment. Layout is much the same; it's 98 percent tedium and two percent - maybe - artistry.

This blog gives me a chance to do what I like to do best: Look at the world around me and try to put it into words. I remember a few years back, all of us were supposed to chip in to news coverage of Hurricane Isabel, as it came ashore in Virginia Beach and made its way northwards toward us.

My job would have been to go roam around one corner of the county and come back with a story. As it turned out - don't know why my editors didn't think of this earlier - my corner was nothing but swamps. So they scrapped my story.

How awesome would that have been? Someone says to me, go find a story. That's where the artistry of reporting is.

One of my favorite newspaper pieces of all time was in the Washington Post magazine a few years back. It was a story by Gene Weingarten, the resident humor writer. He thought it would be a hoot to go visit one of the coldest, most remote places in the country in the dead of winter.

Instead, he came back with a different story altogether. After traversing to an outpost in Alaska that's far closer to mainland Russia than to the lower 48, Weingarten wrote a story about what the place has to deal with. Alcoholism and drug use are big problems; suicide, particularly among young people, occurs with alarming frequency. Those that try to move away often find themselves ill-adjusted to mainstream life in the lower 48.

It was a wonderful story, well reported and well written. It ranks a solid No. 3 all-time for me, behind a Gary Smith feature in Sports Illustrated and a Rocky Mountain News story on the military officer in charge of helping families after a soldier has been killed. (The story won a Pulitzer, and if ever a story was deserving, it was this. I read it in the office and cried almost non-stop; I had to fight like hell to keep from making a scene in front of co-workers. The photos were breathtaking.)

But I digress (shocker). What a wonderful challenge it must be to go find something like that and be able to use all your senses in your reporting. And I have the benefit of throwing opinion in, too. Screw you, objectivity!

Weingarten made reference to a journalist's conceit - that there's a story no matter where you are, it's your job to find it.

This blog allows me to do that. And I thank you guys for playing along.


ME said...

Thank YOU boss!

Welcome back. You were missed.

I'm with you on the wrapping. My buddy Gerald says it best. "If you want me to wrap it, it's going to look like a fish."

I hope that made sense.

P.J. said...

I've actually got better at wrapping. The stuff I wrapped this year actually turned out really well.

And, I'm totally with you on this post. I just wish I could do it as well. I find when I come home or on a day off, I don't want to add to my blog (goodie that I paid for a domain and put up some blog software!) Eventually, I'll try and do it the way I wanted -- just quick hits here and there to keep things rolling.

But the way you feel about this is somewhat my feeling with my photoblog. O look at that as a place to show some creativity and not worry about any restrictions. Good times had by all.

Congrats on the milestone. And here's to many more posts!

Jay G. Tate said...

You > me.