Twenty years in the newspaper business provides plenty of noteworthy experiences, along with lots of hastily scribbled, barely legible notes. I’ve got more of both than I care to count.
And if that doesn’t make me sound old, let me tell you about the time I filed a story by taking the phone jack out of an ATM machine and plugging it into my laptop. That was back in the days of dial-up internet, well before WiFi, but at least I was using a computer and not a typewriter.
Fast forward to Dec. 18, the second day of my sixth week as editor of The Leader, and I received a call on my new iPhone. Boy, have I come a long way.
Anyway, I soon felt a little like a giddy little boy and a lot like a cub reporter all over again. I had been tipped off about a fire at Houston Heights Towers and, within a few minutes, bolted out of the office building less than a few miles away.
Now, just to be clear, there is no reason to be happy about a fire in a senior-citizen community in the heart of a major city. Such situations typically end in tragedy. Thankfully, in this case, only property was lost and not any lives.
With that said, covering a fire is akin to a rite of passage for journalists. And this was my first, which made me feel like I had officially graduated from being a sportswriter and now was a bona fide news man.
My first two months as a news reporter have been filled with firsts, starting with my first election story on my second day on the job. There also was my first time using a real camera (I haven’t broken it yet), my first call to the Houston Police Department (they haven’t stopped answering yet), my first interview with Santa Claus (he hadn’t delivered any toys yet) and my first member meeting at a fraternal lodge (they haven’t built a pool yet).
Perhaps nothing was more exhilarating than writing my first beer column, although it wasn’t exactly hard news. I’m just glad Zuvie’s Brews hasn’t been squashed yet.
The point of all this is I’ve thoroughly enjoyed leading The Leader, and I hope you all have continued to enjoy reading it. Community news is our bread and butter, and we’re not going to stray from that, but I’ve implemented a few changes that I believe will take the area’s leading news source to new heights.
We’ve modified our calendar, for one, so you can find more events of more types and all in one place. We’ve also made a push to improve our product online at theleadernews.com, providing more stories more often and more immediately, so you don’t have to wait a whole week to find out what’s happening and why.
Look for more new features after the first of the year, including some in-depth projects we have in the works. Along those lines, I’m in the process of making my first hire, another news reporter who will provide more ideas and more compelling stories that impact the community.
It’s a community I’ve already embraced, and it’s welcomed me as well. I love seeing people’s faces light up when I tell them I’m from The Leader, which has happened much more often than not.
Of course, not everyone has been glad to see me or willing to talk to me. That’s OK and also understandable. Sometimes reporters show up unannounced and uninvited, with a camera and a notebook and asking questions that do not want to be answered.
It’s all part of the newspaper experience, and I could go for another 20 years’ worth.
I’ve just got to make sure the wireless signal works and the notebooks don’t pile too high. And the fewer fires, the better.