Wednesday, June 17, marked the 30 year anniversary of the crash of Air New England Flight 248, an event that I had never heard about until I was assigned to write a story about it this week. In my defense, it both occurred and seemed to have vanished from most people’s collective memories about five years before I was born.
Of course, for some, the memories of the Twin Otter’s crash into the woods at Camp Greenough in Yarmouth would never really go away. Those are the nine people who survived the crash and the employees or Air New England who were close to Captain George Parmenter, the one person aboard flight 248 who did not survive.
The memories of the former group are captured in Robert Sabbag’s “Down Around Midnight: A Recollection of Crash and Survival” a 214 page non-fiction novel released this month through Penguin Publishing. As for the recollections of the latter group, the employees of Air New England; they’re conspicuously absent. That’s what provided us with our angle for our story about the crash’s anniversary.
As he blogged about earlier this week, Enterprise sports editor Dan Crowley was one of those employees of Air New England who thought that Mr. Sabbag’s book come up just short in its attempt to truly capture story of Flight 248.
I spent an hour talking to Mr. Crowley about what he remembered from the night Flight 248 went down. It was pretty much like any other interview I’ve ever conducted, even though Mr. Crowley is a fellow Enterprise staffer.
I wrote the story up Thursday morning, careful to make sure I interpreted Dan correctly. Of course, that’s what every reporter tries to do when they write. However, I felt like getting anything wrong here would have been acutely embarrassing. I mean, how can you screw up a story when your source is working only a few steps away from you and is perfectly willing to help you get it right?
Anyways, the writing process was, admittedly, stressful, and so was having Mr. Crowley scan through the piece. Not that he’s a hard case … not in the least bit. Let’s put it this way; aviation issues are not exactly my strong suit, and I knew that was going to be exposed more than just a little bit by what I had written.
I think the experience I had writing the 248 piece kind of encapsulates what it’s like being a reporter for a weekly newspaper. Of the fields I cover, I have expertise in exactly zero of them. There are also myriad off-beat assignments we’ll come across during a year of which we are absolutely ignorant. It’s humbling.
Donald M. Murray’s “Writing to Dealine” expresses a sentiment about what it’s like to be a reporter and to always feel like a novice in one area or another that I find encouraging. I’m paraphrasing, but Mr. Murray essentially refers to a reporter as a professional ignoramus. Essentially, it’s not our job to know everything; it’s our job to be humble enough to be willing to let people smarter than ourselves teach us things. Once we start making assumptions about what we do know or what pieces of information we feel we can take for granted — that’s when things can go terribly wrong.
I think the story I worked on with Dan came out pretty well. It was a humbling experience, but once the piece was filed, I felt pretty confident that I hadn’t screwed things up too terribly. For a reporter, that’s just about the best you can hope for at the end of the day.
The views and opinions in the Enterprise blogs are those of the author and are not neccessarily shared by Falmouth Publishing.