I arrived at The Enterprise in November 2005 as a wide-eyed cub reporter; though I had written before I had never done journalistic writing. On Friday, more than eight years, thousands of articles and countless words later, I said farewell to a job that allowed me to sharpen this skill while providing our readers with a lens into their community.
It is not glamorous work and the task of putting together a paper on a biweekly basis is an occasionally painstaking process that requires long hours and the commitment of a dedicated staff of salespeople, copy editors, editors, photographers and graphic designers.
Still the job has been fun, and at times rewarding. It has given me the opportunity to speak with an Academy Award winner, an astronaut, a former Olympic athlete and a duke (of Dorchester), all who have ties to the modest-sized town of Falmouth.
I spent an entire interview in tears, laughing as a summer visitor talked about fulfilling his dream of bicycling to Martha's Vineyard (which he accomplished) and have held back tears as a wife, and mother of two, spoke about the joy in a simple act: her husband taking their kids camping in his backyard, one of the few moments of normalcy that would occur in their life before he eventually succumbed to cancer.
I have written about a police officer who dresses up as a stormtrooper; the power of a simple red chair that became a symbol for the human connection; people singing karaoke (some good; some bad); a 9.5-pound giant puffball mushroom; the opening (and closing) of Falmouth's first tattoo shop (I never got one); and an 87-year-old man who was donating blood for the 136th time.
I have tasted chili and lemon cake, all as part of articles for The Enterprise, but sadly never beer.
I spoke with one East Falmouth resident as scores of cicadas flew over, around and landed on my head. I had a seagull deposit a dropping (supposedly good luck) on my button-downed shirt while profiling the Penikese Island School. And I fell in a large puddle, nearly ruining a pair of jeans while touring the diminutive island of Cuttyhunk. These last three may serve as metaphors for the life of a reporter: you have to be willing to get your hands dirty, and occasionally ruffle feathers in the process.
If anything my time at The Enterprise has shown me the importance of the news, and specifically local news. Good journalism uncovers truths, even if it is uncomfortable, and helps the public better understand the community they live in.
Doing so in today's culture may be more difficult than ever. These are not easy times for newspapers as the way people consume the news is shifting away from the print product and moving toward the web.
Still these are exciting times for reporters, as the Internet and social media provides for instantaneous feedback and an immediate connection with one's audience. Today that connection is more important than ever, and readers wield a powerful tool: the ability to let the Enterprise know what issues are important to them via Facebook, Twitter and its website.
By expanding that dialogue you, the reader, can make the Enterprise a better product by allowing my colleagues to focus on stories that audiences want to read, while continuing to write stories that audiences should read to better understand their town.
Over the past year I have been involved in ongoing discussions with several employees on ways to improve the web-side of the business without doing irreparable harm to the print side.
During a casual conversation outside of work with two of those employees — Don Parkinson and Rachel Greenfield — they told me of a basic, but clever marketing campaign “Read Local” they had devised which was a play on the popular “Shop Local” one. Though yet to be implemented here at The Enterprise, the concept is that digesting news from your local source, one like the Enterprise which has been in existence for nearly 120 years, is vital to maintaining the fabric of any community. Without it, that community loses a voice.
As part of this equation — and one I would be remiss in thanking — is the reader. I have truly enjoyed writing stories for The Enterprise, and my hope is that you have derived a similar pleasure in reading them. And as I say farewell I hope that you will show a similar support, even more so, to this paper and the employees that put their blood, sweat and tears into producing a product we are proud of and one that we not only hope, but need the community to stand behind.