Originally published June 28, 2018
Once upon a time, I was a reporter.
It was a little weekly paper, called the Ingham County News. Part of a trio of family-owned papers, I joined the ICN straight out of college, making $5 an hour covering not just the towns of Mason and Holt, Michigan, but the county government and courts for all three papers.
I spent nearly a year-and-a-half there, working more than 40 hours a week, at all kinds of hours, with a handful of reporters and production staff. A fairly tight-knit group, none of us were in it for the money. Or the glory for that matter — after all, there’s nothing that glamorous about making the weekly call to the farm bureau for hog prices or being virtually the only person in the audience for a city council meeting.
But that job, that low-paying, sometimes soul-sucking, Rodney Dangerfield-like job was the perfect character building experience and one I’d never trade away.
I learned so much — not just about writing, but about myself — while writing about the world that was rural Ingham County. Right out of school and freshly married, the people and places left an imprint and helped to shape my worldview. And it fed my passion. When you are paid less than you would be dropping fries into hot oil at Burger King, you have to love what you do. And I love to write.
I was also allowed to nurture my love for politics, policy and governing for a common good. Everyone — EVERYONE — can make a difference in local government. Whether it’s a park board, school board or city council, it’s Ground Zero and a great training ground for anyone that wants to be the change they are looking to spark. People I covered in the county board of commissioners have since moved on to larger pastures at the state level. Don’t discount local politics. It’s both a game- and a life-changer.
I don’t know anyone at the Capital Gazette. But I know how much they love what they do. And I’m thinking of them tonight and into the next few days and hope that those that think reporters are pumping out “fake news” or writing with an agenda will come to recognize their efforts to tell the truth, even about the seemingly most insignificant of events in a small town, are downright heroic.