October 15, 2012

A Canuck in Kantuck: In the haven of the newsroom

LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. — This week, I’m spending a few days back in The Sentinel-Echo newsroom as I work on a project Willie assigned me. Looking around at all of the awards and maps on the wall and hearing the chatter of the scanner, I realize just how sweet a time working here was.

This time of year was especially special, with the holiday season starting to gear up. No one could get a jump on the season like the advertising sales girls and, though I haven’t been up to their offices yet, I have a good bet they’re burning some sort of aromatherapy candle scented like pumpkin spice or apple pie to set the holiday mood.

I’m writing on a Tuesday morning, which means deadline is looming. After I got my reporter legs, I came to love deadline and writing right until the very last second. There is nothing like the adrenaline rush of having the words pour right out of your fingers as you type, coming so fast because they have to: time is limited and you have to get the paper out. Sometimes, I think those stories were some of the clearest I ever wrote, in part because I didn’t think on them too much, muck them up, just said what needed to be said.

I also enjoyed proofreading the pages as they spit out of the printer, which is what is happening now. I have half a mind to give them a scan and streak them with the swirls and curlicues of editing marks, but don’t want to overstep. After nearly two years away, I’m an intruder here.

Sue is calling churches to make sure their church news is accurate — something I’ve heard her do about a thousand times — and I’m nearly in tears listening to her voice. Boy, how I miss sitting next to Sue, her neatly-ironed shirts, her perfect lipstick.

Across from her is Carrie in her office, the editor I never worked for but wish I had. Her space is slightly separated from the rest of the newsroom in that it is a proper office, but the door is always open and, anyway, a big window is in the center of her dividing wall so there is no privacy at all. That’s part of what I like about this big space. Everyone has divided up their territories, personalized them, but everyone is sitting all together, sharing the same day,

I realize today there’s something comforting about things that don’t change. In a way, that’s what this newsroom is: same orange, 1970s desks, piles and piles of newspapers, the bells from First Christian lending a soundtrack every hour, Carol’s cat paraphernalia. There’s a certain beauty in the constancy.

At the same time, the newspaper itself is in constant flux, reflecting all of the changes in London and Laurel County. Empty Marymount Hospital, that once untouchable institution, is now cleared and gone — a good move, reflecting the community’s determination to not let things stagnate. Land has been bought to make way for a new vocational/technical school, something that was always a big goal when I covered school board. It’s an interesting dichotomy, the change swirling into what seems fixed, almost permanent.

I realize today there were things I would change about my time here. As Carol and Nita and probably a few of my editors will tell you, I wasn’t very easy to work with. I could be, umm, temperamental. I could, umm, swear. A lot. I had a lot of opinions about a lot of things. I would change some of that if I had it to do over. But I wouldn’t change the fact that every day, as I drove from Somerset to London, crossed the foggy Rockcastle River, I was glad to go to work, glad to have my own identity in London that was just mine: the Canuck in Kantuck.

That’s what this newsroom gave me, with its gentle constancy and its adrenaline rushes. A place to nestle in and just be myself, swears and all. It was an incredible opportunity, an incredible gift this place, this beautiful place.


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Now that school is out, what are your family’s summer vacation plans?

A. No major plans. We will probably hang out around Laurel County.
B. Going to the beach!
C. Kentucky has a lot of wonderful state parks, and we plan to visit a few and enjoy quality family time.
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