There’s a list of 20-something stories from the past year and we’re supposed to number them, at least the top 10 of them, list the most important stories of the year.
The helicopter crash, the one I would have been pulled in as back up for, only I was out of town. The White House shooter who showed up in Indiana, leaving me frantically calling every number I could think of for information. The ongoing saga over closing buildings, making money stretch in two our school districts.
It’s supposed to be a way to look back over the year, remind everyone why they read us. The readers vote, and we vote, and it’s all combined for a final story by the year’s end.
It’s also rather depressing.
There’s really only one of the items on the list that I am responsible for, and it won’t make the top 10. It’s one of those ongoing school disputes, now in year — what? It’s been decades, really, and the latest installment is at least three years old. It takes up much of my time and energy, but I have to admit it’s not really a story of the year.
It makes me wonder what there is to show for my year.
A search of my byline shows budgets approved; a new weight reduction procedure called Lipo-Light that, literally, melts away the fat; an expansion at a local gym; charges held over to court in a number of different cases; a food stand at the state park; a crazy chicken that took a joy ride to New York and back; and coming soon, a living nativity scene now it’s 27th year.
There’s nothing, really, to hang my hat on, so to speak. This is not a year for awards, or making top-10 lists, or cutting out bylined stories to remember.
There’s one that I’ll submit come the award season, but I didn’t have time to really make it good. It had so much potential and it’s not bad, just not as good as it could have — should have — been.
That’s the problem with a small newspaper. It’s really the problem with all newspapers now, I guess, though my experience is mostly smaller. We’ve got four news reporters on staff, and one’s also the web editor. Some weeks we’re all working split shifts, typing police blotter items or breaking news early, then heading home before a late night covering a meeting.
There’s not always time in between deadlines and meetings for looking and digging and uncovering the really good stories, the ones I’ll clip out of the paper and save for reading again later.
I list my own contribution to the Top 10 list somewhere around number 8 or 9, just because I want it to be important enough to count (though I know it doesn’t).
And next year I’m going to steal minutes from somewhere, and find that one really good story.
Because these little bylines may be earning my keep, filling the pages with the small tidbits of news that people love to read; but that’s just work.
Next year, I want to really write.