The rookie veteran in the newsroom
You’d think a woman who’s been in the newspaper business all her life wouldn’t get excited about covering a new beat, or introducing herself to town managers and police chiefs, mayors and county commissioners.
But journalists, I have found during 39 years in this business, contemplate the world differently. Here’s how I look at it.
Journalism matters. It’s crucially important that you, our valued readers, know what is happening in your town, your state, the country, the world and worlds beyond reached by the brave men and women who board spaceships.
Being a journalist means you receive a constant education in everything from history to sociology to government.
Professional journalists, I assure you, are ethical and have a passionate drive to deliver detailed and true information. That has been my mission since I accepted my first job at a weekly newspaper in western Pennsylvania, near Pittsburgh, on March 22, 1980, beginning a love affair with the newspaper business that first sparked when I was in high school.
My plan was to be a veterinarian — and sometimes I think I should have been, now that there are two dogs and six cats at our house.
But in my freshman year in high school I spotted an ad in the school paper, The Hurricane Courier, looking for a cartoonist. Collaborating with a classmate, we created a strip called “Gemini and Jodi,” about the joys and tribulations of a teenaged couple.
That Christmas, Mr. Panella, the advisor of our school paper, hosted a Christmas party for the newspaper staff.
Mr. Panella was also my English teacher. I still remember him requiring us to memorize Macbeth’s “Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow, Creeps in this petty pace from day to day, To the last syllable of recorded time.”
The guest speaker at the Christmas dinner was a local newspaper reporter who caught my attention when he said in the news business, every day is different. There is no monotony. Reporters don’t sit in an office all day but are out gathering information, talking to townsfolk, informing the public and making a difference.
Quickly, my thoughts of treating ailing dogs and cats turned to dreams of having a desk in a bustling newsroom.
I wrote for The Courier until graduation, making it onto the executive staff by my senior year, then The Rocket at Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania, where I majored in English.
Sixteen years later, after having moved to Ocean City, Md., in 1985, I went back to school at Salisbury University to earn a master’s degree in post-secondary education, so I could teach journalism and writing, which I do, part time, at Salisbury University and Wor-Wic Community College.
During my career, I have worked for about a dozen daily and weekly newspapers in Pennsylvania, and in Ocean City, Berlin, Ocean Pines and Salisbury, Md., and freelanced for the Baltimore Sun and Washington Post.
Most recently, I was on the staff of the Salisbury Independent, a weekly I helped start in 2014.
In mid-June, when I was offered this current position at Coastal Point, under the direction of my long-time, much-respected colleagues Susan Lyons and Darin McCann, I accepted it with pleasure.
Now in my second full week at Coastal Point, my beat is the towns of Millsboro and Ocean View, and Sussex County government.
I am staying busy covering meetings, interviewing and trying to find the back roads that locals promise will allow me to circumvent summertime traffic.
In my travels, I want to meet you, dear readers. If you have an idea for a news or human interest story, send me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll talk about it.
I’m looking forward to it.
By Susan Canfora