By MELINDA J. OVERSTREET
Glasgow Daily Times
As a journalist who has covered a vast array of topics in nearly a dozen years of newspaper writing and editing, I’ve learned a little bit – sometimes more – about a lot of different things. That’s one of my favorite things about this work.
Granted, I don’t remember all those tidbits in detail as well as I used to, but at least I have a sense of familiarity with topics that once would have been completely foreign. My friend Barry used to tease that I was a “wealth of useless information,” but I was the one he would come to at election time for the lowdown on candidates. The information I gather may not be of use to everyone, but it’s always useful or at least interesting to someone else. Often that information is relevant to a lot of people; they just don’t realize it because they don’t have to deal directly with the details that make their lives as easy and modern as they are. Typically, some usually underappreciated person is handling it for them – like making sure the water they drink is safe or being out in superhot or inclement weather making sure their utilities are working. Related to this is a challenge that I enjoy: Helping readers understand some of those details and why they are important.
Part of that base of knowledge is there because I can find sooooo many things interesting. Well, I have a confession at this point. During my job interviews with the Glasgow Daily Times, I said I can find “almost anything” interesting. At the time, I thought I was being truthful, but as I started writing this column, I starting thinking about the things that don’t interest me, and there were more than I had previously acknowledged, but it’s still a fairly short list. Fortunately, I don’t normally have to learn or write about those things.
I’ve been a reporter at the Park City Daily News in Bowling Green and later at The News-Enterprise in Elizabethtown, a copy editor at the Messenger-Inquirer in Owensboro in between, and what most papers would call a city editor at a paper in eastern North Carolina, supervising as many as eight news reporters and coordinating the local news coverage.
The kinds of things I’ve seen range from the most serious – from military servicemembers going off to war, some not to return, to being at a scene where a Kentucky State Police trooper had been shot (nonfatally, but I didn’t know that at the time) and seeing the blood where it ran down his cruiser door, my mind instantly thinking of one of my brothers and my father who retired from KSP – to some really fun and nifty times, like the Glasgow Highland Games, other local festivals and fairs, and kids’ learning in unique ways. I’ve learned about – and explained – complex procedures and processes and my fair share of jargon.
I’ve had reinforced some of those little details in spelling and grammar that most people get wrong. Even though I was always a strong English student, until I worked for an editor whose pet peeve it was, for example, I was guilty of not noticing that most words that start with the prefix “non” shouldn’t get a hyphen. It’s really the same rule as most other prefixes, but this usage seems to escape many. Of course, there are always exceptions to spelling and grammar rules – and then usually exceptions to those exceptions in our language. And even armed with a very good educational background and dictionaries and The Associated Press’ stylebook that I consult when in doubt, I know mistakes will happen, usually just because of the rush of deadlines.
Now I’m bringing that professional, as well as my personal, background back to my native Barren County, where I’ve barely lived since I finished high school and started Western Kentucky University. A few things are new for me in this position. One thing I don’t have newspaper experience with is writing in the first person. I’ve always written about what’s going on with other people and their perspectives. It’s tough for me to share my personal thoughts in this way, so that’s something I’ll be working on, and hopefully I won’t bore anyone to tears in the process.
The other papers where I’ve worked have been in slightly larger population areas, so it’ll also take some getting used to what constitutes news in a smaller town. Some things are universally newsworthy; others, not so much.
Despite being from this area, I know relatively few faces and names, so I’ve got plenty of catching up to do, and I’m anxious to get to know the people here better. I’ll be doing that somewhat through the main “beats” I’m covering – Glasgow city government, and public safety (law enforcement, court system, fires, etc.) and religion – but if you see me out and about and I’m not rushing madly, try to take some time to say hello and be sure to mention any story ideas you may have.