Joye BrownAssociate Editorjoye.email@example.com
I wasn’t supposed to be a newspaper reporter. Nope. Not me. Not with my microscope, telescope, chemistry set and especially my habit of taking things apart to see how they worked, before (some of the time) putting them back together. Little did I know, those are the habits, the skills really, that make for good local reporting.
Microscope: Scour for the details, as in budgets or meeting agendas or lawsuits or trials.
I’ve found that the reporter’s most essential skill is listening to as many voices, as many viewpoints, as possible.
Telescope: Examine the wonders of the universe, as in seeing beyond the obvious, or providing needed context that connects all kinds of things to each other.
Chemistry: How does one element interact with another; as in, for example, that magical mixture of politics and policy on Long Island.
And as for deconstructing and (some of the time) reconstructing things: That translates into a curiosity of how things work, and the challenge of whether some rearrangement can make them work differently or, perhaps, even better.
Over the years, working for a radio news network and for newspapers in North Carolina and Chicago and – for almost 40 years – on Long Island, I’ve found that the reporter’s most essential skill is listening to as many voices, as many viewpoints, as possible.
Another: Honing the ability to craft reports that make any subject understandable, approachable, interesting. And sometimes even fun!
The toughest one of all: Reporting with authority, which is a fancy way of saying, work your turf, tap into its richness, its complexity, warts and all.
There was so much to learn when I got here.
I grew up in Washington, D.C., where there was no state government. No county, or town or village. D.C. didn’t elect a mayor or city council until the mid-1970s.
There still are no U.S. senators, and Washington is on its second-ever nonvoting representative in the House.
Long Islanders, by contrast, have so, so, so, so many ways to interact – chemistry, remember? – with the multiple layers of elected and nonelected entities that represent Nassau and Suffolk counties.
And when residents speak, those governments, school boards, library boards and other municipal entities tend (some of the time) to listen.
Then, there is the richness of place. Where else do volunteers bear responsibility for protecting property (fire departments) and people (ambulance squads)? Where else can beachfront be found a few miles away in almost any direction?
The region is rich in history. And richer in stories yet to be told.