I clearly remember leaving the office on my due date to visit the obstetrician. I had been 4 cm dilated and significantly effaced since my birthday, a good three weeks earlier. In the newsroom, at meetings and at interviews, my heavily pregnant self made people nervous. I asked my obstetrician when I should stop working. He looked at me and, once he recovered from the shock that I was still in the office, suggested I not return.
That was June 10. My daughter came into this world on June 23, thanks to some hearty doses of Pitocin to hurry her along. Any first-time parent will tell you, those first six-to-eight weeks are “baby boot camp,” grueling, exhausting and testing your limits. I can’t speak on second babies. I only had one.
As a good reporter, I tried to recycle some of my personal experience into copy. Plus, I learned a lot of information as a new parent that I never knew before, or perhaps thought about things I never thought about before I had a baby.
Breastfeeding was one of these topics. I felt like no one really talked about it. I was born premature and didn’t come out of the hospital for three months so my mother never breastfed. I felt lost and figured if I felt lost, so did others.
My editor allowed me to do a lengthy two-part series on breastfeeding. This is part one.
Breastfeeding, part 1
Breastfeeding, part 2
The part of being a journalist on a regular beat is the relationships you form with people. This feature on bicycle commuting featured a local business owner (Russ Padgett, Cycle Funattic in Phillipsburg, N.J.) and if I remember correctly, because it was a decade ago, the idea came from him.
To put this story together, we followed Russ on his commuting route, a good 15 miles, and our staff photographer literally hung out of my car like we were on The Dukes of Hazzard.
I like the way the story turned out, and I feel like it was a very timely piece for its day. Gas prices then were escalating, but not nearly to the extent we would see a few years later.
This ran in the Phillipsburg Chronicle, August 1, 2003 as a “Community Life” feature. For more information on Cycle Funattic, see their web site: http://www.cyclefunattic.com/.
Feature on bicycle commuting, section 1 of 3
Bicycle commuting, section 2 of 3
Russ Padgett, bicycle commuting part 3
As a freelance reporter for the Morning Call, I loved West Easton. Small town, good bunch of elected officials who always had something to say. They could balance a mean budget. This particular saga started in the summer of 2002, when their trash hauler missed a good portion of the borough. The trash saga between Waste Management went on for months, but if we’re talking off the record, you have to admire the little town for standing up to a huge corporation.
It’s my version of a municipal soap opera.
These articles are also available online at The Morning Call.
Little West Easton considers significant fine against Waste Management
Part 2: West Easton levies $40K fine
Part 3: Waste Management asks West Easton to lower fine
My first appearance in a daily, 1994
In 1994, I hadn’t even declared a major yet. After three years of high school journalism, I had taken a college-level journalism class and had some experience writing features for a local weekly. I accepted a job as a freelance “stringer” for the Newark Star-Ledger. I traveled across Warren County, New Jersey attending municipal and school board meetings. Then I called the editor on the desk and read him my notes.
This was before cell phones and filing by internet. (I’m a dinosaur!)
It was brutal. They always asked questions to which I never knew the answers. They paid well, but the editors often reduced me to tears. One nice editor offered me advice. Call before you leave the site. Make relationships with the people at the meeting and ask for a number where you can reach them. (I also was polite enough to ask how late could call.)
I hated it. I vowed I never wanted to be a journalist.
Funny, how life changes…
The article in the photograph is the result of my reporting. While it’s not an official byline, it’s my first appearance in a daily newspaper.
My life is usually funny. When things go wrong, they don’t go average wrong. They go Charlie Chaplin style wrong. I did an entry on my writing blog about this tendency of my life because my friends are always pushing me to be the Erma Bombeck of my age. And I do love the classic Erma!
Here’s a newspaper clipping about my daughter that I think falls under humor.
One of my first humor pieces on motherhood