Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Big Goodbyes

There are lots of words of caution TV mentors give rookies. "The pay and the hours suck." "It's a rat race." "You move hundreds or thousands of miles from home to the middle of nowhere… and you become best friends with the people you work with." But sooner or later, those people try to get ahead in the rat race and move away. 

I can deal with the middle-of-the-night calls during breaking news. 
I can learn to live frugally because of an always near-empty bank account. 
What's the toughest is saying goodbye to my family-like friends.

When someone leaves Medford it's always bittersweet. Bitter for obvious reasons. But sweet because the outgoing person is always moving on to something better. A better job, better pay, closer to home, more stable hours. Something enticing enough to pull them away from a place they've grown into and people they have sincere relationships with.

Three months after moving here my two closest friends moved away on the same day (one to her hometown, another to a station where she could finally report). In early March, three people moved away on the same weekend. One moving to a 6-hour drive home (instead of a 3-part flight plan), one to a big city (Nashville), and another making an insanely huge career jump (CBS in San Francisco, market #6).

Dozens others have come and gone, but those five people were my close friends. We hung out on weekends and weekdays and were surrogate family. Surrogate, but temporary.

Today, one of my closest friends has left the mountains and valleys of Southern Oregon for the skyscrapers and flouride-enriched tapwater of her hometown, Chicago. She couldn't be happier. I consider Kaylin my work sister. We were supposed to start on the same day, but a family vacation pushed mine back two weeks. There were times I got frustrated with her, but nevertheless got over it. She gave advice and offered friendship. For a few months weekend rituals involved sleeping on her spare bed when I couldn't drive home, then having Sunday night "family dinners." She was there for group trips to the Oregon coast, Portland, and jumping in Crater Lake. Because we're digital journalists, there's documentation of just about all of it. A self-described commitment-phobe, she admits her goodbye was "so emotional that she wasn't emotional." I don't understand it either, but I accept it anyway. In a goodbye letter, she called me her first real friend. It's the most emotion she's revealed to me, and I cherish it. I'll miss Kaylin, but I believe I'll see her again, and wish her the best until that day comes.

At the end of this week, we lose another great guy, Julian. He's been in Medford less than a year but quickly became one of my best friends here and best guys I've ever met. A Phoenix native, his easy-going, yet excitable personality became a reliable presence on football Sundays. He and I battled it out for Fantasy Football title (I won and I don't think he's dropped the grudge yet). With quotable sayings and copyable mannerisms, he was just fun to be around. Always one to joke and look on the bright side, he was a great to hang out with. As a camera operator he quickly grew from unsure to a confident and trustworthy. Now, he's taking his talents to Albuquerque where the pay is better and the drive home is an actual possibility. Less than a year after getting here, he's leaving Medford and leaving a great impression on those he's become close with.

People come into your life and people leave. When you're away from home, they're all you have. And when they're gone, it's that much harder. It's something I don't think I'll ever get used to. And I don't think I'm supposed to.

Monday, May 28, 2012

NYTimes: "This Memorial Day"

There was a time, not so long ago, when Memorial Day, and the knowledge that school would soon be ending, was the dock from which we looked out upon the sea of summer. From Memorial Day, to a child of the right age, September looked like some undiscoverable Indies, lying far beyond the visible horizon.
And Memorial Day itself? It was the last and most solemn solemnity before the beautiful expanse of summer, a day when graves were being gardened everywhere and you could see from the flags among them who had died as veterans.
Perhaps summer was never as blissfully empty as it seems in memory. It certainly isn’t now when we’re in the clutches of adulthood. Even so, the Fourth of July doesn’t seem to be lying in wait just around the next corner, and let us not speak of Labor Day. Better to enjoy the slowness of Memorial Morning and Memorial Afternoon and Memorial Evening, the fireflies rising like very slow fireworks into the darkness of the trees.
It has always seemed fitting to mark the purpose of this holiday — honoring those who have died in our country’s service — at the exuberant end of May. The outburst of spring is just slowing into summer’s cadence, and yet you can still smell and feel the biological crescendo all around you.
Whether it consoles the people who are gardening those graves is for them to say. And these years, after a decade of two wars, there are many lost lives to mourn. But nature is doing all it can to comfort. Life, it seems to be saying, continues on from summer to summer. There are memories and sadness, but also a verdancy that makes us celebrate what we have.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Recent Stories

I know there have been few updates recently. I'm doing less work in the virtual world, because I'm doing more playing in the real world. Trips to the coast, saying goodbye to friends who are moving on, jetboat riding, and other personal projects have been taking up a lot of free time.

I'm hoping to catch you up on some of those fun adventures soon, but first here's a look at some of my stories from the past few weeks. 

This week, indian mascots were banned at all Oregon schools. That includes a high school just about 15 minutes from Medford. Here's the story on the reaction to the ban. And the next day's story on how the school plans for the major overhaul.

Is it graffiti or art? A smoke shop in Medford painted a bright, loud mural on it's storefront. Some neighboring customers don't like the look and feel and raised a ruckus. What do you think?

A 21-year-old fell into the turbulant, whitewater of Rogue River and was presumed dead. I have the story from the search in the hours after the report first came in.

A park in Medford that's seen stabbings, drug dealers, and many issues with transients is getting a million dollar upgrade and redesign. Been covering the story for a while, and here's the latest installment about voting for the new layout.

Schools in Eagle Point, a city just up the road from Medford, were in turmoil for months and it boiled over in the past few weeks. Bargaining broke down between the school district and the educators union (including teachers, staff, bus drivers, facilities employees). The union voted for a strike and ended up walking off the job. We covered the story everyday for about two weeks. Here's a handful of my stories from the saga: 

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Kickball For Grownups

Remember those playground games in elementary school? Four square, wall ball, and kickball are the games that I miss. But I got a chance to travel back to yesteryear and play kickball this weekend.

All the media outlets, channels 5, 10, 12 and the newspaper, The Mail Tribune, met on the grassy turf field for a kickball fundraiser. We collected money and toys for The Ethan Jostad Foundation, which is named in honor of a local boy who died of cancer.

Good fun for a good cause.

I've got to say, kicking is way tough. Every time the pitch comes in, the ball looks like it's asking to be crushed. So you drop your leg in as quick and low as possible. But it ends up a high bloop with plenty of time for someone to get under it.

It was a blast to get on the field, run around, play, and put our little athletic abilities to the test. I batted leadoff and played right, left-center, and catcher. In two games I went 3-6 with 2 runs and a few putouts.

We played two games, winning the first one against ch 10 put us in the championship against the Tribune.

We trailed late in the game. I squibbed a kick down the 3rd base line and got to first. Next batter flied out. Batting third was Chris Breece. My first base coach (yeah, we had one of those) told me I want you to score from first. Breece booted one to deep left. It sailed over everyone's head and bounced and rolled far. I pumped and moved. Stepping on the inside of the second, I turned my eyes from the base up to third and what I see gives me the most exciting feeling a young athlete can have. Half a dozen people have one arm extended to home and the other windmilling like crazy, their eyes wide, telling me I've got to move to score. I dig deep and pump through the base keeping my turn as shallow as possible. Not only am I able to score standing up, so does Breece. He kicked a 2-run home run. It ended up being the difference, we won 2-1 and took the championship.

Here's a video our newsteam put together. Look for my backwards baseball cap and the name on my jersey is BNAVA, a nod to my previous athletic endeavors with Freedom water polo.

But more importantly, it was a really fun time. I hope we can do it again.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Self-Defense, Rushing River, and Pot Profits

Here's a look at some of my stories from last week.

Non-Profits face tough financial constraints just as families and businesses do. Story from Monday.

A tax levy in Josephine County would keep the Sheriff's Office from making unprecedented, drastic cuts. But many are preparing to for the worst case scenario and the possibility of having to use self-defense.

A 21-year-old fell into the Rogue River late last week. The water was rushing by at 20 miles an hour and levels were high mostly from snow level. Search and Rescue workers spent hours on the river's edge, but were unable to find the victim.

The DEA is charging six men with using the state's Medical Marijuana program to grow extra pot and sell it on the black market. I use the DEA's investigation and some math to find out just how much money these growers could have been making illegally. The answer: $7,750,000.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

How Colleges Fight for Top Students -NPR

I heard this story today and loved it.
NPR reported on "How Colleges Fight for Top Students."

I'm fascinated by higher education and the Admissions game is especially confusing and interesting to me. When I heard about the "trick" that schools use to get students to say "yes," it seemed so obvious in hindsight.

Love this story.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Technical Training

Being a reporter means everyday is a new immersive adventure. On very special occassions I'm in a classroom, on a mountaintop, or in a helicopter. Last Thursday, I was strapped into a harness and lowered into a firefighter drill.

Since I was going to be in the story I needed someone to shoot for me. Luckily, I got my friend and co-worker Julian behind the camera. He got the the sights, and the sounds from the morning training.

I'm used to finding little details and shooting them for my reports. Knowing what I've shot is important when heading into the edit bay so I can write to what I've got and sequence my story accordingly. It's unnerving and unsettling to give up some of that control and have someone else shoot all the video. Sort of like those improv skits where one person is arms for another. But Julian is a great photog and got a bunch of nice shots for the piece.

It was a fun day and a fun experience. Days like these I love being a reporter: