As a reporter you get to see a lot and what you eventually come to realize is that things are the same wherever you are. The small town has pretty much the same issues as a big city. They may not be as frequent, but you come to realize that anything can happen, anytime, anywhere.
Even though the three large towns in our coverage area only contain about 5,000 inhabitants each, I photographed, wrote about and questioned presidential candidates. That is a phenomenon somewhat unique to New Hampshire, which has that first in the nation presidential primary election. I didn’t meet them all, since we divided up the coverage, but I covered such notables as John Kerry, General Wesley Clark, George W. Bush, and John McCain in addition to some very fringe candidates. A good many candidates make it a point to show up for lunch at the Peterborough Diner, only a few hundred feet from the newsroom. And there have been times when I’ve looked up from my desk to see people like Elizabeth Dole and Newt Gingrich walking through the newsroom.
During that every four year presidential scramble I found myself rubbing shoulders with reporters from news organizations all over the country – The Chicago Tribune, St. Petersburg Times, Boston Globe, etc., etc.
I met and photographed White House Press Corps Correspondent Helen Thomas and Marlin Fitzwater, who served as press secretary to two presidents. And I sat on a panel discussion about censorship with Mad Magazine editor Joe Raiola.
I interviewed people like Nobel Laureate For Peace Jody Williams, and the openly gay Episcopalian Bishop V. Gene Robinson, whose ordination divided the Anglican Church. Robinson told me how he and his partner wore bulletproof vests and were accompanied by a bodyguard in robes during his consecration ceremony, something never previously reported.
I flew over and around Mount Monadnock in a little Cessna with Margaret Ray Ringenberg piloting the plane. She was a WASP pilot during World War Two and has her own chapter in Tom Brokaw’s book The Greatest Generation. Well into her 80s she was still flying.
I also interviewed people you likely never heard of, who had some very powerful stories. An example would be Rev. Daniel Leavitt, who was a 22-year-old lieutenant junior grade in the US Navy when he navigated the first American ship to enter the harbor at Nagasaki, Japan following the second and last use of an atomic bomb in warfare. What he saw had much to do with his decision to become a clergyman
All that in spite of living in a rural area.
This is a sample chapter from a memoir about reporting titled WORKING AT THE WORD FACTORY.
Photo by Beth Doyle