My life has been a pretty amazing journey since my arrival in Creston more than six years ago.
Some of you might not know, but I hail from San Diego, California. More often than not, when people find out this detail, the question that always follows is, “what brought you here?”
We moved here with the intent of furthering my (then) husband’s career, but little did I know how much my own life would change as a result.
Upon arrival, I began to look for work to no avail. I was either over qualified, not qualified or I didn’t know the right people. Then, one day I saw an “editor” opening with Shaw Media (our parent company) that caught my attention, and thought, “What the heck?” and I applied.
It was Stephani Finley and Kyle Wilson who interviewed me. I struggled to relate my experience, or lack thereof, to the position. After all, I did not have any journalism experience and my only writing experience had been the research papers I did for school and marketing copy I wrote for past employers. In retrospect, the only personal attributes that made me stand out were my willingness to learn, and I assured them that “I can talk to anyone.”
I was not offered the position I applied for, but after a few weeks passed, I was asked if I’d be interested in working as a reporter.
Life as a newsie
Never, in my wildest dreams, did I ever imagine I’d become a newspaper reporter. However, there was no greater way to learn about my new community. Working as a reporter – particularly in a culture/community in which I was not raised – has been the funniest, most interesting, rewarding and enlightening work I have ever had the opportunity to do.
I have had so many moments of confusion and profuse laughter in the newsroom. For instance, the time I transcribed an interview and wrote about “buckets of semen,” to which my editor corrected me by saying, “NO SARAH! IT’S BUCKETS OF CEMENT. CEMENT!” (Yes. I think some of you speak funny and I still have a difficult time understanding you.)
I still chuckle at the memory of being told that the commute from Corning to Diagonal is “about a three-beer drive.” It was in the newsroom I learned about the bounty on gopher feet, which was $1 per pair and paid out by the assessor’s office. I was once tasked to review a cookbook and shared a recipe for stew, in which, the meat could be substituted with squirrel. It was in the newsroom I learned that not all cattle are cows. And, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been late to an interview because some farmer gave me directions by saying, “turn left at so-and-so’s farm” or “turn right at the berry patch.”
It took me seven drive-bys to realize that the “berry patch” is actually a “bury” patch. For future reference, us city folk just call it a “cemetery.”
Newspaper reporting is definitely not for the faint of heart. However, for me, there is no greater thrill than meeting a hard 11 a.m. deadline. The hours are really odd and the pay isn’t the best, but I love the people I meet and telling your story is my greatest honor and privilege. It is through this line of work that makes me feel as though I am part of something greater than myself.
This position has also humanized a number of people for me. Senator Chuck Grassley and I can go head to head on our ideas and policy, yet he still allows me to call him “Chuckles” and is actually a very personable, funny and friendly man, who reminds me of a grandpa with some amusing stories to tell. Before his death, Rep. Jack Drake taught me that, “we can have our differences, but at the end of the day, we’re still friends.” Bill Clinton, Bernie Sanders and Carole King also proved to be more down-to-earth than I could have ever imagined.
In this line of work, it’s full of opportunity and every new person I meet or place I get to explore excites me. However, some days it’s pretty mundane as I find myself in a meeting only to review an agenda and realize I’m going to be writing about sewers or street maintenance. Or, it’s a slow news week and my editor tasks me with stringing together 400 words on “why green bean casserole is a popular Thanksgiving side dish.” (An actual article I once wrote.)
After a few years of progress editions and county fairs, I decided to take a break from the news and pursue other work as a case manager, business owner and writing instructor. But, in those three years, deep down, I missed the newsroom and made my way back.
Those early edits by Stephani Finley were harsh.
I can still recall my first story, where I reviewed a Creston Community High School production of, “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown.” My copy bled with red ink. Immediately, I thought, “I’m not cut out for this line of work,” but, she assured me I was and I was determined to deliver something worth reading.
Stephani challenged my writing and forced me to think more critically. In the process, I developed some pretty thick skin and the ability to pump out content quickly. In retrospect, it was her standards, and the standards of the editors to follow, that helped me achieve the status of “managing editor.”
In choosing me to be the managing editor, my publisher, Rich Paulsen, has instilled an immense amount of faith in me, despite having caused some colossal waves and raging headaches for him in the past. He knows I’m a “little different,” and he’s cautiously optimistic.
As your editor
Because of my differences, I want to share a few things with you to help you understand a bit more about me.
Yes, I consider myself to be liberal with conservative tendencies. Or, as I like to put it, “socially liberal, yet fiscally conservative.” However, despite my personal opinions, as far as the content of Creston News Advertiser, Osceola Sentinel-Tribune, Adair County Free Press and Fontanelle Observer papers, I will always strive to present the most unbiased, factual news and provide equal coverage – particularly as we enter caucus and campaign seasons.
I am a pretty straight-forward kind of gal, and don’t worry about hurting my feelings. I welcome feedback and criticism (hopefully of the constructive nature), and I welcome a good debate. Along those lines, my views, both politically and morally can change when previously unrecognized logic is brought to my attention. We have a lot to learn from each other.
In our news coverage, I expect we will cover some tough topics and I will strive to do so in an intelligent, tactful and respectful manner. No issue is black-or-white – there is always some grey area. I will always attempt to present all sides of a story. My goal for our news team is to inform, not influence.
I believe in transparency of our government and Sunshine Laws, which are laws that state public records must be open to public scrutiny. I hope to help you, our readers, understand how our city and county governments operate, better communicate the reasoning behind their actions and explain how your tax dollars are being spent.
My door is always open and I invite you to stop by, call or email me regarding any aspect of our papers. If I agree with you, I will work to facilitate change. If I don’t, I will tell you why. No matter what, I welcome your input and will always listen and respect what you have to say.
I expect I will make mistakes and I apologize in advance for that. However, I will do whatever I can to make it right in the end.
Thank you for welcoming me into your community and for your support as I venture into this new endeavor. Most importantly, thank you for supporting your local newspapers. On behalf of our news staff, we hope to continue and improve the local coverage that matters most to you.
Sarah Scull, managing editor