Thursday, September 13, 2012

When weekend reporter duties are fun

During my eight months of working at the Faribault Daily News, one of the duties I've come to look forward to is that of being the weekend reporter.

As you can probably guess, it was a
good idea to wear swim trunks
while taking photos of this.
Because we're a relatively small daily paper, the task of weekend reporting rotates around the news room from week to week, with my turn coming about every six weeks. When that happens, my jobs is typically to cover some sort of live event on Saturday, write a story for Sunday's paper and be prepared for any spot news that might come up.

Most of my co workers approach weekend reporter duties with the same enthusiasm one would have with doing their taxes. So very little, if at all.

It's not that they hate the work (that wouldn't bode well for the career choice). It's more so because it involves having to do that work on a day where they'd rather be relaxing away from the office. After a hard week of work, it's nice to enjoy some R&R for the weekend.

While I agree with that mindset, it doesn't stop me from anxiously scanning the daily budgets to see what my assignment will be when my turn comes up for weekend reporter. Even if it's something as mundane as taking weather photos for unseasonably warm temperatures -- yes, that actually happened once -- I usually get pretty excited about it.

As a copy editor and page designer, my job is mostly confined to the office. I get the stories from reporters, I place them on the page and I try to make the newspaper look as appealing (and error free) as possible. It's enjoyable work because I get to utilize my creativity and knack for design, but it gets to be a little monotonous at times.

Weekend reporter assignments represent a break from that monotony. Instead of being cooped up in the office, it gets me out "in the field" and gives me a chance to work on skills -- writing, photography, interviewing, etc. -- that normally don't get a lot of practice. I went to college for print journalism with the intent of being a writer and though I think I made the right career choice, I still miss writing on a regular basis (as the 200+ entries on this blog would indicate).

Most of the reporter assignments are relatively forgettable. However, every once in awhile you get to cover something that's pretty cool. Last Saturday was a perfect example of that, as my editor Jaci Smith sent me to report on a group of kayakers known as the River Ramblers who were doing a paddle down the Cannon River from Faribault to Dundas.

Now, even to the average reporter, kayaking would be a fun thing to cover. Water sports in general are pretty photogenic, plus groups like the River Ramblers are usually more than happy to give a few quotes.

For me though, the event took on an added level of enthusiasm. As mentioned in a previous post, I recently bought a kayak and have been making regular trips to Faribault-area lakes to break in my new toy. It's turned into a multi-faceted activity of sorts for me. I get some fresh air, I do a little exploring, I get a good workout and if I bring my fishing rod with, I can get a few casts in as well. I've always been a fan of kayaking, but owning one has helped take that interest to another level.

The one hindrance so far has been the lack of a second vehicle to make river trips possible. There aren't any established kayaking clubs in Faribault and I don't know anybody in the area who's into the sport, plus I feel it would be rude to ask a coworker or friend to pick me -- and my kayak -- up at the end point of a trip when they didn't get to enjoy the trip themselves.

Kayaking isn't like cycling where you can do long trips by yourself without any assistance. There's a dependency aspect of it you need to adjust to, a difficult task when you're used to being self-reliant like I am. My hope is to do a multi-day trip down the Cannon River this fall, but unless I get to know a few other kayak enthusiasts in the area, it'll be difficult to pull that off.

Getting a chance to interview the River Ramblers was at least a slight step forward in that regard. None of the group members kayaking on Saturday were from the Faribault area (killing my local angle) and the River Ramblers only kayaks the Faribault portion of the Cannon River once a year (their schedule can be seen here). Still, it was nice to meet other enthusiasts of the sport and it gave me further encouragement that a trip down the Cannon River would be both very possible and very scenic (they do a second trip on the river near Welch as well).

The reporting assignment might also be a precursor to future kayak trips. I had to resist the urge to join the River Ramblers on their trip to Dundas on Saturday (I was on the hook for copy editing duties that night as well), but if I have a weekend available in the near future, I will definitely look into doing a trip with them. It solves my transportation dilemma and gives me a chance to explore other rivers, plus it makes kayaking a shared experience, which is always more enjoyable.

So in summary, my weekend reporter duties resulted in a decent story in last Sunday's paper and a possible connection to a group that will help me get more enjoyment out of a new hobby of mine. I call that a fun assignment.


Important note to my coworkers: Please do not perceive this as an open invitation to dump your weekend assignments on me. I enjoy reporting from time to time, but not as much as I enjoy sleeping in on Saturdays.

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