It's been a year since I was "downsized" from Consumers Energy and it's been an interesting year at that. I didn't expect to lose my job, nor did I expect to go back to what is my first love and what I did for a living upon graduation from college -- newspaper reporting and writing.
I was a newspaper reporter for 12 years. I worked for two mid-sized dailies -- one in my hometown of Oshkosh, Wisconsin, and the other in Battle Creek, Michigan. The Battle Creek paper sent me to USA Today for six months as a loaned employee. I've also written for the Chicago Tribune.
I left all that in 1993 to work in the trade press, and in 1999 I moved to the dark side and was a writer in Corporate America. In the corporate world, you can write what you want, so long as it toes the company line. Stories I wrote for company publications had made-up quotes -- heck, sometimes there wasn't even an interview!
Fast forward to 2011 and I answer an ad for my local paper for freelance writers. I start getting calls and ironically start writing for a woman I knew well at the Battle Creek paper. Assignments start coming in. Deadlines loomed.
My first interview was with a University of Michigan professor who, along with his wife, built a straw bale house in the area. The interview and tour of his home went very well. I was armed with my reporter's notebook, pen and a gadget I never used when I was a newspaper reporter -- a digital voice recorder.
I'm happy to report I survived the assignment, albeit fretting that I had quotes and other information right. I couldn't just put words in this man's mouth, whether he said them or not. That's a hard habit to break. But I'm glad I broke it.
What I was assured by a writer friend is it's like riding a bike -- you don't forget how to do it. My wise friend was right. I'm pedaling -- maybe not as fast as I'd like to go, but I'm getting there! Have a look and see what you think.
Jackson Citizen Patriot - Straw Bale House Story