I’m a journalist by trade and by passion. As a kid, I remember telling my mother I wanted to be a writer — or a dancer, but let’s not go there. I didn’t know what I wanted to write, just that I wanted to write.
I’m a voracious reader, and like many, I toyed with the idea of writing a novel before turning to journalism. I became a news junkie, well maybe not a junkie but borderline obsessed, in my teens. But I still wasn’t on my way to a journalism career. There were still so many ideas to explore.
I’m not sure when exactly I knew I wanted to become a journalist, but the dream became more of a realistic path well into adulthood. I returned to college after a divorce. I was a single mother with two young daughters. I enrolled in a journalism class and my path became clear.
Mary Catherine Powers was the professor and she became my mentor. She worked as a journalist, she organized the Mt. SAC cross country and other track and field events. She taught journalism at a time long before social media, before fake news and when good journalism mattered.
Those of us in her classes learned more than the inverted pyramid. We learned how to find the story behind the story. We learned how to challenge assumptions and ask the tough questions. We learned compassion, determination and how to break the ice with a source who wasn’t an easy interview. We didn’t realize we were developing passion for a career that would have its own set of challenges in a different time and place.
Being part of the Big Bear Grizzly team reinforces those lessons I learned under Mary Catherine’s watch. Community journalism is where the real stories are told, at least in my opinion. We don’t cover national or state news, unless it has a tie directly to the community.
Community journalism is what’s known as hyperlocal. The newspapers, magazines, digital websites, even radio stations that are community based focus on the community they serve.
Over the years I’ve been asked why we don’t write stories about the pro football or baseball teams. Why don’t we cover the protests in Washington, D.C. or the royal weddings? It’s simple, those things aren’t happening in Big Bear. We might write a story about a Big Bear resident who took part in a march on Washington, D.C., telling the story from his or her perspective. Same if a Big Bear resident got an invitation to attend a royal wedding.
The journalists in Big Bear and other community newspapers tell the stories that matter to the people who live, work, own property, go to school and have family in those communities. For the Grizzly, those stories are tied to Big Bear. Community journalism isn’t always feel good or fluff stories. We have to cover everything from crime to high school football, and local government to wildfires.
One of the first lessons I learned was objectivity. Reporters, sales teams, publishers — we don’t get to have public opinions. We don’t sign petitions, don’t put campaign signs in our front yards, don’t comment on social media regarding an issue in
the community. We put our feelings and opinions aside when we are representing the paper, which is 24/7. Opinions are left for columns, such as this one, or the editorial page.
Good journalism and good news organizations are why I continue to do what I do, continue to have a passion for making sure the stories that matter are told. A good community newspaper is part of the fabric of the community, as the Big Bear Grizzly is part of the fabric of Big Bear Valley.
It’s also why I continue to advocate for this community and its support of the Big Bear Grizzly. It’s been serving the Valley for going on 80 years. That service will continue with your support, hopefully for another 80 or more.