Someone asked me the other day how being a reporter has affected me outside the office, for the good and for the bad. I hadn’t thought about it much ... After all, how does anyone’s job or career affect them outside the work place?
But the question has stayed with me. After all, I’ve been a reporter for nearly 20 years, and that’s a significant amount of time. I spent my first four years as a reporter working for the BCR when it was owned by the Bailey family with Mary Bailey as my publisher and Ted Duffield as my editor. I had one more year after the Shaw family bought the BCR in the late 1970s before I “retired” to become a full-time wife and mom. With our kids’ college bills facing us, I returned to the BCR and reporting full-time in 1998.
For the most part, I like to think my years as a reporter have had a positive impact on my life.
For instance, I believe now more than ever before that there are two sides to every story, and that intelligent, caring people can line up on either side of an issue. And, I’m no longer so quick to take sides. Obviously there is no taking sides professionally for a reporter, but I hope that same impartiality and understanding have carried over into my personal life, into my acceptance of family and friends who don’t share my viewpoint.
I like the fact that being a reporter has taught me to respect people but not to be intimidated by them. In my early days working for the Baileys, I remember having to take my first photo of the mayor of Princeton, Pete Eckdahl. It was a scary assignment for me. To my 24-year-old mind, the mayor of Princeton was real close to royalty, or at least to the governorship.
Though I still obviously respect and honor our elected officials, I’m not intimidated by them anymore ... well, at least not most of them!
If I’m being honest, I think the toughest part of being a reporter is the fact that I tend to be more guarded and reclusive now, more willing to go home and be with just family and close friends. I suppose many of us are that way, regardless of our careers, especially those of us who have “people jobs.” I tend to need more alone time now.
But as I look back on my years as a reporter, I think of all the people and the stories who have changed me for the better, who have inspired me, who have quieted my life, who have strengthened and challenged me with their personal stories of commitment, of courage, of forgiveness, of hope. I am so much the richer for them. I’m humbled for having the honor of being in their homes, their businesses, their schools, their communities.
Reporting isn’t for everyone. There are days when I’m not even sure it’s for me. But still, I have no doubt I’m a better person for having been one.
BCR Senior Staff Writer Donna Barker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.