Budding Writer, 1979: Fairlee is getting interesting

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About this series: I revisited my journals from my first year as a freelance writer and found they told a story of their own. In this series I get the rare opportunity to give myself and other writers career advice with nearly 50 years of hindsight. Enjoy!

As long as we’re talking about inertia, we ought to remember the other side of that law: An object that is in motion tends to stay in motion.

I soon learned that a newspaper man’s life is often in motion all day:

A lovely day; too bad I spent most of it indoors — editing. Maybe I’ll bring a clipboard and chair next time. But I did get all my work done in the time alloted, and wrote 4 stories for the paper: Fairlee Planning Comm, a fire, and 2 things from an incredibly long Fairlee selectmen meeting: one on the Lake Morey Commission, the other on the meeting itself and [a developer’s] plans to develop in town.

The Fairlee selectmen complimented me on the coverage I’ve been giving them. [One selectman] said “it sounds like we’ve been doing something.” But [the developer] distrusts me — perhaps with some justification, as he was shafted 2 years ago by a J.O. story. But it’s obvious he’s being overly aggressive toward the selectmen and will try to push his way over the planning + zoning boards as well. At last Fairlee is getting interesting!

I chatted with Robert tonight about writing and my plans for the future. I have the feeling he’d really like me to stay with him but I have no idea what his plans are for me …

Journal, Volume II
30 April 1979

Other than the busy — and long — day, the remarkable thing here is the openness the people I was covering had about my reporting. It’s always good to hear that the subjects of your news reports think you’re giving them a fair shake. (Although this does sometimes make me wonder if I’m missing something, or how they would react to something they didn’t like.)

But for the developer to telegraph what he was going to do — and for me to learn that he had something against the paper because of previous coverage — was unusual, in retrospect. Usually you have to figure that out for yourself.

And sometimes you never do hear about it until it’s too late.

A Northern Cardinal watches his favorite feeder in Southbury, Connecticut, on May 6, 2023. By Howard Fielding. Offered under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0.

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