Editor's Notebook: Process and people, not prizes, matter most
There's nothing like an awards banquet to make you proud and keep you humble, all at the same time.
We're proud of the honors The Forecaster picked up last weekend from the New England Newspaper & Press Association. Seven awards is a lot for a paper and staff our size.
But we only had to look over our shoulders at the Ellsworth American's table, where a stack of framed certificates grew to the height of a small child, to remind ourselves that there's plenty of room for improvement and that the plaques and parchment only follow when there's a daily commitment to doing good work.
That commitment isn't always easy to maintain, particularly at a paper that is often a first career stop for young, talented reporters. When they move on, as Steve Mistler did, the vacancies can play havoc with our ability to cover the news consistently and produce those award-winning stories.
Not long after Mistler left for the Sun Journal in Lewiston last year, our veteran Portland City Hall reporter, Kate Bucklin, went on maternity leave. But now, for the first time since before last Thanksgiving, we're back at full strength.
To readers of our Mid-Coast edition it probably seemed like we had installed a revolving door after not one, but two people we hired to cover Brunswick and Harpswell hung around barely longer than it took you to read this paragraph.
But as the saying goes, the third time was the charm when we hired Emily Guerin.
Emily joined us in early January. She is a talented writer and inquisitive young journalist who always seems to be looking for a story – particularly, as she says, those that "illuminate the quirky, frustrating and perplexing aspects" of everyday life.
Emily has worked for Maine Public Radio, Public Radio International, The Bollard and the Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting. She has also written on a freelance basis for The Forecaster, doing stories about crumbling public water infrastructure, what goes into the price of coffee, and the work done by the Portland Police Department's neighborhood prosecutor.
She is also a Bowdoin College graduate, who knows the Mid-Coast landscape.
In the short time she has been here full time, Emily has provided extensive coverage of the Thibeault Energy oil company crisis, painted an amusing portrait of a retired Brunswick florist who is the painter of the "Ideal Guernsey Cow," and taken a look at the surprising arguments surrounding Maine's Gateway 1 program.
We're confident Emily will be here for more than a cup of coffee, so we've put the revolving door into storage.
Shortly after Emily joined us, Kate returned to work. She has resumed her old beat, and now also has the title of assistant editor. The new title reflects added editing and management responsibilities, and the fact that Kate fills in (more than ably) for me when I'm away.
There's never a guarantee that another job opening won't occur tomorrow, or next week. That's the nature of the business. Like awards banquets, where you never know who is going to be collecting trophies at the next table, the uncertainty helps keep us humble and on our toes.