It’s like a crime, reporter keeps returning to the scene

I’m back. It’s the same. It’s not the same. A lot of changes take place in eight-and-a-half years, to state the obvious.

For those who don’t know me, I’ve been involved in community journalism for more than 30 years. Much of my career has been spent right here in Plumas County. I stumbled into the former Feather Publishing building (now county planning and assessor’s offices) fresh out of college with a degree in journalism. That was way back in 1980. I left seven years later, tried other places and career moves, and eventually returned to the place I call home. And that return eventually led me back to Feather Publishing. I left again in 2008 and began a new career.

I’m still wearing my hat as the Plumas County Literacy coordinator. That is a department under the county library system. It focuses heavily on adult basic education with some opportunities for youth.

Why did I decide to return to a longtime career I thought I’d left behind? First, the excitement! I really enjoy parts of my job at literacy, but I haven’t been on a single helicopter ride, forest fire, accident or written a feature in years. I thought it was out of my system, but as soon as I started talking to Managing Editor Debra Moore about a possible part-time return, I began hearing sirens in my sleep and looking for photo opportunities. My mind began to comb through feature possibilities. Who did I know that was doing something interesting? Noteworthy?

My second reason is that while my husband continued to work full-time, I got to work 30 hours a week with a three-day weekend. That’s been very nice, especially since we’re raising our 3-year-old grandson. But there are things I’d like to do for him that require a little extra money. Also, my husband is of retirement age and I’d like to see him be able to ease back from the full-time job he’s held since 1981.

On my first day back, Debra and my new reporting colleagues took time out of their busy Monday so we could discuss who’s doing what. There wasn’t any fighting — that’s good. I can remember big time clashes in the old days with different staff members over who got to do what and who had to do something. And looking at the list of beats I realized there isn’t a thing I haven’t covered in the past. I also didn’t have to clutter my limited schedule with things I have no interest in or the timing was all-wrong. Remember, I have two very separate jobs to fulfill.

But I’m quite pleased with the assortment I’m now covering. I’m back to what we call courts and cops — covering sheriff’s and CHP news and the more important trials. Feather River College, the museum, services districts in Quincy, museum and Friends of the Library are part of the list.

Speaking of the Friends of the Library, the quarterly book sale was mentioned as a photo op. One of my new colleagues said he could pop in, but the reality is that I only have to open a door or two and I’m right there. My other office is in the back part of the library, almost next to the meeting room. Besides, I’ll be busy buying books there when I have breaks.

Mentioning my office in the Quincy library, when I started that job I can honestly say it was an uphill climb. I’ve taught school before — kindergarten and middle school, but I returned to writing each time. In the new position, I fortunately had two literacy assistants, one in Chester and another in Portola, who had been in the program for years. They were very patient with me — still are. Margaret Miles was then the librarian and knew everything. I don’t mean that in a snide way. I learned that she’s one of those people who wanted to know how everything works and the reasons why. And the state’s California Library Literacy Services people were wonderful. They continue to be. I just submitted my final budget report to the state. Unless everything agrees one sees red notes indicating where there’s a problem. After several weeks of fixing one problem just to be met with more red notes indicating two or three others had cropped up, I finally was given approval to hit the send button. Once that’s hit there’s an animated picture of a dancing cow and I’ve never been so happy to see a dancing cow in my life.

The great thing about the reporting job is that if there’s a budget involved, it’s someone else’s. No dancing cows, but then I guess I could be presumptuous enough to hand them out when I don’t have to write about their errors and the exchanges based on those problems.

So as time allows, I’ll be returning to some familiar territory — reacquainting myself with old faces and greeting some new ones.