Remembering my first A1
Hard to believe it was four years ago today that I got on Page 1 for the first time, just two months into my freelancing career for the Globe. I remember seeing the story on the rack in a Maplewood Square convenience story and doing a double take because it was above the fold. Boy, I was walking on air that day.
The story was about how health insurance companies were passing along a portion of ambulance bills to patients. Exciting, huh? Neil Swidey was my editor and he did a helluva job boiling down the story from a feature to hard news. This was my first lesson in how, at a major newspaper, the top editors do whatever they want to page 1 stories. I was told to write it as a feature, and at the last minute the bosses decided to put in on page 1, which meant it had to be written as a hard news story. I think have it one shot before Neil just reworked it. I'm a lot wiser now, but I'll probably never see page 1 again. For a long time I had a copy hanging on the wall, but it's since been put away. Oh well. It was fun while it lasted -- and plenty stressful. That part, I haven't forgotten.
A quick archive search shows that I've been part of 61 page 1 (A1) stories in four years, but the archive system is really spotty, so I'm going to go with 50 stories. My last was Dec. 8, 2004. (The molasass road salt story, which became a pawn in a battle between editors. But I'm not up for telling the tale.) I grabbed about 10 solo bylines, but some of my best work came working with Jenna Russell on the collapse of the Old Man in the Mountain and a Fall River boat drowning. There were also the Molly Bish stories, Red Sox World Series victory stories - my quote from 93-year-old Leonard Iannaronne of Winthrop made the historical front page - and The Station fire in West Warwick. In a parallel universe, some of my feature stories would have made the cover, too. Like "Dairy of a Death," "Mommy, take me to my chiropractor," "Tear-downs on the rise," the Marliave Sisters, and Molly Bish's funeral.
Four years. Seems like a lifetime. At this moment I feel like a shell of the former writer I was. How did I do all that? Where has my motivation gone? My part-time job plowing snow has really become my full-time occupation. Yet, I haven't given up on writing entirely. Though deep inside, I'm yearning more and more for a sabbatical from reporting. I don't know if that will help me recharge or refocus, or whether I'll ever really take it. But I'm thinking of it more and more. More to come.