Word has begun to get out that we’ve hired a reporter to replace Ann McCreary, who is retiring (gradually, it turns out, which is fortunate for us because we still need and appreciate her help). At this point, all I’ll say is that we will be welcoming a veteran newsperson to the staff the first week of May, and I’m pleased that we found someone of that caliber to keep our coverage momentum going.
Our hiring search drew dozens of applicants from around the country — including recent college graduates, experienced reporters, and people from related fields who thought the position sounded intriguing. After all that, it serendipitously turns out that our incoming staffer is from Washington state and is someone I know from a previous association in the news industry. We’ll introduce the new person in a couple of weeks, then leave it up to you to introduce yourselves to each other. The Methow is good at that, and I hope you will be welcoming.
It’s challenging to arrive in a new community knowing little about it beyond superficial observation (nonetheless, an important thing for reporters to be good at). To really get to know a place and its people takes time, perseverance, patience and — given that most small town clichés bear an element of truth — a fair amount of tact and circumspection. The first and probably best piece of advice I received when I arrived here nearly eight years ago came from two other experienced journalists who had moved to the valley: Be careful what you say to everyone. You won’t always know who you are talking to indirectly. The three-dimensional matrix of community connections (and disconnections) will take time to learn. I’m still working on it, but for the most part have minimized my bungling. Either that or you’re just too polite to tell me.
With all that in mind, I’ve been thinking about how to help our reporter adapt as smoothly as possible, and have been sending emails with what I think might be helpful information — probably to the point of annoyance. What would you include in a Methow Valley “primer” for recent arrivals? A pronunciation guide would be a start — nothing says “not from here” like talking about the Meth-oh or Mahzahmah. I’d also recommend reading as many of the Methow history books you can get your hands on — many of the authors are still around if you want to talk to them directly. Understanding the valley’s past is fundamental to understanding its present and projecting its future.
I’ve learned that the best way to find out anything is to simply ask someone. They’ll either have an answer, or point you to someone who does. This community’s inclination — or is it an obsession? — to be helpful and generous is embedded in its character. As for everyday basics, the visitors’ information guide we include in our special publications, and periodically in the newspaper, works for residents too.
Full Methow immersion requires attendance at a lot of local events, particularly in that many of them are intended primarily for the locals. There’s no better way to encounter people than in a shared atmosphere of interest. We have a lot of those, and they tend to intersect.
It’s been challenging for us the past few weeks as we work through this latest transition at the newspaper. We’ve been shorthanded for a variety of reasons, and at times hard-pressed to keep up with the rapidly filling Methow date book. Our next reporter will be assigned to hit the ground running, or be tossed into the deep end of the pool, or whatever it is you do when new employees show up. It will be good to be back at full strength. Thanks in advance for helping us get there.