Sharing My Experiences As A Community Reporter
Published: October 2nd, 2020
By: Catherine Sasso

Sharing my experiences as a community reporter

I was hired on at the Evening Sun back in November of 2019. As my work here comes to a close, I took some time to look back over some of my experiences as a first time reporter.

Whenever the news was on I'd always become transfixed on the news anchor. They had to do their job live, sometimes on scene, one screw up and the whole world would see. In my mind it was one of the bravest things someone could do.

This fascination only grew when I started going to work with my step-dad who was a camera man and director for WBNG. I got to meet some of the news anchors, a tour around the newsroom, and a first hand look at how everything comes together to make the news happen.

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This is where my interest in journalism first peaked. When I finally got serious about my career I attended SUNY Broome and received my Associates in Communications and Media Arts. The journalism and public speaking classes were my favorite.

Just over a year ago, I moved back to Chenango County after having lived in Washington State for a few years. I was looking for opportunities to get back to my roots. While looking through the Pennysaver, an ad for "Reporters, No Experience Required" caught my attention.

I did not realize the wealth of experiences that were about to follow suit.

My first article entitled "The Chenango SPCA is overcapacity, but here's what you can do to help" was just my first taste of what would soon become my passion subject, writing about non-profits.

I became a reporter right around the holidays, so non-profits were in full swing of doing fundraising and community give back events. If in need of a story, a quick scroll through the local Facebook events page would fill my schedule.

I quickly became good acquaintances of Elizabeth Monaco from the Chenango United Way and Annette Clarke from the Chenango SPCA. The SPCA had just started their Safe Haven Fund for Animals and The Chenango United Way was starting their annual campaign. I also wrote both of their stories for our annual edition of Progress.

My first feature story titled "How helping hands can move a community" was a first hand account of volunteering during the Helping Hands Community Giveback night. That was the night I met Lorri Race, the coordinator for all things Helping Hands. Getting to witness the magnitude of the effect Helping Hands was having on the community was honestly breath taking, and my favorite experience during my time at the Evening Sun.

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As I said in my feature, "It just takes one person to spark the flame. Because of Lorri Race and the countless volunteers who decided to spark that flame, I can see our community opening their clenched fists, and placing it in the hand of their neighbor."

Thinking that once the holidays were over and Progress was done things would start to slow down in the newsroom soon became a pipe dream when COVID-19 hit.

On March 12, I wrote my first story covering the pandemic titled, "As Coronavirus Spread In New York Local Schools And Community Prepare.” That whole week was followed by updates of shutdowns and school closures. All of a sudden my stories were no longer about how the community was coming together. Instead words like social distancing and quarantine were becoming regular verbiage.

Rather than looking to the Facebook event page for stories, I was looking to the NY Governors daily updates and news briefings.

But then something cool happened. Those non-profits, along with other community organizations, started finding ways to come back together. My headlines started changing. The stories went from covering closure after closure to ways the community finding to help each other.

Norwich High School was making face shields for healthcare workers, YMCA was providing childcare to essential workers, Blueox turned their gas stations to full service to help reduce the spread.

Seeing the reaction from the community in the midst of all of the craziness was comforting. The United Way started a COVID relief fund. Commerce Chenango spearheaded helping businesses stay a float and keeping the community updated while the state reopened. Catholic Charities started a food delivery service. We were truly all in this together.

If I learned anything from my time at the Evening Sun it would be that no matter what you do or how well you do it, there is always going to be someone who doesn't approve, and that's perfectly okay. My job is done for the purpose of general public consumption. I have found that not everyone, no matter how unbiased you are, will agree with how you present something.

It took thickening my skin and building my confidence as a writer to really feel like I was making any kind of impact on my community. My editor told me that any kind of reaction from the public is a good reaction, it means you impacted someone in someway. And that was my goal, I wanted to make an impact.

I got to experience so many awesome things as a reporter. I interviewed political representatives like Charles Schumer and Anthony Brindisi, hung out with cows on a local farm, witnessed first hand buildings being torn down and high speed chases, and heard countless stories from community members and business owners.

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As I prepare to move onto my next life endeavors, I will always think of my time with the Evening Sun as a doorway to doing my life's passion. My experience here will always sit positively in my memories. Simply put, I wouldn't trade my time here for the world.