My First Year At The Evening Sun
Published: April 26th, 2022
By: Sarah Genter

My first year at the Evening Sun (Left) My husband Dustin and I, and our friend Nate at last year's Chenango Blues Fest. That was the first year I attended the festival, and it definitely lived up to the hype. (Photo by Candy Boise) (Middle) Working at the Evening Sun has opened my eyes to the many incredible organizations, nonprofits, and charities in Chenango County, and made me want to get involved. So, this past March I signed up for St. Baldrick's to help raise money for children's cancer research, and shaved my head while I was at it. (Photo by Dustin Genter of 5th Dimension Photography) (Right) Last October, I had the opportunity to attend and write about a paranormal tour at the historic Earlville Opera House. The tour was run by paranormal investigator Kenny Harris, and over the course of two hours we witnessed several instances of ghostly phenomena. (Photo by Sarah Genter)

Today marks my one year anniversary as a full time reporter with the Evening Sun. Honestly, it’s still pretty hard to wrap my head around the fact that it’s been an entire year. Even longer, actually, if you factor in my two-ish months as a freelancer before starting full time. It feels like so much has happened in that time, and yet not enough for it to be a year’s worth.

My first few months on the job I was a bundle of nerves. It took me some time to find my footing and find a system for interviewing, taking notes, and writing that worked well for me. Looking back now, I can’t believe it took me a few months to start recording my interviews! But in the beginning I was starry-eyed and awestruck, so blown away by the idea that I was actually doing the job that I didn’t think to find ways to make the job easier for me.

But, one year in, I’m happy to say I’ve found a solid system for finding stories, navigating the interview process, and transforming an article from bits of information into a cohesive piece. I even use a color-coded highlighting system with my notes and transcripts to make sure I’m not missing any important information or good quotes — a system for which Tyler calls me a sociopath!

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Over time, I got used to my role and became more confident in my ability to do it well. While I still prefer writing about local events, nonprofits, and good news, I’ve become more comfortable with covering tougher topics.

I’ve also gotten much more comfortable with covering local government, largely due to the patience and helpfulness of our previous and present mayors and aldermen.

Alderman Matthew Caldwell was the first alderman I interviewed, and he graciously accepted my relentless phone calls with questions about anything from how the council’s voting process works, to whether or not there was a meeting that night.

A lot of this was something I expected to happen. Even in my first weeks when I felt in over my head, I knew I would eventually settle into the position and find my groove. But, what I didn’t expect was how much this job would make me want to get involved in the community.

Chenango County, and Norwich specifically, is aglow with incredible community members who work so hard to provide resources for others and bring people together. I love being able to help spread the word about these resources, but truly my favorite part of my job is hearing about the wonderful people behind them.

From the awesome people at the Chenango SPCA who take care of our county’s animals, to the generous volunteers at Helping Hands who stand outside the YMCA each month — sometimes in the rain, snow, and wind — to make sure our community members have what they need, I could not be more proud to call Chenango County my home.

I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing employees at The Place, who provided childcare, activities, and programs to the area’s youth, and those at the Child Advocacy Center (CAC) who help children that have suffered abuse and neglect navigate the criminal justice system.

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Many of these remarkable people and organizations are pillars of our community, but you don’t realize they’re there until you need them. I’m so glad that my job has given me the opportunity to learn about them and get to know them, and even get involved in the ways that I can.

While I don’t have as much free time as I used to, learning about these groups has made me search for ways I can give back, too. It’s not the most Herculean of efforts, but in March I shaved my head for St. Baldrick’s, and currently I’m turning my love of crochet into a charitable act by making cat toys for the SPCA and “worry worms” for the CAC.

I hope to do more in the future, and I will always look for ways to get involved in the community. It’s here I’d like to take a moment to thank the people behind these organizations, from directors to volunteers, not only for the valuable services they provide, but also for taking the time to educate me about them. The people I have had the good fortune of meeting over the past year have been nothing short of inspiring.

If you’ve ever read my articles, or even just a few of my headlines, it’s no surprise that my other favorite thing to write about is local events and festivals. I started at the Evening Sun at a unique time: one year after the onset of COVID, just as guidelines and restrictions were starting to shift. I had the repeated opportunity to rejoice with the community when numerous events that had been canceled in 2020 were reinstated in 2021. Even better, I had the opportunity to attend just about all of them.

Last summer I went to nearly every NBT Bank Summer Concert Series, and I even attended my first ever Chenango Blues Fest! Organizer Eric Larsen was instrumental in getting my weekly Summer Concert briefs into the paper, as well as all the information and updates to COVID protocols surrounding the Blues Fest.

Tracey and Mindy Chawgo and others with the Norwich Business Improvement District not only brought back everyone’s Christmas favorite, the Parade of Lights, they continued the weekly Saturday in the Park with Chobani events as well. The pair also implemented the brand new “Norwitch” Fall Festival, which was a massive hit among Norwich residents — all while enduring my frequent requests for interviews!

I could fill a book listing the people that make our county a great place to live, and who have helped to make my job easier. I consider myself very lucky to be working in a field that allows me to get to know them all and learn about the great things they do. What I love even more is that I get to share it all with the community.

My job does not come without its stressors, of course. There is the ever-present responsibility to make sure what I’m writing is accurate and understandable. But on top of that, juggling interviews, meetings, and events, and remembering to email someone back or update our public meetings list can get overwhelming.

The news also has an ebb and flow: sometimes it’s hard to find a story. Other times, I’m so inundated with time-sensitive articles that I don’t know how I’m going to get it all done. The slower weeks make me worried that I’m not doing enough, while the busy weeks make me worried I won’t have enough time to do everything, and do it well.

Although it can get intense, I’m lucky to have an amazing group of people who weather it all with me. The Evening Sun’s Managing Editor Tyler Murphy has been nothing short of a mentor for me, and is always there to take my calls when I’m unsure or need guidance — or for a spirited debate about literally anything!

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Cindy, our Newsroom Coordinator, is always good for impromptu Photoshop lessons (I can finally say I’ve mastered photo collages), delicious baked goods, and great advice when I’m venting my frustrations.

We’ve even added a new member to the team: Morgan Golliver as our Sports Editor. While I know next to nothing about sports, that doesn’t stop us from having great post-deadline chats! And of course, I miss my fellow reporter Zack Meseck, but I’m still able to catch up with him here and there.

Thanks to the openness of my team, I've had the freedom to try out new ideas and offer my thoughts on things we could do differently. I've been given the opportunity to write columns, chase stories I find interesting, and I even took my first toe dip into writing a themed, recurring column: Hidden Gems of Chenango County. While that idea hasn't taken off in quite the way I imagined, it's still in the works and there will be more about our area's awesome events coming soon!

My first year at the Evening Sun has been a whirlwind. I’ve met so many people and learned so much, and I’ve become involved and aware of my community in a much deeper way than I ever thought I would.

I can not say thank you enough to everyone who has taken the time to do an interview (or several!), answer my questions, or send in information and pictures. People like to thank me for writing an article about what they do, but in reality they’re doing me a favor by sharing their story.

So, here’s to one year, and the many more to follow.