It’s fun freelancing in Shoes, Movin’ Maroon Country – News – Star Courier – Kewanee, IL


This week marked one year since I started working again for the Teutopolis Press/Dieterich Special Gazette.

I was fortunate to be hired as a freelancer just 12 days after being laid off last year from a weekly newspaper in Effingham County that was switching to a monthly publication schedule. I was no longer needed there.

The first challenge I had was convincing people that I would make a difference with this newspaper. I believe the local content has increased each week. For the past 12 months, I have been covering news, public events, sports for both communities.

Best of all, I’m working for the hometown newspaper in the community I lived for more than a quarter of my adult life, and a town that embraces the color maroon – I was a Fighting Maroon in my hometown of Robinson.

As a freelancer I am not driving to an office miles away on weekdays. I work from my home and drive to assignments when needed. I enjoy producing hometown news.

There are advantages to working from home. You set your own schedule for the most part for meeting deadlines even with occasional ice cream breaks. No one comes through the door with a chip on their shoulder about an advertisement that got blacked out or complaining about a weak-armed (or cross-eyed) paper carrier consistently hitting the bushes or roof instead of the front porch. But after the first six months of this gig I was getting a little stir-crazy working by myself. Fortunately, it didn’t get so bad that I was having arguments with me, myself and I.

Since the coronavirus crisis started, my wife has been working at a computer for her job in our home as well. True, that has eliminated some of my afternoon ice cream breaks. I am sharing the “executive bathroom” now. She reminds me from time to time it is time to get back to work when I take a long TV break. But don’t worry, we have been working at home together for four months and we’re still married.

Since journalism has been my career since 1983, my editor down in Olney (its daily is part of the same corporation that owns the Teutopolis and Dieterich paper) trusts me on coming up with story ideas. And my photographs are usually in focus, too.

My mind is getting a little rusty anymore. I have produced some errors on spellings and writing over the past year that have created some chuckles or curses among readers. I am working to improve my proofreading; of course, my wife says I need either new eyeglasses or start using the ones I have already.

If you have suggestions for expanding coverage by this newspaper than offer them to my editor Chip Barche down at the Olney Daily Mail office. Or make some suggestions to me at meeker.herb@gmail.com and I’ll share them with Chip.

Just remember that offering suggestions at a local watering hole with a jukebox playing or during a loud event, like a tractor pull, might produce a “failure to communicate” moment for me. Swimmer’s Ear when I was a kid, listening to Led Zeppelin at full blast after college and stuffing inserts into newspapers a few feet from presses at daily newspapers have taken a toll on my hearing.

If this working arrangement continues some people might start calling this the “Herb Paper.” Then again, some folks might rename its “That @#$&//% Herb Paper.” Either way, I will not get a big head. I’ll just keep scratching out notes, clicking off photo frame after photo frame and clacking away on the keyboard with the goal of being accurate and fair in my reporting.

Well, I have some other articles to write up and photos to download. I’m ready to start Year Two with this newspaper.



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