Friday, June 27, 2008

Failure to launch

I've spent much of the day trying in earnest to upload two videos I took of the Fire Explorers learning how to tap a fire hydrant properly without much success. For some reason blogger keeps refusing the two 3 minute videos; I hope it's a temporary problem. 

In the meantime, I'd like to express my newfound devotion to the Old Spice corporation. For years and years I was a Right Guard type of guy, with the occasional dabble into Gillette brand deodorant. I can't honestly say that I've ever own anything made by Old Spice until this past year. 

What did it for me? The commercials. 

I think I'm like most Americans when I say that the most annoying by-product of living in a highly commercialized, disposable economy are the ads. You can't go anywhere without seeing them, billboards, newspapers, books, athletic fields and arenas, Web sites, etc. It has reached the point, I believe, that the average American is completely saturated with advertising. 

Which has the dark-humor sort of effect by canceling itself out. When was the last time you honestly went out and purchased something because of an ad (I'm discounting movie ads here, because that's just not fair)? You buy things because they're recommended to you, by a friend, a relative or a teacher/boss, not because you saw a billboard on I-95 strongly urging you to get that new Mach Turbo 9000 with 16 blades for the smoothest shave in your life. 

So when a company actually goes out and does some original marketing, not a dance mascot, or a series of shots of satisfied customers, but a real inventive line of advertising, I'm sold. Hell, I started buying Old Spice brand products just out of appreciation. 

This spot, which I believe came in the middle of a Super Bowl, was confusing, but had potential nonetheless. I was intrigued, but not yet sold. In fact, it probably wasn't until I saw this that I began to truly understand what it meant to be an Old Spice kind of man. Still, I didn't buy my first stick of Old Spice deodorant until they began running this already classic spot. Now I can happily say I not only own Old Spice deodorant, but Head and Body wash as well!


Thursday, June 26, 2008

Fire watch

The past couple of days have been exceptionally fun. I finally seem to have enough momentum rolling with the features I'm working on to keep myself busy when news isn't breaking in Salem. 

On deck, I've got a story about a new wing opening at the Salem Animal Rescue League, a pet-food drive sponsored by the Rockingham Park people, and a pair of librarians retiring. I've also got a decent story on how the town's planning to switch over to a fiber optic connections between all the buildings in town. 

Salem is definitely a bustling town on the verge. 

And when I say on the verge, I mean on the verge of transforming into a city. At the crossroads of route 97, 28 and Interstate 93, the "gateway to the White Mountains" and home of Canobie Lake Park and America's Stonehenge, Salem is primed to get to the next level. 

Already a commission is looking into changing the town charter to create a local government comprised of a city or town council, rather than a board of selectmen. 

Still, Salem has a lot of throwbacks to what can only be described as a "simpler time." There is a small town mentality that has stuck with the people of this area. They know their selectmen, they follow local politics, and they care very deeply about their community, which resides somewhere very much away from the commercial district called "The Depot" where 28 and 97 meet. 
One of those throwbacks is a group called the "Fire Explorers." It's a group of teenagers, ages 14-21 who volunteer to help out down at the fire department. In return, they get training, the ability to ride the trucks on calls,
 and EMT practice. It's a pretty exciting and rewarding program. 

I took a bunch of photos (look Tedder, I'm a photographer! Ain't you proud?) and got to hang out with a bunch of awkward, shy teens trying to figure out if they should be more embarrassed that I was interviewing them or happy. 
All in all it was a great experience for myself. I learned a little bit about firefighting and managed to meet a few more of the guys on the local fire department. That makes two town departments I'm officially tight with at the moment. 

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Post or perish

I haven't blogged in quite some time; a vicious reversal of my daily posts when I was still with the Massachusetts Daily Collegian struggling to keep a dying news blog alive

In my defense, I've been busy. Pelham and Salem manage to eat up a good sized chunk of my time when I'm not paying attention. I got this great story out of Pelham last week that I will definitely have to e-mail Katie Huston when I get a chance. She told me before we all left for the summer that if I came across anything ridiculous that I was to send it to her right away. I think this qualifies. 

Crime-wise this week has been much less entertaining. I've gone two weeks without a major press release out of Salem PD, though they did arrest two coke dealers last week - unfortunately the officer in charge of media communications was out for the day - and only the occasional wackiness from Pelham. 

Last week a hot air balloon landed in Pelham and scared a dog enough to send him flying out into the street where he was promptly hit by a car and killed. It may have been one of the most ridiculous public safety-related events I have ever heard. Unfortunately, the officer on duty at the time went home early and didn't file a report on the event until almost a full week later...

I guess those are the breaks. 

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

My Marathon Day

For the first time in about a month I felt like I was a reporter today. 

My day started out slow enough, visi
ting the various police chiefs and communications officers in the area, as well as stopping in at a couple of town offices. I'm happy to report I successfully found Atkinson. 

Around noon, as I was gathering material together that looked like it might turn into a story or two (and actually start to earn my paycheck) when I got a call from my editor informing me that an 21-year-old soldier and Afghanistan veteran was returning to Salem for the first time in over fifteen months. 

It was his first time home since his initial deployment a little over a year ago. 

I met up with David Wholley and about twenty other members of the Salem Department of Public Works erecting a flag display on one of the Route 93 overpass in Salem. Turns out the young soldier, Thomas Russell, was the son of Rick Russell, Salem's director of Public Works. 

His co-workers arranged for a squadron of DPW trucks to line the road, lights flashing, to line the overpass, while the town employees waved American flags as a motorcade of motorcycles - many of them ridden by off-duty police officers, fire fighters, and other town employees - escorted the vehicle carrying Russell and his family home from the Manchester Airport. 

It was just about then that one of the DPW guys got a call indicating that a water main had been struck by a construction crew digging a hole to replace a power pole on Main Street. Jokingly, they mentioned that they had another story idea to me and the other member of the press present. 

I quickly hopped in my car and ended up beating many of the public works guys to the scene of the accident. Nice.

I threw that story together after about a half hour watching water bubble up from a good sized hole on Main Street before wandering down to the town library. Free wireless is a plus, as I learned today after going to Barnes & Nobles on Route 28 hoping for a chance to check the ol' e-mail.  

Afterwards I met up with Thomas Russell, his family and friends, and interviewed both him and his parents on his return from Afghanistan. I always enjoy doing a story on a veteran...something about it just gets my journalism gears churning. He seemed like a great guy to go out with sometime, reminded me a lot of my little brother (also a veteran). The family was gracious in letting me interview them and offered me drinks and food if I wanted to stay. 

Thankfully, I declined. As I wrote copy back at the Salem library I got a call from the equivalent of a Collegian Night Editor letting me know that there was a major accident on Route 38 in Pelham. Mind you, I'm only halfway done with the Vet story and enjoying every minute of writing it up. 

I'm told this is my number one priority. I agree and hop back into my car, speeding off towards Route 38. After about ten minutes I arrive at the scene of the accident - 4 mangled cars and a completely backed up road. Glass scattered across the pavement, hot from a day full of sunshine with only the tinge of humidity. There is no blood, but I arrive late, maybe half an hour after the accident itself. This despite the fact that the rescue teams used the Jaws of Life to remove several of the passengers trapped in one car, including one woman five months pregnant. 

For the second time today I meet up with the competition. A photographer from the Eagle-Tribune and then a little later a reporter from the Lowell Sun. We meet up, exchange pleasantries and then laugh at how we keep trying to sneak into the scene of the accident to take photos when the police officers aren't looking. Despite the rivalry in this area between the Union Leader and the Eagle-Tribune, not to mention the Sun, we all get along well. 

Keep in mind, all the injuries were minor. I'm not that big of a jerk.

Long story short...I get my three stories in, complete with photos. Today was a good day.

Monday, June 16, 2008

First day on the job

I got my introduction to Salem, New Hampshire today, as well as the surrounding communities of Pelham, Windham and Atkinson. Actually, that's not true. I couldn't find Atkinson. Add a GPS device to the list of equipment a reporter needs to have handy at all times. 

In any event, I attempted to meet Salem's police chief (unsuccessful) though I did meet the Salem town manager's secretary and found out that the meeting I had been planning on covering tonight had been cancelled. 

Very much a town that faces south, towards Boston rather than Concord or Manchester, Salem is essentially a commuter community made up largely of expatriated Massachusetts residents. Methuen is only a stone's throw from the center of town and Haverhill isn't much further away. While I'm in a completely different state right now, I'm actually closer to my home in Bridgewater, MA than I was while at school in Amherst.