by JAMIE PARSELL
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
As I walked around the Mercer County Courthouse, a few local law enforcement officials joked and said, “It must be a slow day in lifestyles.” Maybe not slow, but a feature article was definitely not a priority on the summer-like Tuesday morning in Princeton. I was covering a different story for the newspaper, one that represented a serious matter, a murder arraignment in a case involving a local Princeton resident.
A day after the March 1 murder, I had to call the local authorities to clarify some information. Being the only reporter in the newsroom, I asked Prosecuting Attorney Scott Ash for new details. My first story appeared two days after the murder. Throughout the investigation, I continued to speak with authorities. Last week, less than a month later, I stood in a courtroom, taking notes about the accused and his criminal past.
It was not a typical day for a lifestyle editor.
Here is where things start to blend, where journalism becomes whole, not individual sections of the newspaper pie. The golden rule — the one all reporters and editors follow — is to inform the community, regardless if it is about the newest trend in gardening or a murder arraignment in a small town like Princeton.
I had a job to do, an important one. After the first proceeding, I hurried to my car, well as fast as my four-inch heels could carry me on the courthouse sidewalks. I wrote my update in a green and white notebook. Photographer Eric DiNovo remarked it looked like a diary. I reminded him lifestyle editors use fashionable notebooks. It felt odd to write a story with pen and paper. I was used to the comfortable convenience of my office. Plus, Lifestyles is done in advance, not on the spur of the moment in the front seat of a Jeep Liberty. I called City Editor Charles Owens, who listened and typed up the story for the newspaper’s website. A few hours later, I was in another courtroom for the bond hearing involving the suspect. Just like this morning, I called the newspaper, gave a short update and then headed back to the office. I had a story to write for the Wednesday edition of the Daily Telegraph.
You don’t often see lifestyle editors with bylines on the front page of the paper. But at a small newspaper like ours, it is evidence of the diversity of our staff.
I believe it is beneficial to have reporters and editors who can switch roles. We are small compared to bigger city newspapers and the world of media is changing more and more everyday. Reporters and editors rely on a multitude of skills from writing, editing, designing and more. We use social media sites, videos, magazines and photographs to bring stories to our readers. The newspaper pie is not cut after any individual in the newsroom. It is bits and pieces of veteran reporters, managing editors, new reporters fresh out of school and sports writers.
I didn’t start out as a lifestyle and magazine editor. During my first year out of journalism school, I landed a general reporter job in Tazewell County. I didn’t become a lifestyle editor until I joined the BDT staff more than four years ago. Of course, I will always have a writing preference but it is nice to know I can return to my roots on slow lifestyle day like last Tuesday. Forty years ago, a lifestyle editor didn’t have such freedom. The section was much bigger with a plethora of weddings, club notes and society trends. But things change. The section is now smaller with more feature stories. There are less clubs in the two Virginias as well. There have been other changes in the newspaper such as individual beats. No reporter covers one particular area or town. The lines are not drawn anymore. We are a whole, representing the community with a lot of teamwork, communication and overlapping talents.
I just have to convince the rest of the reporters to use fancy notebooks and colored ink pens. They need to see how the lifestyle editor lives in a world of black and white, in the harsh reality of Tuesday and the positive glow of Sunday.
Jamie Parsell is the lifestyle editor of the Daily Telegraph. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.