Larry Banman – Leadership is best illustrated by example
April 23, 2010
In the 15 years I worked in the newspaper business and the subsequent three years of freelance writing, my favorite assignments have always been writing about people who have won awards like, “Citizen of the Year” or “Pioneer of the Year.”
News stories are basically divided into two types: hard news and soft news. According to the Media News Network, hard news generally refers to up-to-the minute news and events that are reported immediately, while soft news is background information or human-interest stories. Politics, war economics and crime are generally considered hard news, while arts entertainment and lifestyles were considered soft news.
That line does get fuzzy from time to time. Celebrities like Tiger Woods would probably rather not see their personal lives become the subject of hard news stories. I also found a difference of opinion over something like the results of a fifth-grade science fair. To many that would be a human-interest story, but more than one parent might insist that a first-place finish by their child warranted front-page, above-the-fold coverage.
Reporting on hard news often means reporting things that are unpleasant and controversial. I was once accosted by an individual who insisted that my only purpose in life was to make a living off of other peoples’ misfortune. My guiding principal through the years when I was making editorial decisions was to present an accurate snapshot of the community for that particular week. I found that the most consistently used source of information for historical reference was the newspaper. I rarely went more than a week without fielding some request to research an event or person. I wanted a person to be able to pick up an issue of the Middle Park Times from the first week in March 1991 and feel like they had been transported to that time and place. I didn’t enjoy reporting on death, on tragedy, on misfortune – but I believed that was the responsibility of the position I had been given.
Soft news is a part of that picture. It portrays the people from that particular time and place. That is why I like community newspapers like the Sky-Hi News. By definition, community newspapers are an integral part of the community. The staff at a local paper includes the same people you are likely to meet in the grocery store, the movie theater, the bowling alley and the local school district accountability committee meeting. That familiarity adds a depth and breadth to a story that is impossible to duplicate by a commentator or reporter who drops in for a 20-minute cameo. It often irritates me to listen to a reporter who volunteers for 15 minutes in a soup kitchen and talks about “connecting” with the people who will be doing that job every day for the next 15 years.
That is the essence of why I like to tell a story about people like Mike and Susan Ritschard. They were honored last week by the West Grand Community Educational Foundation as the “Citizens of the Year” for 2010. I have rolled up my shirtsleeves and worked on tough issues with both Mike and Susan. I know their involvement, passion and commitment to their community is genuine.
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The same can be said for the numerous Citizens and Pioneers of the Year that I have had the pleasure of interviewing for the past 18 years. That holds true for those individuals that have been honored from all over Grand and Summit counties.
I love to hear the stories from the people who have spent a great deal of time and effort in making a life for themselves and their family as well as working to make their community a better place in which to live. Those with that type of background also seem to have a sense of humility and perspective that I find refreshing. I always find myself revived after talking to those who have paved the way for a world that I now enjoy. I renews my faith in the human spirit.
Congratulations to Mike and Susan for a reward well deserved. Thank you for your belief in making things better by getting involved. You truly walk the talk. I hope I have the opportunity to write many more stories about people just like you.
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