Covering local events has its emotional rewards
Advice to young, aspiring journalists, assuming there are some out there: you will never please everyone, but you can please many.
This past weekend, I beat a trail between New York Mills and Audubon with stops in Perham and Detroit Lakes to cover three baseball tournaments and four local teams.
During those drives, my brain often frequented an anticipation of what was to come by my attendance, and I tried to formulate a healthy manner in which to deal with both the good and the bad.
In all reality, I was trying to have fun, get the job done and not sweat through three shirts in a day.
In Audubon, I felt a sense of relief. This was the Detroit Lakes newspaper area and unintentional eavesdropping allowed me some respite.
The sports guys over there are the targets of reader grumblings, as well.
In fact, after hearing this, I felt lucky.
When reviewing the weekend as a whole, I was the benefactor of a lot of kindness.
I took up shop at Matt's Field in Perham twice. The guys in the Shockers' and Braves' dugouts were accommodating and filled me in on some games of the tournament I missed and chatted me up like I was one of the guys.
I moved from the dugout to behind the bullpen Sunday afternoon to get some shade and pant like an overheated beagle trying to stay cool.
I got comfortable in my lawn chair when a foul ball was lofted over my head.
"Bob, you have to be on that!" Jesse Hein laughed at me from first base.
I got up and retrieved the ball with a little help from Beau Bruhn in right field directing me to the ball vicinity in the shrubbery.
Sure, some little kid missed a quarter at the concession stand, but I like to help in whatever fashion I can at games, and getting a couple shouts from players made me feel happy I was there.
In the overall realm of the game, I was part of not just the local crowd, but also both teams.
In New York Mills, I received an unexpected amount of kind rapport with people I had never met before and regulars who always find time to talk.
Millers' second baseman Tristan Huwe paid me a kind compliment on recent stories I've done, which included a game where the Millers had a less than pleasant outcome.
Huwe's kind words were the highlight of my weekend.
Feedback from readers is what brings about change and improvement in what journalists do.
Without it, the status quo can go unchecked and there is no way for writers to know what readers expect.
I appreciate the fact that many readers feel they can talk to me, and I have done my best to be more approachable.
It isn't easy coming to a town and finding a way to fit in with everyone.
It has taken me over two and a half years to get past the stage of being offended by a sardonic, "Oh look, the media is here."
In my first year, I'd find a place at a game by myself, do my job and get out of there as soon as possible.
For as boisterous a person as I can be, there is still a shy guy in there, as well.
There were a couple instances of less than pleasant rhetoric between readers and I this weekend, but I want to concentrate on the positive side.
(Both of those circumstances were resolved after a heated discussion, and all parties left in better spirits.)
There seems to be a communal notion that the editorial staff here at the Focus has an agenda, or a preference to particular municipalities, and the backlash of those untruths stings hard. The idea is offensive, and when said at the wrong time, I will put up a defense stingier than the Perham basketball team or the New York Mills baseball team.
Because if any reader sat down with our small editorial staff of three human beings, each one of us would say, wholeheartedly, that what we want to do most is the best job we can.
That is the simple truth.
The last thing any of the three of us want is to feel like we have let anyone down.
The weekend closed for me with a Sunday night game between Bluffton and New York Mills. The game had playoff significance and players were treated to a larger crowd than normal at Russ Jacobson Field.
Next to me at the game were the Doll brothers and Bruhn, and their peanut gallery antics led to a newfound enjoyment of watching local baseball.
I spent half the game laughing because of those guys, and this is a very public 'thank you' to that trio for making an already great game to watch that much better.
After the game, I arrived home and spent the couple hours it takes to write a story and get photos up on the web.
Within minutes, I was being retweeted and players from the game marked my story as a favorite.
At 1:45 a.m. Monday, with a full day at the office approaching, little things like a 'thank you' for covering the game from Millers' hero Drew Schultz reminded me of why I do what I do for a living.
For that, I am returning a communal 'thank you' to all our readers.