Hed Lines: Week spent minding the news at paper in Williams, where drought persists, too

Last week, I wrote about my first day on a weeklong assignment at a sister newspaper in Williams.

In fact, I began writing the column at the end of the workday July 29.

My stint at the Williams-Grand Canyon News gave me an opportunity to meet some of the players and work on three stories for the edition that hits the stands today.

I met a cast of characters that included the superintendent of schools, the high school principal, the executive director of the chamber of commerce, the owners of a hunting-supply business, a hunter nicknamed "Tiger," a Catholic priest and an aspiring novelist who waits on tables.

I also fielded a phone call from the city manager, Dennis Wells.

The publisher's name is Doug Wells.

Guess what? They are brothers.

Monday is the production day for the Grand Canyon edition – the second section of the Williams newspaper.

The production for the Williams edition takes place the next day.

While I assisted in compiling the National Park Service rangers' log on July 29, I got a start on the next week's news.

Editor Chris Markham, who is new on the job, gave me some story ideas to pursue.

He suggested that I do a story on a newly opened bicycle shop, so new that the business did not have a phone number.

It is the only bicycle shop in town.

Unfortunately, the owners did not return my phone call and were not around when I visited the shop.

I did not make headway on another story – involving the dispatch of Williams-based sheriff's deputies to the remote village of Supai in the Grand Canyon.

Instead, I pursued a story based on an account in a nearby daily that indicated that the graduation rate for students who entered Williams High School in 1996 was an unimpressive 50.8 percent four years later.

The state Department of Education had issued a report that formed the basis of the story.

I speculated that cultural factors could have led to the graduation rate in Williams.

The superintendent and high school principal did not have the answers because they were new in town.

They said they planned to do a study that would take six weeks to two months to find out why the graduation rate was not higher.

They would attempt to find dropouts to learn why they did not finish school.

I found two teenagers at the Youth Recreation Center who would talk.

One youth, a recent arrival from Winslow, said his brother dropped out of high school because he had a new family and needed to find a job.

He said his brother planned to take the high school equivalency exam, known as the GED.

I wrote the story, and began work on two other stories: on how the long-term drought was affecting hunting and a demographic profile of Williams based on the release of data from the U.S.

Census Bureau.

The population of Williams grew from 2,532 in 1990 to 2,842 people in 2000.

Hispanics – predominantly Mexican-American - accounted for 32.3 percent of the population of Williams in the 2000 census.

A Mexican immigrant who had lived in Williams for 40 years speculated that low-paying jobs lured the more recent arrivals from his homeland.

The executive director of the chamber cited the shift in jobs from retail sales to the hospitality industry, which generally pays less.

She said Williams has 1,410 motel rooms.

I also tracked down sources for my hunting story.

They included hunters, a U.S.

Forest Service official and a game warden from the state Department of Game and Fish.

You can read my stories on the Web site of the Williams-Grand Canyon News today.

The Miner's Web site has a link.

The work schedule allowed little time for sightseeing.

Hollywood arrived earlier.

A scene from "Nurse Betty," the 2000 flick starring Renee Zellweger, Greg Kinnear, Morgan Freeman and Chris Rock, was shot in a Route 66 bar.

A Mexican restaurant displays a poster from "Midnight Run" showing actors Robert De Niro and Charles Grodin.

The 1988 film was shot there.

I began to think whether Hollywood would roll out a movie on a small-town newspaper reporter.

Who would play me?

Ken Hedler is the county government and political reporter for the Miner.