Column: It's all right here in our own backyard
I had the opportunity last week to interview Jessie Atencio, assistant director of the Arizona Division of Occupational Safety and Health, who drove up from Tucson to visit newspapers in northern Arizona about the agency's cold weather campaign.
Atencio wanted to caution local companies about the winter weather that will hit the area this month and stay through January, and how it could dangerously affect outdoor employees. So he made a personal appearance to get his message across, and I was certainly impressed with that. Heck, some of the politicians who represent this area (no names, please) don't even step foot in Kingman unless it's absolutely necessary, for whatever reason.
Atencio brought along his public relations person, Rachel Brockway from HMA Public Relations in Phoenix. And during the course of the conversation, she asked me if I'd consider appearing on her company's feature blog called "Media Monday," in which they talk with a member of the media in Arizona. Participants are supposed to answer the question "What would you like to share with the blogosphere today?"
She sent me some web links with samples, and I was a bit taken aback that those participating are from big cities - mostly Phoenix - and from the big television news organizations. At first, I was even a little intimidated. What could I, a reporter from a little city and a small newspaper, say that would be worthy of anyone else reading? But then I thought about it and realized I definitely have something to contribute.
Too often, people in big cities look down on their little-city neighbors because they don't have the same amenities available to them. To put it bluntly, they can be snobs. The same holds true for the media - those from the big newspapers and television stations often think their smaller counterparts are inferior. So I decided to take this opportunity to let people know that great things can be found in little places like Kingman. I've seen it myself since I've been here.
This is what I wrote for the blog:
"When I moved to Kingman in April to take a job as a reporter, I left the Indiana-side suburbs of Chicago, with its hustle and bustle, traffic congestion and scores of shopping opportunities. I grew up there, so I'm used to that busy lifestyle and I love it. I knew that Kingman is a smaller city, somewhat isolated by the mountain ranges surrounding it, but that didn't bother me. I was ready to make the trade to be gazing at beautiful scenery in a warmer climate. And I have not regretted the choice.
"I worked at the two large newspapers covering northwest Indiana while I lived there, and I was never at a loss for stories with all the activity in the area. I wondered what it would be like doing the same job in Kingman, where there is a limited supply of people and events. Had all the good stories already been written? Would the well run dry?
"I'm here to say that no matter where a reporter works, there's always something interesting going on if you look for it. Sure, Phoenix and Tucson and Flagstaff have larger story pools and bigger influences on the state and nation. But people are people, and whether it's in little Kingman or big Phoenix, they still have dreams and goals and dark secrets to share.
"Every day, my phone rings and my email dings with tips about fascinating folks and events. I can see myself mining this city for a long time. Believe it or not, there's a lot of good to be said about covering the news in a small city. The reporting gems are right here in my own little back yard. And the rest of the stuff - the hustle and bustle, traffic congestion and scores of shopping opportunities - are only an hour away if I want them."
I can't say that I'll remain in Kingman forever. But it will always be a place that is near and dear to my heart because of the people I've met and the stories I've told as a reporter.