Perspective: “The Media”

Two years ago, sitting on a slightly lumpy bed in a medical hostel in Portland, I sent in a query for a job writing at my local paper. I had no experience in journalism and I was scared stiff of the prospect, but I also knew that I needed a job that would allow me to be a part of my community, and I figured it was worth a shot.

Before I began working as the sole journalist at the paper, regularly covering a dozen municipalities and nearly all of the unorganized territories in Maine’s north western mountains, I’d heard vague chatter about “the media” and how awful it is.  There was plenty of chatter but no details; no specific examples or instances of what was so terrible. I’m still hearing a lot of that chatter, and still without specific examples.

I want to take a minute and share some of my own specific examples of what my life is like as a journalist. I don’t expect to change anyone’s opinion but if I’ve learned one thing in the last two years, it’s that information can lead to a greater understanding; there is value in understanding another perspective, even if you don’t agree with it.

I do understand that there are differences between myself and many other reporters and journalists, and I cannot speak for their experiences, but I can speak for mine.


I’m always “on duty”. When I want to take a vacation? I have to shut off my phone and leave the county. I wish I was exaggerating. I’ve tried to be deliberate in making connections and relationships, and I’ve tried to make myself accessible and available. Most of the time that works in my favor, even if it’s not related to work; when I take vacation time, it is often challenging to truly take time off if I’m still in my territory.


All the bad things you read in the news? I put them there. Sometimes I rewrite a press release from the sheriff’s office, but sometimes I’m building the story from the ground up with gathered information and conversations. Regardless of how I received the information, I have to be sure I’m understanding it thoroughly so that I can correctly communicate it to others. I have to do my research and know my topics before I can begin writing the story. Imagine that your homework assignment is to thoroughly evaluate, process, and understand all the available information about the death of a child you knew, and then figure out how to explain it. Imagine the toll that takes on you.


Sometimes people aren’t nice. I have been harassed, yelled at, threatened, mocked, and abused by people in my communities. I have had people come into my office and yell at me about how to do my job. I try to interact with everyone in a friendly, open manner, but that doesn’t always get reciprocated. Sometimes I can set it aside and not worry about it; sometimes I end up sitting in my truck in the driveway after work, crying because it’s all too much.


I get to see and hear and know about the worst of humanity, without the ability to do anything to help. This is a hard one for me sometimes because every fiber of my being wants to help, and most of the time there is absolutely nothing that I can do except stay out of the way.


I have to make it make sense. I have to write about the inexplicable and find a way to explain it. I have to turn chaos into a line of orderly words on the page. And I’m pretty damn good at it, but sometimes this is what it feels like for me:

“The Media”

As the only reporter at the office, I covered everything from festivals and celebrations to municipal meetings to school events to accidents and fatalities.

As a reporter I wear hundreds of hats and they’re all being juggled at once to make sure that everything gets covered. I’ve had to flip a switch from writing about a horrific snowmobile accident to writing about the kindergarten class having a play day at the sledding hill with no space to breathe in between.


I wanted to be accessible and available, and it worked. Sometimes I wonder if it worked a little too well. Folks have told me stories that can’t be told to anyone else. They feel better afterwards and I am glad that they feel safe enough to trust me with their stories, but sometimes I wish I didn’t have those images in my head.


I don’t even want to talk about COVID-19, because that would take up two or four more pages, but that is a massive piece of the puzzle too.


I love my job, and as a general rule I wouldn’t change a thing, but it is not an easy job. I care about my people far too much for this to ever be easy.

It’s not easy, but it is worthwhile.

I get to go to the best places and meet the most interesting people and I have a whole book’s worth of my own stories that happened alongside my news articles. I get to be connected and engaged and part of these communities in a way that I haven’t been before, and it is so satisfying for me.

People have this fundamental desire to be connected with each other and to know what is going on, and meeting that need is one of the things I get to do.

I can understand, to a degree, the skepticism and mistrust of “the media”. I, too, struggle with vague and faceless entities that seem to have no connection with my world.

My advice, which may not be worth much, is twofold.

For those who are not in journalism, consider supporting your local media and avoiding national news for a few days. Local or even state media is more likely to provide you with connections, instead of just information. I think that a lot of the time we’re experiencing an information overload and that is hard to cope with.

Secondly, for my fellow journalists, I don’t know much about how you do this job, but I know that we are a part of this world and that we need to be connected and integrated. How can we expect to be successful, trusted, or respected if we treat ourselves like outsiders and like we don’t belong? These are our communities too.


With love,

Annie

A Pandemic Prayer

God,

It’s me again.

I’m lost, I have to admit. And I’m tired.

I’m so tired.

I don’t understand what the plan is, God. I don’t understand how this brokenness is supposed to help.

I don’t understand.

I look around and I see, played out on a global stage, the divides and shattered pieces and hurt that I’ve battled in my own heart and mind and soul.

There is so much hurt.

I was – finally – beginning to heal from my own. I was beginning to reach out again, to connect, to touch people after being afraid of them for so long.

And now I’m asked to draw back again. To contain myself within the walls of my own existence. I may speak, but my voice is not very strong yet. My body is the strongest part of me and I am asked to be still. To fold my hands in my lap. To step away from outstretched arms, to keep from stretching out my own.

I’m so tired, God.

I’m not afraid.

Just tired.

I’m tired of the fighting. The screaming. The fear and hurt and anger and pride. As hard as I try, the voices still creep into my brain and for a time break the quiet.

It’s finally quiet now, inside my mind, more often than not. Even now.

I’ve learned that in order to heal the hurts inside myself I first had to admit they were there. I cannot mend a broken plate if I insist that it is not broken.

Is that part of the plan, God?

Is that part of the hurt?

I’ve learned that I cannot exist without connection, yet for so long now we have made connection a lower priority – work has become the highest priority.

When work ceases, what will the hands do then? Will the hands learn new languages, or maybe rediscover old languages they know but have forgotten to speak? Will they remember how to connect with another?

Is that part of the plan, God?

Is that part of the healing?

The breaking of you will be the making of you.

Is that part of the plan?

Blessed Assurance

This has been on my mind for a week or so now and my bestie said I needed to share it, so, here goes. This is for you, Missie. ❤

We’re caught in the middle of a global pandemic and nothing is clear and nothing is certain and I have no answers and no idea what tomorrow has in store.

And yet, for the first time in my life, I am filled with this calm assurance.

It feels odd to me, because my anxiety is still there, fluttering around, but then there’s this deep bass note of knowing.

Sometimes you feel things in your head, and sometimes in your heart, and sometimes in your gut. I feel this assurance in all three: no matter what happens, no matter what comes next, this is not the end.

This is not the end.

Even if I should catch this virus and die, even if the knuckleheads speeding on my street should actually kill me, even if there’s some kind of violence and I get caught up in it and die, this is not the end.

There will still be a garden to tend, there will still be a cat to pet, there will still be a hand to hold — maybe Jesus’s hand, I don’t know.

But no matter what happens today, tomorrow, or in a year, I know, and kind of for the first time in my life, that this is not the end.

I don’t have answers. I don’t even really have questions, if I’m honest. I’m scared and nervous about what might happen.

But I know that whatever does happen, it’ll work out okay somehow

Death isn’t the end of the story. Death is turning a page.

So for now I’m going to keep washing my hands and keep waving at people and keep smiling even if I’m wearing a mask because my eyes will show it. I’m going to keep writing my articles for work and keep writing my stories for me and keep mucking about in my garden.

Everything will be okay in the end.

And this, my love, is not the end.

Lost

I’ve been working at the paper since July 2019. In that time, I’ve traveled all over the county, all the way up to the border. Most of the places I’ve gone have been places I’ve never been before. Most of the things I’ve done have been things I’ve never done before. Most of the people I’ve met have been people I’ve never met before.

I’ve never yet gotten lost.

(Not for lack of trying, either.)

I’ve gotten stuck — up in Rangeley on a holiday with a dead camera battery and another half hour of photo taking to do, off the road into a ditch in Phillips at 8PM, on the shoulder of the road in Coplin Plantation in the dark with a secondhand smoke induced coughing spasm — but that’s not the same as getting lost. And there was always someone to help.

In Rangeley, I texted the police chief and asked where I could charge the battery, and he pointed me to the grocery store. They let me charge the battery for a bit while we browsed and picked up lunch and a few groceries, and I got my photos.

In Phillips a couple guys stopped and used one guy’s truck and the other guy’s chain and popped me out of the ditch easy as anything. Made sure I was all set before they left.

In Coplin a Lucas Tree truck driver stopped to see if I was okay. I was crying, on account of not being able to breathe very well and having to stop in a place where I didn’t have cell signal, but there wasn’t anything he could do. I just needed time to ride out the coughing, so he reluctantly left. But the action of someone stopping to check was something that still makes me feel like it’s not all rubbish in the world today.

But I’ve never gotten lost.

I was talking about it with my big brother Caleb when I was down in Cape Cod to see those boys, and was able to put words to what I meant.

I may not always know where I am, but I always know what to do to go where I want to be, or what to do to go back where I came from.

I don’t feel lost if I know where to go. And I always seem to know where to go.

I am lost when I don’t know where I am and I don’t know where to go or what to do.

And that’s where I’m at with this virus.

I don’t know where I am.

I don’t know where to go.

I don’t know what to do.

I’m lost.

Here’s the thing about being lost: you need to do a little bit of letting go. If you’re sitting in the car clutching the steering wheel for dear life, you need to pry your fingers off it and get the map out of the back seat before you can even think about getting unlost.

We don’t really have a road map for this situation. And it’s not like getting lost in the woods where you might need to just sit down and wait for rescue teams to find you.

I don’t know how we get unlost here.

I don’t know where we’re trying to get to.

I don’t know how to get back to where we were.

All I can do is let go, take one step, then the next. I feel like I’m learning to walk all over again.

I think of a wee little babe learning to walk who was so focused on taking a step that she held her breath; she couldn’t get past that first step when she was holding her breath.

I need to let go and breathe deeply in, out, in, out, to the beat of my footsteps.

Here’s the other thing about being lost: it doesn’t matter where you’re going and where you’ve been, if you’re okay right where you are. That is my wish for each and every one of us: that we will find a moment of stillness where we are.

– Annie

Black Friday {sale and giveaway}


I wanted to tell you about a HUGE sale that is going on this weekend! There are over 150 titles available and they are all either $.99 or FREE! There are also a long list of paperbacks for sale at incredibly discounted prices as well, and the good news is they are all clean reads! Be sure to go check out this amazing sale here.

There is also an amazing giveaway going on! Grand Prize winner receives 20 paperbacks and the 2nd place winner gets 20 e-book titles from the sale for free!

You can sign up for the giveaway here.

Giveaway runs from November 22nd till November 26th @12AM ET. Grand prize open to US winners only. 2nd place prize is open Internationally.

2nd Place Winner Receives 20 E-books:

Gather Round the Fables by Erika Matthews
The Case of the Tabloid Tattler by Perry Kirkpatrick AudioBook
The Twelve Cats of Christmas by Perry Kirkpatrick Audiobook
Coffee Shop Christmas by Ryana Lynn Miller
The Land of Cotton by Ryana Lynn Miller
Entertaining Angels, Entertaining Angels Book 1 by Emerald Barnes
Secret’s Kept by Jennette Mbewe
The Firethorn Crown by Lea Doue
Beyond Broken Pencils by Julie C. Gilbert
Ashlynn’s Dreams by Julie C. Gilbert
Soldier On by Vanessa Rasanen
Burning Rose by Hope Ann
Iced and Nailed by Avery Daniels
Imani Earns Her Cape by Bokerah Brumley
October by J. Grace Pennington
Disowned by Sarah Addison Fox
My Compass Home by Michaela Bush
Summer Shadows and Necessary Evil by Killarney Traynor

Grand Prize Winner Receives 20 Paperbacks:

Mythical Doorways by Jenelle Schmidt
Faith is the Victory by Faith Blum
Kiera by Kate Willis
Because Anonymous Diana L. Sharples
After: Book One in The Neverway Chronicles by Savannah Jezowski
Specter: Book Two in The Neverway Chronicles by Savannah Jezowski
Leandra’s Enchanted Flute by Katy Huth Jones
Eagle Eyes by Tammy Lash
London in the Dark by Victoria Lynn
When Beauty Blooms by Victoria Lynn
Aerisia: Land Beyond the Sunset by Sarah Ashwood
Iced and Nailed by Avery Daniels
There Was Always Laughter in Our House by Sarah Holman
Bridgers: A Parable (paperback) by Angie Thompson
Love Blind (paperback) by Angie Thompson
Code by Angie Thompson
Christmas Eve at the Backdoor by Rebekah Morris
The Seven Drawers by Kendra E. Ardnek
He’s Making Diamonds: A Teen’s Thoughts on Faith Through Chronic Illness by Sara Willoughby

{Links}

Book Sale takes place HERE

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