It had been a little more than four months since my last official piece of journalism had been published. This may not sound like much but for someone that had been continuously reporting for the better part of the last 10 years, this might as well have been four eternities.
The choice was mine of course. I decided to leave journalism after a successful decade of community reporting for the world of digital PR and social media and I've got to say, at first I didn't even think twice.
Digital PR and Social Media is a an exhilarating place to be, the newness of it all making me look forward to the next thing I get to learn and implement for a client, but after the first three months had gone by, and I began to find my rhythm, I began to feel the itch: the need to report on the various communities that have grown to be so important in my life.
I tried filling this need with community activism, joining my local neighborhood association (which helped) but the urge was still there.
So when an unexpected email from a former employer came my way, I jumped at the opportunity to pull out the pen and paper and go report on some local issues.
The process was overall a smooth one. Picking up the phone and setting meetings felt natural and it all came back like the absence of writing in those last four months had never been. What I did [re]learn was that I rarely write a piece from beginning to end. It is more of a jigsaw and I tend to favor starting out in the middle and working my way out. Luckily, this method works well for me and the assignment made it to the Editor's desk and, subsequently onto the Mercury News' website (and in the Willow Glen Resident hard copy).
Here's an exerpt of what came out as my first freelance piece:
Debbie Wade has lived in the Gardner neighborhood in Willow Glen for the last 18 years. When she noticed the streetlights go dark one by one, she began inquiring with the city when they would be fixed.
The months passed and the pedestrian streetlamps around the perimeter of the park began following suit, going dark until the entire park was unlit.
"To me, the issue is way bigger than Gardner, but the importance is that this issue is like graffiti: someone comes out to fix it and the next day it comes back," Wade said.
"This is not the first time these lights have been repaired. There has to be a better way."