By Kit Slack
I used to want to make the news, not cover it.
My first job out of college was to pull janitors who worked in office buildings in a wealthy suburb of a big city out on strike. The janitors earned about a third the money that their peers downtown made.
A supervisor caught me at an office building after hours, and I argued with him as I retreated through a parking lot where I was technically trespassing. “Your Spanish stinks!” he yelled. “And if these people get the raise you are promising them, all these illegals will lose their jobs!”
His staff — members of the union I worked for — tried to calm him down. Though they weren’t working legally, they didn’t think minimum wage was fair for the work they did, and they were willing to take risks — risks that they understood better than I did — to increase their pay.
Even so, I worried about what he said. All the downtown janitors I knew had their papers, and none of the suburban ones did. Would the higher wages hurt the people who fought for them in the end? I didn’t stay to find out the rest of that story.
Later, when I worked as a lawyer, it often was my job to find out what was really happening: Why were single mothers and homeless men ending up in jail for not paying fines? How much of the purchase price of a company would its executives walk away with when it was sold? The unsatisfying part was that I usually wasn’t supposed to tell anyone what I found out. At best, we picked the facts that built a case. At worst, we followed the law and hid the story.
I can’t believe my good fortune in becoming managing editor of Hyattsville’s newspaper last month. My mother is a history professor, and my father taught English to troubled teens for most of his career. They get stories right, tell them clearly and teach people to do the same. I want to do that kind of work too.
I’ve lived in Hyattsville for seven years now; three of my children were born here. I look forward to staying around, finding out what happens, and telling the story as clearly as I can.
I’d certainly rather cover the news in this month’s paper than have the harder work of making it.
Our mayor is starting a brand new political organization that aims to dramatically improve quality of life for Black people in America.
In sweltering heat, my neighbors helped salvage what they could after a devastating house fire this month.
The nursing home staff at Sacred Heart Home have been caring for elderly patients with COVID-19 and struggling to stay well themselves.
School administrators have had to cancel in-person school to protect, among others, the 34% of teachers in our county who are at risk from COVID-19.
And while I am one of the residents who is making news by masking up, backing up, staying home, and being part of the reason we can report that not so many people are sick right now, I sure am tired of it. I bet you are too.
In a time when I cannot visit my neighbors, I am happy to be part of the team that sends them all this paper.
Join me! The Hyattsville Life & Times needs volunteer writers to cover beats including development, racial equity, police, health, arts and the environment. You can send your pitch and a writing sample to firstname.lastname@example.org. Want to have a page of the paper that kids write and edit during the pandemic? Me too! Reach out if you can help get it going.