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From the time the sun came up in the morning until it set in the evening,, my thoughts were never far from thinking about potential newspaper stories. I often dreamed about being a reporter at night. — still do. — Photo by Pat Bean

“The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched – they must be felt with the heart.” — Helen Keller

Memories of a Journalist

In 2001, when I was city editor at the Standard-Examiner, then a 65,000-circulation daily newspaper, I began a weekly column called Heart Beat. This morning I came across a copy of the first piece I wrote for it.

Because I am proud of my journalism career, a field whose reputation is being seriously pummeled – both justified and unjustified – these days, reading it brought tears to my eyes. I thought it was worth sharing.

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            Editor shares heart beat with Top of Utah Community

I was city editor when the Standard-Examiner moved into its new home in Ogden, Utah. The newspaper crew occupied the entire building. Today the staff  barely occupies one large room. Since I retired in 2004, I’ve watched reporters and others go out the door one by one as the paper began dying, as are newspapers all over the country. Two of the newspapers I once worked for no longer exist. — Photo by Pat Bean.

“In 34 years as a working journalist, I have interviewed three presidents and covered a huge Texas chemical explosion in which I came across scattered body parts.

I have waded through floods, chased fire trucks, and even tried to catch up to a raging tornado.

I have petted pythons, ridden a horse down Ogden Canyon and held on tightly as one wild horse called Rainy carried me on the last cattle drive through Hagerman, Idaho – all for the sake of a story.

Rainy was supposed to be this very gentle horse ridden by very young children. Only later did I learn that this big and beautiful black stallion had thrown almost every cowboy who sat him. The joke was on the reporter.

“Once I was almost chomped by an alligator that had wandered into a residential backyard. I had been photographing the wayward reptile, using a long-range lens, when I suddenly couldn’t get the camera in focus. I looked up in time to see the alligator, a hungry grin on its face, dashing toward me.

But I’d face that alligator again rather than listen once more as a heartbroken mom reads me the last letter from her son, who had just been killed in Vietnam.

Or to once again type notes through tears as a daughter begs me to write something good about her mother, who had been killed in a car accident on her way to teach Vacation Bible School.

A snowy egret at the Bear River Migratory Refuge, whose restoration from Great Salt Lake flooding I covered for 20 years. — Photo by Pat Bean

That story, as did one I wrote on a fatal airplane crash up Ogden Canyon, won spot news awards. It’s the ironic nature of this crazy business.

In pursuit of stories, I have flown in a Blackhawk helicopter over the Great Salt Lake to the West Desert, watched in awe through a glass bay in a huge tanker as it fueled an F-16 high over the Grand Canyon, and walked the halls of the Pentagon during base closure negotiations.

I have been brow-beaten by politicians, and have pinched myself to stay awake through numerous governmental meetings – and an editor’s meeting or two.

I have been accused of being too liberal, too conservative, too uncaring and too prejudiced.

But then I’ve also seen the better and higher side of human nature shine through in times of adversity.

Matt “The Cat” Maw, the Weber State University mascot who injured his spine immediately comes to mind. The reporter who wrote his story shared Maw’s upbeat attitude that cheers others in adverse situations.

I’ve also watched time and again as people pulled together in disasters, such as the overwhelming community support I saw recently from my editor’s seat during the aftermath of a flooded Riverdale neighborhood. Or the outpouring of neighborly aid I saw during a Texas Gulf Coast hurricane back in my still-wet-behind-the-ears reporting days.

In thousands of ways, I’ve seen and heard the heart beat of daily news events for over a third of a century. The experiences have affected me, changed me – and both speeded up and slowed down my heart.

Now in this column, my hope is to share the heart beat with readers. It’s the heart beat of this Top of Utah community – and the heart beat of this writer.”

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This writer’s heart still beats – and the blood that flows through it still belongs to a journalist. And I’m proud of it.

Now available on Amazon

Bean Pat: Galveston Beach https://sfkfsfcfef.wordpress.com/2018/06/26/on-the-beach-in-galveston/  I couldn’t help myself in choosing this blog. In another couple of weeks, I will be walking on a Texas Gulf Coast beach about 25 miles south of this one. Simple things like this make my heart beat with pleasure.

            Pat Bean is a Lonely Planet Community Pathfinder. Her book, Travels with Maggie, is now up on Amazon at http://tinyurl.com/y8z7553y  Currently, she is writing a book, tentatively titled Bird Droppings, which is about her late-bloomer birding adventures. You can contact her patbean@msn.com

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“A newspaper is lumber made malleable. It is ink made into words and pictures. It is conceived, born, grows up and dies of old age in a day.” — Jim Bishop

Newspaper Rock, Utah. I don't want to go back in time, I just want truth to once again become possible.

Newspaper Rock, Utah. I don’t want to go back in time, I just want truth to once again become possible.

          “A newspaper is a circulating library with high blood pressure.” — Arthur Baer

My Heart is Breaking

It was my usual morning. I walked Pepper, came back and fixed myself a cup of cream-lace coffee, and settled down with a book to read while I drank. And suddenly there were tears in my eyes, tears that are still falling, which is why I am writing this blog.

I need to tell someone, besides Pepper, why my face is wet.

The book I’m reading is a simple book by Ari L. Goldman called The Late Starters Orchestra. It’s about the author’s efforts to play the cello. Ari is a former New York Times reporter, and now a professor at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.

Toward the end of his book Ari achieves his goal of playing in public at his 60th birthday party.

He then writes “…I would die a happy man. I was a musician. Maybe that wouldn’t be the first thing that the newspapers would write in my obituary (if there are still newspapers) … “It was those last five words that opened the floodgates in my eyes.

I was a journalist for 37 years. I worked for honorable newspapers that did not slant the news, which was most of them during my career era. I tried, as did my reporter colleagues, to give the people what they needed to know in as objective a manner as possible. One of the newspapers I worked for has folded. The others are dying, or hollow publications of what they once were.

As a city editor at a 65,000 circulation daily, I had 21 reporters covering local beats. The last time I visited the paper, the city editor had seven reporters covering the same beats.

In the past few days, I’ve been reading stories, proudly told, about how fake online news impacted the recent election. And I’ve heard newspapers referred to as archaic. Shouldn’t we all be crying?

I love the Internet, the connection it gives me to loved ones, and the ease it gives me to have the answer to almost every question I have at my fingertips. But I also know not to believe everything I read. That has always been true, even when newspapers were in their prime. But it is especially true these days when anyone can write anything they want without regard to truth.

You can’t be a journalist and not believe in, and support, freedom of speech. And I do.

So where do we go from here? I don’t know. And that’s another reason my heart is breaking.

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It’s surprising how much memory is built around things unnoticed at the time.”  — Barbara Kingsolver

“To look backward for a while is to refresh the eye, to restore it, and to render it the more fit for its prime function of looking forward.” — Margaret Fairless Barber

This simple colored-pencil drawing of a cardinal holds all my past memories. I hung it on my wall this morning.

This simple colored-pencil drawing of a cardinal holds all my past memories. I hung it on my wall this morning.

A Lifetime of Memories in a Golden Frame

The year was 1978 when I found myself single with two of my five children still left to support. It wasn’t an easy time, especially that first month when I had to borrow money to pay rent.

Although there have been many difficult times since that day, as there are for all who occupy this planet, my life from this point forward only got better and better..  

I spent the next 26 years finishing up a 37-year career in journalism, following it – and twice  where my heart led me to go.

My career took me to the Star-Telegram in Fort Worth, Texas, for three years, then to Ogden, Utah, as features editor for the Standard-Examiner. I stayed for three years here before love took me to Las Vegas for eight months that included a stint working for the Las Vegas Sun.

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I find it interesting that color-pencil drawings of birds, like this eastern bluebird I quickly doodled this past week, are the most common sketches in my art journal.

When love betrayed me, I took myself away from the neon lights to Twin Falls, Idaho, where I stayed for two years as regional editor for the Times-News. It was then back to Ogden, where my former newspaper offered me a job as assistant city editor

In 1987, I answered my heart once again and moved to Erda, Utah, and undertook a daily 56-mile commute to my job in Ogden. But in 1989, I moved back to Ogden alone. I happily stayed there until 2004, at which time I sold my home and bought my RV, Gypsy Lee.

With few exceptions, everything I owned was either packed into my 22-foot home on the road, sold or given away.  The exceptions, mostly books, were eventually stored at my youngest daughter’s home here in Tucson, where I recently moved into a small apartment after almost nine years spent living on the road exploring America from sea to shining sea. .

Sunday, my daughter brought me a few of those bins. And this morning, I hung the only remaining possession that remained from 1978 on the wall of my apartment.

As I stood back and looked at this simple sketch of a cardinal, which belonged to my grandmother, whom I adored and whom died when I was only 10 years old, tears came into my eyes.

The colored-pencil drawing, which even for a while accompanied me in my RV travels, held a lifetime of memories. It is the only thing I own that connects me to my past. As a person who prefers to look forward not backward, I have no regrets that there is nothing else.

But my heart tells me that this red bird may be the most precious thing I own today.

The Wondering Wanderer's blog pick of the day.

The Wondering Wanderer’s blog pick of the day.

Bean’s Pat: Unusual Hotels http://tinyurl.com/a7n3736 This blog made me want to travel to Fiji for a night’s stay beneath the sea. I may have moved into an apartment but my itch for traveling to new places is unabated. I found these places fascinating. Which hotel would you stay in if you could?

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