Alan Riquelmy: It’s a fair question
The father of the 16-year-old girl was quick on my heels.
He’d just seen me approach his daughter, who was caring for the calf she’d raised for the local fair. I had my reporter’s notebook out, introduced myself, and started interviewing her.
The father, no doubt, wanted to discover who I was and what I was doing speaking to his daughter. Once learning that, pride shone from his eyes.
His girl had placed in a pageant the night before, he said. Now she was presenting the calf for competition, shining the coat, making it look its best.
That was a good story, because I found someone with a story to tell. Sprinkle in the sights and sounds of the annual fair, and you’ve got yourself something to read. Dad clips the story for the scrapbook, and the reader gets a sampling of the fair.
It’s not always this way.
Years before, I covered another fair in some other town. The annual beauty pageant was held there each year. The high school girls in long dresses, standing on a stage for two hours before the judges could make their decision.
Then, the next day, an interview with the winner. The things you do when working for a newspaper. It’s a small town, and she’s a beauty queen. What’s a reporter to do? The editor is always hungry for more copy, and you better have something to satiate it.
Covering an event, whether it’s a fair or a supervisors meeting, is akin to wearing someone else’s skin. You’re not experiencing an event as yourself. You didn’t choose to come here. You’re under a geas to perform a role and write a story.
It’s always best when you can have fun with it. Those are the stories that are usually the best to read, when the reporter is excited about digging in and writing something worth reading.
You could look at through a lens of there’s always a job to do, and always a fair that must be covered. That makes for some dull reading.
Instead, wise reporters find something, anything, in every story they can bring to life. It may sound corny, but it’s true — don’t focus on what you have to do, think of it as what you get to do.
And at the Nevada County Fair, there’s a lot you get to do.
Exhibits lining the shelves and walls. Competitors have worked on these for weeks, maybe months. It’s the same for those who have raised livestock for the fair. These kids have worked hard to bring their animals to auction, and the money raised helps with college, training and agricultural projects.
Cast aside the lens of something that must be done, and look through the eyeglass of the student who’s raised an animal through a pandemic and is now ready to go to auction. Or watch the volunteer at a Treat Street booth deal with the pressure that comes with food service.
It’s not the fair, or the parade, or any event that’s the story. It’s the people, when placed together, who are the story. All of us are a living, breathing combination of stories, going through our lives, writing new tales every day.
Why not share yours?
Alan Riquelmy is the editor of The Union. He can be reached at email@example.com and at 530-477-4249
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First there were the funnies, color on Sundays! My little sister and I shared them while our dad, lying on his stomach on the punee, read the rest of the paper remarkably undisturbed by one…