Sarah Sez: Reflecting on a year at the News
I am a rural girl through and through. I grew up on a hobby farm in Pierce County where I mucked out stalls, fed the cows, cared for an army of barn cats, cut firewood, refused to wear shoes until it snowed and helped raise a huge garden. I raised rabbits for 4-H, learned how to shoot trap and actually prefer gun deer hunting to going shopping. One of my favorite times of the year is the Pierce County Fair, and now the St. Croix County Fair.
When I started working for the News in October 2013, St. Croix County was new territory for me. My main beat is the “Neighbors” surrounding New Richmond: Hammond, Roberts and Somerset and some of the various towns in between. I was thrilled to be covering rural communities. It’s right up my alley, but it has also been a challenge.
As a reporter new to the area, I wasn’t immediately accepted in all these towns. People can be a little distrustful of reporters poking around asking questions anyway, especially ones they don’t know. They have also seen their share of reporters come and go. Don’t get me wrong: almost everyone was perfectly nice. But I had to earn their respect, their trust and my way into their businesses, schools and homes. People weren’t beating down my door with story ideas and information. I had to go digging for it.
I spent hours combing old newspaper stories to learn about my new territory. I picked the brains of village clerks and anyone who would let me. Facebook proved to be a valuable tool as I read posts and “liked” every single business I could find in the area. How lucky am I that the knowledgeable and energetic Paulette Anderson took me under her wing in Hammond? She is a treasure trove of information and a wonderful lady to boot. She even talked me into skydiving with her, but that’s another column.
I’ve observed hours of village, town and school board meetings and take great pride in being professional, objective, accurate and accountable. I believe relationships with village government officials, county government officials, school board members, school administration and staff, law enforcement agencies and the general community should be built on respect, trust, accountability and attitudes that foster respectful debate and conversations.
I am human and there are times when I will make mistakes. I strive to be as accurate as I can in everything I write, but am more than glad to be corrected if I should get something wrong. I try to treat everyone as I would like to be treated and I try to greet each person I meet with a smile.
I feel I have come a long way in one year. I still have much to learn about this county and its residents, but I’m getting there. I am extremely proud of the relationships I’ve fostered in Somerset, Hammond and Roberts. I feel welcomed and accepted in these communities, and your stories have become my own. I may live in Pierce County, but the communities I cover also feel like a home of sorts to me, because of the people who live there and who have welcomed me and shared their triumphs and tragedies with me.
This column is really a thank you to those of you who live in the rural areas and villages that I cover. I am pleased to be a part of your lives and look forward to a new year. Merry Christmas!
Sarah Young has been a reporter for the New Richmond News since October 2013.