The ink was still wet on my diploma when I returned to Massachusetts to become a reporter. The lessons I soon learned from chronicling news for a year in small town America remain with me today and none more so than the importance of hustle.
The newspaper that hired me was a weekly. Our main competitor was a daily from what passed for a city in the westernmost county of Massachusetts. Our content was defined by our publishing schedule. The daily covered breaking news so our publisher charged us with creating features and pursuing more in-depth reporting. Our designated role however was not always accepted by everyone in our small office, most notably our publisher’s wife.
During one editorial meeting that forever impacted my work ethic, we were discussing how to move a story forward that had been previously covered by the daily. The only other reporter present had a suggestion of putting the news in context by examining the known history of the company in question. As soon as the reporter closed her mouth the publisher’s wife threw up her hands.
“It’s called news not olds!”
Her outburst was a lesson to never let our product limit our approach to covering the news. I’ve kept that exclamation with me all of these years as a reminder to push through boundaries accepted by others whether it’s with fresher stories or more unique angles. It was this off-the-cuff comment that drove me to chase ambulances, be the first to arrive at the scene of breaking news, uncover sources overlooked by other reporters, and generally frustrate the reporter covering my beat for a certain daily newspaper.
Each week I would write a dozen stories, interview subjects across five towns, attend nightly selectmen meetings, and warm benches in court houses across the county. It became easier to peel back the extraneous details and detect each story. The hustle was needed in pursuing those leads to their natural end and then pushing further.
Hustle comes in many forms however for me it is the lack of contentment. There always remains a question to be asked of a source, a photograph to better tell the story, or a fact that lies buried, waiting to be discovered. Simply put, something better always exists.