I never thought I'd be a newspaper reporter.
I was too shy, and I loved being behind the camera. I had grown up on my grandparents' old dairy farm watching bears bumble through our backyard, turkeys fanning their feathers and the remnants of barbed wire fencing get swallowed up in the wild overgrowth.
I'd imagined, instead, that I'd write and film nature documentaries. In some ways, that's how my career started out. I worked for nonprofits, filming videos.
I loved it, but I missed writing.
I also missed an old boyfriend at the time, and I followed him to upstate New York, took a 50% pay cut and became a reporter. The relationship didn't last, but the work has. It's an addicting job. Every story I learn something new. I meet inspiring people. I witness and record both the awful and the good.
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There are stories I've written that I know made a difference. One I am getting an Associated Press award for this weekend. I'd been sent to cover a protest in Owasco, New York, for The Citizen newspaper. There, I found despicable living conditions for migrant farm workers. The farmer's employees were living in a barn with ceilings so low, I, at 5-feet 4-inches, couldn't stand up straight. Their septic was getting pumped into a manure lagoon. Electrical wiring was left exposed. Cockroaches ran rampant. The farmer was issued a cease and desist order and the health department told him to install a septic system.
The original breaking story, complete with photos from photographer Kevin Rivoli, led to follow-ups and a court case.
Our news coverage was a part of making a change for the better, and when that happens, it's one of the best parts of the job.
— Gwendolyn Craig