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Freeman of the Press: Celebrating 10 years as a reporter

by Laura Freeman | Reporter Published: February 1, 2015 12:00 AM

My tenth anniversary as a newspaper reporter with Record Publishing Co. arrives Feb. 1, 2015.

Since my beat has covered city Council meetings in Tallmadge and Hudson, that amounts to roughly 500 meetings I've attended. Covering government stories means I've reported on governors, senators, congressmen, judges and too many candidates to count, learning more about politics than any class in school.

Want your voice heard? Speak at a Council meeting during public comments. The meetings are televised, sending your message to viewers, the city officials and your city representative.

Will it result in change? Sometimes, the argument is more emotional than practical and fails, but other times words have impact. I know. I write them.

Someone asked me how I make sense out of the meetings. The hardest part is filling in the blanks -- the things not said by members of Council. Sometimes a handout, resolution or phone call answers the questions. But time reveals whether the decision was good or bad.

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Another key to writing a story, any story, is to focus on the problem. What are Council members talking about? What is the decision they have to make? The answer is the story.

Another part of being a reporter is community news. I've seen businesses open, close, celebrate anniversaries and change ownership. Mayor William Currin is a familiar face at ribbon cuttings.

I remember when Main Street Cupcakes opened and I sampled some of the cupcakes. There were some doubts a cupcake-only business would survive, but it's thriving.

Some businesses, like Hershey's and The Learned Owl Book Shop, changed owners, while Lager & Vine took on a new name with new ownership.

Hudson is known for its events, fundraisers and holiday celebrations. I was around when the Fourth of July fireworks were canceled in 2006 due to a lack of funds, but they've returned every year since. The worst experience occurred on a warm summer night when the last blast exploded into a torrential downpour, sending everyone dashing for their cars.

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Other holidays included children dressed in Halloween costumes and an annual stocking contests with the Green decorated for Christmas. The biggest festivals were the Harry Potter celebrations when thousands dressed as characters from the J.K. Rowling books. It was my job to attend, but it also was fun to share in the enthusiasm of the crowd.

Schools and children are a major focus in the community. I've interviewed young entrepreneurs who sell lemonade; students testing the water in a stream restoration project at the high school; future lawyers in a courtroom practicing for a mock trial; actors preparing for a play or musical; and photographing graduates stepping on stage to receive a diploma.

A favorite past time is covering the annual Challenger game when Special Olympic kids play football against the Hudson Hawks seventh-grade team. High school players help mentor, and the band and cheerleaders encourage everyone as they score. Plan to attend in August.

Those are the happy memories. Others are sadder. The deaths of men and women I've come to know -- Mayor John Krum, Council member John Jeffers, Peter McDonald, Dick Malson and others who have impacted the community and left a mark.

The most difficult job was covering the funeral of U.S. Marine LCpl. Daniel Nate Deyarmin Jr., 22, killed Aug. 1, 2005, in Haditha, Iraq. He was the first casualty in our coverage area and, unfortunately, not our last. I also covered the funeral of U.S. Army 2nd Lt. David Rylander, 23, of Stow, who was killed May 2, 2012, in Logar Province, Afghanistan.

I covered five murders -- Philip and Sarah Gehring who were murdered in New Hampshire by their father, who drove across the country, burying them in a clearing off Terex Road; Marci Kornblut who was murdered by her husband; and Patricia and John Knudson murdered by her son and his brother.

Then there are the children with cancer or some other life threatening disease. And although you hope your words help them fight the battle, some lose the fight.

The biggest challenge is to make the words count, influence or impact others. I hope I have succeeded most of the time and will continue to reach out in print. Thank you for reading.

Email: lfreeman@recordpub.com

Phone: 330-541-9434

Twitter: @LauraFreeman_RP


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