Movement: My watchword for 2011

Can it really be true? My last blog post was in in April. Woe is I. Well, my only excuse is that it’s been quite a year. Plenty of travel, lots of hard work, and a new house.

So, in the time-honored tradition of journalists and writers everywhere, here is my year in review. I am not sure if it will be of much interest to anyone but me, but here goes!

January saw the first full month of having all Patch sites under my purview fully launched and fully live. My calendar shows a full slate of meetings, administrative tasks and other signs of getting into a new routine.

Late in the month, I took my first trip to Memphis at the invitation of the journalism faculty at University of Memphis. I visited classes to talk about Patch, social media and community coverage. In addition, I spoke to the campus chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, always a cause dear to me. I even got to do a few interviews with students interested in the PatchU internship, which bore fruit later in the year with a student heading to the Atlanta area for the summer.

As always, I got in some sightseeing!

Visiting with the SPJ chapter at U of Memphis (January 2011)
I checked out the National Civil Rights Museum while in Memphis (January 2011)

February was the month of our first Patch employee reviews, quite a challenge when you don’t have a private office! Luckily, a local Starbucks has a semi-private space with a nice big table. I arrived early and commandeered the table for a number of hours. The reviews themselves were a new exercise for me as a manager; very different from assigning a letter grade as I had done as a professor. It was a cathartic moment for some of my editors, a time to breathe after a fast run up to launching their sites and full immersion in a job that was–and continues to–evolve.

In March I took a vacation to Belize! My mother, Zee Edgell, had been invited by the US Embassy in Belize to be keynote speaker at an Women’s Month event honoring outstanding women.

While in Belize, I checked out the exacting finale of the Ruta Maya cross-country river race at the Bel-Can Bridge, a first for me.

My mother and I took and overnight trip to San Pedro, Ambergris Caye. Mom gave readings to students at San Pedro High School and we made new friends among the teachers and students there! At the end of the week my mother, an aunt, a cousin and I got to take a gals’-only trip to Placencia, where we met up with another aunt and her husband.  I took some time to meander through the village, one of my favorite places in the world.

In April, my grandmother Veronica Tucker died. She was ninety years old and had been in declining health for several years. So, it was back to Belize for the funeral. The ceremony itself was elegant and loving, just like Grandma. Even though the occasion was solemn and sad, it served as a rare moment for the extended family to gather and spend time together. I know Grandma would have been pleased. We even took formal family pictures, not knowing when we’d all be in the same place again.

Veronica O. Tucker (nee Walker)
Me, my brother Randy, and mother Zee.

The weekend after I returned from Belize, it was time to head to Overland Park, KS for the Society of Professional Journalists Region 7 Spring Conference. It was great to see colleagues and friends, as well as a contingent of former students from the University of Missouri.

Good Friday (April 23, 2011) saw severe weather rip through metro St. Louis. Many of my team members fanned out to capture to images and report the stories of the day. I spent Saturday at my dining table in my pajamas: copy editing, assigning, coordinating, and watching the outstanding coverage come together.

In May, my mother and I headed to Branson, Missouri and nearby College of the Ozarks for a wedding. It was our first time in the region, and the drive was beautiful!

Mom and I at the Ozarks wedding, May.

Little did we know that as we headed back to metro St. Louis, a horrendous storm system was setting its sights on Joplin, Missouri–not far from the area where we’d attended the wedding.

The Joplin devastation made the Good Friday storm damage look minor. Not having Patch sites in the Joplin area, we at St. Louis Patch concentrated our coverage efforts on local folks lending a helping hand.

There was no slowing down for me as June arrived! I took a quick trip to San Francisco for a few days of training for Patch Regional Editors at the outstanding Knight Digital Media Center at UC Berkeley. It was great to meet colleagues I’d only known via e-mail and conference calls! The training focused on engagement, new story-telling tools and techniques and other important facets of covering communities.

Christine and I have our very own reunion!

On the last night, I squeezed in a trip to downtown San Francisco to have dinner with my high school friend Christine Fordstrom. It was wonderful to see her!

In July, I took my first trip to China. Amazing! Dr. Ernest Zhang of the University of Missouri School of Journalism invited me to join him and Adam Sympson, an E.W. Scripps Vice President, to travel to Chengdu, a city of 14 million people in the Sichuan Province. We lectured about doing journalism and delivering content in the digital space at the Chengdu Economic Daily. The trip including opportunities for sightseeing and exploring the area!

August found me continuing to travel! First, it was to Philadelphia for the National Association of Black Journalists conference. I was part of a panel geared to new college grads and early career journalists, which focused on maximizing your education and experience for the evolving journalism job market. I got meet new people and see many old friends from various stops on my journeywoman jouralism career!

Hard on the heels of the Philly trip came a quick jaunt to Chicago for a Patch Regional Editors meeting at the AOL office. Another great moment for hanging with fellow Patch managers and meeting new ones. Midwest Zone Editorial Director Sherry Skalko led the proceedings and we also heard from Patch EIC Brian Farnham who flew in for a day to rally the troops. I was glad to get a chance to chat with Brian as we munched on sandwiches. Another memorable moment: An after-dinner stroll with a few of my fellow LEs along Michigan Avenue!

I had a short break from traveling to prepare for Youth Media Belize, a week of teaching young people (ages 13-19) in Orange Walk, Belize later in August. This effort is part of a partnership between UNICEF and the University of the West Indies, Open Campus, Belize to enable children and youths to raise their voices and let their opinions be known.

I coordinated the coursework and recruited great US-based journalists to help me teach. Our team was rounded out by a Belizean radio journalist and UNICEF social media guru. To say this experience was rewarding is just the beginning. Check out the photos and you’ll really get the picture.

The frequent flyer miles continued to accrue in September! My mother and I traveled to Washington, DC at the invitation of the Belize Embassy. Ambassador Nestor Mendez arranged an evening at the Inter-American Development Bank, where my mother gave a talk and reflected on the thirty years of Belizean Independence.

My mother, Zee Edgell, with Belize Ambassador Nestor Mendez and his wife.

We fit in some sightseeing and then joined a fun group of Belizeans and members of the diplomatic corps at a Belizean-style picnic at the Embassy.

There was one more trip in September: New Orleans for Excellence in Journalism 2011, a conference combining the members of both the Society of Professional Journalists and the Radio Television Digital News Association.

My main order of business to taking the chair of the SPJ national membership committee at the invitation of incoming SPJ President John Ensslin. We held a productive brainstorming session and laid the groundwork for several membership retention and recruitment drives.

Of course, I took full advantage of my first visit to the Crescent City to enjoy the sights and sounds of Bourbon Street and its environs! Two Patch editors from St. Louis attended the conference as well, which gave us a chance to hang out and get to know each other better. They even caught me in the act of performing karoake. Yes. The song was “Ladies Night,” by Kool and the Gang.

Conference attendees got a chance to take a bus tour to view the work happening along the levee system in New Orleans and we even made a stop in the Ninth Ward.

A view of one of the "Brad Pitt" houses in the Lower Ninth Ward, New Orleans (Sept. 2011)
Visiting with the Mayor of the Lower Ninth Ward, New Orleans (September 2011)
Another "Brad Pitt" house in the Lower Ninth Ward, New Orleans (Sept. 2011)

October saw me sticking closer to home–somewhat!

After using the first weekend after my New Orleans trip to rest and recuperate, the following Saturday found me teaching journalism and social media techniques to local aspiring journalists as part of the Greater St. Louis Association of Black Journalists workshop for high school students. It was my second year taking part in the program, hosted by KETC-TV (The 9 Network) downtown.

The very next day I hit the road, for a drive north to Iowa City. My friend and mentor, Pam Creedon, is on the faculty at the University of Iowa School of Journalism and Mass Communication and invited me to spend a day talking to students and faculty about Patch and doing journalism in the digital, hyperlocal realm.

I was really impressed with the students and faculty members, who were so welcoming! Pam showed me around the School’s very new building, for which she took the lead in fundraising and oversaw its completion.

Other fun times in October:

  • Visit with students at Lindenwood University, St. Charles
  • The St. Louis SPJ Trivia Night in Maryland Heights
  • The St. Louis Cardinals winning the World Series at home
  • OWL Women of Worth dinner at the Missouri Athletic Club
  • The Ladue Foundation breakfast at Danforth Science Center
  • Viewing the original film Phantom of the Opera with the accompaniment of the St. Louis Symphony
  • Trick or treating with my niece and nephews on Halloween
  • Manning the Patch booth at the Walk for Diabetes, Creve Coeur Park
Patchers at the Walk for Diabetes, Creve Coeur Park, Maryland Heights (Oct. 2011)

November found me preparing for another trip to Belize, to lead three days of training for professional journalists. As with Youth Media Belize in August, this was a component of the partnership between UNICEF in Belize and the University of the West Indies, Open Campus, Belize. This time, we focused on the theme “Putting Children in the Right,” providing insights about coverage of children and youth; statistics and information to help journalists in their reporting; and skills and techniques for covering children and youth.

Helping me lead the sessions and discussions was the outstanding Belizean journalist, Janelle Chanona. We had about thirty participants from around Belize, representing radio, television, newspapers, non-profits, and other allied industries.

It looks like my collaboration with UNICEF Belize and University of the West Indies, Open Campus, Belize will continue into 2012, so stay tuned!

A huge event capped my visit to Belize; to wit, the completion of Casa Edgell, the house my brother and I commissioned on the Placencia Peninsula in the Stann Creek District. My parents purchased the land facing the Placencia Lagoon nearly ten years ago, so this was a true labor of love–with my sister-in-law Emily Edgell overseeing the design and decor details, from tiles to curtain rods.

Our plan for the house is to rent it to vacationers and use it ourselves from time to time. We are listed on several travel sites:

I spent three blissful days in the house after getting the keys from the contractor, so I can attest to its charms!

The day after I got back from Belize, St. Louis Patchers convened at Pujols 5 for our grand all-team holiday bash. It was a great chance to celebrate our team and enjoy each other’s company.

Fellow RE Kurt Greenbaum, RP Jeremy Furhiman, and I at our St. Louis Patch holiday party (Nov. 2011)

Another November highlight was watching my brother on stage at the Fabulous Fox Theatre in St. Louis! No, he was not performing; good doctor was speaking the group gathered for a Kirk Franklin concert about stroke prevention. My parents and I were so proud!

December came all too quickly as it always seems to do! And, of course it ain’t over yet.

So far, there have been a number of year-end administrative tasks for Patch, a few meetings, and the hustle and bustle of getting ready for Christmas.

I took an overnight trip to Columbia, MO to watch my friend Christopher Saunders (who was part of the Youth Media Belize teaching team) receive his master’s degree from the journalism school. While in town, of course I had to stop by KOMU-TV, where I worked for more than four years.

On the Wednesday before Christmas, I joined many of my Patch team members for an ice skating outing followed by a festive lunch in Creve Coeur. I made it around the rink three times and was able to be steady on my feet for the lunch afterward!

Me with Tammy Duncan and Jim Baer, The Pasta Co. (Dec. 2011)
What a team! Patchers enjoy holiday lunch (Dec. 2011)
Me on ice. Shouting for help? (Dec. 2011)

So, all in all a very busy year. Along the way, I was very happy to get news that my short story Heaven or the Deep Blue Sea, was accepted for publication in not one, but two, literary journals: Pisgah Review (Brevard College, Florida) and Dialogo (DePaul University, Chicago).

I won’t make any resolutions for 2012 at this point.

Let’s call these lessons learned:

  1. I remain fond of travel, to say the least.
  2. I still enjoy teaching, and hope to have more opportunities to guest lecture and conduct training in 2012
  3. I need to do more non-work, non-journalism stuff; to wit, have more of a social life.
  4. I feel so gratified to live in the same city as my parents and my brother and his family.
  5. I need to get cracking on my fiction writing: First order of business is to finish the first installment of my detective series set in Belize.

Here’s to 2011 and 2012!


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