Some thoughts on my old career: Or, you gotta love photographers

So, part of this website is, I guess to let people know a bit about me and how I got to this point in my writing.

Well, I wouldn’t be here today if not for my time as a reporter. I spent nearly 14 years in that field writing on the topics of:  sports, city and state government, some politics, healthcare, defense, manufacturing, finance, transportation, the economy, labor issues, business, fires, crimes etc.

But really what I was always writing about, or at least trying to write about was people. That’s what I really liked about the job. I got to go out into my community and talk to folks dealing with problems largely created by systems. One of the most interesting things about our society is that the systems we develop are meant to make lives better or deal with specific problems. But those systems tend to be robotic — heartless really.

For example, I covered the housing crash in 2007 and 2008. It was in a little dark courtroom in Bridgeport where I saw how a collision of our financial and foreclosure systems demoralized families while enriching others.

The courtroom in question was tiny and packed with people waiting their turn to be called before a judge. These were people who had taken out loans in a housing market that had been superheated. They had bought houses that’s values had skyrocketed even while general wages in the state and country had remained stagnate. Still, they were told by professionals — lawyers, bankers etc — that they could afford the loans. But then the day came when they couldn’t and that left them facing a new group of lawyers and professionals who told them they couldn’t afford the homes and would be losing them.

You could see the confusion, the devastation in their body language, in their faces as the one-time happy homeowners came to the table to listen to the judge’s directions about when they would lose their homes.

In the courtroom there were only about two lawyers there representing multiple banks taking the hundreds of actions against the homeowners. And it was all part of the system.

It was truly horrible. But then I was lucky enough to find Rev. Marjorie Nunes. Rev. Nunes was a methodist pastor in Bridgeport who got involved in trying to help a family save their home in her neighborhood. The Pastor stepped up and started helping other families. She would call the banks and the lawyers and discuss how to modify loans, eliminate penalties and hopefully preserve them in their houses. It was a frustrating process as the banks were only used to a system where they did two things, process payments or take away the home and sell it.

They did have programs in place for hardship cases, but those programs had never been used on the scale required by the economic downturn. Rev. Nunes worked to open those programs up to these people. I can’t say that she had a terrific success rate, but people she worked with stayed in their homes longer than they would have otherwise and, probably most importantly, those people found someone who cared. Who treated them as humans, not as a faulty payment.

Anyway, that’s one of the things I was hoping to do as a journalist, write about people like her and people who retained their sense of humanity despite being in difficult situations.

On another completely different topic: Writing, despite seemingly an individualistic and solitary activity can’t truly be carried out without some help. As a journalist, I was lucky to work with a lot of very good people, editors, reporters and photographers.

I could write stories about many of them, but for now, I’m going to just stick to some generalities.

I was particularly thankful for the photographers on our staff. It’s not just the photos they take illustrating the story. The photographers I worked with were truly journalists. They would ask questions while we were out, look at things a bit differently than I was and provided interesting perspectives to what I was writing about. They were very astute and perceptive. I profited immensely from their questions and observations as I worked to understand situations and the complexities at times of certain situations.

You got to love photographers. Thanks (Phil, Lindsay, Christian, Brian, Ned, Cathy, B.K., Tom and Irina, to name a few.)


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