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The Hound Dogs of Journalism

We’re happiest when we’re following a scent

Writing for newspapers is one of the best jobs in the world.
    If routine, long hours and butt in the chair, fingers on the keyboard — who wouldn’t rather be out fishing, or boating or gardening? — lull me into forgetting how lucky I am, I don’t forget for long. Every week proves that truth anew, and this week has stepped to the head of the proof class.
    Mine is a job that lets — no, demands — me to follow my curiosity wherever it leads me. The old saying about a good reporter having a nose for news means just that: we’re newshounds (another metaphorical standard), happiest when we’re following a scent.
    So my nose was twitching as I read last Thursday’s press release headed Sierra Club Rejects Liquefied Natural Gas Export Terminal. What!? How!? Can they? I thought, and reading, on, I realized they could — or at least had considerable leverage.
    Writer Margaret Tearman and I knew how. For this was a scent we’d already followed.
    Dick Lahn, longtime Chesapeake activist and lately director of The Chesapeake Bay String of Pearls Project, had worked on the 40-year-old agreement that gave Sierra Club standing over any changes at the Cove Point Terminal in Calvert County. Lest history be lost, he’d told me a bit of the story, and Margaret Tearman followed it up.
    We’d saved the string, as the saying goes, for a couple of years, savoring our knowledge but not sure how we’d use it.
    Last Thursday, we knew. Now you’ll know too, for the story is in this week’s paper. It’s the kind of story Bay Weekly lives to tell: how events in our time and space link into forces moving history around the world. More chapters are to come. Lucky us! We’ll get to put the words to history as it happens.
    Big deals aren’t the only fun we have. This week, I’m writing about how 13 school kids at The Summit School in Edgewater will join with a couple thousand other kids with learning differences on May 10 to earn — they hope — a Guinness World Record for the most people reading a single book in a single-day reading relay.
    I had to look that one up again. World records are often carved to fit very narrow niches. Reading all day is the kind of world record I could get into, were I not pretty sure that niche is already crowded.
    In my journalism career, I’ve stood witness to the making of a couple of other more dubious Guinness Book World Records. Back in the 1980s, I joined the crowd on the deck at Happy Harbor to watch Tommy ‘Muskrat’ Greene of Deale swallow enough pint jars of oysters to claim the record for oyster eating.
    The other I have to confess sitting witness to, for I joined the Baysox fans at Prince George’s Stadium in Bowie challenging the world record for whoopee cushion sitting. The noise we made I’ll never forget.
    You never know where in the world your next story will take you.
    Get out of your own head every now and again and into the world. That’s what I tell every new writer, from the intern who’ll be joining us later this month to writers who answer my writers needed ad.
    The best reason I’ve ever heard for getting out into the world turned up in husband Bill Lambrecht’s novel You Bad, which is now in my editorial hands:
    The Celts, he writes, believed that the souls of those who are lost remain captive in an animal, a plant or perhaps even an inanimate object, not to be freed until a friend or loved one happens by and they recognize the voice. This recognition might never come. If the lost souls are fortunate enough to be freed, it occurs entirely by chance, suggesting that it behooves people to be out and about and aware of the world.

Sandra Olivetti Martin
Editor and publisher; editor@bayweekly.com