“I want your life,” said my Aunt Pat from California upon seeing me at my nephew’s wedding on Friday night. “I joined Facebook just to look at your pictures,” she said.
“No, you don’t,” I assured her. I don’t post an update when I struggle to make the rent, I explained. I don’t share a picture of that. But yes, I live on an amazing island and I am blessed with a breathtakingly beautiful commute to East Hampton, by land and sea, and I enjoy capturing it when I can and sharing.
I’m sure Aunt Pat is not the only one who thinks I live the life of Riley, whoever that is. “In her color portrait world, she’s got it all,” sang Rob Thomas in his song “3 a.m.”
I did post one picture of myself being pulled over, I thought. I just had to, the contrast of the Mardi Gras beads on the rearview mirror and the red flashing lights offering an opportunity not to be passed up. But the next four times I got pulled over, for an expired inspection, were not so colorful, and the last one brought me to tears, when I really just needed a quick drive to the ocean for a breath on deadline day at the paper. I have been trying to remedy the inspection issue with estimates and regular visits to mechanics on my days off, with no success.
The next time I saw Aunt Pat I was crying in the glamorous ladies’ room of the Fox Hollow Inn after it hit me that my father was never going to take my mother onto the dance floor again. My therapist told me I have all five of the top causes of stress, and people think I have the perfect life. In some ways, I do. Aunt Pat hugged me and cried with me at the loss of such a huge presence in our incredibly close, large family.
My cousin Lisa was also impressed with my life as determined from my Facebook posts. “I see that you’re a journalist for a newspaper!” she said. That is so exciting and fun; you are so lucky, she said.
I agreed, but I wondered if my gorgeous cousin had any clue how much my hairstyle suffers progressively from Monday through Wednesday as deadline approaches, along with the decline in the number of breaths taken, my level of patience, and my ability to socialize. (Many know not to talk to me on a Tuesday; some find out the hard way.)
We Star writers pour our hearts into our weekly stories, before editors fine-tune the words to flow smoothly for the reader, and we wait, wondering what might be sliced and diced. Lately our stories have often had to be cut or held, what with the decrease in advertising leading to a much smaller paper at this time of year.
This week I saw a lot of negative posts about the media, but I wonder if those people are supporting print newspapers and public radio or simply the drama-filled, sensational television news. I wonder how many have a subscription to The Star. I wonder how many even read any full articles at all, or rely on the scrolling words at the bottom of a television screen or their Twitter and Facebook “news” feeds, or, worse yet, extremist radio personalities.
Our paper is well done. So much energy and detail go into its content and photographs, in addition to checking facts and fairness. It is an amazing group effort, and some of us who rely on the income from the work struggle greatly to make ends meet in positions not known for high pay. But we think it important that messages get out, and are drawn to furthering that purpose.
We are a cool bunch. Through our own stress and trauma and those of people we write about, we support one another with empathetic glances and cupcakes. We share a kitchen in a lovely historic office, with uncomfortable chairs and vintage equipment that frustrates us but sustains a pleasant simplicity.
Sometimes there are the delightful sounds of children gracing the building, and there is almost always a dog or two, and even the occasional visit by a miniature pig, but not lately, due to circumstances too funny to mention. (Ask David Rattray if you must know, and definitely before you go out and get yourself a miniature pig.)
A pig is just one of the things David must deal with while managing all of the sections of the paper, the angry complaints, the letters to the editor, keeping employees happy and paid, preventing lawsuits, and creating an online presence to keep up with high-tech readers. All while picking up children from school and taking them to their various lessons.
It is not easy. But it is worth it. Sharing the truth and the good news is exciting, and it is important to warn residents of the bad news. Perhaps if it wasn’t for our stories and editorials, the situation here would not improve.
News needs to be read. I hope that those who understand its value will support newspapers and share the content whenever possible. Meanwhile, we will continue doing our jobs in hopes of a day we can make a living from such a career, or at least the appearance of brownies on our kitchen “share” table.
Carrie Ann Salvi is a reporter at The Star.