Vol. 19, No. 11 June 1 - 14, 2006



A True Community Journalist

If I ever teach a journalism class, I will assign my students Heather Haddon’s article on the Op-Ed Page.

To me, it beautifully captures everything that is right with this profession.

And it punctures an enduring myth about this line of work and the people that practice it.

Too many people believe, or are taught, that reporters are not supposed to care too much about their subjects.

But the thing that I like best about Heather is that she cares so deeply. She almost always returned from covering a school event – and there were dozens of those, virtually all of which she discovered and assigned to herself – charged with positive energy. “What a great program!” she’d exclaim, or “That was so much fun!”

But she also cared when things didn’t go well. When a community meeting was unproductive, she’d lament the lack of progress as if she lived here herself. When a politician or public official gave a silly reason for supporting a misguided program, like the switch to frozen meals for senior citizens, she shook her head in disappointment.

During her four years here, Heather developed sharp investigative reporting skills, which she used to uncover the Pinnacle debacle. She stopped by the buildings at Botanical Square because she heard about a nice garden being planted there and thought it would make a nice feature photo. When she did some checking on the landlord, she found out that he had bought hundreds of buildings in only a couple of years. She dug, and dug some more, and uncovered unscrupulous practices affecting thousands of tenants in four boroughs.

For months, she was the only one covering this story. When she attended tenant meetings in Pinnacle buildings in Manhattan she was greeted with applause. (The citywide press finally discovered this story in May, but Heather Haddon was there first – last October!)

Most of all, though, Heather loves telling people’s stories, whether it was the shy but articulate National Guardsman who returned from Iraq to surprise his colleagues at Lehman College, or the family who lost their most precious possessions in a tragic fire at Tracey Towers, or the fast-talking taxi dispatchers who have formed a tight-knit community in their office on Webster Avenue.

Heather also deeply cared about the paper itself. She cared about how it looked and cheered when it was chock full of ads. She developed a meticulously organized photo archive that enabled her to pick out an old picture like a rabbit out of a hat anytime I said, “Hey, you remember that shot of …?”

She drove herself hard, and often couldn’t bring herself to miss covering an evening meeting, even when I told her it really would be OK if she did.

The Norwood News is what it is now in large part because of Heather and the caring she brought to everything she did here.

Heather might not know much about the good people of Patterson, New Jersey, where she will soon be working for a daily newspaper, but it won’t be long before she becomes one of them.

We will miss Heather very much. We wish her tremendous success as she takes on the next challenge of her journalistic career.

Jordan Moss

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