19, No. 11
June 1 - 14, 2006
Learning to Report, and Care, Step-by-Step
By HEATHER HADDON
The first time I walked out of the Mosholu
Parkway No. 4 train station — well before I worked for the Norwood
News — something clicked. I was instantly drawn to Jerome Avenue and
its throngs of shoppers, workers and high-schoolers. This was a nice
place. Perhaps I’d come back.
I did — over 1,000 times. In my four years at the Norwood News,
I’ve written about 603 stories. We’ve run roughly 254 of my photos. I
have managed production on 98 issues, gone through 22 notebooks (140
sheets each), and attended dozens of meetings. My thousand-plus days
working here have been busily consistent. They have never been dull.
This is my last issue. My byline will pop up on some future stories, but
this is the final time that I will edit the school briefs, sort through
press releases, badger Bronx politicians, or perform the tasks big and
small that have filled my weeks and quickly spun my life’s clock.
Saying that fills me with a deep sadness. I’ll tell you why.
I was 25 when I joined the Norwood News. I had no formal
journalism training. My experience was limited to 1 a.m. lessons at a
ragtag, start-up alternative paper in New York. When the reporter job
opened up, I was working at a nonprofit in Hunts Point. I applied.
Somehow I got hired. I was damn lucky.
My first year or so was bumpy. My stories were way too long. I was shy
and rather naive. My spelling and grammar were severely hampered by a
slight learning disability. Jordan, the most patient of bosses, finally
had to lay down the law: use that red pen, or else!
Things gradually got better. After three weeks roaming Ecuador, I came
back with new confidence and enthusiasm. I bought some more professional
clothes. I started smiling more. I realized that politicians were just
people — they could easily be a quirky uncle or younger brother. I
started writing for style, reporting more aggressively, and editing
Perhaps, most importantly, the veneer of scared, cynical youth wore
away. I began to care — a lot. I became more passionate about Norwood,
Bedford Park, North Fordham and University Heights than where I actually
live (in Queens). I rejoiced or became saddened by the latest
developments at Tracey Towers, Community Board 7 or the Kingsbridge
Armory. My hipster friends from Brooklyn heard about Webster Avenue cab
dispatchers, PS 291’s chess team, and the Clinton student walkout. The
Bronx was always kicking around my mind.
I made mistakes. I could have been more thorough on parent-teacher
tensions at MS 80. On a few occasions, dollar amounts were printed with
an extra zero. But, hopefully, I got most things right. I’m proud of my
analysis of the Bronx Terminal Market deal, dissection of the Meals on
Wheels overhaul, and an in-depth series on the Pinnacle Group buildings.
My writing, I believe, helped stir discussion and push for change.
Journalism requires a strange duality of solitary focus and
extrovertedness. I tried to juggle both. Stopping for lunch was unheard
of, and I would barely avert my eyes from the computer screen while
swimming in a story. But I’ve also savored being out in the Bronx —
whether it was chasing PS 246’s running club or dancing salsa with
Assemblyman Jose Rivera (I got two kinds of leads out of that one).
I recently happened on a bumper sticker stating, “God loves the Bronx.”
So do I. I love the Mexican soccer players kicking around the Oval. I
love the inspired students at Lehman and Bronx Community College. I love
the lady with the elaborate underwear stand on East 208th Street. I love
seeing the morning frenzy at corner bakeries, people with their pet
parrots and, once, the cashiers dancing to Monchy Y Alejandra at Fine
It’s funny how this reporting relationship goes. You probably don’t know
my name, let alone what I look like. Yet I know so much about you — the
dynamic of your area, the businesses that come and go, the resident
eccentrics, the demographics and character of most every block.
Leaving here is painful. I can’t suddenly file away all this devotion
and plunge into the next place. It took too long to research, discover
I am excited to be moving on to a daily paper in another dense, largely
Hispanic area (Paterson, NJ). The issues will be similar. The faces and
I will still care. When the park renovations wrap up and Adventura comes
back to Harris Park, I will visit. When the Armory is finally
redeveloped and the subways are renovated, I will jump for joy.
I will walk out of the new Mosholu No. 4 stop and, remembering the 1,424
days of deep puddles and decrepit stairs, know that my work helped lead
to their renovation.
It was those steps that shaped the exciting ones I am taking today.
Heather Haddon, deputy editor of the Norwood News, will leave
the paper on June 2. She starts as a reporter at the Herald News in July
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