The quickest path to the community’s heart is through its newspaper.
It tells stories, informs the public and brings the community closer in a time of need or joy. Nothing compares to community journalism and it was always a passion for my father, Steve, who will be retiring from the Lahontan Valley News on Aug. 1.
It was something I learned before jumping into the journalism field almost 20 years ago. You have to be there in the moment to experience and retell the events to your audience. In sports, not everyone watches the Greenwave and it’s our job to make sure the community is aware.
I still remember covering my first game with my father when Fallon’s football team traveled to compete against Hall of Famer Joe Sellers’ Wooster Colts in Reno. The Greenwave struggled, mightily, but we were still there to report on the loss. My first published photo was of Aaron Lesue running past the defense along the sideline in 1998. A couple days later, my father showed me how this photo made it into the newspaper during the layout process while the LVN was still operating out of the North Maine Street building.
He had faith in me at 13 years old to help take photos of the Greenwave from that point on. It’s difficult to fathom, at times, that we have been working together for almost 20 years. It feels natural and it was another way for us to bond. We umpired baseball together for many years, too, but studying under him for most of my life has been an unforgettable experience.
He was critical of me because the potential was there. His pen seemed to never run out of red ink as my copy would bleed for days. He wanted the best from not just me, but he wanted it from anyone who desired to learn and become better. He’s touched many lives in the classroom as an English teacher, on the junior high campus as an administrator and in the ballpark as an umpire. But more importantly, his reach expanded at the newspaper where he reported on everything.
His caring attitude and passion for the Lahontan Valley cannot be questioned. It was important to him to be the community’s informer, whether it was for the Amtrak incident several years ago or being on the sideline as Fallon won the state football championship in 2015.
His blueprint in community journalism is what I try to emulate every day. It’s more than just a story and having to beat a deadline. It’s more than trying to pad your resume, hoping to get a call from the New York Times. It’s about putting the people first.
One of the things I’ve admired along my father’s journey has been the passion in his writing. He writes as if his article will appear in a national publication the next day because the audience deserves to have strong representation. The stories published by everyone who’s worked at the LVN have greater meaning than you can believe, too. Many years later, people will look back to these articles to relive that buzzer-beater win over the archrival. There’s history associated with everything that goes into the paper, as we’re beginning to see unfold when gathering information for the Greenwave Hall of Fame.
I’ve tried to mirror my father’s work ethic, as well, hoping The Associated Press would ask to use my story or photo to put Fallon on a bigger scale. And it’s happened once when Aarik Wilson qualified for the Olympics in 2008 and Scott Sonner emailed asking to put the story on the AP wire.
It was a great accomplishment, personally, but more importantly, it was amazing to get someone from a small town east of Reno the publicity he deserved after winning the U.S. Trials.
I owe everything to my father, from learning to shoot sports first-hand to writing my first story and column. But it’s the many road trips in the state and across the Sierra to watch former Greenwave athletes compete in the NFL that will resonate the most. The experiences behind the keyboard and notepad make covering the community even more rewarding.
Thomas Ranson can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.