Getting the news: a fond goal

McZENA MUSE - Louise Swartzwalder

Sometimes you have days that remind you of moments in your past.

When I worked in Washington, D.C., I at one point was press secretary to an Illinois Congressman. I occupied his office the night a fantastic news story happened.

This was the night an airplane, taking off from National Airport**, slammed into the 14th Street bridge.

It was a snowy night, and the wings of the aircraft had taken on too much weight. This means the aircraft went down, and partially ended up in the Potomac.

I sat in Tom Railsback’s office, yearning to be a part of the scene.

I wanted to be there, getting the story. People died, had to be rescued. A guy named Lenny Skutnik, passing by, parked his vehicle and went into the Potomac to make rescues.

This guy, a modest one, never wanted to assume praise for his act.

This crash of Air Florida 90 resulted in the deaths of 78 people in 1982.

This is one of those things, looking back, when you realize why it made you want to cry.

Getting to lasso a good story doesn’t happen often.

But I was lucky today.

Here, right here, in Bellville, I found a story about a local lottery winner.

Someone called my office, anonymously, and said I should check out the fact a patron at the local Duke and Duchess station had won a $1 million lottery ticket.

This news is the kind that makes you immediately get up out of your chair.

Yes, the modest people at the Duke and Duchess confirmed, someone had come in there three or four weeks ago and purchased a ticket.

It was the winning ticket in a scratch off event.

Winners of lottery tickets are always newsworthy.

In all of this, I was feeling a lot like a former employee of mine, who said he could never quit baking because “it was in his blood.”

I wrote a short story, saying the Duke and Duchess people confirmed they had a winner.

At that point, no names were available. Then, an Ohio Lottery official did some checking, and found out the winner, a Richard Schuman jr., had claimed his winnings in April.

And Marie Kilbane, with the lottery, provided me with his phone number. This kind of information is in the public domain because it is affiliated with a state agency.

Mr. Schuman did not respond to my request to speak with him.

This is his right, of course. Some people don’t want to share every detail of their lives.

Perhaps Mr. Schuman is a bit like Lenny Skutnik (of the Air Florida jet crash story).

Getting the story is something I love to do.

And knowing you have beat every last little bit of the competition, is a great reward.

Perhaps this is all part of the reason I still stay in journalism.

Doing this kind of a job can have incredible highs. Also, some sad lows.

I praise the kind of training I got, starting with the days I served as a stringer when I was in high school. I did that for the Wooster Daily Record. Being a stringer meant you had to go get stories, then clip them and get paid by the column inch.

From there, college, several good internships. Then the piece de resistance.

This was service at the Des Moines Register.

Register days were glory days. We had a diverse, remarkable, intelligent staff. Joys of being in the newsroom were numerous.

People would always post funny notes on bulletin boards. If you were savvy, you caught on quickly and savored those sometimes inciteful, mostly cynical observations.

One frustrated reporter put up a note: the muse has fled.

Though I call myself the McZena muse, it’s partially a play on words. A muse can be an inspiration, a thinker. It can just mean you meander around in your own head, trying to figure out what’s important.

For me, that’s easy.

Being able to go out and demonstrate you still have the moves. That’s what you want.

This means I will sleep very well tonight.

**Washington National is now called Reagan Airport. But as an old Washington hand, I still call it by its right name.


Louise Swartzwalder