June 23, 2012

Back to journalistic roots at a New York high school graduation

CORNING, New York, USA - The assignment was a slam-dunk, plus it helped out the Elmira Star-Gazette newspaper for which I do occasional bits of writing. Already this spring I wrote about a Titanic anniversary festival, a hiking trail cleanup, a new farm-animal hospital, and a wine festival.

So it was I found myself on a gorgeous Friday afternoon - a perfect Seneca Lake Appreciation Day - loading cameras and notebooks to head to the Corning-Painted Post West High School Graduation about 40 minutes from the lake cottage.

Getting the caps on straight
It was, as Yogi Berra intoned once, 'Deja vu all over again.'

When I started my writing career in the summer of 1973, I wrote every obituary the Napa Register published that season and covered everything. Everything was generally defined as what the veteran journalists didn't want to touch.

And so I found myself doing all kinds of stories that are not on the top of my list of clippings, but certainly important to the people about whom I was writing.

Friday night's story was no different.

The place was packed with parents so excited they were vibrating even more than their sons, daughters, grandchildren and nieces and nephews. And the students had a great mix of excitement, awe and trepidation about what the next step meant for them, once they threw their mortarboards in the air..

For some, the next step was heading off universities in the fall. But one young fellow told me he would never set foot in classroom again in his life. If his attitude stays the same as what he evidenced Friday night, I hope he doesn't - for the sake of any teacher or professor.

Administrators and teachers first, please
I was surprised to be asked to write the graduation story until I opened up Saturday's newspaper and realized that most of the high schools in Central New York had all had their ceremonies Friday night. And in the Elmira Star-Gazette's circulation area, well, they had a lot more bases to cover than staff and photographers.

It was kind of sweet event to go to and Admiral Fox gamely agree to attend, too. She proved invaluable (again!) in chatting up the students to get them to talk and setting some of the stock photos I knew I needed.

It brought back so many memories that I had dreams of my first newspaper job - writing sports.

One winter I had the unenviable assignment of writing about junior high school boys basketball. Watching one of those games makes spectating at a golf match look exciting.

They pretty much went like this:
Dribble, pass, dribble, shoot - MISS, 
Dribble, pass, dribble, shoot - MISS, 
Dribble, pass, dribble, shoot - MISS, 
Dribble, pass, dribble,shoot - MISS, 
Dribble, pass, dribble, shoot - MISS, 
 Dribble, pass, dribble, shoot - MISS...

The final score would usually be something like 17-12.

I get sleepy just thinking about it.

Stands were full of parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts and amigos...

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