This week has been both incredibly difficult, and incredibly... incredible. I have been dealing with some tough things at home, so every morning, I just can't even explain how much I look forward to going to work. I can go to work and feel like I amount to something, and that is just priceless right now.
A few weeks ago, my editor and I were going over some court records and we discovered something unusual: one of the local judges here in town sentenced a Utah State University student on an alcohol charge. Among the judge's requirements: read Les Miserables and write a book report about it. Sound's like a story to me. :D
It took me some time to get around to working on this idea, and then it took me a week and a half to get an interview with the judge. I don't think he was so thrilled to do it, but, he granted me the interview!
I met with Judge Willmore on Thursday, and I have to say, I enjoyed my time with him so much. He may not have been thrilled to give me the time, but I was so impressed, because he took the time to prepare for our interview and I walked out of his office with a better story than I went in with.
After leaving his office, I went downstairs to Judge Allen's courtroom to sit in on a bench trial. This was supposed to be a big story, but in the end, the guy pleaded guilty and there was no trial. I stayed behind for a minute to speak to one of the attorneys.
While I was waiting, Judge Allen said he wanted to see me in his office.
WHAT ON EARTH FOR???????
One thing about the world of newspapers: we rarely hear about the good things we do, and so many people are quick to criticize.
After speaking to the attorney -- with the bailiff waiting impatiently -- I went to speak with Judge Allen. Can I just say -- he is such a kind, compassionate man. I had witnessed that before while observing him in drug court.
As it turns out, he remembered a very brief phone call we had had a few years prior, and the story I had written for another newspaper about heroin and the danger it is to drug users. When he started seeing my name in the Herald Journal, he said he put two and two together. And when I appeared in his courtroom, he wanted to meet me.
(ME!? I would have never thought myself to be so memorable.)
I spent more than an hour in his office. We talked about my work in journalism. We talked about my kids, We talked about his kids. We talked about his job. We talked about the military -- a passion for both of us. We talked about the very real need for veterans court and the challenges associated with it. We even touched on some music and the songs we felt were moving and powerful.
By the time I left his office, he had introduced me to Tracy, his clerk, who he said is as knowledgeable about criminal proceedings as they come. And when he introduced me to her, he told her to help me out as much as I needed, whenever I needed, within her legal ability to do so. And he said he would do the same.
I was so pumped when I returned to the office, and the feeling carried me through the day.
I have spent almost 20 years pouring my heart and soul into the stories I write, with an absolute commitment to accuracy and fairness in my writing. I had been writing in my own community for so long. After three months in a new community, I find my reputation has followed me, and it is serving me well.
As more time goes on, the people I need to work with -- law enforcement, attorneys (both the prosecutors and the defense attorneys), and now the judges -- they are all beginning to open up to me more and more every day, because they know I have a job to do, but I will do it well.
Their faith in me has been healing salve on some painful hurts at home. Because these people believe in me, I am starting to believe in myself again.
That is better than any paycheck.