I can’t remember what I expected out of a job at the Transcript Bulletin when I nervously stepped into the newsroom for the first time nearly five years ago, but I could not possibly have expected this.
The week after I started, I was invited to a ridealong by Det. Keith Borders of the Tooele County Sheriff’s Office to look for parties with underage drinking going on in the county’s canyons.
It was baptism by fire as I rode wedged in the back seat of a patrol vehicle while another deputy (who is no longer with the department) sent a text, looked up a license plate on his laptop and raucously told a story, all at the same time. Later, after hours of traversing bumpy, windy mountain trails, yet another deputy puked his guts out, and the rest of us wanted to.
And that was only the beginning of the madcap hijinks that would come to define my time at the Transcript. At one point, I had been on so many police ridealongs, I considered myself a sort of connoisseur of patrol vehicle cages.
When reporting my favorite story —or rather series of stories — I did for the Transcript, I sat in the back of four different patrol cars from four different agencies in two different states, giving me enough experience to be able to say, if forced to choose, I’d prefer to be arrested and taken to jail by the Utah Highway Patrol.
The stories I did for that series in July 2011, “Wendover: Trouble and Hope,” turned out to be just three of the five I would report on in the span of about 28 hours. Then-photo editor Maegan Burr and I spent 22 hours in Wendover, only two of which were spent sleeping, then, as we neared Tooele, saw a pillar of smoke in a mobile home community.
When we reported on that devastating fire, we finally went home, sleep-deprived and smokey. Just as I got out of the shower, relishing in the blissful feeling of someone who has just cleaned herself up and is about to take a nap, a series of sirens flew by my house towards the Grantsville Reservoir, where a boy had almost drowned. I felt like crying, but I still put my shoes on, grabbed my little pink point-and-shoot camera and followed.
That weekend was like journalism on crack.
I got made fun of for that little pink point-and-shoot, but it came in handy as I would report to various emergencies on nights or weekends or whenever a real photographer wasn’t available.
So that made it extra sweet when, in August 2010, a robbery was reported at Walgreen’s and I snapped a few photos of officers handcuffing the robber — because Burr had left for the day with threats against anyone who would ruin her evening plans.
The next year, at the Society of Professional Journalists awards banquet, the story about the robbery netted me first place in criminal justice reporting — and the judges noted the “excellent pictures” that accompanied the story.
Then there was the time Burr and I went out with Tooele County Search and Rescue to cover the effort on finding Spc. Joseph Bushling in May 2011. The morning was cold and rainy and the work tiring. As we broke for lunch, I sat on an old horse trough to eat my sack lunch.
Just as the sun peeked out from behind the clouds, then-Sheriff Frank Park called us over to talk about the search. It was a good thing, too, because moments after I left, a massive rattlesnake crawled out from a hole directly under where I had been sitting. The picture I saw made me glad I had left when I did.
There were fires, floods and gale-force winds, countless neighborhood brawls and bodies found in the desert. I’m a pretty optimistic person, but there were also stories that would chill anyone to the bone, like Spc. Jordan Byrd being killed heroically in action in Afghanistan, the mysterious murder of the grandmotherly Evelyn Derricott, the senseless death of Jesse Horowitz, or either of the two officer-involved shootings. And then there are the dozens upon dozens of sexual assault cases I had to plow through on a regular basis and heavily edit to make them moderately appropriate for audiences.
I always knew the hardest thing about leaving the Transcript would be saying good-bye to the people I worked with, both in the office and in the field. Some of my coworkers have moved on before me — Burr, Jeff Barrus, Rachel Madison and Mark Watson, to name a few — while I’m the one leaving others — Francie Aufdemorte, Dave Bern, Tim Gillie, Emma Penrod, Tavin Stucki and Darren Vaughan — behind. And it’s hard.
It felt like saying good-bye to old friends when I started to tell people I’ve relied on for years to do my job about my departure. One source, after I told him I was quitting, mailed me a card wishing me luck in the future. There were others I didn’t get to tell personally, too, largely because of the holidays, and I am truly sorry for that. Please know you made my job so much easier and more enjoyable with your willingness to communicate and include me at least on the fringes of your world. Thank you.
And to local police chiefs Ron Kirby and Kevin Turner, who both offered to let me get tasered at a future training session, I’m still up for it. Name your day.
Outside of the office and off the clock, as well, this job has had a profound impact on my life. Without this job, I would not have gotten my dog (who is, to be perfectly honest and objective, the best dog on the planet). Without this job, I would not have started dating my current boyfriend. Without this job, I would not have gained the ability to tell how severe any incident is from a mile away based on how many flashing lights there are and what day of the week it is (on slow days and weekends, volunteers are more likely to respond to incidents they wouldn’t normally leave work for).
One column, even one on the longer side like this one’s getting to be, cannot possibly convey all of the experiences I’ve had, all the things I’ve learned, what I wish I had done differently and all the people I credit with making some of the best years of my life (so far) great. But if you even think you had something to do with it, please know you have my sincerest thanks.
This job has been an adventure in every possible way, and some things I miss already. Other things, I know, will creep up in nostalgia later. But nothing lasts forever, and more adventures are waiting. I’m excited to find them.