Changes to the Newsroom

This is a solemn week here at the Daily Inter Lake. It is the final week for our news editor, Scott Crandell. After 26 years with the paper he has announced his retirement and is heading off to whatever adventures life has for him next. We’ve asked what his plans are, but he seems to revel in not having plans for a bit. From a man who plans out every day of the paper, and has lists and assignments and back up plans for when plan A falls through, this really is a new chapter.

Scott has been the rock of the newsroom and he will be missed.

Scott’s leaving comes very close to my seven year anniversary with the paper. I remember distinctly when I did my phone interview with Managing Editor Frank Meile, Features Editor Lynnette Hintze and News Editor Scott Crandell. I lived in Washington DC and could not come out for an in person interview. And yet, a few days later they offered me the job, and shortly after that I was packed up and driving all the way across the country to be a newspaper photographer living inside a postcard. I am still so deeply grateful.

But as Scott prepares to leave my mind has been puzzling over what I have learned from him in the seven years. What are the lessons I want to hold onto? What do I want to carry forward and remember?

Here are the first lessons that come to mind. I'm sure more will pop up as the days go by:

Don’t be afraid to ask questions: even if you are wrong it is better to ask the question before the story goes into print. If you think something is wrong, check and double check. If it turns out the story is correct, there is no punishment for you for second-guessing because above all accuracy matters.

Communicate in a straightforward manner. I am not a reporter, but the few times I have written stories, Scott has been on me to keep my words limited. Find the point. Communicate it clearly and concisely. That attitude spills over into photography as well. Scott has an abhorrence of the use of a tilted horizon in photos. He wants the images real, not gimmicky.

Carry a map. We live in one of the more remote parts of the United States and out here, Google maps, Mapquest and others get it wrong…frequently. Use the technology, but don’t rely on it. How many times have I had to call Scott from somewhere in the Valley and ask him to check the map he always keeps at his desk and help re-direct me? I never counted, but the number is high.

Help your people. Scott is a good manager because he works hard, but still makes time to gently steer his team. Compliments from him aren’t flying at you a mile a minute, but when they are there, they are worth so very much because they are said thoughtfully and after careful consideration. When Scott says, “Good job,” it carries weight.

Have a Plan B. In this business we have pages to fill every day. And sometimes, even the bet laid plans fall through. By keeping his eyes and ears and mind open, Scott is taking in information, constantly readjusting and shifting the pieces so that those daily needs get met, even when a major assignment is suddenly canceled and we’re all in scramble mode.

It’s all about the news. In journalism we use the terms hard news for unplanned events like floods, fires, avalanches, bears, all the stuff that comes without warning or prep time. Soft news events are the ones that come with press releases like politicians speaking, annual events like Memorial Day, parades, fairs, things that are not remotely spontaneous. One of the things I love best about working for Scott is his attitude about the news. He will add hours to his day to scrap a fully designed page and even hold the presses for a story that is worth it. When I am covering some breaking news event I know I can call him, tell him how good the images are, and I know he will back me up and do all the added work to get the photos in the paper the next day. Scott cares about correct information but also in the most timely manner.

On Thursday, the newsroom gathered to hear Scott say farewell. My favorite comments from the day came from Seaborn (who said that he once believed Scott’s spirit animal must be an octopus) and from Lynnette who has work here for 23 years. Lynnette said that Scott’s would be the voice in our heads gently guiding onward. She was right. By his commitment to the best aspect of journalism, Scott Crandell made every one of us better.