We ran into Carlos Bocanegra at Krankies on Tuesday morning, just one of those random interactions that happens in downtown Winston-Salem all day long. But Gale couldn’t know that, because at that point she had lived in the Camel City for less than a week.
Our new CityBeat reporter, blessedly, chose Winston-Salem as home base for her residence — good for us because the lack of depth in our reporting there needs to be addressed. And a reporter, ideally, needs to live in the city they’re covering.
We benefit from what I call a “low cover charge” in the Triad, but I know my friends at altweeklies across the country are having problems finding housing in their respective cities. Years ago, when my friend Kevin Allmann was still editor of Gambit in New Orleans, he told me that if his rent in Mid City went up one more time he’d have to move to Arabi. Chris Faraone, editor of Dig Boston, told me that the only reason he could live inside city limits was because he got the crap kicked out of him by officers from the New York Police Department during the Occupy Wall Street days. They broke his arm, but the cash settlement with the department enabled him to buy a house in Boston. On the whole, he says it was a fair trade-off. The rest of his staff lives outside the city, when they’re not crashing at his place.
So it’s a special place she comes to in these early days of her journalism career: a city that’s vibrant, but with plenty of room to grow; a beat that’s underserved, allowing for big news breaks; job security, in that her salary is being covered by a nonprofit grant from the NC Local News Lab Fund. Not every young reporter can say such things.
And sure, she’s green right now — we all were when we first latched on. But she’ll learn soon enough about Monstercade, Bocanegra’s avant-garde temple of high weirdness, that it’s easier to get a table at Krankies than at Camino on Fourth Street, where to find the best free parking spots downtown and everything else the natives know.
There’s no better way to get to know a city than to be a reporter working in it. At least, that’s how it happened for me.
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