"Let's get this thing rolling."
I once heard an editor compare working in New Jersey to hunting in a game preserve. Much like their cousins in South Florida, Jersey politicians never cease to provide a wealth of good stories.
A week or so ago, we got one of those stories when federal investigators launched the latest in their regular series of corruption arrests of politicians.
Of the dozen or so public officials arrested statewide on charges of accepting bribes, four come from our coverage area in Passaic County. Each was accused of taking thousands of dollars–one was to allegedly have his bribe wired to an account in the Dominican Republic after being laundered in Switzerland–in exchange for arranging municipal insurance and roofing contracts.
Since our City Editor departed for the snowy vistas of Minnesota last month, I’ve been filling in as an assistant editor on the desk. As this story broke about 9 a.m. on a Thursday, I got to really sink my teeth into managing this story. We deployed 11 of our 13 city desk reporters to cover the news. Then we wrangled another three reporters from the features desk to lend a hand.
We put out a barrage of stories in Friday’s paper: from the reaction of the constituents to the immediate political wrangling that erupted over the pending election for the seat of the Assemblyman/Undersheriff/Clergyman who was arrested. We also had a nice profile of the former professional wrestler and cop-turned-mayor who got caught in the sting. Our lead piece used some of the text from the federal complaints and wiretaps to analyze the differing leadership styles of the two arrested heavyweights from our area.
And then at 3 p.m. on the same day, they shut down the entire school system in the city of Paterson for fire code violations. So we had to scramble two more reporters to handle that story.
It was a great rush to work on a big breaking story from the other side of the assigning desk, moving reporters and resources around to handle the emerging threads of the news. I got to chip in by doing some backgrounding of some of the arrested pols, but I didn’t get to be as hands-on as I normally would. Thankfully, there will surely be more stories like this coming down the road.
And three days later, while working a weekend shift as a humble reporter, I finally got my shot to write a piece of the story.
So it goes.