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Tahoe people impress

It’s something in the air up here. The higher the elevation, the friendlier people get.

Not likely, but after interviewing Peter Paine and Johnny B., co-owners of Pete ‘N Peters sports bar in Tahoe City, I came to the conclusion that Tahoe people are cool Ð or easy-going, if you don’t prefer slang. More importantly, they’re cool to journalists. Maybe there is something to wanting your name in the paper, but I’ve never had someone turn their back on me when asking their permission to do a story.

I also understand that I’m not exactly running an investigative journalism gig here, but the journalist could easily be conceived as the enemy; in Tahoe, I have even been embraced and sometimes invited into people’s homes without question. Well into my fifth month at the Sierra Sun, I have been generally and genuinely impressed with the community attitude around the lake. For that, I want to say a collective thank you to all.



I’ll never forget the nervous feeling I had when I drove up Northwoods Boulevard for my first major story about Mark Wellman and friends conquering the White Rim Trail in Utah. On a frigid late-November day, Wellman greeted me in his garage and immediately began chatting with me about the trek like I was an old friend. He told it like it was and expected me to give it the same accurate treatment (he and two friends were the first disabled persons to scale the 100-plus-mile dirt trail). I have that initial interview experience and overall story to thank for kicking things off the “write” way back in November.

Then there was Tom Day, who made my job transition to Truckee really comforting. Day had taken photos of Wellman and his buddies in Utah and had also done filming in a Warren Miller film that was showing in South Lake Tahoe Ð the focus of my second major story at the Sun. Day was just as hospitable as Wellman. His wife even offered me a plate of lasagna and green salad as I waited for Day to speak with me. After chatting with his family for a bit, Day took me to his cabin and let me ask as many questions as I wanted about Wellman’s trek and his work with Warren Miller.



What was unexpected in my rookie journalist mind was that Wellman and Day didn’t concern themselves with whether or not I had made a name for myself in journalism, or in the area. I had barely turned 22 and had just finished a stint working for my uncle’s construction company. I’d be pretty concerned telling my story to such a green journalist, but then I’m not from Tahoe. I live down around 4,000 feet in a place called Reno, where people worry about that kind of stuff (just playing along with the elevation thing).

Then there was a feature story about a local man Jim Morrison, who had survived a terrible skiing accident in Russia (and runs a local construction company). I had the worst feeling when I drove up to his work site in Olympic Valley and saw his crew breaking for lunch Ð like I was surely not wanted here. I couldn’t be. I had to make small talk with the crew until Morrison drove up about 10 minutes later. After he directed the crew to the task at hand, I thought he would turn to me and say, “All right, make it quick, and tell it right.” But he didn’t. He pulled up a chair and let me ask him questions for about a half hour. I also spoke to his wife on her cell phone while she was on business in the Bay Area.

I realize this is the natural vibe of journalism Ð asking people questions at the oddest times Ð but it’s the good-natured attitude of people that really impress me about this place. It’s the Brad Maddens who let me in their homes on weekdays and put in the extra work to make sure the story is accurate. It’s the Jeff Geigles who take me into their businesses and chat about life and why they chose Tahoe over the East Coast. It’s the Brenton Woos who draw attention to their cause so that the community is aware of what they’re trying to accomplish. It’s about the high school coaches who fax in the scores on time, so their players can get their names in the paper. After all, it’s really about the kids.

It’s about every one who realizes that journalists have a difficult job, because one word can damage the fabric of a story that may have been written during a full day of interruption and perhaps into the wee hours of the morning; then designing a page and reading the story again and again. Finally, it’s the people who recognize that work by saying thank you: “Thank you for getting it right.” That’s the best reward for a journalist, but definitely not expected. I follow the rule, “No news is good news.”

Maybe that’s why Barry Bonds is always in a bad mood, because he’s stuck down there at sea level. As for up here at the Lake, maybe people start getting cranky when the snow melts and the fish stop biting, but so far I have no major complaints about the people I have dealt with.

Along the same lines of cool Tahoe people, last Friday marked a sad day at the Sun, as we said goodbye to our editor Jim Scripps. Personally, I owe a lot to Scripps because he gave me a job that has saved my sanity. Writing about sports is a dream I’ve held on to since I could formulate a sentence, and to be able to do it as a living is truly a blessing. Scripps was a patient teacher and a respectful boss, never frustrated by me learning and polishing the journalism skills that I never touched in college.

Scripps will be sorely missed here, and if I achieve even half of what lies in my dreamy sports mind, I will owe a lot to Scripps for giving me that initial chance that is so tough to get out of college. But we can take comfort in not letting Scripps drift too far away, as he will take over shortly as the new editor of the Tahoe Daily Tribune.

Thanks, Jim.

Matt Brown is sports editor at the Sierra Sun.


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