Tell us your story: Former newsies reflect on their time in journalism

The Minnesota pro chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists salutes former journalists who have moved on to new adventures.  In this ongoing series, we invite newsies to reflect on their time in the news business.  Here is the first entry, from John Welsh, who spent two decades in the trade:

John Welsh, a registered nurse, worked for the St. Cloud Times and the St. Paul Pioneer Press.
John Welsh, now a registered nurse, worked as a reporter for the St. Cloud Times and the St. Paul Pioneer Press.

Here’s what I miss most: the non-fatal fire.  In 20-plus years of newspaper work, I covered high school wrestling meets, regional trash commission meetings, mass shootings, Presidential appearances and funny pet stories.  But, really, does anything else reflect the joy and fun of being a reporter like a good non-fatal fire?  Each time, whether the fire was big or small, you had the classic ingredients for a story: a villain (the fire) and a hero (the fire fighters).  And, unless it was a springtime grass fire that lingered for days, the hero usually got the fire out before deadline.

Non-fatal fires always got better play than they deserved because flames and smoke equal good art and that’s the ticket to the front.  Of course, sometimes people or pets died in the fires.  Then the story arc became tragic and while some reporters may secretly yearn to write about tragedy, I never did.  Heroes bravely rushing in to save life and property to knock down a fire — that’s the story I wanted to tell.  I miss that.  It was fun.  And here’s the important part: when reporting is done well — on a fire story or any story — it is extremely valuable for our society.  It connects people to one another.  It builds community.

I commend those who are entering or sticking it out in journalism as it reinvents itself.  This messed-up world desperately needs good reporters.  And as you tweet, post online, create a podcast or write the story for the next day’s paper, I hope the fun of being a reporter remains, whether it is at the scene of a fire, a city council hearing or one of those awful regional trash commission meetings.

John Welsh worked for 20 years at newspapers across the Midwest, including six years at the St. Cloud Times and ten years at the St. Paul Pioneer Press.  In 2009 he became a registered nurse.  Twitter: @JohnWelshRN.

Have a reflection to share?  Send it to the Minnesota SPJ at