by Karina Coombs
[Reprinted from the original Carlisle Mosquito article found here.]
It’s not often that you get a chance to reinvent yourself and when it happens in your mid-40s, and you thought those chances had all but passed, you take it. Newly arrived in Carlisle, I first met the Mosquito’s General Manager Susan Emmons on the playground of the Red Balloon preschool. We talked about what it was like to live in a small town before she casually asked if I’d like to write for the newspaper. Without her knowing it at the time, she offered me the opportunity to pursue a dream I had shelved long ago, as well as a way back into the workforce after seven years of being a stay at home parent.
If you want to learn about your community, reading the newspaper is a good way to start. But if you really want to know how it ticks from the inside out, its myriad of boards and players and how they fit together, writing for the newspaper is the way to go. There are the big town boards to cover of course, followed by those lesser known before you get to the more obscure boards. Have I mentioned the subcommittees? Each of these is made up of volunteers: well-intentioned, smart and interesting people that make decisions every day about Carlisle and its 5,000 residents and nearly 30 million dollar budget. But for board members and a reporter (if one is available), these sometimes far-reaching outcomes and the debate that precedes them are made largely without anyone else in attendance.
My first beat was covering the Board of Health—the introduction of this urban dweller to the very real and terrifying existence of septic systems and wells (and everything that can go wrong with them). The online Mosquito web archives, Google searches of countless acronyms and the very capable editing hands of Betsy Fell made each article a little easier to write than the one before. My new-found septic knowledge also had tangible benefits, giving me the confidence needed to eventually buy a house in town with a system of my very own. The feature articles I would write for editor Ann Quenin showed me another dimension of Carlisle and allowed me to meet people I would not have met otherwise, but whose contributions help to make the town what it is.
Four years later—the Red Balloon now gone—I’m still on the Mosquito masthead. Dozens of my news articles and features now rest in the online archives for others to refer to, part of Carlisle’s history and my own. My writing has shifted from town government to features now that I sit on a board, which I credit to years of watching, reading and writing about others doing the same. I’ve even gotten paid to write for others because of my work at the paper, something I could not have imagined while raking mulch that day in 2012.
What I value most from my time at the Mosquito, however, and why I continue to write and encourage others every chance I get, is a new found appreciation of and respect for journalism and the role it plays in society, now more than ever. As one of the few remaining independent newspapers, I see firsthand the importance and necessity of the Mosquito when it comes to local news coverage about our fair city in the woods. Besides, where else could someone have her breakout article involve the care and feeding of septic systems? (See “How to care for a septic system,” February 4, 2015.) ∆