Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Loss of Plain Dealer high school writers is saddening

I am saddened by the news of Wednesday's layoffs at The Plain Dealer.
A handful of employees at the paper agreed to voluntary layoffs and severance packages. Others had to wait by the phone Wednesday at 10 a.m. to hear their fate.
Among the layoffs were a handful of high school sports reporters who weren't just colleagues, but friends.
The PD reporters helped me immensely in my 19-year career at The Morning Journal in Lorain and The News-Herald in Willoughby.
It was a pleasure to cover sporting events with them in the rain, snow, mud and heat. They knew their beats so well and their extensive years of experience taught me how to better cover my beats.
When I took over the girls basketball beat at The News-Herald, I didn't know a single coach or player in the area. Bob Fortuna, who had been covering the beat for several years, helped guide me through my first year. He introduced me to players, coaches and gave me story ideas on area teams.
When I had a question about something, I didn't hesitate to call him.
When it was time to assemble the area all-district teams, Fortuna took the time to put together countless pages of invaluable notes.
I could not have gotten through my first all-district meeting without him.
He's an all-around good guy, just like the rest of the high school staff.
At the beginning of my career, I covered a boxing match with Joe Maxse at Grays Armory in Cleveland. It was my first boxing match, and I wore a white shirt. It wasn't a smart move to wear a white shirt when you are sitting right next to the ring.
Maxse, who is the best boxing writer I've ever read, told me to never wear a white shirt again when covering a boxing match.
We still laugh about it.
Last year when I went to cover the girls state golf tournament in Columbus, Tim Rogers took the time to walk the course with me so I could get a feel for how to cover the event. He knew everyone on the course and didn't hesitate to help me throughout the day.
Mike Peticca and I bonded at state track meets. The former Indians beat writer has some amazing stories. Every year at the state track meet, I looked forward to catching up with him as we sat in the sweltering heat in the middle of the track at Columbus. It helped me get through the long, grueling days.
Honestly, it won't be the same without them on their respective beats when the high school season starts this year. They cared so much. It was evident in the way they dealt with coaches, players and the style in which they wrote their stories.
After covering an event with one of them, I always looked forward to reading their stories the following day and comparing them to mine.
Did we use the same quotes?
What was their angle to the story?
What type of catchy lead did they come up with?
I appreciated them when they were with The Plain Dealer, and I appreciate their help even more now that they are gone.
It just won't be the same without them.

-Theresa Neuhoff Audia



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