Interesting stories to cover in 2017

interesting stories 2017 composite

With 2017 about to end, we're talking with a bunch of people about the past year.

Next up: We asked a handful of local reporters about which stories were most interesting to cover this year...

A quick note about what "interesting" means for this question. As we said to the journalists, we weren't looking for the "biggest" or "most important" story that they covered, but rather one that, for whatever reason, ended up being especially interesting to them personally as they covered it.

Geoff Redick - Spectrum News

This story -- "Do the next good thing" -- was "most interesting" to me in two ways. First, it was a rare instance when the reporter beats a viral story to the punch -- that is to say, I think our Spectrum News report helped it go "viral." Once we aired the story, we offered it to our national affiliate CNN, and more than 130 stations across the country picked it up. That's huge!

Second, and more importantly, what Jeff Buell is doing is unheard of: giving away $100 bills to random people, occasionally gifting larger sums, and all in the name of simple kindness. How often does someone have $50,000 of their own money to spend, and do it in this way? I'd venture to guess it's "never."

Geoff Redick was a reporter for Spectrum News. He just recently moved to a new reporting job at ABC6 Columbus, Ohio. | @geoffredick

Michael DeMasi - Albany Business Review

Walking inside the old Central Warehouse in north Albany -- aka "The Big Ugly" -- with the new owner, Evan Blum, was worth the long wait. I was joined by our photographer, Donna Abbott-Vlahos, and digital editor, Mike DeSocio, who produced a fantastic slideshow and video. Thousands of drivers pass by the decrepit building every day on 787, no doubt thinking, "What the... ?" Blum is a soft-spoken, determined, 63-year-old visual artist who owns a successful architectural salvage business in Harlem. He has many ideas for what to do with the run-down concrete fortress. The question now is whether he'll be able to pull together the money, and the permits, to open the doors to the public. I hope he does.

Michael DeMasi is reporter for the Albany Business Review. | @albbizmiked

Sara Foss - Daily Gazette

The most interesting story I wrote last year looked at the Capital Region's high African American infant mortality rates -- a sad fact of life I don't think most people are aware of. As an Albany resident, I was shocked to learn that Albany has the highest African American infant mortality rate in the state. What made this story most interesting to me was speaking with women who lost their babies shortly after birth, and learning about the lasting trauma a loss like that leaves.

Sara Foss is the news columnist for the Daily Gazette. | @saraafoss

Chelsea Diana - Albany Business Review

The most interesting stories are often based off simple questions. Since joining the Business Review, I've attended events where I was the only woman, or one of a few women, in the room. It bothered me, and sparked conversations in the office about what it is like to be the only woman at a conference, on a board or in the c-suite.

Those conversations turned into interviews with more than 20 women, and a cover story: "Twice as hard, twice as long, twice as carefully."

I started reporting it six months ago, before the allegations against Harvey Weinstein, Mario Batali, Matt Lauer, etc. came into focus. We published a story filled with the voices of some of the most powerful businesswomen in the Albany area. They spoke about the divides that still exist between men and women in the workplace. It is an important story that the Business Review will keep covering.

Chelsea Diana is a reporter for the Albany Business Review. | @AlbBizChelsea

Keshia Clukey - Politico

I definitely have to say the hearing regarding the removal of Carl Paladino from the Buffalo school board. It started last December with the derogatory comments Paladino made about the Obamas, but little did I know that my reporting would continue into the following August -- including nearly a week of sitting in the State Education Building in June for his removal hearing.

It was exciting to cover, with the story gathering national attention and the Buffalo developer and former state GOP gubernatorial candidate taking heat from state leaders, national organizations, and Buffalo community members.

But it was the intricacies of the issue that made it interesting to cover. There was the question of his First Amendment rights versus his role as a school board member. While there was a lot of emotion surrounding the racist comments, the true story wasn't about them. His removal came down to the disclosure of confidential information regarding teachers' contract negotiations.

I found the technical nature of the hearing and charges fascinating, especially as it played out in the first year of the Trump administration -- an administration Paladino campaigned for, which is known for its controversial comments and outspoken nature.

And it may not be the end because after a certain time period, Paladino can choose to run for the board again.

Keshia Clukey is an education reporter for Politico based at the state Capitol. | @KeshiaClukey

Amanda Fries - Times Union

Those who have been following my work this year know a great deal of it centered around the contentious Albany mayoral race and the local elections, so it's always nice when you find a more interesting way to present often tedious coverage.

Mayoral candidates Common Council member Frank Commisso Jr. and Mayor Kathy Sheehan provided that opportunity when they participated in the fire department's Fire Ops 101 earlier this year. Not only did this relieve me from writing another story about the candidates' loathing of one another, but I had the chance to participate as well and get a personal glimpse into the world of a firefighter.

Strapped in gear over half my body weight and gloves that were even too big for my long fingers, I hooked up a hose to a fire hydrant, crawled blindfolded in a room to remove a 160-pound body (there's a reason it's called dead weight) and even had Commisso's back as he operated a fire hose (I wonder if he recalls that?).

The personal experience of getting a taste of what it's like to be a firefighter was humbling. As a reporter, you're on the sidelines of what is often a dangerous situation. While fire personnel can describe the conditions and what they battled, there's nothing like being in the thick of it.

That day I gained more appreciation for those willing to run toward danger, and any time I get a deeper look into the topics and people I cover I consider that a benefit to my career and personal growth.

Amanda Fries is a reporter for the Times Union. | @mandy_fries

Elizabeth Floyd Mair - Altamont Enterprise

For me, the most interesting story that I wrote this year was about the OSHA trial of Tony Watson, who owns the woodchipper that ingested Justus Booze headfirst last May, ending his life in an instant during Booze's first day on the job as a temp worker.

Booze, who was 23, had come up through the foster care system and yet had embraced the role of family man: He was living with his fiancée and her three children and was excited about becoming a husband and father. He wanted to contribute to the household and agreed to work that day for $60, less than minimum wage.

OSHA wants Watson to pay $141,000 in fines for "willful" and "serious" violations that exposed his workers, including Booze, to the risk of death and injury. Watson says he can't and shouldn't have to pay that much.

At the trial, we learned about the often-contradictory orders Watson gave his workers, and the scant training he gave them, on the fly. We learned Watson was busy all day cutting up trees with a chainsaw and wasn't watching his workers load the woodchipper. We learned Watson lives in his late mother's home, lives from paycheck to paycheck, and has no savings.

OSHA says the fines will serve as a deterrent to other tree-care service owners.

After the trial ended, Watson looked lost and exhausted and told The Enterprise that, with all the money the government poured into the trial, it could simply have lowered his fines to make them more realistic.

The OSHA judge who came from Washington, DC to Albany to hear the case is expected to rule in February.

Elizabeth Floyd Mair is the Guilderland reporter for The Altamont Enterprise & Albany County Post.

Chris Churchill - Times Union

This one is easy. No story that I covered this year came close to being as interesting -- and distressing -- as the situation up on Roxham Road in the town of Champlain, near Plattsburgh.

Roxham Road is a tiny rural byway that, for all sorts of reasons, has become a primary exit point for thousands of migrants fleeing the United States for asylum in Quebec. It's an example of a big national story (immigration policy) affecting a rural New York town. It's also a profoundly human story, Really, it's hard to overstate the heartbreaking drama of the scene there, and yet most New Yorkers don't seem to realize it's happening.

Chris Churchill is a columnist for the Times Union. | @chris_churchill

Luke Stoddard Nathan - The Alt

In November I reported that, according to a complaint filed with the state Inspector General's office, several SUNY New Paltz police officers allegedly slept on the job and falsified time sheets. The story was largely based on three documents I obtained through a Freedom of Information Law request: (i) a log of the complaint, (ii) a referral from the IG to SUNY for further review, and (iii) a letter from SUNY to the IG announcing the conclusion of that review.

The paper trail raised many questions that I still cannot answer. What, for instance, were the "certain disciplinary actions" taken by SUNY, referenced in one letter? The mix of newly revealed secrets and lingering mysteries, all reflected in documents that might otherwise have never seen the light of day, made for an intriguing adventure in bureaucracy.

Luke Stoddard Nathan is the news editor at The Alt. | @lukestdnathan

Jon Campbell - USA Today Network's Albany Bureau

The constitutional convention vote. The whole debate over a constitutional convention appealed to the politics/government nerd in me because the possibilities were endless and it's a once-in-a-generation vote. But the most fascinating thing to see was how much the issue - an important but very dry issue - resonated with the generally public. I feared that the con con question would be an afterthought. But voters flipped their ballot and cast their votes at an incredibly high rate for a ballot question. Only 6 percent of folks who cast a ballot left the con con question blank. That's unheard of. It also served as a reminder of the incredible organizing power unions have in this state. They turned out the "no" vote at an incredibly high rate.

Jon Campbell is a reporter for the USA Today Network's Albany Bureau. | @JonCampbellGAN

Abigail Bleck - WNYT NewsChannel 13

At a time when the phrase "Fake News" has transcended national media and trickled down into local media (I can't even tell you how often people yell this at us now), it's nice to do a story that's important to a lot of people, regardless of their beliefs.

For me, this year, that was breaking the news that the beloved Playdium bowling alley would be knocked down and replaced with apartments and mixed-use business. For many people in the neighborhood, my story was the first time they heard about the plans. Those who weren't affected directly still cared about the redevelopment because the Playdium has been a part of so many people's lives over the years and they were very sad to see it go. You know your story resonates when you log on to Facebook and everyone in your feed has shared the link -- that was most definitely the case with the Playdium piece.

Abigail Bleck is a reporter for WNYT NewsChannel 13 | @ABleck_WNYT
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That Was 2017
+ Favorite local foods 2017

Comments

Interesting! Could we also ask local reporters to predict the local stories to cover in 2018?

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