Column - A decade of story tellingThe people. The lives. The stories. Over the last 10 years as a news reporter for the Echo Press, I have had the opportunity to meet some of the most incredible people, learn about their lives – some were awe-inspiring, some were jaw-dropping – and share the stories with our readers, through print media and the Internet.
By: Celeste Beam, Alexandria Echo Press
Over the last 10 years as a news reporter for the Echo Press, I have had the opportunity to meet some of the most incredible people, learn about their lives – some were awe-inspiring, some were jaw-dropping – and share the stories with our readers, through print media and the Internet.
When I started at the newspaper in May of 1999, I was an intern, working on the Vacationer, the free summer publication that runs from fishing opener through Labor Day. At that time, I had only lived in the Alexandria area for about a year.
Working at the newspaper was a great way for me to learn about the community and meet new people.
Toward the end of my internship, a full-time reporter position opened up and I snuck right in. I was more than delighted to find a job in my field even before I finished school. My journey as a full-time news reporter began in the fall of 1999.
Over the last decade, I couldn’t even begin to count the number of people I have met. I am betting it’s in the thousands. Not that I have interviewed that many people, mind you, but I have probably met that many people. On a side note, if I see you on the street and don’t call you by name or accidentally call you the wrong name, now you know why.
I am honored to be celebrating my 10-year anniversary with this newspaper and would like to share just two of the many stories I have had the opportunity to write.
One of the first memorable stories was one about a micro-preemie who came into this world weighing 1-pound, 8.5 ounces. Her name is Arianna Jo Janssen and she is now 9 years old and has a little brother, Maxwell. I see her parents, Scott and Kellie, occasionally, and still remember my first interview with them. I was so nervous, but they made me feel so at ease.
Two years after Arianna Jo was born, I received another opportunity to visit with the Janssens and hear about the milestones their daughter had hit and how well she was doing.
I still think of that little baby and how fragile she was when she was born. I think of the obstacles she and her parents had to overcome.
Her story still inspires me. She inspires me.
Another story – another person – who I will never forget, although sadly, I never had the opportunity to meet, is Kelsey Kjos.
My work at the newspaper isn’t always fun. Unfortunately, we have to tell of the tragedies as well. And the loss of Kelsey was tragic. On November 8, 2004, I had the misfortune of being on scanner duty, which meant I had to cover the car accident that took place that afternoon. I had to go to the scene of the crash and take pictures. Little did I know at the time it was 17-year-old Kelsey who died.
Six months after tragedy struck the Kjos family, I sat down with Loni and David, Kelsey’s parents, in their living room for an interview. While they poured their hearts out to me about how the loss of their daughter impacted their family and the lesson they hoped everyone learned, I had to keep my composure. Little did they know I fought back tears through every minute of that interview.
As a reporter, I often have to turn off my emotions – something that is not always an easy task.
Shortly after Kelsey died, students at her school started the Klick It for Kelsey campaign, reminding people to always buckle their seat belts. Kelsey, who always wore hers, happened to not put it on the day she died.
Kelsey’s mother went to battle over Minnesota adopting a primary seat belt law. Loni devoted much of her time and energy to this issue, which was near and dear to her heart. She even spoke at the Capitol numerous times asking legislators to pass the primary seat belt law.
Her efforts, along with many others, paid off in June of this year when the primary seat belt law was passed. Law enforcement officers can now pull people over if they see they are not buckled up.
Whenever I see Loni or David out and about in the community, I still think of that day when I sat in their living room listening to them tell Kelsey’s story. And every time I buckle up, I think of Kelsey.
Although those are just two of the stories I will never forget – one of life just beginning and another of a life lost – there are many, many more that have touched my heart, whether through joy or sorrow, humor or hope.
I am thankful to have the opportunity to work at the Echo Press and share the stories – inspiring and tragic – with this community.
And I am thankful to the community for reading the stories I write and hope to continue reporting the news for many more decades to come.