Rockeaters? Hillbillies? Not hardly, says I

Every day, I get the opportunity to meet and speak with some very interesting people in our beautiful North Country. Contrary to the belief by some writers for Saturday Night Live that Gov. Paterson views us as "rockeaters" or "hillbillies" - an infamous viewpoint that if you haven't heard you can Google the topic and find hundreds of listings - there are many amazing people here.

One such person is Walter Mitchell, a man who lives in the town of Peru. I had the privilege of being invited into Walter's home for a story that actually appears in this week's edition about students taking an "alternative spring break" by helping the elderly in the area. He spoke with me about how students helped last year by installing some doors for him in his home, a project that can be an undertaking for a person in their 80s (Incidentally, Walter celebrated his 87th birthday March 5, the day after we talked, so happy birthday, Walter!).

I have to say I got more enjoyment from our brief conversation in his living room sitting by his woodstove than I've ever gotten sitting in a press conference or chasing down a lead for a breaking news story. Not that those things aren't important, but it's connecting with our readers, readers like Walter, that make you remember why you got into this job in the first place. They're the ones whose lives you try to touch with your words, with the stories you tell.

We're always looking for interesting people to speak with ... ones who tell us their stories. Recently, I saw a broadcast of the CBS show Sunday Morning, in which correspondent Steve Hartman reflected on a segment he used to do called "Everybody Has a Story." The premise was he would take a dart, aim it blindly at a map of the United States, and go to wherever the darted landed. There, he would open the phone book, pick a number at random, and speak to that person. Whomever he found, he found with them, an interesting story.

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