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Change of Pace

By RD Heldenfels Published: October 29, 2005

''Why is an entertainment guy making calls?'' a police officer asked me this morning.

''You must have (ticked) somebody off,'' said another.

I was just doing my job. The Beacon Journal rotates most of its reporters into weekend shifts, and today was finally my turn.

Instead of watching TV and writing about it, I found myself calling local police and fire departments, asking a medical examiner for information and covering a local congressman giving out service awards to high school students.

For a few hours, I was the only person in the place. So I also answered phone calls, most of which involved the sports department, which wasn't open yet. Still, I managed to come up with the answer to a question about the time of the Akron-Bowling Green football game and the score in an Akron soccer game the day before.

There was also a story I was slow in getting to, which meant that I didn't get the information I wanted, and I kicked myself a bunch of times for not  doing better. That, and other things, reminded me how long I have been a specialist.

Yes, I have done hard-news stories, although they have been tied to entertainment or TV in some ways, and I have written on deadline a lot. But the last time I had to make police calls was long before I came to the Beacon Journal, and I have been here since 1994.

And, judging from those comments I mentioned at the top of this piece, some people were surprised to find me operating outside my specialty. Me, too. We hear a lot of complaints about ''the media,'' which always suggest that news organizations collectively form a monolith. (It's especially funny when members of ''the media'' attack ''the media'' as if it was something apart from their work.) but even within a single news organization, individuals do different kinds of jobs in different ways.

The basics -- in print, giving people something they want to read -- may be the same from one job to the next. But there are nuanced differences between a columnist and a regular reporter, or someone who writes mainly breaking news and someone who can devote their time to features.

And even within such categories you can find distinctions -- that the expectations for a Judith Miller, say, or a Mitch Albom, are different than for another person having the same title but far less status. When I took on a different task today, it wasn't just a matter of changing my desk and making different calls. It was, for a day at least, about becoming someone else. I'm glad to go back to being myself.

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