Every newsroom has quirky items sitting around, but The New Mexican is winning so far. A large teddy bear sits in the corner, yet no one can really explain why or where he came from, so he forever languishes in a sun-lit corner of the newsroom.
“No one’s quite sure how that bear got here, but it’s been here for a long time,” reporter Robert Nott tells me. “The bear and the sock monkey are left over.”
I don’t see a sock money, but decide to trust him.
A cascading string of origami birds hangs from the ceiling. A camouflage bowling pin with gold butterflies sits on a filing cabinet, a random reminder that ordinary things can be made extraordinary.
Despite these fun visual cues, the day I arrive the staff is somber, still covering a shooting the day before. City Editor Cynthia Miller fills me in on details after Nott gives me a tour of the building:
Tim Baca and his wife were out celebrating her birthday and struck up a conversation with another man, Christopher Owens, and enjoyed the night until, apparently, the two men argued over a song and Owens allegedly shot Baca. The father of four was dead when police arrived on the scene. This came on the heels of a deadly shooting spree just a couple of days earlier.
Many local newsrooms are quiet on Sundays and this is no exception. The only noise is the police scanner in the background as Cynthia talks. Like many journalists, Miller found the profession through her love for creative writing, but that blossomed into a love for journalism, from crime stories to profiles on college graduates.
“I take it personally when I’m looking at my Facebook feed and I see all of these things about ‘the media, the media the lamestream media.’ I consider us to be fairly mainstream media because we’re a local newspaper. We don’t have an agenda — we do have an agenda actually — we are in a state that struggles with poverty, struggles with education, struggles with all sorts of social justice issues, environmental justice issues and we’re interested in letting the community know why these issues are important, how these issues affect our lives and finding solutions.”
Miller talks about how the media is demonized until someone needs to know information, a common thread I’ve heard in newsrooms I’ve visited on my project trip.