The long, strange road ahead, and the one behind

daniel-offnerBy DANIEL OFFNER
For those who say community beat reporting is a thankless occupation, one in which you work countless hours to write local stories each week hoping people in the community will care enough to pick up a copy of the newspaper and read them, the truth is, hyper-local news may be one of the most thank-filled occupations there is.

Any local issue, no matter how big or how small; how important or seemingly trivial it may be, if your words and your research are compelling, people will read you and, often, they will have something to say.

Serving as the beat reporter assigned to cover the Town/Village of Harrison for the past two years, I have been fortunate enough to work in such community; to meet new people who care so passionately for their town, their schools, their neighborhoods and, of course, their sports teams.

When I first joined the Hometown Media Group staff, I was but a novice, a rookie reporter straight out of college, diving headfirst into the real world. The intensity of such a leap felt overwhelming at first—I learned the frustration of waiting on phone calls while reporting on a strict deadline—but, somehow, someway I managed to persevere.

During my time on the beat, I had many encounters, witnessed several prolific events and had experiences that are sure to stick with me for a lifetime.

I’ve met one-on-one with members of the Westchester County Board of Legislators, New York State Assembly and Senate, the United States Congress and, most recently, I was given the opportunity to interview the Democratic challenger in the race for Westchester County Executive, New Rochelle Mayor Noam Bramson. I was even able to shake hands with Gov. Andrew Cuomo last year at Manhattanville College.

Outside the political sphere, my occupation as a local reporter in the Sound Shore area gave me the chance to interview up-and-coming artists TimeFlies from Mamaroneck, hike the Silver Lake Park preserve, explore the history behind Reid Castle at Manhattanville College and I even got to shake hands with celebrities like Yankees skipper Joe Girardi and Brooklyn-rapper Talib Kweli.

As I honed my skills at Hometown Media Group, people who first looked at me as just a “kid” reporter soon took notice of my listening skills and my capabilities as a journalist.

Perhaps my crowning moment came on July 19, 2013, when, after a month of research, math equations, writing and rewriting, the Harrison Review published my two-page article on the history of capital borrowing in town. An eye-opening piece, the story quickly made a buzz in the community.

Over time, I found myself a more competent and well-rounded reporter, ever vigilant to provide you, the reader, with what you need to know and why it is important that you know it.

As I ready to leave Westchester for my new home in Nassau County, I hope to bring the same zeal, optimism and dedication to community journalism I have tried to provide these past two years writing for The Harrison Review.

Despite the fact that I will no longer be a Westchester resident, I will keep my ears and eyes open as the November elections roll around. In closing, I want to say thank you to everyone for making my experience in the community so rewarding. Peace.