Cafe on The Corner burnt down [Pictures]

The Lookout Mountain Fire Department shut down Scenic Highway to fight the fire at Cafe on The Corner.
When I drove up that morning of May 27, that’s all I could see — water, trucks and tape.
I was on my way to work, But I had a few minutes. When I parked and saw a fireman, I asked him what happened.
Gas fire, he said. During the night, the gas built up and built up in the building. A spark, and Boom!
It’s terrible, he added.
Cafe on The Corner was one of the cornerstones of Lookout Mountain. I interviewed twice for a job at the corner table inside — now probably damaged by water and the collapsed roof. I was looking forward to making it a restaurant I frequented whenever I ate out because of the three restaurants nearby, it seemed the best.
I had my camera and so stood behind the fire-line tape and burned some frames. Later, when the firefighters opened Scenic Highway, I took another round of photos.

My journalism: a look back and some news

It’s been a big year for me and journalism. When the ball dropped last night, the mind didn’t have the whole picture. Standing there with a plastic cup with half-melted ice cubes, I had that experience of not fully realizing what had gone on the year before, no idea what will happen in the future.

A lot happened. I had not kept time from Jan. 1 to Jan. 1. Moments early on were forgotten and re-remembered again. This post is to chronicle what all went down this year.

  1. Sandy Hook — I still have not visited Newtown, Conn., but the effects of Dec. 14, 2012 carried over into the new year. There were the stories of how other Connecticut towns responded, stories about school security upgrades and an anniversary piece that I’m quietly proud to have written. Just kidding. I mentioned it on here.
  2. Bryan College — In May, I walked. In August, I finally finished all the required courses and got the paper that said I graduated with a Bachelor’s of Arts in Communication with an emphasis in Journalism. The diploma represents a chapter in life, of struggling through student media, late nights of despair as we pulled together paper after paper, censorship and The Washington Journalism Center.
  3. The Berlin Citizen — From freelancer in January between semesters at college to reporter, this year has been the year of The Citizen. In May, I worked as reporter for Town Times, then moving beats to North Haven and eventually back to The Berlin Citizen. It’s been a full circle, writing for my hometown paper.
  4. Freedom of Information Act Requests — In November, I worked on the story of the anniversary of Sandy Hook where I served six FOIA requests. Having never written a FOIA letter in college, this was all learned in the school of hard knocks. Mistakes were made, which may or may not be recounted in a future post.
  5. A licence… to drive — People were always shocked to learn I did not have a car. No so any longer! My stick-shift Nissan Sentra carries me to stories and is dear to my heart.
  6. Code — At the end of college, I watched a video on the importance of coding. A few weeks later, I was eking out my first few lines of HTML. I read that knowing code is a skill journalists should know. However, I didn’t see much application, working at the paper. It wasn’t until I was talking to another co-worker and he showed me his free WordPress website, showing me what he did with SEO and code that I realized the potential. Code is the way to own a website. In a way, it’s customizing and creating your printing press.
  7. Photography — In a way, nothing has changed. I still take photos on the same point and shoot that I purchased freshman year of college. A few days ago, I pressed the shutter for the 20,000th time. I know more about light, composition and timing. Still waiting for the DSLR, though…
  8. Town Elections — This year, I was able to cover a full election season in Connecticut, from the first primaries, to political theory, to the final outcomes. These lessons in the fight for power could not be learned by reading about it in a book, but experienced on the front lines.
  9. This Blog — In January 2013, I started this blog, telling readers and myself that this would be the blog that I keep for a while. I have not abandoned it yet.

And now, on Jan. 1, 2014, I set out on a new adventure. Yesterday was my last day at the paper that gave me the chance to start doing local journalism. I am moving to Chattanooga. I know not yet what I will be doing, although I have some leads. I’m going down to live closer to my fiancee, who said yes on Aug. 17, 2013 and made that moment by a lake in Connecticut the best moment of the year.

The badge vs the camera


I told him his photograph would not appear in the newspaper.

That is why I blacked out the police officer’s face in the above photo, because I gave him my word. I was illustrating a story I wrote about my police department and needed a photo. So instead of just snapping a photo of the front of the building and being done with it, I looked to find an interesting angle. Then he came out.

He was a person. He was moving. He was thus interesting.

I continued shooting and then ran around to the front to get a better angle of him driving away in the police cruiser. As I captured that shot, he saw me.

The cruiser stopped. A pause. He asked me what I was doing.

I was from the paper, I told him.

Did you take my picture?

Well, it was actually of the car, I said. The photo (which isn’t on this blog because I sold it to the paper) didn’t show his face because the glint of the window shield obscured him.

I even showed him the photo. I didn’t have to do that.

He told me he doesn’t want to be in the paper. I told him I could understand that. He drove away.

I was agreeable because he wasn’t the subject of my story and when you are working in a small town, it pays off to make as many friends as you can.

I was also nervous. Being arrested or otherwise in trouble with the police department is not on my to-do list for Christmas break. (see rule #7. It’s melodramatic.)

Looking back, I should have told him that I had a legal right to photograph him, that I wouldn’t use his image because he asked today, but if he was involved with a newsworthy event later, I would not hesitate to shoot.

Overall, it was a minor event–nothing like the major cases that have been in the media. But it still bothered me. I had the right, and he had the badge.