Here’s a rarity: a feel-good story about newspapers.
Valerie Wigglesworth was an editor at The Dallas Morning News when a reorganization landed her in a suburban bureau as a reporter. She hadn’t worked as a reporter for a decade, but she was determined to succeed. As the lone breadwinner for her family of four, she had more at stake than most.
It took some time, but she steadily improved as a reporter and writer. She could write a nice feature story, and cover breaking news. Then Valerie and colleague Matthew Haag learned about Exide Technologies, owners of a lead smelter that has been operating outside Dallas since the 1960s. These days Exide — and the lead pollution it creates — are surrounded by a fresh-scrubbed suburb, Frisco, Texas, one of the fastest-growing places in the country.
Valerie and Matthew recognized a health threat that most of Valerie’s fellow Frisco residents couldn’t see out their car windows, and they started writing. They wrote stories about lead pollution and the health threat posed by the plant, especially to children. The city manager started returning her calls, so Valerie wrote some more. The plant’s management wanted her to come take a tour. She did, then wrote some more. Groups formed. Public hearings were held. She wrote some more. She won a grant to conduct soil testing. Valerie wrote some more.