She was hard on her reporters because she knew they could do better.
Even the seasoned ones could do better. Alisa Stingley was from that old school reporting way that you now only see in movies or hear the veterans talk about when something goes wrong. “When I was a cub reporter…”
But here she was, in the middle of a newsroom full of green reporters deep into their second job, or reporters like me … just wanting to report and find a newsroom to call home. She was there like a testimony, unyielding and a beacon to what this business truly is…the telling of a good story.
Alisa, bless her heart, passed this morning.
I had wondered about the Alisa outside of work. Call me an old softy or a reporter who always wanted to know the why, but I wondered about her life. Where did she work before? How did she get into this business? What was she like as a cub reporter? What did she do for fun? Has she ever fallen in love? That last question was more the writer Icess than the reporter Icess.
I never asked these questions because, well, I didn’t want to cross that line. You know, THAT line between employee and manager. It was a professional setting after all and those weren’t very professional questions. Besides, she was busy grooming me. But I didn’t know that at the time.
We were the polar opposites. She’d get to work at 8 a.m. sharp nearly every morning. I was more lassiez faire about my time and let the workload dictate my start time (I work better later than earlier). She was very by the book–ask the hard question, I was very lets-find-the-answer-somewhere-else. She was very strict, asks lots of questions, and edited that way. I was very artsy…cause, you know, I’m me.
But somehow, through all the differences we were able to get along for the most part. We had our disputes but we worked them out one way or another.
We also had our glory moments:
- When I got into grad school, she was excited for me. Later, she’d say she was tickled. She bought a King’s Cake into the newsroom and we celebrated.
- When I got sick. So sick that I was doubled over in pain, she worried about me. She’d send me home when I looked too uncomfortable, would understand if I couldn’t make it to work.
- When I wanted to write a narrative story, she was there cheering me on. She said, ‘write the story like you would a fiction story’. And I did. The next day, I had a note from her telling me how well I did.
- When she was sick and had to be on temporary disability, she’d email me and other members of my team updates on her condition. She was also giving us gentle suggestions on story ideas.
Alisa was one person with many sides and many characteristics and lots to teach. See, I didn’t need to know how she was like as a cub reporter or how she got into this business. That’s all back story, holes I can fill in later, questions I can ask from secondary sources. The story, the REAL story was who she became, who she was beyond the tough exterior, and why she was so hard on her reporters. Relentless.
She was hard on her reporters cause she thought they could do better. She was tough on me because she KNEW I could do better. She saw in me what I didn’t see in myself, the potential to grow out of my pot, where I’d been seeded, and to be put into the ground where I could flourish.