from ‘born in a newspaper office’ to … birthing babies?

In Uncategorized on September 28, 2010 at 5:48 pm

In a recent e-mail interview, Beth Ott, 32, a former colleague, told me, “It feels like I was born in a newspaper office.” She’s not far off, but she also recently chose to to pursue another career. Ott got her first taste of journalism at 10 years old with Bear Essential News for Kids. “I was hooked,” she said. Ott was the editor of her high school newspaper and interned at a community paper. After earning a bachelor’s in journalism from the University of New Mexico, she worked at the West Valley View, a community bi-weekly in Phoenix’s West Valley, for just shy of 10 years. She left her position as an assistant editor in August. She has three children and has been married nine years.

You recently left newspapers to pursue a career in nursing. Why?
I tell people I did it because I would have some day regretted not doing it. I have always been interested in health, my mother is a nurse and I became most interested when I was hospitalized with preterm labor for six weeks in 2003. As my kids all got to school age, I decided it was time to make my move. I love journalism. I will always be a writer. But it’s time to make a hands-on difference with the other area I am passionate about.

Your husband, Rich, still is an assistant editor at your former paper. What was your working relationship like and did it affect your non-work relationship that included juggling kids, their activities, family stuff, etc.?
To be honest, it didn’t make much of a difference either way. We work well together. We met at the [Peoria] Prospector newspaper years ago. If anything, he’d probably tell you I played wife/editor a little too much, asking him if stories were done yet, what he was working on, etc.

Newspapers everywhere are struggling to survive. Is it different at a smaller-circulation, community newspaper? If so, how?
No, the community paper is struggling for ad dollars just like all other media outlets. The last two years have been tough. We were on 32-hour, work-week “furloughs” for more than a year when I left. They still are on that mandated reduced pay. It’s unfortunate. The paper has more possibilities than it can explore on a small staff with reduced hours. I felt it was very unstable for my husband and I to be there at this point. I had made my decision to change careers, but felt even more validated knowing healthcare is far more stable.

How do you feel The West Valley View incorporates technologywebsites, social media, etc.into its coverage? Does it do a good job? What would you change?
The View is behind in technology and social media usage. The website is not as user-friendly as it should be, and it’s not updated as much as would be ideal. Again, the limited staffing hinders this further. Social media networking is not being used at all.

What was your favorite story you wrote or edited during your newspaper career, and what’s a story that perhaps you didn’t get to tell that you’d still like to?
Wow. There were many stories that touched me. I suppose not surprisingly, many involved health matters and centered on the lives of families in the community. Breaking news is an adrenaline rush, but I lived for the features. I did several stories on families with autistic children and one on a teacher who works solely with autistic children. Those were fascinating to me. I am rather birth-obsessed and perhaps someday as a nurse will have a way to capture peoples’ birth stories in words for them.

If you could have a byline in any publication in the world, which would it be and why?
That’s tough for me. I never really aspired to work at one certain place or have my name in a particular publication. It seems cliché to say I’d like to have my name in The New York Times. I think writing the best story and having an impact on whatever community you are in is what’s important, whether it’s Avondale, Ariz., or New York City.


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