DAY NEWSROOM: REPORTERS
Born in Boston and raised in Maryland, Deborah Straszheim knew since she was a girl that she wanted to be a writer.
A quiet student who liked to observe, Straszheim spent her free time jotting down notes and creating stories, and once wrote a family newspaper describing the happenings in her house. Writing became her pastime, but it was also an empowering, purposeful exercise in which she realized she could create change, she said.
While her love of writing was lifelong, she wasn’t sure what type of writing she would do and how she could make a living doing it until she went to college.
At the University of Wisconsin, she began writing for the student-run newspaper, The Daily Cardinal, at a time when the newsroom had typesetters and editors still edited stories on paper, rather than computers.
“As soon as I went in there, I felt that was where I belonged,” she said. “I just loved it.”
It was in college that she learned about advocacy journalism.
“You were a player in the community,” she said. “You had a role and a responsibility.”
Her first job out of college was reporting for The Gazette, a weekly newspaper in Montgomery County, Maryland. With a starting salary of less than $15,000 a year, she realized she would not make a lot of money as a reporter, but she loved it.
“I believed you could make a difference doing it,” she said.
After The Gazette, she moved on to daily newspapers, reporting for The MetroWest Daily News in Framingham, Mass., and then The Sun in Lowell, Mass., and The Daily Press in Newport News, Va.
Straszheim, who has three sons, ages 12, 15 and 17, and an adult daughter, then left the news business for 7 years to raise her young children.
She started back up as a reporter at The Norwich Bulletin and then worked for the Groton Patch site. About five years ago, she joined The Day, where she covers Groton government.
“You’re a part of the community, and I like that,” she said.
A humble person, Straszheim said being a journalist is not about seeking credit or accolades, but about having an interest in the place you are reporting on.
She recalls how she once wrote a story about children in a low-income neighborhood who assembled a makeshift skate park out of old pieces of furniture and a broken bay window.
While she said she can’t be sure the extent that it made a difference, the Parks and Recreation director in that town included that story in a grant application and the community received funding to create a park.
“This is not earth-shattering, but in that little corner of that community, the story made a difference – and that is why I do it,” she said.
By Deborah Straszheim