Teri Orr: All the news that fits | ParkRecord.com

Teri Orr: All the news that fits

Park Record columnist Teri Orr was one of the speakers at Park City's March on Main. Photo by Nan Chalat Noaker

I met her at a crime scene…

As I recall, she was stringing for the Deseret News at the time. I was the editor of this paper. Nadalee Noble, who had lived in Samak (yes, Kamas spelled backwards) and worked in Park City at a sporting goods store by the movie theaters — was murdered by her estranged husband in front of the grocery store here — then known as Albertsons. He had been served hours earlier with divorce proceedings. She had spent the two weeks prior living in Salt Lake City in the YWCA's program/shelter known then as the Women in Jeopardy Program. She left her work to get groceries and head to her new home in Heber that the shelter folks had arranged. Her children were there waiting for her.

Months later once the murder trial started we had both contacted (unbeknownst to each other) Nadalee's adult daughter about seeing the home where her husband had abused her for 20 years. We were both surprised by each other's presence that day. And then we immediately started asking questions of each other about the direction of our stories (as I recall — hers became a multiple-part series that resulted in an award). Mine — a four-part series — resulted in a book contract.

That reporter, Ellen Fagg, didn't produce any competitive streak in me but rather a desire we both tell the best story possible about the tragedy. We congratulated each other on the success of our work months later and then we watched each other's paths go in different directions. She left to work on and receive an MFA in nonfiction writing from the famed program at the University of Iowa. She edited a book of short stories and somewhere in my home I have a copy signed by her.

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— for all the centuries of our republic’s existence has depended upon a lively free press to keep government accountable and the rest of us informed.”

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I left the paper and walked away from the book project and helped start the Peace House here. And then I started to help raise money to build a joint-use performing arts facility. Every couple of years we'd find each other again. She went to Portland and worked there and I think that's where she met her future husband. She did some other things and in 2005 she landed back in journalism at the Salt Lake Tribune in the arts where she won Society of Professional Journalists awards for her thoughtful work. Not in some sappy, always cheerleading way but in a thoughtful careful reasoned approach to the stories behind the stories and why the arts mattered. We met for lunch a few years ago and I saw pictures of her beautiful toddler twin daughters who came to her later in life. She wrote a few pieces about what we did at Eccles when we had offerings that deserved coverage — not every season and not even every year.

Most recently she covered Monica Lewinsky's talk on the Eccles stage. She was surprised by the evening and even more surprised by emotions Monica elicited. Her story had hundreds of comments online. It was, as we like to say … a spirited debate.

Chris Smart and I worked for a bit together when he was a reporter at The Newspaper — a competitor of The Park Record in the late '70s. And also the paper that absorbed The Park Record when it sold. There were a few months when The Newspaper folks debated what to call the new merged paper. The New Record was the only dumb name I remember but there were dozens of suggestions. In the end — owners Jan Wilking and Steve Derring were convinced to use the historic name from the 1880's — The Park Record.

Chris and I had a lot of laughs and disagreed over style points and he always encouraged me to keep writing my column.

I lost track of Chris for years. He ended up at the Salt Lake Tribune — covering Park City stuff for awhile and then he morphed someplace along the way to write thoughtful difficult stories that focused on social justice issues and the immigrant crisis. He has been a serious, hard-working journalist for more than 30 years.

This past week Ellen and Christopher were part of the 34 award-winning journalists, editors and photographers let go by the Salt Lake Tribune in an effort to right the ship. The second such drastic cut in two years. It sends hot lead into the natural red ink veins of every one of us who lives to share stories. To shed light in dark places — expose bad guys, paint portraits in words, introduce tough subjects, try our damnedest to keep readers informed about their communities and their colleagues and their constitution.

A free press — to steal an old song lyric and bastardize it — isn't free. That taken-for-granted Superhero cloak of taking on politicians and crooks and shady characters lifts us all up when we include football heroes and senior centers opening and real estate deals including affordable housing. When we see our kid, parent, neighbor in a photo for doing good and/or well. When there is dirty water to be cleaned or attention to be given to DACA kids who need their cards renewed or an author who has a new book that we really should take note of.

I am so sad for my colleagues who lost their jobs due to budget cuts because the very nature of a print newspaper is so fragile as to not be able to support them anymore. Freedom — for all the centuries of our republic's existence has depended upon a lively free press to keep government accountable and the rest of us informed. What has happened here should scare us all. And make us grateful for (what I believe is) the oldest weekly paper still in continuous publication in the Intermountain West — The Park Record.

Renew your subscription. Save a journalist — any day — like this Sunday in the Park…

Teri Orr is a former editor of The Park Record. She is the director of the Park City Institute, which provides programming for the George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Center for the Performing Arts.