Fiddlehead Focus editor leaves big boots to fill

Sometimes while floating through life, we bump up against the Universe in such a way that we find ourselves bounced back into unique and wonderful moments in time which can never be recreated. This is how I feel about the more than two years I spent working with Melanie Daigle at Fiddlehead Focus. Friday, January 13, 2017 was Melanie’s last day as my editor.

Melanie and I might have crossed paths years ago. In the early 1990s she and I frequented some of the same places in New York City, where she studied film at New York University after graduating from Fort Kent Community High School. I took the train to the city on weekends from Connecticut where I worked as a nanny after graduating from high school in northern Michigan.

I am sure if Melanie and I had met at that time, neither of us would have thought that one day we would work together in Fort Kent to write news about the St. John Valley. But this is where the Universe bounced us both. And together I believe we shared some important stories with the people of northern Maine, some of which I hope people will feel good about reading for many years to come.

Together, Melanie and I understood the importance of reporting all news, but we both especially enjoyed reporting happy news. Stories about elementary school students doing good, or elderly people finding joy while residing in assisted living centers were just as important to us, if not more so, than those reporting crimes and car accidents.

I would think of my stories as cakes I would bake and frost by gathering information and writing them. Melanie decorated them with her catchy titles and finesse for adding creative touches. She was especially talented at editing photos. Sometimes I could not even recognize photographs I had taken once she performed her “Melanie magic” as I called it to make them so beautiful.

It is common for newspaper reporters, especially those who cover stories in rural Maine, to find themselves trudging through sticky mud or deep snow, depending on the season. I may be one of the few northern Maine news reporters whose editor gave her a pair of tall, warm boots to help counter both elements. I wear them today.  

Melanie stepped beyond her editor shoes more than that. I was nearly unable to cover the 2016 Dîner en Blanc in Edmundston, simply because I was without any white clothing, and this event requires anyone attending to wear all-white clothing. Melanie loaned me an all-white outfit of her own to wear to the event, and never expressed any concern that I might dirty it.

Her support as an editor was crucial to much of my success as a reporter, not just in terms of offering me footwear and colorless clothing. In 2015 I earned my first three Maine Press Association awards. Melanie accompanied me downstate, and paid for the hotel room we both stayed in so that I could accept my awards. There were no awards for editors, but if there had been, she should have received many.

Melanie publicly defended me after a  a man visiting from downstate grabbed me by the arm, shook me, and threatened to “kick my ass” at a high school soccer game, because he claimed I had been standing in his way of witnessing the action while I was photographing the game.

While many people excused the man’s behavior because I had forgotten to wear a press pass, Melanie’s loyalty and support was immediate, as she wrote without hesitation that she not only defended me as a reporter in the situation, but as a friend. I will never forget this, nor her integrity.

This integrity was a constant in our relationship. As an editor, Melanie kept many secrets for me. She never pushed me to name a source, and trusted me to do my job. Melanie was biased as an editor only with regard to her unbiasedness. She insisted on showing both sides of a story, and refused to cave to political pressure. I hope to be able to continue this for as long as I write for Fiddlehead Focus.

I think the thing I most respect about Melanie is the love she has for her son, Daniel. There is nothing and nobody in the world who could possibly matter more to her. Melanie’s “family first” attitude was something I appreciated when it came time to stay home with one of my own children while they were feeling ill or when I wanted to attend a school event for one of them.

The space in a news article is too small to describe all the ways Melanie has affected me or what she has done to improve Fiddlehead Focus over the past few years. My hopes and prayers are that in her future she will continue to know happiness, love and success as she deserves all of these things.

Melanie recently became engaged to be married and will do so in June. I can only imagine that there are many unique and wonderful moments in her life yet to come. I will never forget and will always be thankful for the unique and wonderful time she and I shared in this life.

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