What a day
The invitation to tour Range Creek came through the e-mail much like any announcement of a field trip would come. At smaller newspapers, like the Sun Advocate and Emery County Progress, it is not unusual to get a call or message that a certain group is going to tour an area and would like the media to attend. We get these kind of calls two or three times a week so when the initial invitation came it appeared as though a few other Utah newspapers, and a couple Salt Lake television stations were being invited to view an ancient burial ground that a few university archeologists were recording information about.
I have been aware of the artifacts in Range Creek for well over a year and had been invited by friends a couple times to walk in and look around. However, I couldn't make the trips before last Wednesday. When I showed up at the parking lot of the College of Eastern Utah Prehistoric Museum last week, expecting a few state employees and journalists I was very surprised when dozens of people started converging on the area. It was amusing at first, but as I started to mill around and introduce myself I found myself talking to reporters and photographers from New York, Alburqueque, Denver, Los Angeles and Seattle. Then the television cameras began to show up, the news trucks rolled in and the cameras with lenses nearly two feet long were being pulled out of their cases.
Within minutes there were more than a hundred people in the parking lot and the questions started and the stage was being set for one of the most incredible days of my life as a journalist.
I have to admit that this was a first for me. Even when I covered a mass murder in Northern Montana, almost 30 years ago I was the only reporter at the scene and I was able to talk to the police officers and families and get the facts.
But Wednesday was different. There was not one single spokesman, but many to talk too. In fact anybody who would talk was being interviewed by someone,from somewhere. The reporters were literally running from one person to another all day; the archeologists, DWR officials, BLM people, Waldo Wilcox (who sold the ranch three years ago), his niece Jeannie Jensen (who grew up on the ranch), local college and museum officials, and even university students. Photos were being snapped and television cameras were running as footage of the multitude of ruins and sites was recorded.
It was truly a frenzy.
To be honest I have been visiting prehistoric sites and admiring rock art in the southwest for three years now and from an untrained eye, the ruins at Range Creek were disappointing. That is until I started listening to the archeologists and the students and realized the significance of the sites. These sites have never been touched, looted or vandalized and the research that these professionals are conducting is providing large amounts of information about the Fremont tribe, who lived here about a 1000 years ago.
As the day went on, the more my adrenaline began to flow. Not only was I doing a story of the ruins and the findings, like everyone else, but I was also very interested in the media frenzy. I was probably the only reporter who was shooting pictures of the other reporters or photographers, interviewing them and wondering what angle they would pick up on.
I couldn't wait to get to work the next morning and pull up the Internet pages from all the national newspapers that were there to see which pictures they used and what leads these professionals started their stories with.
It does a heart good to be challenged and to see intense, passionate, and committed professionals doing their jobs.
For journalists in small towns where things seldom draw national attention, we are often the only ones with a reporter covering an event or activity, to a change of being surrounded by a hundred others, who have their own deadline and their own angle, is an incredible feeling.
The whole experience me glad I live in a small community and work for a small newspaper.