Log in Subscribe
Barry Lewis

Who says you can’t go home again?

Barry Lewis
Posted 1/21/22

Thirty-six years ago, I went out to White Lake to cover my first ice fishing contest for this newspaper.

I didn’t know anything about ice fishing. I didn’t even know there was fish …

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

Log in
Barry Lewis

Who says you can’t go home again?


Thirty-six years ago, I went out to White Lake to cover my first ice fishing contest for this newspaper.

I didn’t know anything about ice fishing. I didn’t even know there were fish under the ice. I mean, I knew there were fish in the lake, but I just figured when it gets cold fish move to warmer spots. That’s what my grandparents did.

No, I was told there would be guys on the frozen lake. They cut holes in the ice and then sit and wait for the fish to decide if they’d be better off being on someone’s line than to keep swimming in freezing water. The guy who catches the biggest fish wins. I was to write a story and take pictures. I can handle that.

Given this was a somewhat nautical event, after all I was going on water, I decided I’d wear my deck shoes.

Yea, I know what you’re thinking. And if I had really been thinking back then I would be thinking the same thing you’re thinking right now. Only I was a 25-year-old who didn’t give much thought what it would feel like standing on a frozen lake for a couple of hours wearing deck shoes, basically, a thin piece of cardboard separating my feet from the ice. It took less than five minutes to know what it would feel like. A frozen popsicle comes to mind. Some other choice words also come to mind.

I quickly went from being a pretty green journalist to a very blue one.    

So began my career at the Sullivan County Democrat.

There would be a lot more lessons that first year, fortunately most less painful but not always less embarrassing. But I learned how to be a writer and a reporter, and how those two things are not exclusive. I learned that writing for a twice-weekly newspaper doesn’t mean you write one story twice a week but often a dozen stories every week. I learned about writing tight and writing on deadline, writing headlines and cutlines for pictures. I learned to always carry a pencil because ink can freeze. I learned how to take pictures, how to properly roll film into a camera to take pictures and what happens when you don’t.

I learned how to get around the back roads of Sullivan County before there was GPS. I learned how to talk to people, to be polite but persistent, to ask tough questions and to have thick skin and never lie. I learned the most important people to talk to are the assistants and clerks. And I got to know and appreciate the Stabbert family, for what they had accomplished and for what they continue to achieve.

When a community newspaper does its job well, readers see themselves. For over a century the Sullivan County Democrat has demonstrated a commitment to improving the way it tells stories by celebrating folks here of all ages, their businesses and organizations, and our culture. This county’s achievements, challenges, pasts, present endeavors and future aspirations are documented in a way that we can all access and share as a part of our collective history.

I’d like to think some of the lessons this newspaper taught me paid off. I won a bunch of awards for my writing and for the publications I led. Eventually I became editor of the Democrat before moving on to editorship positions at daily newspapers in Connecticut and New York. Some of you might have seen my byline the last two decades in another area publication where I had been executive editor.

Now, after 36 years, I’m happy to return to the Democrat as a columnist, hopefully a bit wiser, certainly a lot grayer and with now two grandchildren. But still feeling passionate and privileged to share my stories with you.


No comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here