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Rindge

Recalling local journalism

Rindge resident’s memoir chronicles life as a reporter

  • Eric Poor of Rindge has written a memoir focusing on his years as a newspaper reporter.<br/>(Staff photo by Dave Anderson)
  • Eric Poor of Rindge has written a memoir focusing on his years as a newspaper reporter.<br/>(Staff photo by Dave Anderson)
  • Eric Poor of Rindge has written a memoir focusing on his years as a newspaper reporter.<br/>(Staff photo by Dave Anderson)
  • Eric Poor of Rindge has written a memoir focusing on his years as a newspaper reporter.<br/>(Staff photo by Dave Anderson)
  • Eric Poor of Rindge has written a memoir focusing on his years as a newspaper reporter.<br/>(Staff photo by Dave Anderson)

Eric Poor says working as a reporter for the Monadnock Ledger-Transcript was one of the best jobs he ever had, but in some ways one of the worst.

“The pay was rather sad and the benefits somewhat meager,” Poor writes in the opening pages of “Working at the Word Factory: The Curious Life of a Small-Town Newspaper Journalist,” his recently published memoir. “The hours were irregular, awkward and often interfered with my other interests. On the other hand, it was seldom boring, often interesting, regularly challenging, and occasionally exciting. This job had me doing things like flying in a vintage World War II bomber and talking to people who wanted to become president of the United States. It was the kind of job where anything could happen and often did.”

Poor, 68, got his start as a newspaperman in 1988, when he spotted an ad in his local paper, then known as the Monadnock Ledger, for an outdoor columnist.

“I’m an outdoorsman. I’ve always fished, hunted, canoed and camped,” he said Tuesday at his home in Rindge, a log house he built in 1973 and has lived in ever since. “None of the three local papers had an outdoor column that I enjoyed. I saw that and thought, ‘Well Eric, put up or shut up.’”

Ledger Editor Ed Blaguszewski gave him a shot, based on a sample column Poor wrote for free, and the next thing he knew, he was turning in a column every two weeks, for which he was paid $15.

“I bought a yard sale typewriter for $2; you needed two hands to carry it,” Poor said. He’d write out columns in longhand, revise them — also in longhand — then type them, using “two fingers and an occasional thumb thump on the spacebar,” before hand delivering them to the paper.

He eventually got a raise to $25 a column, and also started writing outdoor columns for Hawkeye, a statewide hunting and fishing newspaper to which he still contributes. And in 1991, an opportunity to become a part-time reporter opened up, and Poor took on the Rindge beat.

“I’d been working in a feed store, tossing 100-pound sacks of grain around,” he said. “It was time for me to try something new.”

A couple of years later, the job became full-time when he started covering Jaffrey as well as Rindge. Over the years, he also covered Peterborough and at times worked in Wilton, Lyndeborough and other towns. “I’d go wherever they wanted to send me,” he said.

One of his favorite trips was to the Central American country of Belize, hitching a ride on a National Guard refueling plane in order to report on the humanitarian work being done by New Hampshire guard units.

While he was there, he met Gen. Wesley Clark, who shortly afterward took command of NATO troops in the Balkans and later ran for president, which is when Poor met him again, while covering the campaign in New Hampshire.

“One thing leads to another,” Poor said. “That’s the newspaper business.... The paper never got old, because there was always something new happening. And the Ledger mentored me, and taught me how to do this. I always appreciate that.”

In his book, Poor chronicles some of the challenges of the job — how to report on suicides, how to get an interview with someone who doesn’t want to talk, the difficulties of handling pressure from friends or neighbors to leave items out of the police logs, dealing with complaints that the news is slanted or too negative.

Poor always tried to be a mentor to young reporters and students who wanted to job-shadow to learn about the newspaper business. “For some of these kids, it was a real eye-opener,” he said. “I’d take them on the rounds to the cop shops. You can get bored silly watching someone do an interview on the phone.”

He hopes the book will be a useful guide to anyone thinking about becoming a reporter. “I like the idea that future journalists might read it,” he said.

In 2008, after winning numerous honors for his work, including a columnist of the year award from the N.H. Press Association, Poor retired from the newspaper, which had by that time become the Monadnock Ledger-Transcript, following a merger two years earlier. He has since become an emergency medical technician and is the photographer and public information officer for the Rindge Fire Department. He’s also written two novels, neither of which has been published — “It took me 65 tries just to land an agent,” he said — and is hard at work on a third, where a leading character is a bartender, another job Poor held for many years.

“After writing 300,000 words a year as a reporter, a 100,000-word novel didn’t seem like such a task,” he said. “Whether they sell or not, I’m having fun. And reporting was fun too.”

As he looked over old copies of the Monadnock Ledger, Poor noticed a front-page story he wrote about the struggles of a local man who had lost two legs to disease. He said he remembered a friend telling him how she got so wrapped up in the story that she cried, had to read it twice, and forgot all about the groceries she’d left on her counter.

“You know you’ve done a good job if you’ve made someone’s ice cream melt,” Poor said.

Poor will be doing book signing events on Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. at Ingalls Memorial Library in Rindge, on July 15 at 7 p.m. at the Hancock library, on July 20 at 2 p.m. at the Toadstool Bookshop in Peterborough, on Aug.1 at 6 p.m. at the Nelson library, on Aug. 10 at 11 a.m. at the Toadstool in Keene, and on Sept. 10 at the Rindge Chamber of Commerce’s 7:30 a.m. breakfast.

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