By JAMIE PARSELL
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
What do black Labrador retrievers and spin class have in common? Not much, unless you are a journalist who happens to teach an indoor cycling class. Spinning and journalism don’t really mix, so it is easy to transition between the two different roles. No one expects an impromptu workout in the newsroom. Neither do fitness lovers count on being interviewed for a story. Every now and then, a few spin class regulars will comment on a story or ask about the women’s magazine Prerogative. But for the most part, conversation tends to revolve around morning matters like spinning and coffee, or favorite breakfast foods. But I was pleasantly surprised when one of my female regulars started talking about a black lab’s photo in the newspaper. Her and her husband had adopted the dog from one of the local shelters after seeing the dog’s picture in the Sunday Lifestyles pages. I was pretty excited and started asking questions about the new dog.
“Shelter corner” began in 2012. The public’s outcry about overcrowding in area shelters led Editor Samantha Perry to request space for the pets, hoping readers would consider adoption. Week after week, I dutifully placed three animal photos, with adoption information from Mercer and McDowell County Animal Shelters and Pet Haven, in Lifestyles. Weeks turned into months and I wondered if readers were saving these animals or simply glancing at them on the way to the Sports page. Finding out an animal was adopted by one of my spin students was confirmation to the effectiveness of Samantha’s idea. Every week, I have asked for updates on the dog. Last week, I learned the black lab slept through the night for the first time. A small step for the dog and owner, and positive feedback I passed on to Samantha. I felt as if I had an active part of the adoption process.
For 45-minutes, every Wednesday morning I give my class a dose of endorphins before 7 a.m. I hear a lot of moans, groans and sighs. At the end of every class, they smile, say “thank-you” and slip out the door. The best part? They come back for more. It is a good feeling. It is like that every time someone mentions a story or a column in the newspaper as well. No matter our profession — stay-at-home moms, nurses, fitness instructors, teachers or journalists — we all want to know our time and work is valued by others. More importantly, we want to know the outcome of our 9-5 days in the office. In a recent study by the National Institute for Physiological Sciences, researchers discovered compliments create a desire to succeed. The article, on the Discovery Fit and Health blog, states, “People that receive compliments work harder. Those paying the compliments may feel the benefit as well because sincere compliments make us feel good. This is just further proof that when people feel valued they tend to work harder.”
The knowledge of the black lab’s adoption created the same affect in my attitude for “Shelter Corner.” I don’t have to wonder about the reader’s attention or whether or not an animal has been adopted from a local shelter. It is no longer a responsibility or duty, but an opportunity to give an animal a second home. One black lab is safe today. I hope there are more stories of adoptions around the two Virginias. As journalists, we work hard to provide news and features to readers. It is our way of giving back to the community. Inside the newspaper, there are opportunities to help and serve organizations, ways to stay informed on current events, prepare for upcoming storms and even find animals a new home.
Technology has allowed editors to monitor the popularity of online stories. We can see what stories are being read by readers, shared on Facebook and tweeted on Twitter. Editors know what stories will draw more readers to the website. It is fascinating to watch the top stories change minute by minute. Unfortunately, there isn’t always a way to monitor the outcome of the stories. We know they are being read but do the words and photos prompt action? Sometimes folks call and share their story. Most of the time, it is a simple email in response to a story. And then again, it is the early morning chatter that links two jobs and a dog that creates the desire to work harder. I live for those stories; it makes my job — spin teacher and journalist — better each and every day.
Jamie Parsell is the Lifestyle editor of the Daily Telegraph. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @BDTParsell.